Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Old Parts - New Parts - Part Two

In my previous post, I compared the look of the truly excellent and beautiful Dura Ace components from the mid 1980s to the 2013 Di2 version of today. The newer components contrast heavily with the older counterparts -- looking much heavier, bloated, with huge appendages to house their servos -- not to mention the battery packs and control units that have to be attached to the frame. Today, I'd like to do a "then and now" comparison of Campagnolo's Super Record components, particularly the electronic-shifting EPS versions.

First of all, take a look at an early-to-mid 80s Super Record rear derailleur. The contrast of the black and silver is, I think, really gorgeous. The derailleur is svelte and spartan. A real classic.  

Super Record, circa 1984. Somewhat angular, slightly industrial. Simple. But pretty.
Then take a look at the current edition Super Record EPS electronic derailleur. I do think Campy does a somewhat better job of incorporating the electronic workings into the design than Shimano does on the Dura Ace Di2. But it's still a bit strange-looking. Although I'm a huge fan of the classic silver/black/titanium look of the old SR, I do admit that there is something kind of cool about the all-black carbon fiber weave throughout the new SR rear derailleurs. . .

2013 Super Record EPS.
 But I think the traditional cable-operated version looks even better.

2013 Super Record (sans electronics) -- Look ma, no tumors!

Unfortunately, the Super Record EPS front derailleur is a stylistic nightmare. . .
Super Record EPS front derailleur -- with a conjoined twin growing out of it.
Other parts of the group still look huge and bloated next to their 80s counterparts. The crank is a pretty nice design -- fairly reminiscent of the late 80s C-Record (Corsa Record) crank, rendered in carbon fiber instead of aluminum. I know the brake levers have a good feel to the hands which is of course desirable -- but they look visually heavy and misshapen compared to the classic drilled silver brake levers of the past.

And the old Super Record crank is a slender, pretty, almost delicate-looking design. Unfortunately, however, the old crank apparently proved to be fairly delicate in use, as well, as stories of cracked ones are abundant. Oh well. Consistency is not a human trait.

One question I have to wonder is whether the new components truly save that much weight compared to the old. They are rendered in carbon instead of aluminum, but they're also in many cases much thicker or physically larger. And then there are the battery packs etc. to add into the mix. I'll have to look up the answers to that one -- but I'm not really that concerned about a few grams here and there, so I'm not in a big hurry.

I will say this in defense of the new. Particularly with the Campagnolo parts (perhaps not with the Shimano, which worked great by any standard) -- the newer Campy parts, even the traditional cable-operated ones, functionally work so much better than the old. I like the old stuff, and ride it regularly. But shifting performance of the old drop-parallelogram derailleurs is nowhere near as good as on the modern counterparts. The new brakes have a good, light feel to them and stop the bike with far less effort than the old ones. I'm not a total curmudgeon here, after all.

Next post -- do we really need electronic shifting? Is it really the improvement that it's supposed to be?


  1. Hi Kyle, saw your link on CR list. So I guess I am your first one to comment. I did not read every word of you Campi electric shifter post, but I think I get the drift. I have not put this on my bike, the cable operated 11 speed Super Record works just fine for me. I also don't like to change out parts. My 5 year old Tarmac SLII is getting long in tooth, but hey so am I. I did get to play around with the new electric Campi, the big improvement was the front shifting. Other than that the real benefit is for top Pro riders. It just takes away all the thinking about shifting. I find that, as a very slow 67 year old, having those really tight jumps along with a 27 tooth low cog really improves my average speed. If I had to ride with the very large jumps on a 5 or 6 speed FW I would go slower. Huge difference on this point. Then the other thing is it is just so much trouble to shift the old friction way that one tends to not shift very much. I shift all the time for the most minute change in grade or wind condition, never would have done this in the old days. One more point is I have over 5000 miles on my Campi 11 speed bike and it has had a new chain and chain lube, that's it! Not one issue and nothing except a bike wash now and then. Oh, and 6 pounds lighter than my '70's bike is also nice. I don't care one bit about how it looks, but that's all in the eye of the beholder anyway.

    Jim Merz

    1. Hey Jim -- I totally respect that point of view and your comment. I mention in one of my other posts that I have the Campy Ergo parts too (10 sp, not 11) and I think it works well. But I really think the old stuff looks so much better. At the end of this "old vs. new" post, I point out that the new Campy parts do work much better than the old, but I don't think that the electronic stuff is the improvement it's hyped to be, certainly not at the expense. And if you're talking about the older Shimano parts, the old ones work pretty well, too.