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Simplex Prestige bashing

Old 01-10-13, 08:20 AM
  #1  
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Simplex Prestige bashing

What is the deal with this. Since I first started riding bikes 40 years ago I've heard of the catastrophic failures of Prestige derailleurs. Yet I regularly buy and ride bikes with the Prestige derailleurs. I think its a terrific derailleur. Just the fact that so many have survived 40 plus years is saying something. But its part of cycling lore and really I believe is complete myth. I actually think its sad so many get tossed. The first part to be replaced when a bike gets rebuilt.

I recently sold a bike that had the Prestige set on it. I had it tuned and operating great. The buyer mentioned that the derailleurs would be the first parts he would replace. I told him the Simplex derailleurs are great and I actually prefer them. He laughed thinking I was joking, then really thought I was weird when I continued the praise of the Prestige derailleur.

I recently purchased a Raleigh Grand Sport with a long cage version of the Prestige. It really works great. It shifts remarkably well.

So in my perspective I think the entire cycling community has bought into an old cycling myth and it perpetuates to this day.
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Old 01-10-13, 08:25 AM
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No myth. Mine busted on my Gitane Interclub way back about '74, and the shop (Mel Pinto, DC) suggested I replace it with a Suntour V series of some sort. So I did.
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Old 01-10-13, 08:26 AM
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Plastic. The name itself came with its own pre-conceived notion of cheapness. I'm not sure if all the "plastic" derailleurs suffer the same red headed step child place in the hard hearts of the unbelievers but my first bike had a Criterium on it and I rode that thing without problem for years and many happy miles. Of course, some do crack.
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Old 01-10-13, 08:38 AM
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I've seen a lot of cracked simplex derailleurs in my volunteering at the co-op... probably could have filled a few pails with all the busted delrin simplex derailleurs I've binned over the years.
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Old 01-10-13, 09:02 AM
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One broke on me during a long ride in the middle of nowhere in the early '70s. Never again. I replaced it with a first generation Shimano 600.
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Old 01-10-13, 09:07 AM
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They do work well before they break though and I'm looking for a nice front one myself.
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Old 01-10-13, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by clasher View Post
I've seen a lot of cracked simplex derailleurs in my volunteering at the co-op... probably could have filled a few pails with all the busted delrin simplex derailleurs I've binned over the years.
There it is, really. For someone who has seen a lot of Simplex equipped bikes come through, as in a shop, there is the evidence.
Where was the most common failure located, Clasher?
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Old 01-10-13, 09:14 AM
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My wife's Raleigh GP has them. Since I have a couple of extra alloy DR's maybe I should preserve the originals by keeping them out of UV light!
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Old 01-10-13, 09:24 AM
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I think the delrin in these worked great... when they were NEW. They work the best right out of the box, then it is downhill from there. Sloppy and then they crack/break.
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Old 01-10-13, 09:32 AM
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YMMV, but my junk bin has seen as many broken metal derailleurs as Prestige -(with the notable exception of the FRONT derailleurs -and the pulleys, which are all crap).

Suntour pulleys will fit them though, and I think that the (rear) derailleurs are worth repairing, because they work pretty darn well and are authentic looking.
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Old 01-10-13, 09:45 AM
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Delrin is an intersting material. Has a lot of lubricity and is a great fire starter! We use to spec it back in the day as it was easy to tool and had decent mechanical properties for being the interface of sliding parts. What did happen was the misapplication of it. Simplex design decision on the material was part of its demise.
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Old 01-10-13, 10:33 AM
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There's an interesting picture in Berto's book The Dancing Chain, of some exec from Raleigh torquing on a Simplex derailleur held in a vise, with a big wrench. It was flexible so they decided to spec them for Raleighs. Berto maintains that was their mistake. The rear derailleur flexed under use.
I liked the way mine shifted back then on my PX-10.
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Old 01-10-13, 10:44 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by rootboy View Post
There it is, really. For someone who has seen a lot of Simplex equipped bikes come through, as in a shop, there is the evidence.
Where was the most common failure located, Clasher?
I have also seen a lot of older simplex stuff fail both metal and plastic versions I think it is more from the design than the plastic. They seem to crack bust just above the top knuckle between top pulley and hanger.
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Old 01-10-13, 10:46 AM
  #14  
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The PX-10 I bought around this time last winter came with a nearly NOS Simplex Criterium RD; the previous owner had bought it NIB from eBay after the original RD (presumably a Criterium) broke on him. His FD had also broken, and he gave it to me with the bike--in two pieces--but that had been replaced with some modern POS. (You can have that too, BC--cheap! )

Around the same time I picked up a bike with a working Prestige RD, AND got an NIB Prestige FD with Simplex paperwork. So I made a little album showing the difference between the Prestige and the Criterium, which as far as I can tell is the Prestige, beefed up with better/thicker metal around the Delrin. Stamped into the back of the Criterium plastic is 'Prestige.'

Confusingly, Simplex papers refer to both Prestige and Criterium as Model #637. I'm not sure if the /P and /NI suffixes refer to the difference in model names, or whether it has the claw attached.

http://www.bikeforums.net/album.php?albumid=314

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Last edited by Chicago Al; 01-10-13 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 01-10-13, 10:54 AM
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Not bad looking once it's all cleaned up. But on my Dawes Galaxy I found the shifting to be a little sloppy.

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Old 01-10-13, 11:14 AM
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A smaller fraction of these derailleurs survive 40 years than of any other model. It was the world's least durable derailleur in very high production.
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Old 01-10-13, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by SJX426 View Post
Delrin is an intersting material. Has a lot of lubricity and is a great fire starter! ....
I've heard a lot of bad things about Simplex DRs, but until now, I never had to worry about them burning my house down!
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Old 01-10-13, 11:25 AM
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The Prestige was a good cheap rear derailleur. The competition in the early 70's were the Huret Alavit and Shimano eagle, and the biggest pos that ever existed, the Campagnolo valentino. None were any better. In the fronts, the simplex was a nightmare, that push rod got stuck at the first sign of dust. The Suntour slant parallelogram rear was a game changer like few other cycling innovations.
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Old 01-10-13, 11:29 AM
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Once upon a time (1978?) I rode a Raleigh Record with Huret Alvit derailleurs. My sister rode a Peugeot UO8. My gears were never quite right, but my sister never had any trouble with hers. One time she showed me how to adjust the high and low end movement of the Simplex derailleur on her bike, and I thought that looked pretty easy. But when I looked at my own bike, I couldn't even find the corresponding screws. In my immature mind a simple dichotomy arose:
Simple good. Huret bad.
Say what you like about them now, but they seemed pretty nifty at the time!
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Old 01-10-13, 11:43 AM
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Hey guys, where does the Simplex Prestige 637/p (with the red logo plate) fall, in the line? I have the "early" version, listed at Velo Base, and they say the quality is excellent, so that made me wonder. I, too, have heard that Simplex was less than ideal, but I wonder if that's true for all models, or only certain ones. (?) I have no idea, myself, never tried one, but it would be cool to put all French parts on the Bertin, eventually. EDIT: Doh, don't mind me, I should have read further, before posting. But it still marks my interest, I guess.

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Old 01-10-13, 12:07 PM
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using this

but need to change as it doesn't seem to compatible w/ indexed 6sp SIS which I really want to get working...
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Old 01-10-13, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by howsteepisit View Post
The Prestige was a good cheap rear derailleur. The competition in the early 70's were the Huret Alavit and Shimano eagle, and the biggest pos that ever existed, the Campagnolo valentino. None were any better. In the fronts, the simplex was a nightmare, that push rod got stuck at the first sign of dust. The Suntour slant parallelogram rear was a game changer like few other cycling innovations.
Suntour slant parallelogram Suntour V came out in 1968. Suntour Competition came out even earlier (1965). Suntour V GT came out about 1970. At that point, game over for low cost, durable derailleurs. It would be interesting to know the MSRP of the Simplex Prestige in the early 1970s versus the V GT.


I've had a lot of early 1970s Japanese bikes with the V GT, neglected for 40 years, and with cleanup, ready for the next 40 years of riding.

I agree, the Eagle and Alavit were pretty crappy.

On the Prestige, of the dozens of bikes I have found with Prestige derailleurs, only two FDs were not cracked. Most of the rears were still intact.

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Old 01-10-13, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post

On the Prestige, of the dozens of bikes I have found with Prestige derailleurs, only two FDs were not cracked. Most of the rears were still intact.
I will echo that. Most of the old bikes that have fallen into my hands, the rear were intact and worked. Almost all the fronts are cracked. Granted these bikes were neglected and probably saw some weather.
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Old 01-10-13, 02:12 PM
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With the more reliable and much better shifting SX610 (and I think, the 410s too), you still get a bit of Delrin behind their chromed sheet metal derailleur arms.......for nostalgia's sake????...
At least they won't asplode on you on the road, plus they sell for very reasonable prices out there!
So there's really no reason to stay with the uber-plastified Prestiges......

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Old 01-10-13, 02:41 PM
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IMO, the weak link in the Simplex shifting was the levers. They flexed so much that it resulyed in extraoridinarily high effort. Switching to a metal lever made a huge improvement. The fornt, piston style derailleur was not a good performer. However, the rear was creditable given it's inexpensive cost. They didn't require breaking in, being smooth right out of the box. However, the pivots are highly sussceptible to wear and they do become brittle with age.

Originally Posted by Chicago Al View Post
...Around the same time I picked up a bike with a working Prestige RD, AND got an NIB Prestige FD with Simplex paperwork. So I made a little album showing the difference between the Prestige and the Criterium, which as far as I can tell is the Prestige, beefed up with better/thicker metal around the Delrin. Stamped into the back of the Criterium plastic is 'Prestige.'

Confusingly, Simplex papers refer to both Prestige and Criterium as Model #637. I'm not sure if the /P and /NI suffixes refer to the difference in model names, or whether it has the claw attached.
I believe the Criterium also used ball bearings in the pulleys, as oppsed to the bushings of the Prestige.

Yes, both rear derailleurs were designated AR 637 with a P suffix designating a claw adapter model and NI suffix denoting a modelintended for a dropout with integral hanger.

Originally Posted by Spacemanz View Post
... Hey guys, where does the Simplex Prestige 637/p (with the red logo plate) fall, in the line?...
The lineup caried a bit depending on the era, but by the end of the boom it was, Super LJ, Criterium, Prestige, Maxi-Prestige (long cage version), Mini-Prestige.

Originally Posted by wrek101 View Post
... It would be interesting to know the MSRP of the Simplex Prestige in the early 1970s versus the V GT....
I still have my old supplier catalogs. During the peak of the boom (1973), Canadian pricing was:

Simplex Prestige $3.95
SunTour VGT $7.70
Huret Allvit $5.80.
Shimano Eagle $5.55

It only underscores how inexpensive the Prestige were. If you were a French manufacturer, bringing in SunTour would be prohibitively expensive due the extra shipping costs and duty. From a percentage standpoint, the discrepancies would be far greater than in the list of Cnadian prices, where the playing field is somewhat level in terms of shipping and duty.
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