Something new from Campy?

Miscellaneous 7 2

By now you have surely already heard the big news (if not read about it here or here). Campagnolo’s 2007 cranks will be 2-piece designs that finally dispense with the square taper bottom bracket. Huh? That’s it. So what? Blatantly leaked information about a product that the company is not officially unveiling until June 1st should be a lot more exciting than that, right? I mean big deal; it’s way past time to bail on the old square taper bottom bracket. Seriously, who is paying 450 bucks for those carbon Record cranksets anyway? But wait there is more. The two-piece Campy design called the “Ultra Torque” is different than Shimano’s 2 piece cranks (and all other cranks for that matter). Campy’s design has an integrated hollow bottom bracket that is split in the middle and fastened from one side with a single bolt. OK, I admit, actually that is kind of interesting. Campy also claims that the crank will have a lower Q factor than other 2 piece designs on the market with no increase in width from their current Record cranks. That sounds good too, but I still won’t be ditching my Dura-Ace cranks for Campy anytime soon. In my opinion, Campagnolo still has a really long way to go to catch up with Shimano on design.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-Campy. In fact, I am glad to see them coming out with something new and different. As a teenager in the late 80’s, I dreamed of owning a bike decked out with the brand new C-Record grouppo (I think it replaced Super Record in ’87). If I could have afforded it, I would have gladly ditched my Shimano 600 components for sleek looking Campy parts. My preference for Shimano didn’t happen overnight. Throughout the nineties, Shimano just kept innovating while Campy seemed to be resting on tradition, and occasionally following along. I know that some of you will disagree with me, but you have to admit that Shimano came up with some great improvements to the bicycle’s drivetrain in the last 15 years or so. I, for one, am certainly not interested in going back to friction downtube shifters and 6 speed freewheels anytime soon. Of course, to be fair, I should point out that Campagnolo also has a history of innovation. I like quick release hubs as much as the next guy, but really, how long can you rest on that one?

I’m digressing a bit so I should get back to the present day. I am sure that some retro grouches will not like this latest move by Campagnolo to update their crank designs. Some will claim that Campy is being pressured away from providing interchangeable parts to a more proprietary system like Shimano’s. If you happen to be one of those people, I would love to hear your take on the new crank/bb designs. Like I said, I am glad to see this move by Campy and I hope they will continue to come out with new designs of their own (Italy is known for design after all). Who knows, in another ten years or so, they may win me over again. Stranger things have happened.

7 Comments

  1. Fritz May 19, 2006 at 2:42 pm -  Reply

    Hello Commisar James. In the mid/late 80s I was a college student obsessing about girls and my studies (in approximately that order). I was happy with my Shimano 600 drivetrain and I LOVED my new Look pedals with my Nike cycling shoes. Campy was completely irrelevant to me at the time.

  2. James May 19, 2006 at 4:23 pm -  Reply

    Hi Fritz, I was still in high school, but it sound like our priorities were about the same, except that cycling came right after girls and before studies in my case. About the only Campy item I could afford back then was a t-shirt, but I did love those aerodynamic C-Record parts that I spent way too much time looking at in catalogs. At the time I had a Trek 400, but I really, really wanted an all Campy Italian bike. Today, most of my bikes (6 of them) are from American companies and have Shimano components. My track bike is the oddball, a 1984 Pinarello with the old Italian Ofmega Pista group.

  3. Anonymous May 19, 2006 at 10:33 pm -  Reply

    I agree completely and I had a full Campy Nuovo Record Gitane when I was in high school. I wanted to hate Shimano for their innovation, or planned obsolensence as I saw it then. I even outfitted my early 90s Cannondale mountain bike with Suntour before I realized that Shimano works better. Campy repeatedly warms over a Shimano design, stirs in some carbon and charges more money for something that ultimately does not work as well. Here are some things that Campy has blatantly copied after Shimano brought it to the market place: the freehub to replace thread on cassettes,indexed shifting, Hyperglide( shaped tooth profiles to help shifting, ramped and pinned front chainrings, road STI shifter/ brake levers,cartridge bottom brackets, dual pivot brake calipers and now external bottom brackets.

  4. James May 23, 2006 at 8:30 am -  Reply

    Good point, Anonymous. I only mentioned drivetrain parts, but it is easy to forget things like dual caliper brakes that Shimano also pioneered. I think that any one of those innovations alone is enough to justify my opinion that Shimano is a more innovative company than Campagnolo. Together, all of the recent Shimano innovations are much more impressive to me than anything Campy has done in the last 15 years. I will say again that I really liked the first generation C-record group. At the time, those aero delta brakes were pretty cool and different than anything else on the market. The first C record crank looked great compared to everything else on the market in 1988. It is hard to not want to like Campy. They have a great history and have made some beautiful parts in the past. Still, I have to judge them by what is on the market today, and I have to say I mostly agree with your assertion that they just “warm over” Shimano designs. Too bad really.

    By the way, if you were anti-Shimano in the early nineties, why didn’t you outfit your C’dale with Campy Euclid? Probably because it would have cost a fortune. Does everybody remember Campy’s short lived mountain bike group?

  5. Fritz May 24, 2006 at 3:02 am -  Reply

    Sheldon touches on Shimano’s innovation here.

  6. bigZ June 18, 2006 at 7:14 pm -  Reply

    I am a selective Campy lover(great brakes and transmission, pity about hubs, cranks). I also own the Mavic Mechtronic(best shaped brake levers for ergonomics, but that bloody battery) and have used Shimano.

    Shimano is great at pushing the bounderies(who introduced 10 speed?) but unfortunately I have always found that the parts just don’t last(apart from their cheap bottom brackets). I have a winterbike that still uses an abused Campy Record 97 transmission which still dosn’t skip cogs. You just cant abuse the Shimano stuff like that. Plus the concealed gear cables look better.

  7. Anonymous January 23, 2008 at 11:21 am -  Reply

    I agree that Shimano has been more innovative in the last couple of decades, however they stole many ideas from the Suntour Superbe group as well as other smaller Japanese marques. Campy introduced the 10 speed group long before Shimano did. Also, the integration of carbon and Ti to the components is very innovative in my opinion. It can’t be done without a very high QC. Shimano is only just now starting to offer a comparable crankset.

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