For a lot of people, preferences stem from nostalgia and familiarity. What was the drivetrain on your first “real” bike?
Would you consider yourself to be well versed in riding the three major component brands? Tell us a little about your history with them all. (and for the relevance to this conversation, let’s just consider bikes in the “brifter” era, and mechanical of course)
Looks or legacy aside, do you find any that any particular brand has a leg over the others in terms of pure functionality?
For you personally, what are your top two or three pros, and top cons to Campagnolo?
- I really like the tactile feeling of the levers, and have always felt an allure to the mouse-ear thumb shifter.
- The latest 12 speed stuff feels impressively precise.
- It’s fucking Campagnolo.
- The ergonomics of the hoods don’t always feel great for me. It’s especially hard to find the sweet spot placing them on modern compact bend bars.
- I think the new rear derailleur is pretty ugly.
- I feel Campagnolo tends to suffer the worst from the internal cable routing of modern bikes. External routing and it’s amazingly smooth, but on a bike like a Pinarello Dogma, mechanical Campagnolo would not be my choice.
- B A L L E R alert - Italian precision components out of Vicenza. I LOVE the updated shift cables.
- I think mechanics telling riders that “shift cables stretch” is inaccurate - it's more like “shift housing is wearing in”
- Whatever Campagnolo coats their chains in while at the factory is a magical lubricant that has no little to no scent & I have never seen a lubricante similar to what they coat their chains with in the factories. The chains tend to far outlast any other brand on the market hands down! -Unique ergonomics for small hands like mine :)
- Cost - No Campagnolo Super Record power meters? - sending to Stages doesn’t fit the aesthetic in my book
- Gravel group? What gravel group.. haha
- I think Campagnlo prides themselves on the tarmac & pavement consumers, but who knows what's in store for the future
- Durability. It’s common to see bikes come in that are 20 years old, if not older still working fine with Campagnolo. We’ve had some bikes come in that had over 20k miles on them w/ the original chain and cassette. Not recommended by any means, but nice to see that it can happen. I had just one road/race bike that I spent all my time on from 1997-2003 with the same group and besides normal maintenance I never had to do anything to the group.
- Aesthetics. This is personal of course, but, I have always thought that Campagnolo parts looked the best. I still think that’s the case, but, I feel the bar has been lowered here dramatically. Right now, I love the Campagnolo Super Record mechanical levers, cranks (so sick!) and front derailleur. The brakes are not bad but not great and the rear derailleur is just plain ugly. Again, my .02. It’s just that Shimano and SRAM look that much worse, so due to Campagnolo’s super hot cranks, levers and front derailleur, it still reigns supreme. Not that long ago, this was much easier, the C-Record group is still my favorite looking group of all time. So much polish! I’ll save this for another time, but, we will write about the things we’d do if we ran each perspective company, sound good Derek? I’ve got some ideas. :-) `Out of the three groups here, I think that Campagnolo is the easiest to set up, work on and keep tuned.
- Expensive. Even though I think it’s easy to work on, it seems like not many people know how to do it. We’ve had people decide against Campagnolo because they say they don’t have anyone in their area that is good with it. I find that odd as, again it’s pretty easy.
- Their reluctance to have a high end polished alloy group. For a company that has such storied history, I feel that it’s totally fine to lean on it. I would give anything to see a super crazy high end groupset. Made out of alloy, polished until it can’t be polished anymore, pantographed logos, titanium bolts, ceramic bearings etc. This is what the world needs.
- Sorry, one more. I’d love to see more gearing choices. The new 12 speed cassette only comes in 11X29 and 11X32. Those are both great cassettes to have for sure, but we need more! I know I should most likely be running a 32 as I’m not the greatest climber in the world and I live in an area with lots of climbing, but I’ve accepted that I like to grind. And, I hate big jumps between gears. I would love to see a 12X27 at the least, I don’t need the 11 and with a 27 could still run the 53X39 cranks. I just ride faster with this set up. And, for a company that used to have so many options to choose from I find it hard to believe that there are so few now. Same with crank length, we could use at least one more option, preferably two.
And for Shimano?
- IMO, it is easily the smoothest feeling shifting of them all.
- A lot of options for gearing, and thoughtful to have clutched RX/GRX derailleurs available now for all-road and gravel bikes.
- I think the design and aesthetics of the group as a whole are the best of the three.
- I really don’t like that the whole brake lever moves when shifting. It’s not such a big deal on a road bike, but for a gravel or cyclocross bike, it’s pretty easy to accidentally shift when grabbing a handful of brakes on a rough, technical descent. It’s not Campagnolo.
- Honestly I don’t think I have any other complaints...Actually, scratch that. I think they mechanical shift/disc brake levers are horrible. It's actually the main reason I chose Di2 for my latest Shimano bike.
- Setup is quite easy. I add a few extra steps on top of their recommended procedures just to ensure the best ride possible for our clients
- I’d say a lot of riders have been on a Shimano equipped bike at some point in their life as their components hit a wide price range and huge line up of groupsets to hit every cyclist on the market.
- The familiarity of the name Shimano is a great talking point with folks that are just getting into the cycling game.
- Cables have that polymer coating. While Shimano states there is no functionality issue with the polymer coating fraying - I’ve found that to be false & case by case..There is a delay with that shit bunching up near any ferrule or frame entrance causing extra friction. End of the day I recommend an annual cable swap or check in after about 5000km to help prevent issues from this.
- No 12speed road groups yet..?
- I’ve seen the most sheared off shift cable heads tucked away in their control lever (again very important to swap cables once a year depending on rider usage)
- Shimano 7400 was rad. And beautiful. And, was made like over 25 years ago. I know this is not a real ‘Pro” but i’m keeping it here. Shimano makes really really nice stuff.
- Tons of gearing and crank options, Like Campagnolo used to do. So huge props to Shimano for sticking to this. I like that, they are betting on themselves. It’s expensive and a lot of Sku’s to make so many options, but they are looking out for everyone.
- Smooth. Quiet. Just a straight up refined groupset.
- Shift levers that also act as brake levers. Have never liked this. Ever.
- Not the most durable group. I’ve seen chains snap, individual cogs on the cassette shear off, cables break and i’ve even seen crank arms shear in half, multiple times. Personally, I’ve had a cog on the cassette shear off while rounding a hairpin on a climb not that long ago. I also believe that a lot of the problems I mentioned here can be attributed to lack of good maintenance.
- They’ve had some pretty ugly groups over the past couple of decades. Do something special like 7400 again and I can guarantee that you will see a lot more Shimano bolted onto our frames.
Okay, and how about Sram?
- I actually really like double tap. It’s got a super positive feel and even though you can’t dump gears down the cassette with one throw, it still shifts super fast. Especailly since they came out with the Zero-Loss technology, I’ve grown to like the lever feel quite a bit.
- It’s light! I’m not much of a weight weenie, but it’s certainly a benefit.
- They pioneered some really useful things like wide-range cassettes and dedicated 1x groups for road/cross/gravel bikes. They seem to have the best pulse on where trends are going and act quickly on responding.
- The front shifting has always been pure shit. I feel like they’ve always come out with weird hacks and band-aid technology to account for it, but it’s always been Srams achilles heel, even with eTap. Kind of surprising as both Shimano and Campagnolo have had great front shifting since the beginning.
- I’ve found it to be the least durable long term. Components wear, parts break, etc. faster than the other brands.
- Well, they seem to have given up on advancing high end mechanical groups.
- Light weight & futuristic.
- Sram is a huge umbrella that covers a wide range of other brands that they’ve consumed.
- I can only imagine their R&D teams are pushing for the best of the best.
- No mechanical option in the 12s groups
- Dot 5.1 fluid - while I’ve figured out a process that works for me & the Sram brake bleeds.. I think there are a lot of mechanics that struggle with bleeding this system.
- More chain drop on the front derailleurs than the other two brands.
- Pros Double Tap shifting was ingenious. It was positive and super fast. Not as fast as Campagnolo (I’ve timed them all) but close. So great for shifting while sprinting. I mean really really good. So good, that I think Campagnolo should buy the rights to this shifting system for their new mechanical groups. I mean, SRAM doesn’t need it anymore. I don’t mind Campagnolo’s thumb lever, but the Double Tap is king.
- Light weight.
- Sorry, can’t think of anything else.
- Brakes on the mechanical group sucked. Sorry guys, I don’t like slamming companies, but these were always bad. Soft, didn’t adjust super well, ugly etc.
- Ugly. The groups were just ugly. The graphics were bad, the brakes were bad, the crank/bb interface looked like shit. Just was not finished well. To be fair, their main customers were Specialized, Trek and other big brands like that—brands that don’t have the style that a lot of the hand built guys exude. Before you get all pissy with me and say that your S-Works is the shit, that’s cool and not what I mean. I’m talking classy, well thought out aesthetics. Something like what Dario Pegoretti would put out, or something Velocolour would design. SRAM just never seemed to go well with bikes like that. But, on a modern race bike, it’s not so bad.
- Flimsy. SRAM fell apart more than Shimano, which is not easy.
- Now, to be fair, SRAM Red was getting better and better in all aspects, looks, durability, functionability. They just quit on us. If they still made a mechanical group, it could be the best of the bunch right now, but we’ll never know...
Do you ever wish you could combine attributes from differing groups or do you feel one in particular is superior to your tastes?