ShimaNO - Campy Only! The Roubaix Story and Other Bicycles

Leonard, one of the riders on the Boston to Santa Barbara trip this summer, asked me to elaborate on why I chose Campagnolo over Shimano parts for my flagship racing and touring bicycle, my Specialized Roubaix. In answering this question, I need to elaborate on the history of this bicycle.

The first racing bicycle I ever owned was a 1998 Lightspeed Natchez titanium frame with Shimano Ultegra 9 speed parts. I bought this bicycle for $1000 from a gentlemen I met through LOOT ads; think of these as a predecessor to Craigslist. I was able to buy the bicycle with my own money, saved from working as a computer consultant.

The Litespeed was numbered #0 in my bicycle naming scheme (more on that later). Unfortunately, it was too small for me, so I sold the frame and replaced it with a surplus Mitaya titanium/aluminum frame which I received for free. That frame was also too large.

The proceeds from the sale of #0 went to buying #4, a 2004 Raleigh Competition. This was another Ultegra 9 equipped bike, al aluminum frame with carbon stays and a carbon fork. This bicycle was a pleasure to ride, and served me well during my 2005 ride from Seattle, WA to San Francisco, CA. Unfortunately, I never really fell in love with the bicycle, so I sold it.

I bought my current flagship frame, a 2005 Specialized Roubaix Elite, in the spring of 2006 with the proceeds from the sale of #4. It shipped with, once again, Ultegra 9, which served me well on my Bike and Build tour in 2006.

In the fall of 2006, I had been riding Ultegra 9 shifters and components on every road bike I had ever owned. I was satisfied, but not particularly impressed, with the performance and feel of the componentry. I found the shape of the shift levers to be somewhat uncomfortable, and didn't like the way you could only shift a few gears at a time. They also tended to get sluggish after a while. My training bike happened to come with Campagnolo Veloce 9 parts, which allowed me to shift many gears at a time, and were more comfortable. I also wanted to upgrade the Roubaix to 10 speed, at long last. After looking at the available options, and the bank account, I decided to upgrade the Roubaix to Campagnolo Chorus, with a Record rear derailleur and Centaur brakes.

I've been incredibly happy with my Campagnolo setup. Shifting performance is excellent, of course, but what I appreciate most is Campagnolo's attention to detail. The shape of the shift levers, long and flat with a prominent bump at the end, more closely emulates bullhorn bars and provides a very comfortable continuous surface on the tops of the bars for my large hands. Upshift and downshift are two distinct motions: one is a small button, the other is a separate lever. Unlike Shimano, I can pull the smaller shifting lever closer to the bars, making it easier to shift. I like the way that the indexing mechanism is fully serviceable, and the way that the shifting internals are housed in the shifter body, which is well protected from the elements and doesn't move. I really like the clever way that you open the brakes: there is a little button on the shift lever, which allows the brake cable to slacken. Internal cable routing is incredibly elegant, though it robs the bicycle of a really clever place to mount cue sheets.

The Campagnolo parts, with their carbon fiber accents, complement my bicycle quite nicely. I'm a big fan of the weave look. I like everything about SRAM road components except the shifting mechanism, so I won't be moving away from Campy anytime soon.

So, what are the downsides of running Campagnolo parts? There aren't many. I can run a Shimano 10-speed cassette or chain - it's not recommended, but it works just fine. Campagnolo parts are typically more expensive, and they're certainly harder to replace out in the middle of the country. Since the brake lever doesn't move from side to side, it's easier to damage in a crash, leading to a costly replacement. I also don't have anywhere to put my cue sheets!

Both of my derailleur-equipped bicycles run Campagnolo at the moment. My forthcoming time trial bike will likely sport Shimano components, but Campy and Shimano time trial components are nearly identical, so I'm not too worried.


For the record, I currently own three bicycles:

#5 - 2001 Bianchi Veloce, Campagnolo Veloce 9, re-painted black, has PowerCranks. This is my training bike, purchased on the cheap at a police auction.
#8 - 2005 Specialized Roubaix Elite, Campagnolo Chorus 10, blue. This is my flagship bike.
#9 - 2006 Fuji Track Pro, red/white/black. This is my city bike, though I use it on the velodrome as well.

#6 is reserved for the steel frame which I'm building, #7 has been reserved since the start for a really spiffy time trial bike, likely a 2008 Fuji Aloha CF1.

Either #8 or (possibly) #7 will take me across the United States this summer. Isn't that wild?