the hallelujah chorus

campagnolo chorus groupset

i can still recall the days before taiwan, those halcyon times when a new bicycle was steel and not all in one piece. the road-going cognoscenti thought nothing of ordering an appropriately lugged frame often in a hue that could be chosen from a substantial range of colours. 'twas then a simple case of choosing the componentry that fitted the available budget and either getting down and dirty in the bikeshed, or handing everything to the local bike shop mechanic (remember them?) and eagerly awaiting his phone call.

campagnolo chorus groupset

there is, however, really little means of stopping change; in tandem with death and taxes, it is apparently quite inexorable. nowadays, even the cognoscenti choose next season's bicycle from the illustrations on a website. if we're lucky, there might be a couple of colours to choose from, but more often than not, the choice is restricted to take-it-or-leave-it. in the grand scheme of things, this is not as iniquitous as i may have made it appear, for economies of scale and far eastern labour charges can offer an often far more amenable purchase price. add to that the fact that two of the big three component providers are based in the region, costs can be ameliorated even further.

campagnolo chorus groupset

but, i hear you ask, whither campagnolo?

still based in vicenza, italy, but a stone's throw from padua and venice, that stone would need a sturdy heft to have their excellent componentry reach the outskirts of taiwan. which pretty much answers the question as to why very few new cycles originating from the chinese republic, feature campagnolo as original equipment. it's just the way the world works nowadays.

however, it doesn't have to be that way, depending on your velocipedinal perspective. it's still entirely possible to acquire frame and componentry in different boxes before joining them together, or finding someone who can do it for you. i mention the latter option because particularly in the case of campagnolo, the thick paper books that fill a sizeable portion of their boxes, strenuously underline the fact that every last bolt, screw and clamp ought to be fettled by none other than a qualified mechanic. in view of the complexity of even the mechanical side of things, that's perhaps not an altogether unsavoury state of affairs, but this far west, on the outer edge, campagnolo certified mechanics are few and far between.

campagnolo chorus groupset

for those in a similar situation, i'd love to say "there's an app for that", but there isn't really. and though i like to think of myself as quite knowledgeable about bicycle-related mechanical matters, there's no escaping the fact that i'm not an accredited campagnolo mechanic. however, i do have e-mail access to one, a gent whose patience seemingly knows no bounds. thus, when ritchey bicycles sent me a steel logic frameset for review and campagnolo were kind enough to supply a chorus groupset to complete the package, i fearlessly set the workstand in place.

however, if anguish and frustration (albeit with a very happy ending) are amongst your allergies, you may wish to skip the next bit.

campagnolo chorus groupset

as a self-confessed cynic, i generally take all manufacturers' warnings of potential death, should every part not be sourced from their factory and subsequently fitted by a mechanic wearing their overalls, as rather overwrought marketing. however, in this case i'm happy to eat humble pie, while still castigating vicenza under my breath. for instance, campagnolo's chorus rear mech is affixed to the frame by means of a torx bolt, yet the two limit adjustment screws require a tiny allen key. the height adjustment screw is indeed a crosshead screw, while the cable clamp bolt is an allen bolt. vicenza only offers a braze-on front gear mech; in the case of the ritchey, i'd to source an appropriately constituted adaptor. and though the cable clamp is an allen bolt, the two adjustment screws are crosshead screws.

the front brake caliper arrives with a fitted torx bolt, but the two alternatives, should the fork necessitate a longer version, are both effected by a 5mm allen key. and as you eventually clamp the brake cables in place via their allen bolts, take time to notice that the brake shoes are held in place with torx bolts. i'd also like to point out that the ergopower clamps are tightened by means of rather soft metal torx bolts. though the bicycle industry is notorious for its complete lack of compatibility, it doesn't really help that campagnolo seem intent on being incompatible with themselves.

campagnolo chorus groupset

that's not quite the extent of the bad news, but the remaining two items are rather more explicable. for starters, the ultra-torque chainset joins in the centre of the bottom bracket shell by means of a hirth-coupling. once the splines are lined up and slotted together, joining is completed by means of a substantial allen bolt, requiring a very long 10mm allen wrench to tighten, which not everyone has to hand. so far as i'm aware, there are few, if any, bicycle applications for which one of these might be necessary.

and then comes that chain...

campagnolo chorus groupset

while many chain manufacturers have moved to the relative simplicity of the ubiquitous power-link, rendering the efficacious chain tool all but redundant, campagnolo have remained faithful to the latter. in the days when ctc members claimed that even eight-speeds were three too many, bicycle chains could be fitted by even the incompetent, wielding one of those cheap little cyclo chain tools. though i have often treated with a modest degree of circumspection, any compulsion to use only the tools listed in the manuals, when it comes to campag's eleven speed chain, there really is no practical alternative to its rather heftily priced chain tool.

campagnolo chorus groupset

the joining rivet arrives with a light alloy guide-pin that slides into the available hole. if using a non-campagnolo chain tool, the pressure required to push the rivet home generally forces the chain links upwards and with nothing to stop it doing so, the guide pin inevitably snaps off, leaving you with a rivet that it is all but impossible to press squarely (or roundly) into place. believe me, i spent many fruitless hours attempting to do so. once that rivet is in place, it requires to be peened (flattened) at one end to cement its place in the firmament. this can be achieved by other chain tools, but not quite as simply as with the campagnolo version.

after a frustrating afternoon managing not to fit the rivet that arrived with the chorus chain, i contacted velotech-cycling's graeme freestone king to vent my spleen and implore him to advise vicenza to implement a power-link as others had done. he replied that "Campag are adamant that a rivetted join is best - with which I have to agree, having seen any number of broken joining links over the years - but almost never seen a properly rivetted junction come apart." to further raise his reputation in my eyes, graeme loaned me a campag workshop chain tool; this fitted the rivet in a matter of seconds.

campagnolo chorus groupset

it would be grossly unfair of me to leave you with the impression that the so-called iniquities described above suggest you should avoid campagnolo at all costs. my advice would be precisely the opposite. the mixture of bolt types is a mere irritation and has no bearing whatsoever on the groupset's effectiveness and the majority of purchasers are likely to quite rightly leave the job of assembly to a qualified mechanic. shop mechanics are more likely to have both a 10mm allen wrench and campag workshop chain tool easily to hand.

not only is campagnolo's componentry arguably the most beautiful on the market, the engineering and functionality is quite superb. and faint heart never won fair componentry; i am unashamedly of the opinion that having campagnolo fitted to your bicycle is something more than worth having, no matter the trials and tribulations involved in so doing. the two best mechanics i know (graeme freestone king and rohan dubash) will, i'm sure, back me up on this. i know of which i speak, having ridden all the way to paris on super record without even so much as a slipped gear. as the late steve jobs was wont to encourage "think different."

a review of the ritchey and chorus groupset will follow in due course.

velotech-cycling | campagnolo chorus

sunday 19 november 2017

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................