Friday, October 10, 2014

Nuovo Record - Or Super?

On the Classic Rendezvous Google Group recently there was a bit of discussion about vintage Campagnolo derailleurs -- particularly the Nuovo Record and the Super Record, and which one people liked better. Not surprisingly, for every person who preferred the classic NR, there was another who preferred the SR. I thought I'd take a close look at both and weigh in on the debate here.

Not to overstate it, but for me, trying to decide which I like better between the NR and SR is almost (but not quite) like asking which of my daughters I prefer. They are both lovely, and they both share many of the same attributes and similar flaws (unlike my daughters, who are flawless).

Virtually unchanged from 1967 through the early 80s, the Nuovo
Record derailleur was the classic workhorse of Campagnolo's
racing derailleurs.
Introduced in 1967, the Nuovo Record was the all-aluminum replacement for the chrome-plated bronze Record derailleur (hence the name "Nuovo," i.e. "New"). While it kept some of the stylistic touches of the Record and Gran Sport, such as the raised letters on a textured background, or the little scroll-like details on the face plate, those details were rendered much more crisply in the Nuovo Record. The NR became a real classic: lightweight, attractive, and durable. Compared to derailleurs with dropped and slanted parallelograms (like almost all modern units), the shifting performance of the NR's traditional parallelogram design can get a little balky, especially as the chain gap increases, but back then that was just something we learned to deal with. The great thing about the NR was that it would continue to work at least reasonably well even if it was cosmetically trashed. The pivots, springs, etc. could really withstand a lot of abuse. I've always liked the aesthetics of the NR. It's looks harkened back to the past unapologetically, with little visual details that had no functional purpose other than to make it look special. There were many copies of it, but none was executed to the same level.

The first-generation Super Record was almost
identical to the Nuovo Record -- the only real
 differences being black anodized knuckles
 and titanium pivot bolts.
The first version of the Super Record, introduced in 1974, was virtually identical to the NR. Black-anodized knuckles and titanium bolts were the only real differences. But by 1978, a revised version of the Super Record was released. Gone were the embossed, raised lettering and "vintage" styling details. Instead, the design was smoothed out and modernized. A smooth face plate, with a screened-on script logo was the most noticeable touch. The cable anchor arm was revised subtly as well. But the changes in the Super Record were not just aesthetic. The shape of the pulley cage was altered as well, with a different relationship between the jockey pulley and the lower pivot. This small change gave the SR slightly more capacity (up to 28t, according to the catalogs) as compared to the earlier SR version and the Nuovo Record. Though slightly more modern in its styling, the second generation Super Record still maintained its "all out there in the open" industrial functionality -- with its bolts and adjuster screws on full display and easily accessed.

When the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) got ahold of bicycle components in the mid 70s, they mandated little "cone of shame" collars around the adjuster screws on both the NR and SR models -- similar to the lampshade-like "Elizabethan Collars" that veterinarians put on dogs after surgery. The "cones of shame" don't interfere too badly with functionality, but I wouldn't worry too much about dispensing with them altogether, unless someone suffers from irrational fears of being fatally impaled on a tiny 3mm screw.

Mid-80s Super Record - post CPSC (notice the plastic shrouds
around the limit screws) so nobody will be fatally impaled
on it. The slightly different geometry of the pulley cage
gives the SR a bit more capacity than the NR. This example also
has ball-bearing pulleys instead of the traditional bushing-type.
In any case, both the NR and SR would hold up to lots of use and abuse. I've seen plenty of both that were battle-scarred and beaten, yet still worked fine. Not only that, but they are mostly rebuildable, and spare parts can still be found. I picked up a used Super Record once that wasn't shifting as well as it should have. Looking closely, I found that the pulley cage was bent. Replacing the cage was a simple matter, and after that it worked fine. As mentioned, the 2nd-gen. SR could handle slightly larger cogs in the back, but otherwise the difference in shifting performance was pretty subtle between them. The SR was a bit lighter (about 20 grams or so) but on a complete bike, the difference would be hard to notice.

I like the solid, ornate, and almost archaic look of the Nuovo Record, but at the same time I can also appreciate the modern-meets-industrial aesthetic of the Super Record. To me, picking one over the other would be entirely dependent upon the year of the bike, and the style. A mid 80s top-level racer with pantographing and a flashy paint job screams for Super Record, for example. Otherwise, don't ask me to choose a favorite. Can't do it.

Anyone else want to weigh on in this one?


  1. As the owner of a 1974 bike, I prefer the Nuovo Record that is installed.
    Besides, I could never afford the Super grupo.

  2. Fantastic derailleurs. The parallelogram pivot had bronze bushings that could be replaced if shifting got sloppy. You had to remove the aluminum pins ( almost rivets ) to get to the bushings. Sometimes the pins would get bent in a crash and you could just replace them. The bolt that fixed the derailleur to the dropout protected the mechanism from crashes because of the way it stuck out. Both the return action spring and chain tension spring were easily replaceable. Occasionally we would tap out the cable fixing bolt hole to a larger size instead of replacing that portion of the parallelogram if a brute stripped the threads.

    The correct way to lube the pulleys is to take out the bronze bushing, put heavy oil in the center, and squeeze the bushing between your fingers.The fresh oil will push the old lube and dirt out of the pores in the metal, and infuse good oil into the pores. You would need to repeat this process at least a half-dozen times before clean oil was coming out of the pores.

    A bike with Campagnolo long dropouts allowed you to adjust the jockey pulley to largest cog distance. Large cogs required moving the wheel back in to dropout, smaller cogs required the wheel moved forward. Most people keep the wheel as far forward in the dropout as they can, but the dropout was an integral part of making things shift correctly.

    The Mavic derailleurs took small part replacement to another level, you could easily disassemble the entire mechanism. It was held together with small allen screws and cir-clips. Still use a set of Mavic derailleurs on my Raleigh Team Pro.

    1. You mention the Mavic derailleurs -- really interesting take on the Campy design, with a Meccano/Erector set aesthetic. As you point out, even easier to disassemble than the Campy. It also had that unusual sliding/adjustable pulley cage. Thanks for commenting!

  3. The Nuovo looks both baroque and classic at the same time, which is what I love about it. If I were doing a period restoration, I'd choose it unless, of course, I were using a Super Record gruppo.

    It's true that one learned to live with its idiosyncrasies, mainly because it was sturdy and rebuildable, but also because of inertia, i.e., "Everyone else in the peloton uses it."

    If I simply wanted a rebuildable derailleur, though, I'd probably go with the Mavic, especially if I were using other Mavic (or French) components.

    1. If you're going for a French theme, the Mavic is the great way to go.

    2. Or the titanium Huret Success, which was essentially the Duopar with a short cage. Even rarer than the Mavic, and equally as rebuildable. The Huret was not quite as rugged as the Mavic or Campagnolo models, and it had an antiquated jockey cage design that put the pivot concentric with the top pulley. They compensated for this by having two mounting holes in the body for different ranges of freewheels. They also continued their adjustable, ball bearing jockey wheels on the Success. With proper setup, they shifted about the same as their European competition.

  4. My first generation Super Record rear derailleur was destroyed in my second Cat 4 race. I had made it almost to the end of the first mile before I crashed. Both inner and out cage plates were bent like a banana. My LBS installed new Record plates and pins, as good as new. I still have my hybrid SR/R rear derailleur.

    1. That re-build-ability was a great characteristic. Sorry to say that so much today lacks that.

  5. I have a long-cage NR on my old Rossi, and it still works fine, which is amazing after more than 50 years. I like the look and I have no intention of ever upgrading it, even 'though I suppose it is a dinosaur compared to a modern one. But I doubt a modern one would last as long, and the look and feel of vintage bike stuff is great.