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Equipment/Product Review (1976) SHIMANO Front Freewheel (FF) System

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Equipment/Product Review (1976) SHIMANO Front Freewheel (FF) System

Old 10-19-19, 09:25 AM
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Equipment/Product Review (1976) SHIMANO Front Freewheel (FF) System

Never heard of it.
Never saw one.
Someone somewhere will find one and wonder what it is.
You never know.









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Old 10-19-19, 09:42 AM
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Wow, I never realized the system was that complicated. Interesting the article mentions pairing with the positron system.

A few years back someone had abandoned an old Schwinn next to our apartment dumpster and it happened to have both the FFS and Positron. I pumped up the tires and rode it around the block. I wasn't interested in it so I left it where I found it. It was kinda neat to coast and shift.

Oof the article mentions a safety mechanism built into the rear cluster that would allow it to freewheel if the chain gets jammed. Ouch.
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Old 10-19-19, 11:34 AM
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I have seen a small number of them over the years. The system died a well-deserved evolutionary front end. If you really need to shift while coasting, try an internally geared hub -- they even you shift while stationary. The FFS was a partial and flawed solution in search of a genuine problem.
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Old 10-19-19, 11:00 PM
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A solution looking for a problem
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Old 10-19-19, 11:09 PM
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a genuine shimano POS; shimano made some turkeys and this was one of them.
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Old 10-19-19, 11:52 PM
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Say what you want but my wife loved her Schwinn with FFS and Positron. In fact she still has it. She is not and never has been a die hard cyclist and liked being able to shift down while rolling to a stop. It was best suited to people who rode casually but it worked well and made cycling easier. Hers is 40 years old and although it hasn't been used much in a few years it still works.
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Old 10-20-19, 12:20 AM
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Front shifting failures

@BigMig "a genuine shimano POS; shimano made some turkeys and this was one of them."



Not only Shimano but Frank Berto's book "The Dancing Chain" mentions hundreds of ideas and design that ended up in the dustbin of history.

The early 80's saw a number of front shifting cranks including the Deal Drive from the UK, plus the US made Excel Cambiogear and the Houdaille Exo Powercam designs.

Then there was 1994 Shimano FC-5S10 3 speed bottom bracket.

The 1991 Suntour BEAST (Browning Electronic AccuShift Transmission developed in conjunction with Browning Arms) crank was the straw that finally broke their back.

verktyg

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Old 10-20-19, 07:00 AM
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The Front Freewheel System and Positron were both intended for cyclists who suffered from what we used to call DAS (Derailleur Anxiety Syndrome). There were a lot of primarily middle aged people who wanted to start cycling in the wake of the boom but were intimidated by what they perceived to be a complex derailleur mechanisms. Both these products were aimed at novice derailleur users and did exactly what they claimed; make derailleur use easier for the beginning cyclist. Think of them as derailleur training bicycles that would many people, who would otherwise not have chosen a derailleur equipped bicycle, used as a stepping stone to true lightweights.

If you don't think that this was a real issue, consider the number of boom era bicycles that are found that have rarely, if ever, been shifted. It's quite common to find chains that mesh only with one cog, because the owners found shifting difficult and the bicycle spent almost its entire life being ridden in a single gear. Had the bicycle been equipped with Positron and FFS, the owner would have shifted more frequently and almost certainly would have gotten more enjoyment out of cycling.

Positron was introduced for the 1976 model year and FFS for 1977. They both survived through at least 1984, which is a respectable lifespan, While they may have appealed to only a niche market, Shimano recognized that market, gave them products that satisfied their needs and converted many into life long cyclists. It could be argued that Shimano was ahead of their time, serving a niche market. Over the years, the cycling market has become increasingly segmented, to the point where the higher end is nothing but a diverse portfolio of niche bicycles. Personally, I don't consider either Positron or FFS to be market failures or poor products.

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Old 10-20-19, 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
The Front Freewheel System and Positron were both intended for cyclists who suffered from what we used to call DAS (Derailleur Anxiety Syndrome). There were a lot of primarily middle aged people who wanted to start cycling in the wake of the boom but were intimidated by what they perceived to be a complex derailleur mechanisms. Both these products were aimed at novice derailleur users and did exactly what they claimed; make derailleur use easier for the beginning cyclist. Think of them as derailleur training bicycles that would many people, who would otherwise not have chosen a derailleur equipped bicycle, used as a stepping stone to true lightweights.

If you don't think that this was a real issue, consider the number of boom era bicycles that are found that have rarely, if ever, been shifted. It's quite common to find chains that mesh only with one cog, because the owners found shifting difficult and the bicycle spent almost its entire life being ridden in a single gear. Had the bicycle been equipped with Positron and FFS, the owner would have shifted more frequently and almost certainly would have gotten more enjoyment out of cycling.

Positron was introduced for the 1976 model year and FFS for 1977. They both survived through at least 1984, which is a respectable lifespan, While they may have appealed to only a niche market, Shimano recognized that market, gave them products that satisfied their needs and converted many into life long cyclists. It could be argued that Shimano was ahead of their time, serving a niche market. Over the years, the cycling market has become increasingly segmented, to the point where the higher end is nothing but a diverse portfolio of niche bicycles. Personally, I don't consider either Positron or FFS to be market failures or poor products.
You nailed it! My wife had never rode anything but a single speed bike and when we moved to the Texas panhandle in 1978 we decided to get bikes to put some kid carriers on and ride around the neighborhood. We had been married about 6 years, had a 1 & 3 year old. We had a few dollars for the first time in our married lives so we went to a "real" bike store and bought her a Schwinn Suburban 5 speed. Our funds about depleted we went to a department store and got me a Huffy 10 speed. We hauled the kids around all over Perryton Texas on them until we moved back to Bowie in 1983 where life got in the way and they ended up in the shed. Fast Forward to 2013 and my doctor telling me I needed to get more exercise. I got the old Huffy out and started riding it. The shed had leaked and dripped on the fork and one leg was nearly rusted in two. At my wife's urging I bought a new Giant Escape which I still ride some along with about 10 other bikes. My wife has a Jamis hybrid she rides some, she doesn't need FFF anymore. Her beloved Schwinn is in the new shed that doesn't leak.
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Old 10-20-19, 10:20 AM
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I am absolutely fascinated by the collective knowledge and experience of C&V members.
Y'all breathe life into these articles and provide what Paul Harvey used to call "the rest of the story".
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Old 10-20-19, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by verktyg View Post
@BigMig "a genuine shimano POS; shimano made some turkeys and this was one of them."



snip . . .
verktyg
Thank you but just pointing out that BigMig was, ahem, a whole hell of a lot better bike rider than I am,

(signed) bikemig

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Old 10-20-19, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by SpeedofLite View Post
I am absolutely fascinated by the collective knowledge and experience of C&V members.
Y'all breathe life into these articles and provide what Paul Harvey used to call "the rest of the story".
Ha! You must be an old geezer (like me, lol). I haven't heard Paul Harvey in a long, long time. 😁

I bought one of these Schwinn Suburbans around 10 years ago, just because it was so cheap, maybe $20 in a thrift store. It actually wasn't that bad of a rider. I scavenged the tires from it, which were brand new & a decent brand, then left it on a street corner. It was gone a half hour later. 🙂
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