Monday, January 4, 2016

Old Is Good: Shimano Deore MT60

As I'm picking out components for an upcoming project (there will be more on the project later - patience, please) I pulled out this near-mint condition Deore rear derailleur (RD-MT60, in Shimano-ese) from either '87 or '88. It was taken off another project bike some years ago and put into a box to wait for the right bike to come along.
Probably the best mountain bike derailleur of its time, but
looks perfectly at home on road bikes, too.

I've always been a SunTour guy, but this Deore MT60 represents a pretty great "modern" derailleur, made at just the time when Shimano was thoroughly establishing their dominance of the bicycle component market. It was nicely styled, without a lot of the typical Shimano gimmickry, and built to last under harsh conditions. Though made primarily for mountain bikes, its simple all-silver finish looked good on road bikes too.

The 1987 Deore MT60 was one of the first indexing mountain bike derailleurs (SunTour released their indexing Accushift line for both road and MTBs that same year), on the heels of Shimano's successful indexing road derailleurs, the Dura Ace 7400 and 600EX SIS of 1985 and '86 respectively. Deore had first been introduced in 1981 as a high-end touring group, but its real impact was in the burgeoning mountain bike market. The MT60  was the first in the Deore line to incorporate the slant-parallelogram design first patented by SunTour, then adopted by Shimano after SunTour's patent expired. It also used the spring-loaded upper pivot that Shimano had already been known for, which contributed to quick, crisp shifting. This derailleur brought the performance of Dura Ace to mountain/touring bikes, in a sturdier package with more seals, etc.

One of the great things about this derailleur is that it will shift crisply and smoothly over a wide range - at least as well as the great old SunTour GT models. But being made for mountain bike duties, it should also prove very durable. Ironically, for a long time, it was SunTour that had simple, functional derailleur designs, and Shimano that seemed to go for gimmicks and "innovations" that were like answers to questions nobody asked. But after SunTour had a string of early '80s mis-steps, like the self-destructing Mountech, or other overly complex "Tech"-series derailleurs, such as the Superbe Tech, or the weird 3-pulley LeTech, suddenly it was Shimano that seemed like the solid, stable choice. This Deore just epitomized that.

So, do I care that this derailleur can index-shift? Not a bit - but in general, a derailleur that works well with indexing levers will also shift beautifully with friction levers. I plan to use it with some old SunTour ratcheting bar-end shifters.

Compared with what would come later, this old Deore is a classic-looking piece of equipment. And while it was only designed for 6-speed gearing (it would probably work fine on 7 or even 8-speeds - not that it matters) its performance should be as good as anything made currently.

Just for laughs, let's take a look at what the Deore looks like today:

The current-generation Deore looks like it was designed by a Japanese Animé cartoonist. Can anyone imagine bolting this thing onto a road bike today?
Obviously, the components for road and mountain bikes have diverged considerably since 1988. If someone wants a current model wide-range derailleur that won't look out of place on an older road bike, what do they do?

Amidst a line full of monstrous-looking mountain bike derailleurs, and black-painted road units, the closest thing in Shimano's current line to that MT60 Deore is probably this low-end 8-speed Claris. Except for its painted finish (at least it's silver), and somewhat "swoopier" lines, it seems to share quite a bit with my old Deore. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the geometry and other dimensions were pretty much the same. 


  1. One of my favorite too. You can get it to work 9 speed on some frames where the mount is forward more.

  2. I had one of those old Deore ders on a knock-around mountain bike (that, if I'm being honest, never saw a mountain in its life), and it was as trouble-free and good-working as you could hope to have. I don't abuse any of my bikes, but that one certainly got the short-end of the stick when it came to maintenance, and I don't recall ever having shifting troubles. Had it mated to a stem-shifter from the parts bin, put on after the plastic thumb-shifters broke.

    (Haha, I just realized as I was writing that, that my current Trek mtn bike that was converted to an upright bike-path cruiser/utility rider and I did the same thing without meaning to: It had those worthless "grip shifters" and I chucked those right away and put stem shifters on. Must just be something I'm naturally inclined towards.)

    I just bought a "normal" looking long-cage Deore for this winter's project bike, which is going to be a wide-gear-range roadie built on an old Trek 510 frame. I think it will look just fine. When I was shopping, I decided I just couldn't stand the look of those spindly-looking new twisted cages. Seems like there may be a lot of spots to potentially fail. At the least, I'm guessing that they would be crud-catchers.

    Can't wait to see your new project!


  3. Funny how people think that rear derailleurs (or front for that matter) care about indexing or friction shifting. Unless they are designed with the indexing built into the derailleur itself rather than the shifter, such as the Dura AceAX or 600AX, derailleurs just move back and forth as you please.

  4. I've used that derailleur as well as the slightly later M737 model, and they are excellent. But I have to say that the Nashbar (I think Nashbar makes it) Microshift derailleurs shift even better, and look at least as good:

    I used a short cage model on my Fargo (38/24, 13-29 9 speed) shifting 9 cogs by friction, and it was among the smoothest, most precise derailleurs I've ever used, and I've used very many. When the Microshift got caught in the spokes and exploded, I replaced it with an even prettier Dura Ace 7410, but while that shifts well, it doesn't shift as well as the Microshift.

    1. I do know the Microshift, and there is a version labeled for Nashbar. They do work well, and that silver one looks really good. Most of those I've seen were black, and I'm not a fan of black components, generally. Microshift is a real bargain, and I often forget about them

    2. What about that recent reincarnation of Suntour, SunXCD? Junzo Kawai was working on it before he passed away a year or two ago. They had an old-style derailleur. It wasn't clear to me what was going on there.

    3. I just recently saw some components from them -- they look really good. Merry Sales, which is AKA Soma Fabrications seems to be handling distribution here in the U.S. They have a crank that is very vintage-styled, like the old TA Cyclotourist. The rear derailleur does look nice -- with a high-polish silver finish. Kind of pricey at about $140 though.

  5. I rode a Deore derailleur like the one you have. It was indeed a fine derailleur--probably the first Shimano derailleur I actually liked, in fact. I rode it with non-indexed shifters. It felt, not surprisingly, like some of the old SunTour derailleurs we love so much.

    Happy New Year!

  6. Hi, great blog!

    I know this is an old post, just wanted to say that the shimano 105 rd 5700 comes in a silver finish.

    1. I've only seen them in black -- good to know

  7. I have had that deore on a 1987 trek 400t for more than 25 yrs and probably more than 25k miles. Still shifts smooth and clean. Great product!

  8. I bought two of these on eBay after reading this article a few years ago. They're excellent!! I've got one index shifting an 8 speed cassette with Shimano STI shifters and on another bike I'm using a Shimergo setup shifting a 9 speed cassette with Campagnolo 11 speed shifters.

    Thanks for the heads up...I'm now looking for my first SunTour GT of some variety for a vintage build.