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Suntour "bass-ackwards" front derailleur - questions

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Suntour "bass-ackwards" front derailleur - questions

Old 03-31-19, 12:33 PM
  #1  
madpogue 
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Suntour "bass-ackwards" front derailleur - questions

This is on a '75 (or is it '73?...) Raleigh Gran Sport, purchased back in the '80s. Something's always vexed me about the FD. It's a Suntour Compe V. The action is "reversed", that is, you pull the cable and wind up the spring to put it on the smaller chainring. I've never been too pleased with the action; it just seems like it's going against physics trying to get the chain to climb onto a larger sprocket by releasing tension.

I suppose for a novice it sorta makes sense "visually" - shifter further forward means higher gear ratio, applies to both rear and front. So I wonder if that's the only reason they came up with this design; one of those "it seemed like a good idea at the time" things. Might make sense for a casual user with one bike, but of course, for me, switching between bikes, it feels like driving a truck with the clutch pedal on the opposite side of the footwell.

It's original to the bike AFAIK. So would it be blasphemy to replace it? Just find a V-GT or some similar period-correct Suntour at the bike kitchen? The bike's mostly original otherwise; Weinmann brakes, Normandy hubs, that randonneur bar they used to throw on them, etc.

I'm guessing no, but is it of any added value just because of its oddity?


(Yeah, it needs a cleaning....) Kind of a pretty cage, too bad there's not a way to reverse the action.....
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Old 03-31-19, 12:43 PM
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They had at least one other model too, the Spirt. Not Spirit, and not Sprint, but Spirt. What the heck is that? 🤔😁
I say get a "normal" one and use, and put that oddball on the back edge of the top shelf, in the dark corner of your garage. Just in case some collector decides they're worth a small fortune. 🙄😉
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Old 03-31-19, 12:45 PM
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Suntour had 2 models which used the big ring default. Good, bad, right or wrong it works well and those I believe will throw across three rings.

i like them. They do look classy and are robust. I would keep it on there after cleaning it up.
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Old 03-31-19, 12:55 PM
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I like them, and I wouldn't expect them to work well, but they work perfectly for me. I like them because they're different. Also, I think there is a value in shifting in the same direction as the rear derailleur.

I don't have one of these on a bike now, but one is in the parts bin, just because.
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Old 03-31-19, 01:03 PM
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I have 3 or 4 NOS Suntour SL FD's out in the shop. I built up a Schwinn Varsity drivetrain with modern ramped FW, chain, cables,RD and the High normal Suntour SL Fd and it was one of the best shifting bikes I have ridden. I like them.
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Old 03-31-19, 01:05 PM
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I concur with the OP and its not one of the better products of Suntour. That said, I like it for its quirkiness weird and belongs on my 76 Viscount.... along with the 'death fork', this-that bottom bracket, tubular / clincher rims, etc....



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Old 03-31-19, 01:18 PM
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I rode my old Fuji with it's 'backwards' SL and now Compe V front derailleur for soooo long, I've accepted it as normal -- i.e. both shifters are positioned forward to go faster. Now that I have other bikes with Cyclone derailleur sets, I find those harder to get used to! And yes, the Compe V shifts across the 48/38/28 triple crankset just fine!
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Old 03-31-19, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by madpogue
would it be blasphemy to replace it?
All the gods want you to replace it and then burn it at the stake.

Or just toss it. No sense in wasting a good fire on one of those...
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Old 03-31-19, 03:08 PM
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Top normal Spirt is the best fd I've ever used. Crisp! shifting. I currently have one mounted and two more awaiting builds.
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Old 03-31-19, 03:15 PM
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One advantage of this style FD is that when pedalling uphill with increasing tension on the chain and needing to downshift that you don't need to rely on a spring to make this critical shift, but instead can directly pull the chain over with the cable (like the RD). In contrast when upshifting there will tend to be less tension on the chain and so you can rely on a spring to make this shift.
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Old 03-31-19, 04:06 PM
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I've had good luck with the Compe-V, sturdy and responsive. Downshifts are a bit quicker in my experience as well.
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Old 03-31-19, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by stardognine View Post
They had at least one other model too, the Spirt.
And the "SL" which used an exotic aluminum cage rather than steel as on the Spirt and Compe-V.
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Old 03-31-19, 04:13 PM
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I like top normal FDs and open cage RDs as well.
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Old 03-31-19, 04:19 PM
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Way back I think the reason Suntour created this model was to make the left and right shift levers do the same general thing, pull back and it is easier to pedal. These derailleur were fitted primarily to bikes that did not appeal to sophisticated buyers who already learned “ the gears”.
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Old 03-31-19, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by TomJD View Post
One advantage of this style FD is that when pedalling uphill with increasing tension on the chain and needing to downshift that you don't need to rely on a spring to make this critical shift, but instead can directly pull the chain over with the cable (like the RD). In contrast when upshifting there will tend to be less tension on the chain and so you can rely on a spring to make this shift.
I concur.

There is a hill on my commute home from work that has a sudden transition from a few percent grade to 14% grade. There have been a number times where I waited too long to drop to the granny and tried to let the Cyclone derailleur spring shove the chain off of the middle gear and down to the granny gear.
Well, as long as there was tension on the chain, that little spring couldn't do the job. It is possible that the Spirt or Compe V might have been able to do the job, utilizing my strength to force the lever.

I did used to have a bike with the Spirt derailleur on it. Under normal conditions, I don't recall any problems with it. Maybe it's easier to live with if you only have one bike and don't have to adapt to using two types of front derailleurs?

Steve in Peoria
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Old 03-31-19, 04:50 PM
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Seems to me other than being different in direction of action, whether the spring pushes left or right is no difference at all.

I’ve had Comp-V and SLs for 40+ years and liked them; I’ve had others that are “normal-low” and liked them too. I’d say change if you want but you’ll not find substantially better shifting for the money. My first Comp-V replaced the simplex on my AO-8 in 1973....
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Old 03-31-19, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage View Post
Way back I think the reason Suntour created this model was to make the left and right shift levers do the same general thing, pull back and it is easier to pedal. These derailleur were fitted primarily to bikes that did not appeal to sophisticated buyers who already learned “ the gears”.
Yup, that's what I was trying to convey in my opening post. Seems like a way to cater to novices. Fah, maybe I'll keep it, as y'all advise, just because it's different.
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Old 04-01-19, 12:09 AM
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One can identify these because the housing stop is the part that pivots. I have an early AG Tech that also incorporates this feature, in addition to the inner plate that pivots up and down while shifting.
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Old 04-01-19, 07:04 AM
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This is the fd that came on my '77 Raleigh. Used it for years, even though I had ridden other bikes with low normal fd's. Finally decided to put fenders on the old Record, and found that the Compe-V kinda sticks out on the rear if the seat tube, and couldn't use it with the fenders. Stuck on a Huret-made Schwinn Approved derailleur. Suddenly wondered why I'd been putting up with the high normal Compe-V all these years. I guess I stay on the small chainring most of the time, so it really doesn't seem like a good idea to me.
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Old 04-01-19, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by TomJD View Post
One advantage of this style FD is that when pedalling uphill with increasing tension on the chain and needing to downshift that you don't need to rely on a spring to make this critical shift, but instead can directly pull the chain over with the cable (like the RD). In contrast when upshifting there will tend to be less tension on the chain and so you can rely on a spring to make this shift.
Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
I concur.

There is a hill on my commute home from work that has a sudden transition from a few percent grade to 14% grade. There have been a number times where I waited too long to drop to the granny and tried to let the Cyclone derailleur spring shove the chain off of the middle gear and down to the granny gear.
Well, as long as there was tension on the chain, that little spring couldn't do the job. It is possible that the Spirt or Compe V might have been able to do the job, utilizing my strength to force the lever.
That's a really good point- something I hadn't thought of- I tend to think of the "sprung" direction as the automatic direction- but you really only have "control" over what you're pulling on the cable... Interesting thought...
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Old 04-01-19, 12:28 PM
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I often "upgrade" personal vintage bikes so they perform they way I like them. However, I always keep the removed items so they can be reinstalled if I sell the bike or want decide to return it to original.
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Old 04-01-19, 02:42 PM
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I love spirts. I wish all my bikes had em.
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Old 04-01-19, 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by 52telecaster View Post
I love spirts. I wish all my bikes had em.
They're a whole $9 (shipped) on ebay, so, go for it.
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Old 04-01-19, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
They're a whole $9 (shipped) on ebay, so, go for it.
my bobjackson has too much drop for the spirt to work well or i would. Ive got the derailleur for it but cant use it.
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Old 04-02-19, 12:15 AM
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Gimme one of those every time. Half of my (vintage, friction) FDs don't want to go down to the small ring when I really need it, climbing under load. And if you adjust them so they will do it every time, then half the time they overshoot and end up dropping the chain inside. It's a very fine line with an elderly bottom-normal FD, but with a top normal, getting to that inner ring is just a matter of muscle, not wishful thinking.

They should all be made that way.
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