Campagnolo? Campag-no-no more like.

When I built my winter bike I had to choose a ‘groupset’; this is cycling code for gears, shifters, brakes and chainset.  Much like the computing world there’s a three-way tussle roughly along the lines of Shimano/PC, Campagnolo/Mac and SRAM/Linux.  To be honest it breaks down a little with the last one there, but otherwise the parallels are amusing and instructive.

Shimano is the most popular choice and is sensible, cost-effective and pragmatic.  Tour de France’s (grammar?) have been won using Shimano gear.   Pros use Shimano gear.  There is clearly nothing wrong with it.  Shimano users mostly, I guess, aren’t excessively passionate about the kit, but rather very happy that it quietly does a great job for them.

Campagnolo is about the “legend”.  It is expensive, is made in Italy and embodies the passion and history of the sport.  Tour de France’s have been won using Campag gear.  Pros use Campag gear.  Again, nothing wrong with it.  Campag users though, tend to believe they have the moral high ground too; a little like Mac fans (though not as bad thank Christ!) there is a sense that they are making an ethically and aesthetically superior choice.  I saw on a forum some cock had a signature “rather walk than use shimano” for  goodness sake.

All of my previous bikes have been equipped with Shimano and I was very happy with it.  Using mostly a combination of the best (Dura Ace) and second best (Ultegra) levels of kit and it has performed well and without issue.

So what do I think about my first foray into Campag equipment?  A couple of points to note however.  First, I have not been using the kit for long.  Second I’m running the 2009 Centaur groupset, which effectively is the third level of equipment, though as expensive as Shimano’s second level, if you see what I mean.  Third, I’m immune to high ground of any variety :-) .


I’ll be frank.  I don’t like the new Ergo levers.  They are a funny looking shape and are not very comfortable.  In fairness they are not the classic Campag shape so this criticism may not extend to their other kit.  Campag ‘got there second’ on the combined brake/gear shifters and it shows.  Shimano have a very neat solution for the gear shifting, Campag have the second choice which is an ugly ‘thumb lever’.  Damn you patents I say.  Whilst on the hoods I find that I have to shift my weight and move my hand to change up a gear which is very irritating.


The brakes are terrific actually.  My ‘summer’ bike has FSA calipers which are comparitively poor.  Maybe this is due to brake blocks, or the braking surface on the wheels.  But probably the Campag brakes are just better.  Though I’ve got some Dura Ace calipers for my summer bike so maybe this view will change.

Front Derailleur

No, no, no.  Terrible.  Apparently a bit of grit got into the shifter.  This caused it to lock up with increasing frequency when I tried to shift until the pressure eventually snapped the bracket, ending a ride.  It’s been back to the shop and is better but has locked up one more time.  My local bike shop (LBS), in this case Geoffrey Butler, have adjusted the mechanism and now every fourth of fifth time I change to the smaller ring the chain ‘locks’ causing me to have to pedal backwards to unlock it then continue on my way.

Rear Derailleur

No, no, no.  Absolutely awful.  My LBS have now had two attempts to get this right.  I prefer to choose when I want to change gear and I do not like the constant surprises that I get.  The problem is exacerbated by the fact that more force makes this ‘auto-shifting’  more likely, which is especially infuriating when I get out of the saddle on a climb.  K-chung followed by “for fuck sake” is now a constant companion on my rides.

In short, this Campag kit has been a disaster really, brakes aside.  Yes, I can give it more time.  Yes, my LBS may be a factor.  Yes, I’m a pragmatist.  But no, I will not again equip my bikes with their gear.

Campag-no.  Shiman-yo.  If you see what I mean.

No Comments on “Campagnolo”

  1. 1 Levi L said at 5:17 pm on March 14th, 2009:

    hey buddy, just ride the bike. ride it fast and no-one cares or can see what kit you’ve got.

    For the record, Sram was good enough for me at TOC. A bridesmaid no more…

  2. 2 Davem said at 11:09 am on March 15th, 2009:

    I’ve never used Shimano – but I love the campag thumb shifters even accounting for the obvious flaw that you have to move your hand up to change up a gear when on the drops.

  3. 3 Paul Nixon said at 12:44 pm on March 15th, 2009:

    I suspect if you love the Campag solution you would be dangerously obsessed by the superior Shimano solution. Neither of us know the answer to this as you haven’t tried both :-)

  4. 4 Bradley W said at 5:22 pm on March 15th, 2009:

    I could never ride a bike with parts made by a Fishing components manufacturer, Italian is the only way.

  5. 5 Paul Nixon said at 5:31 pm on March 15th, 2009:

    Don’t push it Bradley W – I’ve just spent another 5hr40 manually trimming my gears :-(

    I also forgot to mention – the brake ‘quick release’ is another area where Shimano has the edge.

  6. 6 Paul Nixon said at 5:35 pm on March 15th, 2009:

    I forgot to mention one advantage of sporting Campag gear on the bike; you can wear their gorgeous jerseys without being/feeling like a complete fraud.

  7. 7 Eddy M said at 5:38 pm on March 15th, 2009:

    I always used Campag…

    If you are stuck for a good mechanic try Fairview Cycles in Farnborough, any evening except Thursday.

  8. 8 Paul Nixon said at 5:50 pm on March 15th, 2009:

    Ha, Dave. You are very kind. This article wasn’t intended as a cry for help :-)

  9. 9 Johan B said at 6:33 pm on March 15th, 2009:

    who’s Dave?

  10. 10 Sean Y said at 7:41 pm on March 15th, 2009:

    Johan, I used to race against Dave, many years ago.

  11. 11 Malcolm E said at 8:24 pm on March 15th, 2009:

    Dave? Dave? All I ever hear about is bloody Dave. My name is Malcolm.

  12. 12 David Kennedy said at 6:59 am on May 13th, 2009:

    I have had Centaur for 3 years now and done 20000km. The shifter for the rear gears has recently completely lost its click. It faded over a period of about 1000km. My LBS says it is because the springs in the shifter have become slack. I do not understand how this could be the cause, so have not taken him up on his offer to replace them (at a price, of course). Campagnolo (Centaur)is the most up-market shifters I have ever used, and I have to agree with Paul, they are also the worst I have used. Cable tension adjustment has to be spot-on. Half a turn either way on the adjustment screw and you notice it. And now, with the click gone, I get that dreaded K-chung quite often after changing gears. But I like the thumb changer and the fact that with my small hands, I can apply brakes without simultaneously changing gears. Not that I have tried the Shimano. My previous bike had 7-speed Shimano 105 with the changer lever on the down-tube. It changed perfectly every time.