15 Mar 2015

15th Mach 2015 Woe, woe, Triple woe!

I was getting slightly optimistic concerning my latest mixture of Shimano/Campag gearing. The 11 speed Campag and Shimano cassettes are supposed to be directly interchangeable on sprocket spacing alone. So, for the first time in years [ever?] we can safely ignore the source of the cogs in our equipment combinations. Though certainly not regarding their respective freehubs and splines. So my use of an 11 speed Shimano cassette with 11 speed Campag levers has made my "Neo-Shimergo" system worse rather than better! The sprockets are too close to each other for the Shimano rear changer to move by the correct amount using the 11 speed Campag ergo levers. So the chain cannot land perfectly on the correct sprocket. I will have to reduce changer movement. This may be achieved by re-routing the cable on the other side of the clamping screw.

If this fails, I shall just have to dig even deeper into my pockets for a Campag Athena 11 speed rear changer. An [ostensibly] all Campag system begins to make real sense at this level of sophistication. [Safely ignoring the new Shimano 11sp cassette of course.] The lateral shifting tolerances on 11 speed system are simply too small to mess about with. As can be done more successfully with fewer gears.

Then the question of maximum sprocket size rears its ugly head! The chain wrap adjusting screw may have to be lengthened for the Athena top pulley to clear my 32T bottom gear. Campagnolo's largest 11 speed cassette sprocket is a largely symbolic 29T. So Campagnolo has yet to embrace the real world of touring and your basic, non-pro cyclists in a double. Though the triple does go down to 30 x 29t for a 28" bottom gear. Which, quite coincidentally, is much the same as as my 33 x 32t bottom gear and which I consider far too high for a loaded trike.

Chain wrap capacity calculations for 11 speed gear train: This is vitally important to allow the largest front chainwheel to run safely with the largest rear cog. Even if you never deliberately use that combination you need the safety of being able to select it accidentally without destroying your bike/trike!

Athena 11sp Triple long cage [82mm] rear dérailleur:

The total [tooth] capacity of the rear changer comes into play again when running small/small and the chain suddenly goes slack! Too much slack and the chain is sucked into the rear changer and locks solid when you drop onto the small chainring. Which is precisely why I dumped the Ultegra triple set-up. The Ultegra rear changer constantly locked up solid if I dropped the chain onto the small chainwheel while on any other sprocket but the largest. This may have been due to a worn and dirty chain, but still. I got fed up with having to stop and sort it out by walking the trike and fiddling with the gear levers and cranks. Life is already too short without messing about like that!  

Separating the cycling forum rumour mill from manufacturer's claims is an absolute nightmare! Getting information online about true total capacity, allowable sprocket size and rear changers is a very long haul! I had to plough through endless forums and sales websites for days before finally locating the information I needed! Let's add in the problem of Campagnolo's own website not working properly in Firefox or IE! The PDF technical and other sheets just won't download! Clicking on the links takes me straight back to the same page!I just got rid of Chrome because it was taking 10 minutes to open each page despite my regularly clearing the cookies.

My own gears:
32-11 = 21t difference on the cassette. 43-33t = 10t difference on the double chainwheel.
Total = 21 + 10 = 31t difference. Well within the 39t claimed capacity of the Athena 11 speed triple rear dérailleur.  But it exactly matches the short cage, 55mm, double changer's total capacity. Forum users have expressed both positive and negative views of Campagnolo's true short cage capacity. Some claim the limit can be pushed slightly. Others are far more conservative after trying it for themselves.

Some online sources [dealers] suggest that the 2015 Athena Triple rear changer has only a 55mm pulley cage. Which suggests that the company has somehow "miraculously" increased the capacity for a triple set-up. That'll be Campagnolo's latest Unobtainium pulley cage spring no doubt! A technology trickle down from the SuperDuperRecord's use of priceless Unobtainium several seasons ago. When the top Campag groupset already cost more than a very decent, secondhand car. [Well, a much better one than mine!] While yet others say the Athena triple has an 82mm  centre to centre pulley spacing. The really, really, really, real truth is [or seems to be] that Athena kit remains completely unchanged for the 2015 revamp of the more upmarket kit. So we can all relax. Or can we?

That the potential purchaser of this very expensive kit should have to jump through all these hoops just to get a workable cycle transmission speaks volumes about the crap technical support offered online! The incompatibility between manufacturer's offerings is so amateur as to be complete slapstick!  It has taken me literally hours and hours of searching to get solid figures. Finally, Bike24 was the best technical resource on their sales website:

http://www.bike24.com/Athena triple rear der.  [Tick the Facts box for the spec details]

Why should it be so difficult for other box shifters online dealers to have the full manufacturer's specs listed along with the correct image for the product in question?

The countless online box shifters dealers for Campag kit do the buyer absolutely no service endlessly repeating exactly the same hyped-up, cut-potato-stencilled, 5 lines of sales crap! Is there anybody left on the planet who doesn't know aluminium is light? Why would anybody use anything else for the body of a rear changer unless it was CF?

I actually went ahead and ordered an Athena Triple rear changer from one of the best known and largest UK online outlets. Being a pessimistic pedant I used the message box to carefully specify my need for a long cage triple to get the necessary overall [chain wrap] capacity. I was worried by the lack of useful information and incorrect image on their website. At that point I had yet to pin down the actual cage length for the Triple rear changer. It seemed this huge online dealer hadn't either! Nor any control over their website. Which used an identical internal URL/link for the Triple but which lead to the same page as the Double.

Athena 11 sp short cage, Double rear changer.

I then had to formally cancel my order because they responded by email that the Triple Athena I had ordered only had a 55mm cage and was the 2015 model. For an Athena Triple rear changer? Both facts are patently false information as far as I can ascertain! How on earth a vast, online, sales outlet, with armies of trained technical support staff, can't recognise the kit on their own shelves is completely beyond me! Given Campag's boutique pricing perhaps they simply don't shift much Campag in comparison with Sramano? Why the complete absence of useful specs on their website? Money saving to fund further expansion? Who knows?

I ended up ordering an Athena Triple rear dérailleur from another online dealer because they were quite specific about the long cage in their product description. And, actually showed the Triple long cage correctly on their website instead of just repeating the manufacturer's potato-stencil picture of the short cage double and empty 5 line hyper-blurb! How difficult can it be for the giant if a much smaller competitor can get it right?

Don't even get me started on the countless box shifters dealer's description of the special material used for the Athena jockey pulleys. Special rubber or plastic? Toss a coin! Whatever happened to UK consumer protection legislation as related to product description? You can't physically examine the kit until it arrives in the post. Often it will be in decorative packaging. Which will deny you access to poke the kit with a sharp stick without breaking the box open first. Online marketing? Does not compute!

As far as I am now aware the Athena 11 sp Triple rear Dérailleur comes ONLY with an 82mm cage and NOT a 55mm. It has to cope with Campagnolo's own 52/39/30 Athena triple chainset and 11-29 cassette. 22t front difference plus 18t rear = 40t total. Which strongly suggests that Campag have exceeded their claimed 39 teeth capacity on their own groupset! Cuckoo! ;ø))

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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