What do you call it? Do you say Rear Derailleur, Rear Mech, Rear Mechanism, ‘Mech’ or just ‘Gears’… they are all names to describe the mechanism typically controlled by a spring and cable that derails the chain and moves that chain out of one gear and into the next. I’m sure everyone has their favourite model and I am no exception; I’ve never tried to hide my love of Shimano, so my all time favourite rear derailleur has to be the Shimano Dura-Ace 7400. Even though it has a simple job to fulfill, the introduction and continued innovation of the rear derailleur has always been at the forefront of bicycle technology and the RD-7400 was in my opinion the start of the modern technology revolution.
The year was 1984. I was only 14 and riding a beat up Raleigh Grifter around the estate. My parent’s shed was my workshop and I was kept busy fixing the bikes for all the local kids. My own bikes were fitted with names such as Sturmey Archer, Simplex, Huret and Weinmann. At the same time, unknown to me, two giants of the cycling world were about to go head to head for market supremacy. In the red corner, fighting out of Italy were Campagnolo, the makers of beautiful looking and precisely engineered components that graced the bikes of the professional peleton; they were up against Shimano in the blue corner, the Japanese corporation often only known for freewheels, hub gears and fishing reels.