|Most of the old Schwinn "10-speeds" used versions of the Huret |
Allvit (rebranded with the Schwinn name) -- even as late as the
1980s, when it was woefully outmatched by the competition.
Most people who remember the Allvit probably don't have fond memories of it, and it's true that it had its flaws (flaws that became more apparent the longer it was made), but when it was first released in 1958, it represented some real improvements in derailleur design. It wasn't a great derailleur -- but it was an important one for its impact on the bicycle market.
|The original 1958 version of the Allvit didn't|
have the big cover over the mechanicals that
the derailleur would later be known for.
It should be noted that in those early years, the Allvit was not necessarily considered a cut-rate derailleur. In the late 50s and early 60s, it was used by racers and cyclotourists alike, and was installed on some very nice bicycles, including those from such respected names as René Herse.
|Whether branded as Huret or Schwinn, this was |
probably the Allvit most people remember. The
big steel outer plate provided some "bash"
protection for the flimsy mechanicals underneath.
The first version of the Allvit, shown above, was made without the familiar shroud -- its operation was out in the open for all to see. By 1961, the version most of us remember seeing and/or using was released, with all the mechanicals covered by a steel guard. Though it added more weight and made it a little harder to adjust, the cover plate did provide some "bash" protection for the flimsy parallelogram. That was one of the features that endeared it to Schwinn, and according to Frank Berto's book, The Dancing Chain, for a number of years Schwinn wouldn't spec a rear derailleur without such a feature.
Speaking of Schwinn, they are one of the reasons that the Allvit became such a huge seller. When the company wanted to move into the "adult" (or at least teen-aged) bicycle market, offering "lightweight" (a relative term, but consider the heavyweight tanks the company was known for) multi-speed bikes, their first successful mass-market offering was the Varsity. That bike was an "8-speed" with a Simplex plunger-type derailleur in its first year, but by 1961, it was a "10-speed" equipped with the Huret Allvit. Soon the company offered a full line of 5- and 10-speed "derailleur" bikes using Schwinn-badged Allvits. For many Americans in the 60s and early 70s, a Schwinn Varsity, or perhaps one of its slightly nicer siblings, such as the Continental, was probably their first "10-speed." According to Berto, for the first half of the 60s, more Schwinn Varsitys were sold in the U.S. than all other derailleur bikes combined. Add to those Schwinn numbers all the other bikes equipped with the Allvit -- from department store clunkers to more "serious" (again, relatively speaking) bikes such as those from Raleigh and some of their subsidiaries, and lots of French manufacturers, and you can see how Huret managed to sell 5 million Allvits by 1965. During that decade and through the bike boom of the early 70s, they were cranking out more than 100,000 each month.
|Seen here in its Schwinn-branded guise, the Allvit |
"Safety" was supposed to let an inexperienced
rider backpedal in the wrong gear without jamming up.
Later versions of the Allvit were beefed up a bit more, which made them heavier, but no less flimsy. A long-cage touring version, dubbed the Super Allvit, was available, but couldn't compete with the SunTour V-GT in price or performance. In the mid-70s, a version known as the "Safety" (or GT-500 in its Schwinn-branded guise) had a massive shroud around the top pulley. Schwinn catalogs called it a "jam-free backpedal cage" and declared that it allowed an inexperience rider to backpedal despite being in the wrong gear. Ummm. . . OK.
In any case, Huret kept making the Allvit as long as Schwinn would keep placing it on bicycles like the Varsity, which means both stayed on the market into the early 80s, long after they were far surpassed by competition from Japan.
|Schwinn Approved, made by Shimano,|
the GT100 was supposed to mimic the
"best" features of the Allvit.
|Sugino's VIC probably shifted OK, but |
one has to wonder why anyone thought
this was a good idea in the mid 1990s.
Some people probably hated them, and I doubt anybody actually loved them, but the Huret Allvit was still an important derailleur, historically speaking. Though it was not a great derailleur, for many Americans, the Allvit was the introduction to derailleur-equipped bicycles.