In a time long ago bikes had multiple gears and they could move between those gears to increase and decrease effort. Sounds archaic huh? They musta had soft legs in them days or something. Unless my mind deceives me, I had some gears too. There was a thing on the back called a derailleur that pushed a chain up and down cogs of varying sizes. It was called a derailleur from the French “to de-rail” because if not used judiciously you’d re-rail your gears and create for yourself an unscheduled stop roadside to get hands all greasy and curse a lot while manipulating the chain out of impossible figure eight contortions. Thank goodness those days are over.
|Shimano 600. An object of aspiration in my teens. Almost obtainable. I had a friend who had a friend how had one. (Disreali Gears.)
It is interesting to reflect back on the many bottle-necks and dead-ends of bike design that got us to our current desitination. Many thanks to Bicycle Design
for linking to this site all about derailleurs, Disraeli Gears
Back in the day, manipulating your gears was something you did with great caution and occasionally great expertise. The idea of flicking a switch and having the chain jump seemlesssly from one cog to another hadn’t occurred to the hard-bitten cyclist yet and one had to know just how much force to apply to the lever in order to get cleanly from one gear to another. The lever was mounted on the down tube so as to make the inexperienced cyclist fumble around interminably between his/her knees while cycling along at speed in traffic or peloton searching for the correct gear.
A while later they introduced clicky gears, meaning you knew roughly how many clicks you needed to get your gear in almost the right position. (On your average bi-annual service interval the chain was guaranteed to never actually find the right gear.) This evolved somewhat naturally into a situation where one click would move exactly one gear (when all components were brand new). With careful adjustment of the worn components of your average urban commuter you could obtain as many as two to three serviceable gears out of an ever increasing total of as many as 20-odd.
For a comprehensive review of all that we have left behind check out Disreali Gears