13 Oct 2012



15th Pm. Two hours into EVA we have a successful Shimergo! Campagnolo Ergo 11 speed, dual-action levers. Bolted straight onto my existing Shimano Tiagra 3 x 9 changers and Shimano/Sram 9 sp cassette. (In place of the Shimano 9 sp bar-end levers)  

It took a while to remove all the old and frayed brake and gear cables. Plus two layers of cloth sticky tape which I had only just applied. I tipped the new (secondhand) handlebars up a bit to achieve a straight line running from the bars onto the tops of the very long Ergo levers. 

NOTE: I realise now that I should have clicked the thumb gear levers to the end of their travel so that the cables fed directly upwards through the mechanism. Instead of which I tried to fit them with the levers exactly as they arrived. But when did I ever read the instructions?!? Dogh!  

There is a choice of route for the cables where they exit the tops of the lever hoods: Either in front of or behind the handlebars. Choose one of these options carefully before cutting the supplied outers to length. Some handlebars are provided with indented slots to house the cables. This makes for a more comfortable grip than a taped-over cable running along the surface of plain, round bars.  These slots can be found on both sides of some bars to allow a greater choice of cable routing.

It started raining halfway through my lever conversion. So I had to tidy everything back into the shed and then work in the open doorway to have enough light. Then it stopped raining again and I could continue outside on the work stand. Now my back hurts from lifting the trike so high and doing it several times to boot! I could have removed the saddlebag to reduce the weight but I was in too much of a hurry to get on with the job.

The new cables were fed through their casings and frame stops to the changers and tightened. Amazingly it all worked perfectly straight out of the box. (well, several Campag bags in this case) 

Rather surprisingly, I had to make a few minor adjustments to the changer end stops. There had been a lot of friction with the old Shimano bar-end levers because I had used very old recycled outers. The new cable freedom sent the chain off both ends of the cassette and the chainrings! Easily fixed with a screwdriver to the end stop screws on the Tiagra changers. 

The Campag cables are of superb quality. With longitudinally oriented armoured, stiff plastic outers for the gears and larger conventional outers for the brakes. Both are marked with the Campag logo in what looks like real gold leaf! Both types of cable are lined with some sort of low friction plastic which works very well. 

It made a nice change from the floppy, crappy outers I had borrowed from several old bikes! Campag also has much tidier cable routing than Shimano. This is sometimes referred to as the Shimano washing lines. Room for a couple of pairs of racing shorts blowing in your self-made headwind!  

Later Ergo levers do not need cable ferrules but it pays to smooth the ends of any cut casings with a fine file. (After using a dedicated cable cutter) A sharp point can be used to gently clear any closure of  the low friction plastic liner. 

I ran both gear cables along the single grooves in the alloy, dropped handlebars. With the brake cables tucked in just below them and all taped in tightly with electrical tape. I'll tape the bars properly with cloth sports injury tape tomorrow. It is promised to rain and blow again. So I should have time before my ride. I shall also add the gel strips under the tape. Though I'm not sure the gel does anything more than bulk the bar out to make it more comfortable. The gel is fairly dense and will become even denser once tightly wrapped in handlebar tape.

I only had time to ride down the road and back to check how the gears performed. It turned dark and windy again and looked like more rain. Now the sun is smiling under the clouds from over on the horizon! Grrr! 

The Ergo brake levers proved very powerful and progressive compared with the old Shimano single action. Which I had removed to make room for the Ergos. Presumably the result of careful design of the leverage and pivot points by Campag. They offer a neat quick-release button for the brakes to allow easy wheel removal. Or greater clearance in the case of a wheel running out of true. 

The gears now seem to work much better with the Ergo levers than with the 9-speed, Shimano bar-end levers. The left lever has a lot of clicks for easy trimming of the front changer cage position. Effortless in practice even after a only hundred yards of playing with the levers. It will soon seem like second nature.

I had been looking everywhere for a slightly longer stem. With the amazing length of the rubber covered hoods on these Campag Ergo levers I needn't have bothered. I'll now have to rethink my riding position all over again! The saddle will certainly have to move forward to compensate.

The Campag Ergo levers are unusual in having three levers. The usual, long, curvy, conventional lever for the brake. Designed to be within easy reach of the drops too. Another long lever behind the brake lever changes down though the gears by sideways movements. (lower gears = bigger sprockets) The thumb lever changes up. (higher gears = smaller sprockets) 

The front changer lever works the opposite way as far as gear ratios are concerned. With the long lever lifting the chain onto bigger chainrings. The thumb lever moving the chain onto smaller chainrings. (Including triples without modification!) 

Both levers can move the chain quickly through several gears at a time if held down. Handy for when you suddenly need a high gear while going downhill fast and find yourself twiddling like a lunatic in completely the wrong gear. Or if you meet a "wall" around a blind corner and suddenly need a "granny" gear to keep going. 

Ergo levers can be rebuilt with different internal spare parts which changes the number of speeds they will handle. 11 speed cassettes with Campag spacing and Shimano splines are available, at a price. No doubt more affordable after-market, 11 speed cassettes will appear eventually with more useful touring ratios than Campag offer. But still with Shimano spline/Shimano spacing for Shimano changers.

Sram gear changers have a different cable pull ratio so are not ideal fodder for the direct swaps which readily suit Shimano. As do Campag changers. So if you want to use their changers you have to re-space your Shimano cassettes! Or buy and fit a Campag fit wheel and cassette. Or buy affordable cassettes already re-spaced in 10 speeds from people like Ambrosio. Available in Shimano or Campag spline, Shimano or Campag sprocket spacing. 

I have a Trykit 2WD, Shimano spline, free-hub body on my trike. I cannot fit a Campag body because there are no Campag 2WD freehubs available from Trykit. So I must make the best of the existing Shimano splines. I chose the Shimergo (Shimano-Campag Ergo) route to avoid Shimano lever redundancy. Shimano offer no small spares for repairing their dysfunctional levers. So, unless you can fix them yourself, the lever immediately becomes very expensive scrap! 

Campag levers are not cheap but I have it on good authority that they are all but identical internally. So just choose within your own price range. Any differences are largely cosmetic except for the Ultrashift at the top end of Campag's range. Alloy is the standard lever material at the bottom end. With pretty carbon fibre at the more expensive end of the Campag ranges. 

There are supposed to be some titanium parts inside the Super Record if that floats your luxury yacht. All have the names of the particular Campag group running along the brake lever. "11" for 11 speed is printed across the centre of the group name graphics. Earlier examples have the number of gears at the tip of the brake lever. Some have the speed logo across the top of the lever. The 10 speed levers are an example of this.

Remember that 10 speed Ergo levers are still available and provide 10 gears with Shimano changers and Shimano cassettes straight out of the Campag box/bag.  

Another advantage of the Campag Ergo levers is that the brake levers do not rock sideways while changing gear. I suppose it might even be possible to reverse the lever internals for left-handed riders, but I'm only guessing.   

The centre-pull brake will have to go! Which is why I haven't clipped the cable off yet. I need a smart side-pull with long enough reach. Not an easy task!  Though the Tektro R559 looks a possible candidate. I'd prefer the R725 but it's much shorter reach. 

Shimergo offers the ability to swap Shimano wheels at will. Provided they have the correct number of Shimano sprockets of course. Campagnolo equipped road racers suffer if a neutral service vehicle offers a Shimano wheel after a puncture or crash. The all-Campag rider cannot accept anything other than Campagnolo wheels. This could easily cost the rider the race if he must wait for his own team car carrying Campag wheels. But remember that the team cars are pulled from the front of the race as it reaches its final stages.

This variation in cassette sprocket spacing (between manufacturers of cassettes with identical numbers of gears) does nobody any favours. It is pure bullshit IMO! Riders worried about obtaining Campag spare wheels will be afraid to take the risk of not having a wheel when desperately needed. 

Those who would like to use Campag are denied easy access to their equipment. By virtue(?) of its relatively high price and rarity despite having the unique advantage of 11 gears. A potter around the better bike shops in my area of Denmark proved this rarity of Campag equipment. Even a shop with quite a number of Campag-equipped racing bikes had none of the higher end stuff. It was only available to order with "day prices" at that! I had no choice. I either paid their "day price"or I ordered online. I chose the latter because I could pick and choose at leisure going entirely on price from dealers right across Europe and the UK. 

Can you imagine such non-standardisation being tolerated across other industries? If they (the manufacturers) think they are protecting their unique identity with non-standard sprocket spacings and cable pull ratios they have obviously forgotten who pays their wages. The customer always has a choice and will go elsewhere. A bicycle component manufacturer is no different from a shop or supermarket in this respect. If you are rude to your customers or deny them a freedom of choice they will walk.  The shop then closes down through lack of customers. Particularly when times are hard. As they are right now.

Complete freedom to mix and match components would allow amateur riders to use the finest component from each manufacturer. Each component earns its keep or is discarded. Being forced to accept a non-industry standard group set just to be able to use one respected component is a nonsense in an Internet connected world. The customer will choose the standardised component every time. Sponsored teams are another matter entirely. While they do bring publicity they do not ensure purchases from the amateur cyclist at their favourite LBS. 

Campagnolo was once the revered manufacturer of racing bike bits. In my youth there was little or no choice if you wanted the best. You just chose a Campag group within your budget. Now their rivals have completely dwarfed Campag. Not least in range and price. Campag pretends it is still the only racing component manufacturer. While cheerfully ignoring the paltry number of winners using their equipment on the pro circuit. Shimergo laughs in the face of this blinkered foolishness! While Sram steadily undercuts Shimano's  monopoly.

Anyone interested in trying a Shimergo set-up should do a proper search online for more details. There are quite a number of bike forum discussions and a website or two. Though some of the information is well out of date thanks to the arrival of 11 speed Ergo levers. As usual the forum discussions always wander from the core subject. So sorting the wheat from the chaff is very time consuming and pointlessly difficult. 

Here's a video of Shimergo in action.  It was at full  stretch to reach the lever while turning the crank. This explains a couple of sloppy changes. It all works perfectly on the road.

To save you some time in your research: 
11 speed Campag Ergo levers work well with  9 speed Shimano cassettes and changers. But NOT 10 speed without cable clamp re-routing. (Hubbub)
10 speed Campag Ergo levers work well with 10 speed Shimano cassettes and changers. But NOT 9 speed without cable clamp re-routing. Do an online search for Hubbub.

Mixing up the different manufacturer's kit with any other gear combinations gets much more complicated! So do your homework before placing an order for expensive Campag levers if you have any other plans! It all hangs on the length of cable pull per click of the levers. This must be properly matched to the overall width and sprocket spacing of the cassette in conjunction with the rear changer. The gear changer plays its own role in moving by a certain fixed distance from one cog to the next on each tug of the cable by the control lever. But remember, the changer is not indexed. Only the gear lever is indexed. Campagnolo, Shimano and Sram changers and levers all do their own thing with the all of the above! 

Get any of this wrong and the gears will never index properly. This has nothing to do with the end stop screws of the gear changers. The end stops remain unchanged since they must match the cassette width or the chain simply overshoots. Adjusting the end stops has NO effect on the individual sprocket indexing. Only the gear levers can do that and they are not adjustable. 

If you set up a wrongly matched system on the first sprocket you will overshoot (or undershoot) on all the consecutive gears. Set up in the middle of the cassette and both ends can go horribly wrong! 

Shimano and Sram both make much wider ratio cassettes than Campag's much more modest range. The latter are designed purely for road racing. Though they are now represented by a very small minority of professional riders. So Shimergo allows some very serious touring ratios in combination with suitable Shimano changers. Road or MTB. Simultaneously Shimergo provides the excellent (and repairable) Ergo gear/brake levers into the bargain. 

The loss of one or two gears, over the promised full 11 speeds by the Ergo lever, is no real disadvantage. Not if you can actually climb those nasty, big hills!  If you cannot live without your full compliment of gears, to match the lever graphics, then just do a Shimergo 10: Campag Ergo 10 speed levers with Shimano 10 speed cassettes and 10 speed Shimano changers. 

Note that the "big guys" (Shimano) haven't yet caught up with Campag's unique 11 speed ranges right across the board of all their various groups. So complaining about the missing gears from a Shimergo set-up seems just a bit silly. Nobody else can offer 11 indexed gears except Campagnolo! 

But note: Shimano has now come out with a completely incompatible Dura-Ace 11 speed at prices which makes even Campag top end stuff look foolishly expensive. Strictly for the sponsored pros. Or investment bankers desperate to shed some bonus money on bling. No doubt the levers will still fall to pieces and remain unrepairable to ensure the naive can brag (or moan) about their expenditure on cycling. The majority racing bike sales are just for posers' chest wigs/medallions anyway.

Sram now has an 11 gear MTB system using a single chainwheel and enormous sprockets. Up to 42T! It is also completely incompatible with anything previously offered. 

PPS: The exact choice of which Campag Ergo levers to buy is not all about bling. The models from Chorus and above allow rapid gear changes right across the cassette with a simple lever depression and hold. Lower order levers are limited to one gear  change at a time in sequence. You pays your money and makes your choice. Hopefully only once!

                                               Click on any image for an enlargement.


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