July 29, 2022 § 1 Comment
One of the excuses for putting a more expensive group set on a bicycle is durability. And I have generally found the groups that are one down from the top level offerings (aka jewelry) to be amazingly durable. That means I’m a fan of Shimano XT for mountain bikes. I’ve never regretted spending the money. I’ve never regretted not spending the extra money on the top flight XTR components either.
On my road bikes, weeeeeeelll…. I’m a Campagnolo fan. Not back in the day. When I was racing it was first on a bike with SunTour Superbe Pro, dated, but excellent performance. In its day it would have almost qualified at the jewelry level, but mine was well used. Then, long story, my parents were guilted into finally replacing my race bike when constant breakdowns and repairs got me to quit riding. For this I ended up with a weird Santé group from Shimano that was pitched as their second group, but it functioned about on the Ultegra level. This latter is the much longer running second tier for Shimano road offerings, and would otherwise have been my choice. But a relatively inexpensive overall package led to the Santé.
After college when I was making a regular paycheck and had no responsibilities, I tried to replace my beloved first race bike with a new steel pipe Bob Jackson. Another story for another day, but for the groupset I decided to go Campagnolo. Which was, and is, expensive compared with Shimano offerings at a parallel level. I couldn’t justify second tier so I went with third tier, Athena. This was my first bike with them new fangled integrated shifters and I absolutely loved the ergonomics of Campy Ergopower and the shape of the brake hoods. The quality of the Athena group was very high and I never questioned my choice. The gruppo (that’s Italian) worked really, really well. IMO. I sold that bike (for reasons unrelated to group set) after a couple of years, and then eventually started jonesing for another road bike.
I was feeling flush enough in 2000 to spec my new road bike with Campy’s second tier, which was then Chorus. This confirmed my preference for Campy ergonomics, shifter feel and overall function. Multi gear up and downshifts. A “positive feel” to the shifts. Fixed brake lever instead of using that to also shift (the Shimano solution). Great rim brakes. It has been a durable gruppo. And tolerant of abuse (lack of maintenance) over the past 22 years. Every time I got motivated and got the bike out for a ride, it just plain worked. No muss or fuss.
In the Time of Covid this group set has returned to more regular service like a champ. I’d initially had a nagging annoyance with the right up shift lever going wonky. I thought it was broken but when I looked into it, merely corroded. From, you guessed it, essentially zero maintenance over two decades. I worked it lose with a lot of elbow grease and spray lubricant, and it was fine. The build quality (“hmmm I bet Shimano would have used a plastic bushing there instead of brass”) was such that it could be restored to normal function. I’ve even been going on group rides, a scenario where bikes take more than the usual beating. More shifting under load, more cross chaining, more bump hitting, etc.
Eventually the right shifter stopped working properly, the down shift lever wasn’t returning, complicating rapid shifting needed in group riding. Now, one of the other reasons we justify the price of Campagnolo is the legendary rebuild-ability. So I ordered up a spring kit from Branford.
I was slightly intimidated by online descriptions of the Ergopower lever refurbishment. Thinking it might take me awhile to get to it, and I might screw it up anyway, I also ordered a down-grade upgrade. It turned out that 11 sp Campy fits on my 10 sp freehub. It also turned out that a set of Campy Centaur 11 sp shifters, a derailleur, cassette and 11 sp chain were not outrageous in price. And they can handle up to a 32 t rear cog, a big change from the 27t limit on the 2000-2002 groups. I have a 2002 Centaur group (with Chorus shifters) on my cross bike. At the time it was the third level group and this has also held up really well. Centaur 11 sp was, however, the fourth level group and by now is out of date since Campy is evolving into 13 sp cassettes. Thus, discount pricing.
Final rationale: It turns out that moving to 11 sp cassettes was the threshold to force all major manufacturers to use identical spacing. Previously one could not use a Campy cassette with Shimano index shifting, nor the Shimano cassette with Campy index shifters. Nor could one fit a Shimano cassette on a Campy freehub or the reverse. So what, Campy boy? Well, my crosser was a very early disc brake cyclocross frame, it hit the market about a year before the UCI disc ban for 2003. Regular road axle spacing and of course quick-release for the hubs. Campy was not making a disc hub at the time. (I don’t know where the cyclocross frame company was getting the hubs for their full bike builds.) For my custom build, the good folks at Excel Sports built me a 700c rear wheel on a down-spaced Shimano XT hub. (Down spaced because road rear hubs fit 130 mm axle spacing and MTB hubs were 135 mm at the time.) And back then, one could get a Campy 10 sp spaced cassette from Wheels Manufacturing that fit on the standard Shimano Hyperglide freehub. That all has worked flawlessly. But…the aftermarket no longer makes this cassette. If I wear mine out, I’m facing a new wheel built with what seem to be the endlessly customizable DT disc brake hubs. Unless I happened to upgrade to an 11 sp shifter and rear derailleur. Campy indexing now works with any old 11 sp cassette, including any of the ones that fit on my XT hubs’ Hyperglide standard. Plus I get a gear range extended to 32 teeth. So putting the Centaur 11 on my road bike, pending repair of the shifter, made even more sense since it had a home on the crosser after that.
It took me a good nine months to get around to fixing the original shifter. A topic for another day but I didn’t like the Centaur 11 sp as well as my old Chorus 10 sp so I did eventually find the time. Interestingly, nothing was actually broken. Not the G springs, not the carrier. Oh well, maybe the springs are just weak? I watched this YouTube and it was enough to manage the main shifter spring replacement. I went for a shake down cruise and remembered that which I had forgotten. The problem was the downshift lever return spring. Which is a lot easier to repair. You just drive the pivot for the brake lever out to get it out of the way. Then you can replace the shifter lever spring easily.
All fixed now. I will have to see how it works on the road and if I managed to actually restore it to normal operating condition.
[…] road bike back into service. (It turned out to be a wise idea, I rode the road bike for many months before fixing the lever.) Now the 11 speed Centaur is no longer needed on the road bike and is available for the […]