“History of the World in 100 Dérailleurs” talk is not just for the cognoscenti

Edinburgh Bicycle co-founder Mike Sweatman is to give a talk about the glorious history of rear mechs at the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling in June. However, the industry veteran won’t be using such an uncouth term for the springy parallelogram do-dah that the, ahem, cognoscenti know as the "dérailleur".

Sweatman’s "A History of the World in 100 Dérailleurs" will feature Tullio Campagnolo, Shozaburo Shimano, and Eric Clapton.

Eric Clapton?

That’ll be a reference to Disraeli Gears, Sweatman’s website dedicated to his collection of 1,400 rear derailleurs. The term originated in the 1960s, and Disraeli Gears was the name of the second album released by British rock band Cream

Band member Ginger Baker remembered: “You know how the title came about – Disraeli Gears – yeah? We had this Austin Westminster, and Mick Turner was one of the roadies who’d been with me a long time, and he was driving along and Eric [Clapton] was talking about getting a racing bicycle. Mick, driving, went ‘Oh yeah – Disraeli gears!’ meaning derailleur gears … We all just fell over … We said that’s got to be the album title.”

Sweatman said he’ll bring 100 of his derailleurs to his multi-media talk, including a pre-WWI Le Chemineau derailleur, a 1930s Le Simplex, a 1950s Campagnolo Gran Sport and a 1960s SunTour Gran Prix.

"There will be some history of the development of the derailleur and its place in the history of the bicycle as a machine," he promised. 

"There will also be some cycling history and reflections on the politics and social changes through which we have cycled."

And Sweatman is very much part of cycling’s rich history.  In 1977 he was one of the founders of Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative – then known as Recycles Ltd – a workers’ cooperative. Before retiring last year he was the co-op’s buying director.

"A History of the World in 100 Dérailleurs" will be staged at 3pm on 10th June at the Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh. Tickets cost £11, or £9 for concessions.

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