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Favorite front derailleur for triple microdrive crankset? (max chainring of ~48t)

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Favorite front derailleur for triple microdrive crankset? (max chainring of ~48t)

Old 02-01-24, 10:07 PM
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Favorite front derailleur for triple microdrive crankset? (max chainring of ~48t)

On my road bike I'm using a 46-38-28 chainring setup paired up with a 12-21 7 speed freewheel. Absolutely loving the gear range, it's great.

What's not great is the front derailleur situation. Originally I put a 8 speed deore front derailleur on there and it shifted perfectly. Had to take it off because the pivot arm of the front derailleur was perilously close (1mm or less) to the rear tire when pulled to maximum tension to move the chain onto the outer chainring. Still with me?

I replaced that front derailleur with a microshift road triple FD. Its pivot arm is much shorter and also is angled such that it doesn't move directly towards the rear tire. More of a perpindicular movement compared to the cage itself, while the deore is more angled back towards the tire. In order to make it work since the cage is meant to shift a 50/51/52/53 tooth chainring, I have it installed a bit higher than one would normally on a seat tube. Instead of a quarter's thickness between cage and biggest chainring, there's probably 2-3 quarters worth. Shifting between the middle and small chainring works great, but it's mediocre when pushing onto the 46t chainring.

I realize that most suntour double front derailleurs should have no problem shifting a triple, minus some extra trimming. But I can't deny that I fell in love with how well the deore FD shifted because of its more modern design, and I'm hoping someone might know of a front derailleur similar to it, just with a different pivot arm design.


So, I come to you in need. What front derailleurs do you like to use for a triple crankset that has a maximum chainring of 48t or less? I'm hoping someone will chime in with one that has a pivot arm of middle/small length. Vintage or modern, I don't care. Thanks


I tried to get representative pictures from the net...Do you see how the deore FD pivot arm is longer and angled, while the Microshift derailleur is shorter and straight?



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Old 02-02-24, 08:13 AM
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I've had good success with the IRD Alpina-d Triple FD, sold by SOMA. It is supposedly optimized for smaller rings, and works well in my experience (although it looks really similar to the Miicroshift unit -- but not quite identical -- it might be made by Microshift, and not having seen both next to one another I'm not sure about cage profile/size etc. differences between the two).

A vintage Suntour Microdrive FD would perhaps be ideal. Loose Screws https://www.loosescrews.com/ has several NOS varieties for about $25-$28.
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Old 02-02-24, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by JulesCW
I've had good success with the IRD Alpina-d Triple FD, sold by SOMA. It is supposedly optimized for smaller rings, and works well in my experience (although it looks really similar to the Miicroshift unit -- but not quite identical -- it might be made by Microshift, and not having seen both next to one another I'm not sure about cage profile/size etc. differences between the two).

A vintage Suntour Microdrive FD would perhaps be ideal. Loose Screws https://www.loosescrews.com/ has several NOS varieties for about $25-$28.
Thank you! Both look like good options. Hard to say how similar or different the IRD is from the microshift just from pictures.

I think I'm leaning towards the suntour microdrive stuff, though, just because the cage design is so different. And cheaper

Plus, this would get the drivetrain 1 step closer to fully suntour!

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Old 02-02-24, 12:18 PM
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On sweetie's Cinelli, I installed a pre-date campy triple crank with a 47, 42 and 30 (Merz ring).

Using the stock 1971 campy FD it wouldn't go into the lowest gear. If I forced it, the chain sat on the lil roller on the bottom.

After lowering the FD down the own tube 4mm, it shifts like a charm!!

I don't recall which bike you were using this on, but a campy FD with the stops all the way out works perfect with enough play to get that chain over, then bring it back a little so no clackity from the pins.
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Old 02-02-24, 12:39 PM
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I would probably go with the Suntour and call it a day.

But there are a number of older Suntour and Shimano bottom pull FD's that support 46t/48t. 1980's/early 90's, pre104/64 bcd crank era, is probably a good place to start.

I'm running a Shimano M900 on my 28-38-48 road bike triple (Ultegra) and it works great. I've given a Cyclone FD to a friend whose road bike had smaller rings; I don't remember if it was a triple, and it worked great. Of course Cyclone is kind of the Swiss army knife of components.

If you are so inclined, you can wander through MOMBAT History.
MOMBAT: Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology

It is a great resource for that kind of thing. It takes a bit of scrolling by year. But finding a FD, or other component, and the crank offered (with chainrings) the same year will pretty give you a good idea. And you can probably fudge it by a couple of teeth.

I've also looked up specs on older ShImano docs, getting harder to find, that will give chainring size.

Have fun.

John

Last edited by 70sSanO; 02-02-24 at 12:46 PM.
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Old 02-02-24, 01:55 PM
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Pics as promised


Remember, the cage swings upward as well as out.

You can see from the paint that I lowered it.


Used the orig 1971 but added the SOMA long cage which is longer than the first gen rally’s. The 3rd gen didn’t swing down from a hanger and used this monster.
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Old 02-03-24, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Robvolz
On sweetie's Cinelli, I installed a pre-date campy triple crank with a 47, 42 and 30 (Merz ring).

Using the stock 1971 campy FD it wouldn't go into the lowest gear. If I forced it, the chain sat on the lil roller on the bottom.

After lowering the FD down the own tube 4mm, it shifts like a charm!!

I don't recall which bike you were using this on, but a campy FD with the stops all the way out works perfect with enough play to get that chain over, then bring it back a little so no clackity from the pins.
Interesting! A campy FD wasn't even on my horizon, but, believe it or not, I have yet to try a single campy component...an egregious sin as a member of C&V. Perhaps this is finally my time. Thanks for the pics, too. I love the setup you've put together on that Cinelli.

Originally Posted by 70sSanO
I would probably go with the Suntour and call it a day.

But there are a number of older Suntour and Shimano bottom pull FD's that support 46t/48t. 1980's/early 90's, pre104/64 bcd crank era, is probably a good place to start.

I'm running a Shimano M900 on my 28-38-48 road bike triple (Ultegra) and it works great. I've given a Cyclone FD to a friend whose road bike had smaller rings; I don't remember if it was a triple, and it worked great. Of course Cyclone is kind of the Swiss army knife of components.

If you are so inclined, you can wander through MOMBAT History.
MOMBAT: Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology

It is a great resource for that kind of thing. It takes a bit of scrolling by year. But finding a FD, or other component, and the crank offered (with chainrings) the same year will pretty give you a good idea. And you can probably fudge it by a couple of teeth.

I've also looked up specs on older ShImano docs, getting harder to find, that will give chainring size.

Have fun.

John
Hmm, good call on looking for one that's pre 104/64 BCD and when chainrings got even smaller. I've been debating whether or not to really harvesting and selling my Raleigh Supercourse back at my parents' home, it has a Cyclone MKII front derailleur...It shifts a 48/38/28 setup beautifully. Or is it a 48/36/24? Can't remember.
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Old 02-03-24, 03:51 PM
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I realize you don't have a bunch of FD's on hand to try as I do, but having tried so many various combinations of using both road and mtb FD's on triples I've found that it's best to just try anything, literally. I'm currently using a Shimano 737 FD with a 44/36/24 and I've used it with big rings of 48t and 50t. I've also used a Shimano Tiagra 4500 double FD on a 46/36/26 triple, not to mention a 105 5500 double FD on a 48/44/26 half step +granny setup. The height of the FD above the big ring is also quite adaptable, it doesn't need to need to be as specs may suggest. I love the versatility that friction shifting offers and well it's all I've ever needed.
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Old 02-03-24, 03:54 PM
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If you don't want to sift though ebay listings, Bikerecyclery has lots of vintage offerings. https://bikerecyclery.com/front-derailleurs/
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Old 02-03-24, 03:59 PM
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As Gathr says, try it. I am running a Suntour VX front on a 28-38-46 and it is satisfactory. I am also running a Shimano 600 on a 24-34-42 and it does fine. One may be surprised sometimes.
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Old 02-04-24, 12:47 AM
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I have excellent front shifting over 46-36-24 rings using Campagnolo Racing T FD’s (from the 8-speed era). I’m using Sachs New Success Ergo shifters (like a Campy 8-sped ergo, but with Sachs spacing). So the front shifting is essentially friction - love it! No need to trim the FD across 8 speeds in back when using the middle ring.

I've also tried Suntour FD’s with this combination. They shift nicely, but might need a bit of trimming occasionally.

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Old 02-04-24, 12:56 AM
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My favorite FD is the Suntour Mountech.

This pic is a 1990-ish Suntour XC Pro, a circa 1985 Suntour Mountech, a circa 1984 Suntour Cyclone MII, and a 1985/6 Shimano Z206.

Front Derailleurs by Dave The Golden Boy, on Flickr



I also really like the Dura Ace 7700- Not the triple specific 7703.

IMG_1728 by Dave The Golden Boy, on Flickr
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Old 02-16-24, 03:16 PM
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Some experimenting to report. Thanks all for the recommendations!

I decided to try out the Suntour XC 9000 front derailleur. It works as I hoped, with some minor modifications. It has all the attributes I was looking for:

(1) Short pivot arm that runs perpindicular to the derailleur cage.
(2) 'Modern' shaped triple derailleur cage
(3) Microdrive deraileur cage shaped for smaller chainrings.

Modifications:
(1) I had to replace the pinch bolt and nut with lower profile versions. Otherwise I wasn't able to pull the derailleur enough to get the chain onto the big cog. It pivot arm hit the derailleur clamp otherwise.
(2) Using an alternate cable clamp to increase cable pull, the simplex retrofriction shifters weren't pulling enough cable.

Pics below. Apologies for the odd exposures, working inside and using flash and macro lenses is not my forte.

Alernate cable routing.


Just barely enough clearance. If you look closely, you might be able to see the scuffing on the clamp where the pivot arm ran into it before replacement.
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Old 02-22-24, 05:46 PM
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Ride test report: smooth, effortless shifting up and down all 3 rings. Also, with the chain on the middle rear cog (4th out of 7), I can push the chain onto the largest chainring to the full cable tension and not experience any chain rub on the front derailleur. Same can be said for releasing all of the cable tension and dropping the chain onto the smallest chainring. Nothing like a good chainline.

Essentially, I expect much less trimming with this versus the somewhat bodge setup of forcing a microshift road triple front derailleur shift ring sizes it wasn't built for. Very happy with the purchase. Only annoyances being the alterations I had to do in the above post.

Final thing to note: this derailleur's outer cage doesn't bow in or out- it's basically a flat plane. I'm not sure if there are that many older cranks that are straight and triples, but hopefully this bit of info is helpful if someone has the awfully precise need of a front derailleur for a bike with short chainstays, TA cranks (or similar), and a triple microdrive drivetrain
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Old 02-23-24, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Piff
On my road bike I'm using a 46-38-28 chainring setup paired up with a 12-21 7 speed freewheel. Absolutely loving the gear range, it's great. ...
Great minds ... I run 46-38-28 on my mountain bike, but with a 12-30 8-speed in back. My SunTour XCD set handles front and rear beautifully. I have also tried 48-40-24, but the 24-to-40 upshifts were tricky and had to be done very carefully. I plan to try 46-38-26 next time I overhaul the bottom bracket and half to pull the cranks anyway. (I don't like to pull cranks unnecessarily, because of wear concerns, and I have to pull the drive side crank to change the inside ring.)
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Old 02-23-24, 09:13 AM
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My Giant Sedona came with a Shimano Altus FD for the Suntour 48/38/28T 3x chainring and to my surprise it works flawlessly with the SRAM MRX twist grip shifters at 7,000 km. It's so smooth shifting up or down I prefer to shift the front triple whenever I want a 2 - 3 cog change. I had the bike shop do the regular maintenance recommended at 5,000 km which includes new cables, a chain, and all adjustments.

FWIU the efficiency of front shifting has more to do with the design of the 3x chairing and proper adjustments then the FD itself. Often the 3 chairings are chosen to align the pins and ramps to aid in shifting. So it's understandable that aterations can have a negative effect on shifting.

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Old 02-23-24, 09:53 AM
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I use a pre-CSPC Campagnolo Record front derailleur on my Stronglight 93 48-42-28 triple:
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Old 02-23-24, 10:57 AM
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I am running Campagnolo Racing T and have plenty of clearance.



Well it is a Record FD but likely the same.
Notice the step in the outside plate that helps with triple configuration.
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Old 02-23-24, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Piff
On my road bike I'm using a 46-38-28 chainring setup paired up with a 12-21 7 speed freewheel. Absolutely loving the gear range, it's great.
range - what range ?
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Old 02-23-24, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by t2p
range - what range ?
Haha, fair enough

I guess I should have said gear spread. For a lightweight road bike, it's (barely) enough. I am forced to grind up some of the steeper hills. I have thought about changing it to 46/36/24, for a low of 31 gear inches, but the gear progression is perfect currently. Large chainring for the first 4 cogs, middle chainring for the middle 5 cogs, small chainring for the bottom 4 cogs.

In the looooooong ahead future, once I kill my new wheelset, I'll probably extricate myself from freewheels and change to a classic road triple + close range 9 or 10 speed 14-28 cassette.

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Old 02-24-24, 10:46 AM
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dump the 12-21

grinding should be limited to coffee beans and those little primates with the accordions or organs

even a 12-23 is just about worthless for casual riding - unless overwhelming majority of riding is flat

I typically don’t throw anything away - but one of the few exceptions might have been a 12-23 cassette … think I tossed one in the trash
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