Reverence: Campagnolo Quick-Release

Reverence: Campagnolo Quick-Release

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Tullio Campagnolo, an amateur racing cyclist, was racing on a classic Rule #9 day in Italy. The weather was cold, and I believe he was racing in the mountains. Riding with the leaders, I can almost feel in the pit of my stomach the dread that must have crept over him as he realized he wouldn’t be able to change gear. At the time, wheels used a flip gear to allow for changing of gear, and were fixed in place with wing-nuts which made it easy to remove the rear wheel – assuming everything was well greased, nothing was dirty or frozen, and the rider had just taken a refreshing shower. Which happened to not be the case on this particular day, as he had the misfortune of actually riding his bike.

It almost goes without saying that his frozen fingers were unable to loosen the frozen wing-nuts. And here is where Tullio distinguishes himself from people like me; whereas I would have chucked a Millarcopter you could see from the International Space Station, Tullio made the slightly more productive move of inventing perhaps the most sensible component on our bicycles: the quick-release.

There is no component a Velominatus can own that speaks more clearly to the history of our sport than a Campagnlogo Quick-Release. Bearing that in mind, it’s a shameful thing that I, a self-proclaimed Velominatus, have never owned one. Until a few months ago, that is, shortly after procuring my Record hubs, when I finally got my hands on a set.

And I have to say, they don’t disappoint. They’re not the lightest skewers in existence, but they do have a beautifully solid feeling when opening and closing them, and they grip amazingly true to the Campagnolo dropouts on my steel frame. The arc of the lever defies description; on the front it hugs the fork and tucks neatly behind it while on the back it bisects the angle of the chain and seat stays in perfect Rule #41 compliance. It is a sight to behold. In fact, it’s a little bit dangerous because I should spend less time staring at them when I’m riding and more time starting at the road.

Grazie, Signore Campagnolo.

// Reverence

  1. I have miche hubs and skewers but they are atleast 1980 build on a Torpado Nouvo Sprint…love em. Rule #5

  2. I have some very nice Campagnolo levers on my Record hubs circa 1991. They are a lot like those pictured, or the same. Slick levers for sure!

    I have some circa 2007 Record hubs in black, not as nice as my silver Record hubs. Those levers are kind of clunky, kind of ugly. Have a cut-out, kind of too big.

    I do have to say, despite any attacks I may incur, I do have some Dura Ace skewers that are beautifully finished and have a wonderful action.

    Nice one, Frank! Thanks for keeping us up on the beautiful bits, even the tiny ones we might overlook!

    TGIF to all! Hope you get some nice rides in. I’m off the bike for a few days and heading to a wedding.

  3. Back in the early days of ebay when there was an abundance of vintage Campy parts I procured several hi-flange record hubsets from the 60’s and 70’s. So I’ve had my share of Campag QR’s (still do :). I must say that I prefer the older straight levers. The curved levers have a certain wet noodle look to me..they’re the straight one’s – but bent. On the back they line up nicely under the chainstay, or even straight back the shape is pointing forward giving an almost aero quality. When the front is closed in the same manner (straight back) the two tie in together giving some added symmetry. It’s a subtle difference between the two but one I prefer.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/83868261@N00/2041640581
    (not mine but best example I could find)

  4. On my steel bike I’ve a Shimano gruppo but the quick-releases are Campagnolo, the moots is all Campagnolo but the pedals are Shimano…

  5. Amerckx Frank!

    there is nothing more simple and more revolutionary than the Campy QR’s.

    Italian beauty and function
    Steel
    must be matched w/Hi flange hubs and freewheel, tubulars, campy toe straps, down tube shifter…a dirt road, autumn foliage, peace and quiet

    (i must say as a clarification from a deep crevis within my psyche, the rear derailleur must have been the no. 1 revolutionary piece of component made however)

  6. Nothing, absolutely nothing, on Merckx’s green Earth can compare to Italian style.

  7. I have a set of those in my ‘cycling storage box’. Glad I kept them. When I quit cycling 12 years ago or so, I sold off most of my stable, save my beloved Ritchey Road Logic, and the frame and fork of my late 80’s Viner (funny) TT bike. Now inspired by the fine machines (carbon and steel) here at Velominati, I’m putting the old girl back together. But, I’m taking my time, so it comes correct. No carbon, no SRAM or Shimano. Campa C-Record (just picked up a crankset in exchange for a 12 pack of Widmer). Perhaps I’ll be allowed the honor of a short piece here when I’m done. Now, where did I store those Delta brakes…………….

  8. @frank
    Did he not want to take his wheel our so that he could flip it over having use the big sprocket on one side to get up the mountain and use the smaller sprocket to go down? Flip flop hubs being the only option back then. The race was the Gran Premio Della Vittoria and the location was the Croce d’Aune pass. 1927ish.

  9. @Chris
    You’re right Chris, it wasn’t a puncture it was a gear change (despite the Wiki entry). And the name of the pass inspired the name of the 80’s Croce d’Aune gruppo.

    @Gillis
    I have pairs of both q/rs but IMO the curved ones look better, plus they work much better than the old flat ones.

  10. @Frank
    Definitely a part worthy of Reverence however – good stuff!

  11. @Chris, @Oli
    Very cool, corrected. I knew he the creative spark was lit by not being able to loosen the wing-nuts, but didn’t know why he needed to loosen them. Damn WikiPedia has betrayed me again! If only I was willing to do actual “research”, but that sounds too much like “work”.

  12. @Souleur

    (i must say as a clarification from a deep crevis within my psyche, the rear derailleur must have been the no. 1 revolutionary piece of component made however)

    Man, if I had a Margaritaville derailleur, I’d certainly do a reverence on that one!

    Yeah, the mechs make a big impact, but I guess I see those as more iterative and incremental improvements over an existing design…what I love about the QR is that it’s just from nothing – there was nothing like it and he just conceived of it. That’s innovation!

  13. @Pedale.Forchetta

    On my steel bike I’ve a Shimano gruppo but the quick-releases are Campagnolo, the moots is all Campagnolo but the pedals are Shimano…

    Sounds like you’ve got an identity crisis! You are in fine company, though, as Museeuw also rode Campa with shimano shoes/pedals. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up to think of mixing like that, but to each their own! I rode Shimano pedals a long time, they’re great pedals.

    @Ron

    I do have to say, despite any attacks I may incur, I do have some Dura Ace skewers that are beautifully finished and have a wonderful action.

    I know which ones you’re talking about, and Shimano did make some beautiful stuff…still do, actually, just from a different perspective.

    The Shimano 7400 Group, along with Suntour’s Superb Pro were stunning as well. It was a beautiful time, actually, as there was so much diversity in the groupos, and you could still pretty easily mix and match components from one group with another. Campa, Suntour, Mavic, Shimano, Simplex, Sachs (feel like I’m forgetting some) in the late 80’s early 90’s. Nirvanna.

    Then Shimano came up with the STI lever (Shimano Total Integration) and the idea that each part was made to work specifically with all the others was born. And that was the end of that. The competition that thrived on the mix-and-match appraoch died out and only the big names lasted.

    Few people knew, though, that despite the persistent rumors, you could still mix it up. I remember I ran a Superb Pro rear mech with Shimano 105 STI levers with a Sachs freewheel for a while, and it was fine. No worries at all.

  14. @Gillis

    Back in the early days of ebay when there was an abundance of vintage Campy parts I procured several hi-flange record hubsets from the 60″²s and 70″²s. So I’ve had my share of Campag QR’s (still do :). I must say that I prefer the older straight levers. The curved levers have a certain wet noodle look to me..they’re the straight one’s – but bent. On the back they line up nicely under the chainstay, or even straight back the shape is pointing forward giving an almost aero quality. When the front is closed in the same manner (straight back) the two tie in together giving some added symmetry. It’s a subtle difference between the two but one I prefer.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/83868261@N00/2041640581
    (not mine but best example I could find)

    I remember those days on eBay. It was amazing. As a point of fact, however, I got my entire 10spd Record Group for my TSX – including built wheels with Record hubs for about $600 on eBay due to a what I believe is a micro-effect of the 11spd upgrade craze. Those riders who are willing to shell out for Record are probably also anxious to upgrade to 11spd for the same reasons they wanted Record in the first place: to have the best. They’re now dumping all their old gear as they upgrade, making a surplus of 10spd Record bits. It was actually cheaper to buy (and easier to find) Record than Chorus!

    By the way, I like the curved ones better…that sexy bend just gets me!

  15. @scaler911

    Now inspired by the fine machines (carbon and steel) here at Velominati, I’m putting the old girl back together. But, I’m taking my time, so it comes correct. No carbon, no SRAM or Shimano. Campa C-Record (just picked up a crankset in exchange for a 12 pack of Widmer). Perhaps I’ll be allowed the honor of a short piece here when I’m done. Now, where did I store those Delta brakes…………….

    Abso-fuckin’-lutely.

    @austin

    I have miche hubs and skewers but they are atleast 1980 build on a Torpado Nouvo Sprint…love em. Rule #5

    Photos please. Not sure I’m even familiar with them!

  16. @frank
    Feel free to run any articles by me beforehand for fact checking. Your writing is good enough that it deserves to not be let down by just making it up as you go along.

  17. @Oli
    You know a little about poor fact checking don’t you?

  18. Er, it depends what you’re referring to? If you mean a recent article in a Wellington weekly paper, then yes. And GRRR!

  19. Nice post, Frank. The quick-releases, like the Bianchi they’re on, are elegant, if such a posh word is not out of place.

  20. My Campa skewer quiver… all courtesy of Aussie velominata Bel, and her persuasive ways to barter coffee for such treats!

    The newest models are in use on the Bozzie…

  21. Great post on a worthy, yet sometimes overlooked part.
    frank and Oli, part fiction meets fact again. Part of the beauty of this site, keep it coming.

  22. They are truly beautiful things aren’t they? the early straight ones had a slight drawback in that they only went tight, the curved ones went slightly past this so they were less likley to undo – not that this was much a of a problem.

    With older Record hubs, you do need the tiniest bit of free play in the bearings, as the QR is so powerful it slightly compresses the bearings. The freeplay (and it is a tiny amount) allows for this. Many Campag hubs were ruined (or so the owners thought) by getting the freeplay right, then having it over-tightened thanks to the QR. The good bit is that with the right tool, you can remove and replace the cups. I’ve ‘saved’ many pairs of large and small flange hubs thanks to this.

    The other thing worth noting with Record hubs is that they don’t use the same size bearings in the front hub as either any other Campag front hubs, or any other manufacturers for that matter! It’s a tiny amount ‘un tolerenzia di un millisima’ as the box says, but if you put the wrong ‘uns in, you’ll ruin them eventually.

    Anyway, if it worked, here’s my Mercian Strada, with nice 28 spoke S/F’s, with a delta groupset since the brakes just had a mention.

  23. The sharp eyed, and many of you are very sharp eyed, will notice the pedals, which aren’t part of the groupo, but as I like to ride it, I’d taken off the proper C-record ones with toeclips, and also that it’s got a two bolt record seatpin. As it’s made of 753t, it takes a 27.0 pin and the only one I had was this nice fluted one, which looks ok with the paintjob! Sorry to go off topic by the way.

  24. @frank

    I’d just finished reading “It’s all about the Bike” and it jumped out straight away when I read your piece. Right time right place.

    Great article, thanks. My knowledge of these thing is poor and I’m really enjoying reading up on the history.

  25. Interesting that Cammpy chose to put “closed” on them in English. Has that always been the way or do they produce an Italian version?

  26. @fermapiedi
    I love your Mercian! And you’re right about the Campag ball bearings, but it was only the C-Record hubs wasn’t it, not Record in general? They used 7/32 balls instead of the more common 3/16 size…

  27. @Chris
    Ooh, I’ve got a picture somewhere of one of those that was on a bike for sale in Rome about 20 years ago. Was very tempted to buy it then but didn’t.
    I’ll see if I can dig it up.
    Cursed hindsight.

  28. Was it 1978? A regulation (USA?) went into place. The quick release arm was bent. The quick release nut added a roundish tip. The brake caliper release lever took on a spoon shape. The front rerailer added a spoon shape to the leading edge. The brake pad holders got a plastic coating on the down bit. All in the name of safety.

  29. Oh also. The rear derailer got those strange black plastic bits around the adjusting screws.

  30. I’m in disagreement with the front QR angle IMO it goes upward just fore of the fork. You can post all the photos you want you aren’t going to change my mind.

  31. @michael
    Nope, wrong. Your way is fine if you like, but aft of the fork is the true way. It’s easier for the race mechanics for a start.

    And you won’t take a picture as proof? Even one of Eddy Merckx?

  32. @Chris

    Here’s an interesting bit of Campy kit falling from a bit later on
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/1940s-campagnolo-cambio-corsa-legnano-super-rare-/120738618643?pt=Cycling_Parts_Accessories&hash=item1c1c951d13#ht_4325wt_1139

    Gah, I couldn’t be bothered ripping the garage apart looking for a slide, but thanks to the wonders of the interweb, I offer the following derailleur photos in context…

  33. Woah, Brett! What model/#/year are those levers with the cut-out on your Bosworth?

    Those are beautiful!

  34. @Oli

    No I won’t accept any photos. The limited number of photos of the past make the argument moot.

  35. @mouse

    Nice photo. It would be interesting to have a ride on one of those but we don’t know how good we have it!

  36. @michael
    Haha, touche! But I’d suggest the Merckx might finish a race with his q/r in that ugly and ungainly position, but I bet he never started one. Most likely that was a replacement wheel fitted in a hurry, probably by some part-time neutral service guy…

  37. @Jim

    Was it 1978? A regulation (USA?) went into place. The quick release arm was bent. The quick release nut added a roundish tip. The brake caliper release lever took on a spoon shape. The front rerailer added a spoon shape to the leading edge. The brake pad holders got a plastic coating on the down bit. All in the name of safety.

    Jim, very cool background – I had not heard those reasons for the changes. Thanks for sharing. You forgot to add about the lawyer tabs on the forks. Which I file off every fork that crosses the threshold into my workshop.

  38. Great article and photos everyone, great as always.

    My bike #2 doesn’t have QR wheels, and its one of those things that you don’t even think about until you’re fucked. Having to ride with extra tools and praying that you don’t get a flat isn’t the most fun. I keep meaning to buy new wheels for it, but somehow that money keeps being spent on bike #1 instead…

  39. I have to change the QR on the rear wheel when I put the bike on the Kurt trainer so I guess I should pick up a Campy QR to use instead of the generic one that comes with the Kurt. That should be good for 10 watts at least.

  40. @Cyclops
    Watts? Uh oh……..Let the flaming begin!

  41. @scaler911
    I’m a 50 year old, overweight, Cat 5 – I was speaking of “virtual watts”.

  42. @Cyclops
    Just joking around………Ha!

  43. LOVE that photo of Merckx! Casually Deliberate, even on a bench.

    The #1 on his bike, the drilled chainrings…awesomeness.

    And, the dude knew how to wear a cycling cap!

  44. @Ron

    LOVE that photo of Merckx! Casually Deliberate, even on a bench.

    The #1 on his bike, the drilled chainrings…awesomeness.

    And, the dude knew how to wear a cycling cap!

    I think it’s a look that mere mortals find very hard to pull off, Merckx does it pretty easily.

    I must say I prefer the look and operation of the curved quick releases to the original ones.  When you see the old Cambio Corsa or Paris-Roubaix mechs it makes you realise how easy we have it now days..

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