The story of bicycle component manufacturer Campagnolos.r.l
Campagnolo are perhaps the first name that comes to mind when one thinks about Italian racing bicycle components. Indeed the devotion of the brands many adherents worldwide verges on a religion. Rival bicycle component manufacturers from all over the world hotly contend for the consumer’s loyalty, but only Campagnolo can be said to inspire such passion.
No other name can claim to better represent innovation and quality in Italian racing bicycle componentry than that of Campagnolo, founded by Tullio Campagnolo in the 1920s in the backyard workshop of his father’s ironmongers. His hard-won experiences as an aspiring road racing cyclist in the 1920s led Tullio to invent a succession of innovative components over the subsequent decades which would do much to define the function and aesthetic of the classic racing bicycle. First amongst these was the quick release skewer to fix the wheels in the bicycle frame, which was debuted in the 1930s. No longer was the racing cyclist burdened with cumbersome tools, and wheel changes could be achieved much quicker than was the case before. Indeed the quick release is still a staple on the racing wheels of the present day. The corresponding drop-outs for the frame and fork, bearing the Campagnolo name, would soon be adopted by the major frame builders.
Tullio Campagnolo was to invent various mechanisms over the years as he sought to improve the quality of the gear shift. At that time rival manufacturers’ designs required the rider to cease pedalling to select the next gear, if not dismount from the machine altogether. Thus Campagnolo’s lever operated gear change from 1946 was an early success. In 1950 however Campagnolo changed the game decisively with the debut of their first parallelogram rear derailleur, the Gran Sport, and this simple mechanism is still essentially recognisable in the derailleurs of the present day.
It was Campagnolo who would introduce the concept of the “Gruppo di componenti” or component group, comprising the principal components of the bicycle, the headset and bottom bracket, the wheel hubs, crankset, gears, and brakes. The company has never been one to rest on its laurels, and has always sought to reduce weight whilst improving component efficiency, enhancing the durability and increasing the longevity of their product offering. All whilst keeping aesthetics at the forefront of their design philosophy. For all their many functional merits, it is also for their sublime good looks that Campagnolo components are so highly regarded, and commensurately highly priced.
Top Campagnolo components
A comprehensive list of Campagnolo products would be far too lengthy to recite here, and indeed whole books have been dedicated to the subject, so we will restrict ourselves to the most noteworthy milestones.
In 1984 Campagnolo released their distinctive Delta brakes, featuring an unmistakeable triangular design with a central cable pulled mechanism, in which a complicated system of levers concealed behind a large front casing magnified the braking force achieved at the brake pads. Not only are Delta brakes great stoppers, they impart a unique look. The C-Record brake levers of the same year offered the opportunity to conceal the brake cables along the handlebar beneath the bar tape.
In 1992 Campagnolo offered the Ergopower brake lever with integrated gear shifter mechanism, thereby consigning the top-tube mounted gear change lever to the annals of history. Campagnolo Ergopower levers differ substantially from the offerings of their competitors in the use of a separate thumb actuated lever on the inside to shift to a higher gear.
The year 2000 saw the debut of the 10-speed cassette and correspondingly narrowed chain.