I ride Campagnolo.
I’ve done so since I picked up a DeRosa Giro d’Italia frameset in 1995. I had to pick something to build it up with but I just could not stomach putting anything on that beautiful bike other than Campy. Maybe if Ergopower had not already been on the market for a few years I would have considered another option. But the combination of that paddle lever and thumb button for shifting made so much sense and the look of the cables buried beneath the bar tape made everything look so clean. The other brand was not offering that option way back then. I’ve built up ten more road bikes since that DeRosa over the past 17 years and they have all had Campy. I have tried the other brands, and they work fine. But it’s just second nature for me to push that thumb button when it’s go time and at this point in my life I am not really interested in learning new systems. You know what they say about old dogs and such. I’m an old dog and such.
So it was only logical that, upon my return to cyclocross in 2008, I would pick Campagnolo for my cross bike. Some might say it was a dangerous choice, as that fine Italian bike jewelry is pretty expensive and cross is notoriously hard on bikes and components. Additionally, I am notoriously hard on bike and components when anything resembling “off-road” is involved. Based upon my personal experience however, I would submit that if you are really worried about the price of bike parts then considering the Campy brand is probably a wise choice.
If you have a moment you should check out the recent Bicycling Magazine article regarding the company and their manufacturing process. It’s eye opening to say the least. But the result is, again from my experience, totally bomb proof components. Every weekend for the past four years I would line up for the weekend cross races here in town, sometimes even venturing out of state for USGP’s or other national caliber races. And following every weekend I would see the endless stream of complaints on the internet about someone blowing out some critical part on their cross bike that ended up ending their day early. Sometimes it would even be the same person multiple weeks in a row complaining about the same part breaking that they had just replaced the week before.
I can honestly say, in the past four years of riding cyclocross bikes with Campagnolo hardware, I have had to repair a total of two parts. One was a Chorus rear derailleur that got a stick kicked up during a training ride and ripped off my frame. That thing got all bent to hell and I have not taken the time to get it fixed up yet. The second item was the right hand thumb button on a Chorus shifter. This was damaged last December at cross nationals when I rode full speed into an iron course fence. In all the years of training and racing on this stuff, all of the horrible conditions that I have exposed my bikes to, all of the crashing and ghost rides that this stuff has been subjected to, only two broken parts. Neither of which happen to fail while “just riding along.”
It should not really be a surprise. Campagnolo tests their components in cyclocross after all. If the stuff is bullet proof enough to handle the extreme variety of conditions that cross riders subject their bikes to it should be robust enough to take your typical road conditions. I understand even the new Campy EPS equipment has been fully tested in cross.
What’s it all mean? It means it looks nice, it makes your bike pretty, but it bottom line works great in all conditions and this stuff ain’t, by any means, fragile. You might find yourself spending a bit more up front for the craftsmanship of Vicenza, but at the end of the day, month or year you will probably find yourself spending a lot less keeping that stuff going. I certainly have.