DISRAELI GEARS

Campagnolo Sportman

Campagnolo Sportman derailleur main image

At the end of the 1950s Campagnolo's patents on the parallelogram derailleur had run out, and a slew of more affordable competitors emerged from Simplex, Huret, Gian Robert, the Cyclo Gear Company, Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. Campagnolo's response was to spend the early 1960s producing a, slightly random, sequence of 'inexpensive' derailleurs designed to sit below the Campagnolo Gran Sport.

The 1961 Campagnolo Sportman (note that the name is not Sport-s-man) was one of this sequence. And it was a far more interesting design than either the 1962 Campagnolo Turismo or the 1963 'Campagnolo' derailleur. The Campagnolo Sportman's history is slightly lost in the mists of time. Most sources simply state that it dates from 1961, but a small minority of others date it at 1963. An even smaller number of yet others suggest that a 'first' version appeared in 1961 and an 'improved' version appeared in 1963.

One correspondent has suggested that the 1961 'first' version might have had a pulley cage with no offset (like a 1960 Campagnolo Gran Sport), whereas the 1963 'improved' version may have had an offset pulley cage (like a 1963 Campagnolo Record (1020)). This is a beautifully elegant explanation - except for the inconvenient fact that I have never seen any evidence for the existence of a 'first' version of the Campagnolo Sportman with a pulley cage with no offset. Others have pointed out that you sometimes find this derailleur fitted with round pulley wheels and sometimes with pulley wheels with 9 long teeth - although, at the time, worn-out pulley wheels were often (usually?) changed during the life of a working derailleur.

The only relevant patent that I am aware of (French Patent # 1,375,249), has a priority date of September 1962 - lending some credence either to the 1963 date, or, arguably, showing the 'improved' version. It certainly depicts a derailleur with an offset pulley cage and round pulley wheels.

The design of the Campagnolo Sportman was interesting for being constructed from steel pressings, having very logically placed adjustment screws, using pulley wheels with phosphor-bronze bushings (as later used in the Campagnolo Nuovo Record etc.) and having that offset pulley cage. These were all cutting edge features for an affordable derailleur in 1961. But Campagnolo did not develop the design and it stands alone in Campagnolo history with no obvious forebears and no obvious progeny.

Campagnolo's lack of interest did not stop the humble Campagnolo Sportman from playing a key role in derailleur history. Shimano based their very first parallelogram derailleurs (the Shimano Archery series) on the design of the Campagnolo Sportman. In fact some very early images show a Shimano derailleur clearly branded '3.3.3. Sportsman' (Shimano included the second 's' in Sportsman). You can see an example here. Interestingly, for the discussion above, the earliest Shimano models had 9 tooth pulley wheels and an offset pulley cage. Slightly later Shimano Archery models had a pulley cage with no offset. Confused? I know I am.


  • Derailleur brands: Campagnolo
  • Categories: Campagnolo - the bad and the ugly
  • Country: Italy
  • Date of introduction: 1961?
  • Date of this example: unknown
  • Model no.: unknown
  • Weight: 267g
  • Maximum cog: 26 teeth (bike shop folklore)
  • Total capacity: 26 teeth (bike shop folklore)
  • Pulley centre to centre: 46mm
  • Index compatibility: friction
  • Chain width: 3/32
  • Logic: top normal
  • B pivot: unsprung
  • P pivot: sprung
  • Materials: steel
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