DISRAELI GEARS

Campagnolo - touring with terror

Campagnolo Turismo derailleur main image Campagnolo Turismo derailleur main image Campagnolo Turismo derailleur main image

As a British touring cyclist, my guess is that Tullio Campagnolo never really understood exactly what real, proper, genuine, authentic (you get the idea) cycle touring was or what it required. I also suspect that he didn't really care. It's a comment I might, cheekily, extend from Tullio to nearly all Italians.

I think that, for Campagnolo, touring derailleurs were really something that they reluctantly produced to try to keep valuable American OE customers quiet. I would quietly suggest that the sorry saga might go something like this...

  • In the 1960s Schwinn surprised themselves by making a useful chunk of money selling two types of bikes, high-end, Campagnolo-equipped, 10-speed racing bikes and mid-range, Huret-equipped, 15-speeds that they considered to be 'touring bikes' (although no real British touring cyclist would be seen dead anywhere near them).
  • Schwinn speculated that they could make a shedload of dosh by selling a high-end 15-speed 'touring bike'
  • To this end, they invited Campagnolo to supply the required derailleurs. Campagnolo obliged by developing the infamous 1970 Campagnolo Gran Turismo, a derailleur that was as extravantly feckless as it was extravagantly curvaceous. A young Donald Trump would have found it irresistible...
  • Schwinn persevered with the Gran Turismo for a few short years before their eye was caught by the vastly superior, and probably cheaper, Shimano Crane GS. Shimano even agreed to rebrand this fine derailleur as the Schwinn GT300 Le Tour. Schwinn then went on to fulfill their dreams and sell a shedload of highly profitable high-end 15-speed touring bikes fitted with this gear.
  • Campagnolo was struck dumb. How could a company like Schwinn, even one manned by Americans ignorant of the true religion of cycling, forsake top class Italian craftmanship for cheap Japanese trinkets? Interestingly, however, Campagnolo's response was to replicate the geometry of the Shimano Crane GS in excruciating detail and produce the 1974 Campagnolo Rally (3450). The Campagnolo fan-base roundly declared it to be the finest touring derailleur the world had ever seen.
  • The first fly in the ointment was that the Campagnolo Rally was vastly more expensive than either the excellent Shimano Crane GS or the, even more excellent, SunTour Cyclone GT. The Campagnolo Rally (3450) never really made it onto mass produced bikes - the Japanese had taken that market forever.
  • The second fly in the ointment was that the b knuckle of the Campagnolo Rally (3450) had a disturbing tendency to crack in half. The 'arm' holding the hanger bolt would break away from the section holding the parallelogram pivots. There was a nice, sharp, stress-raising angle where these two parts joined. It was a bit of a schoolboy error for a company that, at the time, was engaged in work for the aerospace industry.
  • To solve the cracking b knuckle problem, in 1975 Campagnolo modified the design of the b knuckle to add a small reinforcing flange in the sharp angle between the two offending sections. The size of this flange was limited by the presence of the pin that held the main parallelogram spring. To quote Professor Piehead, this was a partial success. The knuckles continued to break, although perhaps less frequently. I, myself, had the pleasure of experiencing one of these breakages, in the dark, in the rain.
  • In frustration, possibly in 1982, Campagnolo temporarily ditched the Campagnolo Rally (3450) and brought out the Campagnolo Rally (3550) sometimes also given the part number 5011/06. This derailleur was an amalgam of parts from the Campagnolo Rally 3450 and the Campagnolo Nuovo Gran Sport (3500). Crucially, the b knuckle was from the Nuovo Gran Sport. These days, this derailleur is sometimes referred to as the Campagnolo Nuovo Gran Sport Rally, or Campagnolo Gran Sport Rally, but I never heard it called that at the time. In my experience it was simply called the Campagnolo Rally. This design solved the problem of the breaking b knuckles, but the derailleur gave a fairly lousy change and could only handle a large sprocket with 32 teeth. The older Campagnolo Rally (3450) could handle 34 teeth - which was the industry standard. Embarrasingly, 34 teeth was well within the capabilities of any number of excellent, affordable, Shimano and SunTour models.
  • Sometime around 1983, Campagnolo moved the main parallelogram spring in the Super Record, Nuovo Record and Nuovo Gran Sport from the bolt at the b knuckle to the inside parallelogram pivot at the p knuckle. This allowed them to retire the underwhelming Campagnolo Rally (3550) and relaunch the Campagnolo Rally (3450) with an even bigger strengthening flange at the b knuckle. This finally solved the cracking problem.
  • Last, and very much least, in 1987, Campagnolo launched a cleaned up, smoothed out, modernised Campagnolo Rally, with the Campagnolo signature logo on the outer parallelogram plate and possibly the strongest b knuckle known to man. This was the last specifically 'touring' derailleur. After this point long-arm Campagnolo derailleurs were described as either being for 'mountain biking', or for 'leisure' use on the 'racing' bikes of middle aged 'athletes' who needed the comfort of a triple chainring.

It's not a particularly edifying story - and it set the tone for Campagnolo's subsequent struggles in the mountain bike market.

Campagnolo has always made a big play about being driven by passion, and, surprisingly, this is not glib marketing speak, it's impressively true! It's just that their passion is for cycle racing and not for cycletouring, or mountain biking or .................. (fill in the blank with any other cycling discipline of your choice).

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