Monday, May 12, 2014

Campy Goes Ugly

As I've been looking at the state of modern bicycle components, pointing out the bloated, swollen proportions of today's cranks and derailleurs, it might have been noticed that I generally avoided criticism of the designs from Campagnolo -- and in fact, even noted the Veloce group as having one of the nicest-looking current-model derailleurs (at least in its silver version). Campy's Veloce (for 10-speed) and Athena (for 11-speed) are both still available in aluminum with nice-looking polished or anodized silver finishes. The cranks bear a familiar look to those who remember the smooth aero design of the mid-80s C-Record, though the vintage versions were a bit more svelte than the current ones.

Well, if the spy photos released on BikeRadar last week are any indication, things from Vicenza are about to get ugly.

At the Giro d'Italia, a rider for the Europcar team was reportedly sporting some prototype equipment from Campagnolo, and while it didn't bear any logos, it is believed that the new parts will eventually bear the Record name. Both the crank and rear derailleur make a complete departure in design from the current offerings. Take a look:

The wide, fat new crank has a 4-arm spider, much like the current Dura-Ace, except that it has a symmetrical bolt pattern. The BikeRadar article says that the crank should take both standard or compact rings -- but considering that the chainrings are almost certainly incompatible with anything else on the market, that seems like a moot point. Then again, proprietary crank BCDs are more or less par-for-the-course with Campagnolo these days. From the photos, it's clear that the bolts attach from the back, and the chainrings have been sculpted by CNC machining. While the current model Campy cranks (the aluminum ones, that is) look okay on a steel frame -- maybe not a skinny-tubed vintage frame, but on the slightly larger tubing diameters common today -- these new ones, should they make it to regular production, would look pretty atrocious. Perhaps they won't translate this design into aluminum, but I wouldn't be surprised if the 4-arm spider becomes the new "standard," thereby making the current cranks and chainrings obsolete.
The new carbon-fiber rear derailleur looks twisted and deformed. The parallelogram seems to have some kind of kinky s-bend in it. Why, I can't imagine. Interestingly, one might notice that it is cable-operated, not electronic. Who would've imagined there would still be cable operated shifters in our future? I don't know if there would be an attempt to translate the design into polished aluminum, though I can't say it would look any better.
I suppose what this all means for retrogrouches and fans of traditional styling is that the vintage market is about to get a lot more popular.


  1. I've been enjoying the blog, and feeling quite retrogrouchy myself these days. There was an old guy (about my age, which to the me of 30 years ago was old!) on a club ride at a 16-18 mph pace this weekend with a hideous Rotor Flow Aero crankset on a carbon blob Trek who proudly told me his $650 "aero" cranks and disc-like chainrings were "proven" to save 6 seconds over 40 km of riding when compared to "normal" cranksets. .

    It was hard to keep a straight face -- clearly that figure did not take into account the rider (especially the rider in question, who is a bit un-aero in lycra after a hearty winter) -- not to mention the absurdity of such an item for a rider who is not a time trial (or any other form of race) competitor.

    Of course, he is full of wonder that I, on "that old thing" (a very nice SL/SLX tubed lugged bike of late '90s vintage) is able to maintain a blistering 16 mph pace with the old guys on a breakfast ride. Hah!

    Keep up the great posts!

  2. Oh that is terrible looking.
    As side-effect of being "the bike guy" that everybody knows, I often get requests to help fix people's bikes. I have very recently fixed a young man's "mountain" bike (forget the brand, but it was a big-box store BSO) and the crank on it looked remarkably like this new Campi crank, though it was black plastic(!)-covered steel, not polished aluminum.


    1. Campi/ Campy? I've always spelled it with a "y" but recently I saw it written with an "i" a while ago, and for some reason I keep doing it that way. Weird.

    2. I may have seen it with an "i" once -- but almost always see it with a "y" -- even the company's website has it as "Campy." But why not "i" ? It still works.

    3. Where I come from, we used to say "Campag" components. Now advertisers here are using "Campy" and saying fenders instead of mudguards or guards ....

    4. I've never heard "Campag" -- always Campy. "Mudguards" is definitely British, or Anglophile. I always heard "fenders" going back to childhood.