Inside the Magazine: Derailer Hangers

As it breaks in, the Di2 9070 servo motor sound changes to that of a tiny, robotic screech owl call, indicating what chainring you’re in, protesting so much shifting.

Whir, shift, whir. You get used to the sound and can tell up from down.

The chain-bound robot shifts on command following its programming with perfection and it works as well as a Swiss watch movement. That’s until an unanticipated variable enters the equation, like a hard shift with a twisting frame under acceleration or when the slightest impact bends a derailer hanger out of alignment, even by a millimeter.


The pros get hardened hangers that don’t bend when you turn right and cough too hard

The drivetrain arms race between the Italians, Germans, and Japanese has them focused on cramming 11 cogs into a cassette, and with electronics or hydraulics. Brand loyalists celebrate their success like they took a bicycle beachhead, but all of them have failed and ignored a critical component of their respective drivetrains: how it hangs on the bike.

When asked what’s going on with Di2 in the Tour or mishaps from Campy, and SRAM, I respond, “derailer hangers soft like overcooked linguini probably caused it.”

Mark V writes about the replaceable derailer hanger in Issue 02 of our magazine. Why they’re replaceable, so soft, and how you can bend one with your hand, or leaning it against a tree during a stop on a ride. Also, why sometimes innovation results in very unfortunate products.

The solution seemed simple enough: a replaceable derailleur hanger that could be aligned without consequence. Even if the hanger snapped, a new one could be fitted. In fact, if the hanger was designed such that it preferentially bent before the frame suffered any damage, so much the better. This is especially true of carbon fibre frames. However, the derailleur hangers one typically finds on a stock bike bend like overcooked linguini.

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Back to the whir, shift, whir…it’s shifting perfection that isolates riders. Failing from the lack of a human touch or emotion and a too soft derailer hanger.

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