|The Nivex dropout with integrated|
chain holder -- and special hubs with
semi-axles. Wheel changes were
|The dropout piece of the Portacatena, mounted|
on a Campagnolo 1010/B dropout.
Soon after I posted that article, I got my Summer 2014 issue of Jan Heine's Bicycle Quarterly magazine (Vol. 12 No. 4), and wouldn't you know, but there was an extensive article on Tullio Campagnolo: The Visionary Behind the Legend. The article re-examined the myths and legends that surround Mr. Campagnolo and the company that bears his name. And sure enough, short of having Tullio himself rise from his grave and say "yes, that's true," Heine's article lent more credence to what I'd been thinking. As far as giving an explanation as to why Campy waited until 1977 to introduce the chain holder, Heine could only speculate. "Did somebody at Campagnolo find the old Nivex dropouts in a drawer, and think that this could be a good idea?" Nobody knows for sure.
Regardless of who actually came up with the original idea, the Portacatena (literally, "chain-holder") was a neat little item whose time never came.
|Anyone who has an 80s vintage frame|
with Campagnolo dropouts has probably
seen these little holes. How many knew
what the little holes were for?
In reading other people's recollections of the Campy Portacatena, I found several references to an interesting benefit that some racers discovered in using it that had nothing to do with wheel removal. When on a long descent, some would reportedly shift onto the chain holder, bypassing the freewheel, and descend swiftly and silently. Sounds like a cool trick, as long as they remembered to shift back on the gears before they had to start pedaling again.
|Yes, I have a Portacatena set, still in|
the original package. I just don't
know what bike to mount it on.
As regular readers might guess, I have a Portacatena set, still in the original packaging. I only just opened it today so I could put the instruction pamphlet onto my scanner (see below). I've had it for years now -- purchased mainly as in interesting curiosity, thinking I might install it on a bike some day if the right bike presented itself. So far, it simply remains an interesting curiosity. I thought about putting it on my Masi, which has the right dropouts, but I've never gotten around to it.
Here are scans of the instruction pamphlet:
|Notice that the instructions show the Portacatena in use with a 6-speed freewheel. They don't mention anything about the necessary spacing to make that work. Hmmm. . .|
The Portacatena was quietly dropped from the Campy catalogs some time in the early 80s (I couldn't find it in the '84 catalog), though according to framebuilder and blogger Dave Moulton, Campagnolo continued making the dropouts with the mounting holes well into the 90s (see HERE) -- either that, or they made a ton of them in the early 80s and it took years to get through the stock. Since the introduction of the Portacatena in 1977, we've seen the industry go from 6 to 7, then 8, and eventually all the way up to 11 speeds. The real estate between a bicycle's dropouts has become pretty crowded these days, so I don't imagine anyone bringing back this nifty little item. But for retrogrouches and vintage bike lovers, it can be cool piece of useful nostalgia.