Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I Get No Respect: The Campagnolo Velox

Cheap Campy gets no respect.

I'm not going to try to argue that Campagnolo's cheaper offerings for entry level bikes are worthy of much respect, though that's mainly because they are often such a stark contrast with the company's higher-end offerings. Compared with most of their intended price-point competition from the period (the non-Japanese competition, at least), they are realistically about "par for the course." But more than that, I simply find them rather interesting.

Probably the worst thing one can say about some of these derailleurs is that Campagnolo stubbornly made them long after there could be any possible market for them. Take a look at some of the bad and the ugly.

The Campy Sport Extra - from the 1969 catalog. It bore only minor differences with the circa '63 Nuovo Sport, which in turn, was functionally similar (but executed less attractively) to the single-pulley Sport model from as early as 1953. Single pulley derailleurs were arguably rendered obsolete by Campy's own Gran Sport in 1949, so it's incomprehensible that they themselves continued to make such things as late as this. They could only work on narrow-range freewheels of three or four cogs, and even then not very well.

The original Valentino was introduced around 1964. Shown is the Valentino Extra - from the 1969 catalog. The pulley cage seems to mimic the geometry of the Record and Nuovo Record derailleurs, while the original Valentino mimicked the geometry of the Gran Sport. Functionally they should have worked similarly to the better models, but as I understand it, the spring tension was much higher which may have kept them from shifting as nicely as their more expensive brethren. It's always struck me as unfortunate that Tullio Campagnolo chose to name such a lowly component after his own son Valentino. Was poor Valentino honored? Should we avoid drawing conclusions about that particular father/son relationship? ("Ummm. . . gee, dad . . . uhhh. . . thanks.").
The Valentino was used on a lot of entry-level 10 speeds in the late '60s and early '70s, and realistically wasn't any worse than something like the Huret Svelto or Allvit which were the main competition in the price range. Want to know the really crazy thing though? The last version of the Valentino, which was mainly unchanged except for a really goofy pulley cage design, was still in the Campy catalog as late as 1985!

Then there's this one, from my collection:
Around 1971 or '72, Campagnolo introduced the Velox which bore a lot of similarities with the Valentino models. The main differences are that the parallelogram is slightly more compact, and the pulley cage is of a different geometry (notice that the jockey pulley axis is in line with the pulley cage pivot). The Velox had a pretty chrome finish and these lovely jewel-like red bolts on the pivots, similar to those on the Gran Turismo of the same period. 

I'm not positive, but based on the prettier finish and the decorative bolts, I assume that the Velox was supposed to be a step above the Valentino (another reason to question that whole father/son thing).

The Velox wasn't a long-running model though. After only a few years, it disappeared from the catalog and was replaced by the Nuovo Gran Sport - which was based very closely on the Nuovo Record, but much less attractive.

Not to be snide, but I doubt this particular patent was one that had to be defended very vigorously.

There's the Velox with its bigger (and heavier) brother, the Gran Turismo. There's definitely a strong family resemblance. Both have very similar stamped steel parallelogram plates, the same decent chrome-plated finish, and the pretty red "C" bolts.

I enjoy derailleurs like these as fun little collectibles, but unless I was trying to put together some period-correct restoration of a bike that originally used one of these models, I think they really are best left as interesting curiosities and nothing more. I mean, at the same time that most of these things were being made and installed as OEM equipment on new factory bikes, one could just as easily have installed a SunTour derailleur with its innovative slant parallelogram design (introduced in 1964) that would work astonishingly better for less money.


  1. Like you, I would never install any of those derailleurs on a bike unless it was to be a period-correct restoration. I must admit, though, I have a certain fondness for the Velox and Gran Turismo--the former because it's rather pretty, and the other because it's so utterly baroque.

    I think the reason why Campy continued to make those derailleurs long past their "sell-by" dates is that there were still a few cyclists who would not ride anything Japanese or who simply would buy anything that was, well, Campy.

  2. The pulley cage on the Gran Turismo always reminds me of Batman's Bat-O-Rang.

    1. It's a totally pointless design feature that does nothing for the function -- actually makes it function worse. And yes - I love it too. I also love the pulley cage on the single-pulley Sport models. Again, completely pointless functionally, but so cool-looking.