Sunday, June 27, 2021

New In Box

I thought I'd take a moment to share a recent find that I've added to my collection of vintage parts: a first-generation SunTour Cyclone derailleur, new-in-box - or NIB.

I've always been a SunTour guy, and the Cyclone has long been a favorite. I have a couple of them, both in short cage and long-cage GT versions, and one of them gets pretty regular use on one of my vintage Mercian bikes. I have a second-generation version (M-II) on my Sequoia. Clean or lightly-used examples come up for sale frequently, but finding one like this is rare these days.

The box has seen better days, but it doesn't matter because what's inside is still perfect.

Lift the lid, and there's this clear plastic display cover, and a red plastic tray that is form-fitted to hold the derailleur. Notice there's also a little compartment to hold the hanger "claw" that one might have needed if their bike didn't have an integrated derailleur hanger. The original manual is tucked underneath the red tray, out of sight.

It's really very lovely packaging - it isn't hard to imagine the components in a bike shop's glass display case, tempting a younger version of myself.

With the clear plastic cover removed. 

And here it is, freed of its packaging. The date code on the back of this example is "R D" which, according to the Vintage Trek site means it was made in April 1975 - well within the first year of production.

There were some very small changes made in the first generation Cyclone derailleurs during their production run - mainly in the design of the upper pivot arm. These very first versions have a shorter, more compact upper arm, while later ones have a slightly longer arm that drops the parallelogram a few more millimeters. It was a subtle difference, but it probably increased the largest cog size they could handle. Or at least, that's my guess.

These early Cyclones were one of the lightest derailleurs a person could buy, at only 175 g. They were beautifully finished and detailed, and cost less than anything in their class. In 1975, a Campagnolo Nuovo Record cost $40, as did a Huret Jubilee. A Shimano Crane (Dura-Ace) was $20. The Cyclone was $16, and shifted better than all of them. I think they get more respect today than they did when new. Price-snobbery tended to make people think SunTour was "lesser" somehow because they were cheaper, when the only "lesser" was the price.

I don't have any immediate plans for this one. It was just one of those things where I spotted it for sale and the price was too good to pass up. Not much else to say about it - so I guess that's bye for now.


  1. Sort of like the Micro-Shift stuff from today, very good for the money. I've used Their R10 stuff on three bikes now and been quite happy with it. Except for the shifters that is. They're kinda homely so I substitute NOS Dura Ace 10 speed.

  2. I'm jealous. That's gorgeous. Congratulations on a nice find!

  3. Back in the day, High school student, little money (Trying to keep a race bike going on Bike shop wages) Japagnolo was our friend
    Had a cyclone, loved it, ran it w D/A friction shifters

  4. What a find! I agree that Cyclones are great. If I'm not mistaken, at the time they were introduced, the only lighter derailleur was the Huret Jubilee. And, as you point out, they were perceived as mid-level derailleurs because of its price. But their materials and finish were on par with any other company's best stuff, and it shifted better.

  5. That's lovely. I was shopping for a first generation cyclone GT for a 1980ish Trek 515 I was building for my wife for L'Eroica a few years back. I ended up using a long cage later generation shimano 600 I found for cheap. If the right gen 1 or gen 2 came along I'd probably snatch it up for my Ellis Briggs which has an ugly but practical Shimano rear and Cyclone front.

  6. One of the greatest components of all time.

    From the mid '70s to the mid '80s, Suntour was making the best derailleurs in the world. The 1980 Superbe I'm running on my '85 League Fuji is the best friction rear derailleur I've ever had... and I'm using it with a 45/42/30 x 14-26 half-step triple that blows its rated 23T max cog and 20T chainwrap capacity out of the water. Combined with the Rivendell/Dia-Compe Silver downtube levers, it shifts with a lovely light lever action and a positive, solidly mechanical "cha-CHUNK" like the bolt on a Mauser rifle.

    Plus, it's gorgeous. Shapes that are chunky and mechanical but not too industrial, a soft, satin finish that could have been hand-polished by monks... even the cage spring is lovely, being formed from a single piece of stainless steel wire that starts as a perfectly wrapped coil spring at the top and ends as a little pentagonal "trivet" where it presses outward on the lower end of the parallelogram.

  7. I love the Suntour Cyclone derailleurs! I had a long cage on my Univega for decades.... It never complained, and did it's job. One over looked great aspect was the ability to remove the derailleur with out taking the chain off , making cleaning and maintaining them a piece of cake. Great shifting too... I have MkII, which is nice also, but the looks of the 1st gen are better.

  8. The Cyclone was designed so that the cable passed through the center axis of the parallelogram, which supposedly made the action smoother as the cable force was not cantilevered off the side as it is on most other designs. The more useful benefit was that Suntour found it more expedient to use a conventional cable anchor bolt with a hole through it. The lower models used a bolt and a small metal plate to clamp the cable. While drilled anchor bolts have their own issues, the design of the anchor bolts on the V-series was one of their greatest weaknesses. Suntour used a low-grade steel in the anchor bolts for these models, and the design of the clamp plate meant that it canted to an angle when tightened against the cable. As the anchor bolt was tightened against this angled surface, the head would essentially rock back and forth, work hardening the weak bolt. Eventually, and especially if the mechanic torqued down on the bolt a bit too much, it would snap, and the remains never seemed easy to get out. Drilling and tapping would likely save a derailleur when this happened in the stand, but I saw plenty of these that made it into the junk parts bin as a result. Suntour had this problem for years, and even continued it with the ARX and Mountech, which buried their anchor bolts inside the parallelogram where they were immune to all attempts of repair. The V-series was the best shifting, cheap derailleur on the market at the time, and the wholesale cost in bulk was so low that they were a real money maker for the shops where I worked, but they had plenty of weaknesses and could get sloppy in short order when used in harsh conditions. The Cyclone and Superbe were much better executed models. The MounTech and Superbe Tech were massive blunders that should never have escaped the prototype lab.