Derailleurs of the World: Huret

jubilee

In the history of derailleurs, Huret is an often-overlooked. The French company cannot lay claim to big innovations like Campagnolo (first parallelogram racing derailleur), Simplex (first spring-loaded upper pivot to compensate for front shifts) or SunTour (slant parallelogram). And yet Huret’s derailleurs were innovative in their own ways.

Hideki Sasaki has added a new books on Huret to his “Derailleurs of the World” series. These books are the most complete catalogues of classic derailleurs. Every derailleur is shown in photos, with dates and a few specs.

On 107 pages, the book describes every derailleur Huret made from 1930 until the company, by then owned by the German component maker Sachs, was taken over by SRAM in 1997, and derailleur manufacture in Europe ceased.

Huret’s first racing derailleurs were unremarkable ‘plunger-type’ items, but when the company branched out into cyclotouring derailleurs, it showed that it was capable of lateral thinking (above): The ultra-light Route Touriste Leger was made from aluminum and used spring wire for the derailleur mounts and cages. How light was it? 173 g – lighter than any long-cage derailleur available today.

The innovation continued with the 1958 Allvit, which was the first drop-out mounted derailleur that featured a constant chain gap – achieved by suspending the parallelogram from the bottom of a steel arm that mounted to the dropout. A few years later, the Allvit directly inspired SunTour’s slant parallelogram derailleurs.

During this time, Huret’s derailleurs were considered the best-shifting and most durable derailleurs for the wide gear ranges. Both René Herse and Alex Singer equipped most of their bikes with the Allvit, Luxe and superlight Jubilee derailleurs that remained in the program for 35 years.

All of Huret’s later derailleurs were very light – even unassuming models like the Challenger weighed a scant 170 g. And then there were the titanium versions…

My favorite is the Duopar – a tour de force with a secondary parallelogram that moved automatically, pulled by the chain tension, to keep the jockey pulley at the perfect distance from the freewheel cog, no matter what size freewheel you used. It was pure genius, and the story goes that Shimano formed an entire team of engineers whose job it was to equal the Duopar. Little did they know that the idea had been pioneered by Schulz’s Funiculo in the 1930s, and Huret’s patent probably could have been challenged. Unfortunately, the Japanese text in Sasaki’s book covers only the details of the derailleurs, not the story behind them, so even Japanese speakers never learn whether Huret’s engineers were aware of the Funiculo, or whether they independently came up with the same idea.

As with all of Sasaki’s books, Huret is very detailed: Every iteration of each derailleur is listed. What struck me was that compared to Sasaki’s books on Campagnolo, Simplex and SunTour, there were relatively few iterations for each Huret model. It appears that Huret only introduced derailleurs after thorough testing, and avoiding the need for immediate changes to improve their function and/or reliability.

The book includes front derailleurs and shift levers, including the fascinating ‘Louison Bobet’ models with a secondary lever for adjusting the chain tension.

These books are a labor of love. They are printed on heavy coated stock. The photos may not have the sparkle of the best professional studio images, but they are clear and informative. The descriptions are brief, and unfortunately for most of us, they are in Japanese. Yet the important details are easy to figure out: model number, weight, production dates, and price in Yen.

These books are printed in very small quantities and are difficult to find outside Japan. We are placing a one-time order with Hideo Sasaki. In addition to the new Huret book, he has a few of the earlier volumes.

If you would like a copy, pre-order it by April 29. We won’t stock these books, so please order now if you would like one. The books will be shipped in late May/early June.

Click on the links to order:

Additional information:

  • Bicycle Quarterly 16 features road tests of classic racing derailleurs, including Huret’s Jubilee.
  • Bicycle Quarterly 14 reports on the real-road performance of classic cyclotouring derailleurs, including the Huret Randonneur and Duopar.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Compass Cycles, that turns our research into high-performance components for real-world riders.
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14 Responses to Derailleurs of the World: Huret

  1. Leonard Provencher says:

    What time period of manufactured derailleurs do these books cover? Do these books give the history & development of derailleurs as does The Dancing Chain book?

    • These books cover the derailleurs from the very beginning until the end for the now-defunct makers Huret, Simplex and SunTour. I don’t have the Campagnolo book here in Japan, but I recall the cut-off being sometime into the C-Record era. You can see more about the Campagnolo book here.

      The books only look at the derailleurs themselves and document what changed from one version to the next. They don’t cover the history behind them. If you are interested in the thinking behind these derailleurs and how they ride on the road, I recommend the Bicycle Quarterly articles mentioned in the post.

      • Leonard Provencher says:

        Thank you for your reply. If I understand it correctly each of these books follows the development of each version of a particular derailleur change sequentially. A different approach than The Dancing Chain which doesn’t cover the development in such detail.

      • Yes – this is the book if you want to see every derailleur Huret (or Campagnolo, Simplex and SunTour) has made, and how each model changed over time, etc.

  2. Stuart Fogg says:

    In the late 1970s I had a tandem with fairly wide gearing (36-56 front, 14-32 rear) and a Duopar. It shifted superbly in any gear.

  3. marmotte27 says:

    I’m ‘reading’ Japanese books (like ‘Special Made Cycles’) with the help of my phone ( piece of advice I got from a cycling forum). The Google Translator App translates from a potograph. Translation is approximate only, but better to understand 50% than nothing at all.

  4. Erik Borg says:

    When you write, “On 107 pages, the book describes every derailleur Huret made from 1930 until the company, by then owned by the German component maker Sachs, was taken over by SRAM in 1997, and derailleur manufacture in Europe ceased,” you mean, of course, manufacture by Huret, or are you saying Campagnolo derailleurs are made in another continent?

    • Yes, I am referring to the time when derailleur manufacture by Huret/Sachs/SRAM in Europe ceased. SRAM later made derailleurs again, but with no relation to the old Hurets, whereas the Sachs derailleurs apparently continued to be made by Huret, labeled ‘Sachs-Huret’ at first and then just ‘Sachs.’

  5. Mackenzy says:

    Any chance compass is secretly working on manufacturing a run of huret style clamp on front shift lever/derailleurs? 🙂

  6. Wait, Titanium derailleurs??? When were they available? I would trust a Titanium machine better than a Carbon Fiber one.

    • Huret’s titanium derailleurs were made from the mid-1970s until the mid-1980s. They were available in a lightweight steel version, and a superlight titanium one. The ti derailleurs are easily recognized because the titanium parts are anodized a nice dark grayish blue.

      • I had a titanium Duopar. It worked fantastically well until it didn’t—which was about 3 weeks after I installed it! Sadly, I was in the middle of Western Australia when it failed. The only thing I could get to replace it was some sort of Campagnolo touring DR—Rallye?—which didn’t change as well but was ruggedly built. Later, I went back to Sun Tour DRs which were both functional & durable. They were made of aluminium & steel. Titanium parts are only as good as their engineering & construction.

      • Sorry to hear about the untimely demise of your Duopar.

        The Duopars (whether steel or ti) had one weakness: If you backpedaled with the derailleur not perfectly aligned on the freewheel cogs, the chain would jam in the cage,and the secondary parallelogram would twist beyond repair. Once you knew that, they actually were very reliable derailleurs.

        I have about 5000 miles on the titanium Duopar on my Alex Singer camping bike without problems, including riding some very rough roads fully loaded with four panniers.

        The Campy Rally was interesting, because it shifted beautifully with some setups – it really liked the Shimano ‘twist tooth’ freewheels! – but terribly with others. I had one on my Mercian touring bike, and it worked great with a Dura-Ace 13-26, but when I wanted to try half-step gearing and switched to a Regina 14-28, it was terrible!

  7. Yes. I was surprised how well the Campagnolo Rally worked—tho’ not as well as the Duopar (when it worked!). I was indeed using what I think must have been one of the first model Shimano freehubs & cassettes with the twist teeth (this was in 1980, I think). I always wondered why Shimano stopped using those twisted teeth as they worked well. For some reason, I changed back to using SunTour freewheels on standard hubs (possibly because they offered one more cog? I can’t remember) and tho’ the ST derailleurs were excellent, the narrow ST freewheels were IMO no match for the Shimano cassettes. The titanium Duopar ended up as an expensive (I’d had it imported directly into Australia after reading about it in a magazine) decoration on my mantlepiece for many years—it looked very cool, even when mangled.

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