Three gears: a lever and no more wing nuts. Luxury.

Shifting Sands

by / / 80 posts

One of my favorite stories in Cycling is of the 1989 World Championships. It was a very lumpy parcours, with a particularly tough climb near the end of the circuit. Sean Kelly had a brilliant sprint but could get over the climbs handily enough that he fancied his chance to finally win the rainbow bands. With only 7 gears at his disposal and a 53/39 chainset, he faced a catch 22: should he select a 13-25 block, or a 12-23. With the 25, he could spare his guns but would be on the short side of his sprinting gear. On the other hand, with the 12-23 he would have the optimal gear for the sprint but risked blowing the guns out with too big a gear on the climb.

The question was: spare the guns and arrive at the finish with good legs but a short gear, or chose the gear to win the sprint but risk getting dropped on the final climb? (LeMond, who won the race, chose a 54/42 and a 12-23 for the race. They were obviously different kinds of riders.)

The modern Cyclist is a spoiled one, with 11 speeds at their disposal. The most common cassette in use today is the 11-28, which features a bigger sprinting gear and a much lower climbing gear than Kelly could ever have dreamt of. Gear choice is not one that seems to factor any more; riders are more concerned with compact versus standard than they are with how closely packed their rear sprockets are. We’ve lost a bit of the art; a bit of the thinking and weighing of options that used to factor into winning races.

To take this even further, I was recently given a Super Record EPS groupset as part of a 40th birthday gift from Campagnolo. I haven’t ridden it enough yet to have an opinion of it, but two things are certain: the shifting is flawless and I have less to do with it than I did before.

Even riding downtube shifters was a way of managing your effort; if climbing out of the saddle, shifting would require sitting down in order to move the gear lever. In a sprint, you could shift with your knee, but this was more hammer and nail than it was precision in action. Even that was comparatively luxurious when compared to the Campagnolo Dual-Rod shifting system and the flip-flop hub which was changed with wing nuts before that.

One of the beautiful things about Cycling is that while it is fiercely traditional, it also embraces technology and the evolution that comes with it. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

// Accessories and Gear // Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus // Look Pro // Tradition

  1. Wonder how well that Dual Rod actually worked and/or whether they had to spin backwards to shift. Still having the option of additional gears, even if sketchy, has to be better than none. With no chain tension and the roads they raced on , I have to imagine dropped chains were frequent – though cogs did tent to have bigger teeth back then (at least they appeared to be bigger).

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  2. @Teocalli

    Wonder how well that Dual Rod actually worked and/or whether they had to spin backwards to shift. Still having the option of additional gears, even if sketchy, has to be better than none. With no chain tension and the roads they raced on , I have to imagine dropped chains were frequent – though cogs did tent to have bigger teeth back then (at least they appeared to be bigger).

    Ditto. Tried already to find something with Sheldon Brown, but no description of how the Dual Rod works. Looks life a “lift and drop” type of lever: you lift the chain, shift it onto another cog and then drop it. I think I see a mechanism to adjust the chain tension, but just a bit. Btw: while the world has changed today and not necessarily for the better, am glad to announce that the weather in South England remains stable. Awesome 9-weather….

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  3. @Teocalli It was called the Cambio Corsa and you certainly did have to pedal backwards to shift. I’ve tried one and it’s fiendishly hard to use at first!

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  4. @frank Thanks mate! …now can we have our photo privileges back please?

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  5. @Cary

    Both have the sacred 16t which I’m missing more and more on the cassettes I currently own. cannot do without a 16t. i spend 90% of my life in a 42×15 or 16.

    I think I can live without it on my training wheels, but I’m sure I’d use it a lot TTing and racing. In fact, 52×16 is about 42kph at about 100rpm so I’d probably be shifting between the 15t and the 16t. It’d be quite nice to have an 18t too.

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  6. @GogglesPizano

    I have been riding Record EPS for the last year on one of mine, I’ve also been riding Di2 on one of the others. Both systems are Fawesome but the EPS seems to just have that little bit of something I can’t explain. Still for whatever reason the next N+1 is going to be mechanical Super-record…..

    There was something amuck with the shifting for a moment (which somehow resolved itself magically) but I do remember that moment where I realized I couldn’t do anything about it; I felt very disconnected from the bike for a second there. We’ll see. I do imagine I’ll start shifting the front mech a lot more, that shit works amazingly well compared to mechanical.

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  7. @KogaLover I’ll try to get to that…not sure what’s gone sideways here with that.

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  8. @Teocalli

    @Buck Rogers

    @Oli

    @Buck Rogers Bartali – Bartoli was the guy who won those 90s classics. :wink:

    Ahhh FARK! See, we really need that edit function!!! Must be b/c I literally just watched the ’96 RVV on youtube yesterday while doing an hour on the rollers. Getting so psyched for the 2017 RVV cyclo this spring!!!

    I have a couple of buddies going to the Strada Bianchi – very sorely tempted to join them……be a nice run in for RVV.

    Well, given the development here yesterday, I may move to London which would make doing both those rides a lot easier! FFS.

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  9. @frank You may be better going back to the NL! The good news is that the Vbugetatis has OKed the Strada Bianchi. So just need to be online for the next release slot on the 26th.

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  10. @frank

    @Teocalli Well, given the development here yesterday, I may move to London which would make doing both those rides a lot easier! FFS.

    After the EU vote I was thinking about where I could move. After the result yesterday I think that place might be Mars. But the rocky surface of Mars means I could probably finally justify getting a cross bike.

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  11. @Teocalli

    @frank You may be better going back to the NL! The good news is that the Vbugetatis has OKed the Strada Bianchi. So just need to be online for the next release slot on the 26th.

    If he went back to the NL, Frank would be the least Dutch guy in the room. I’m not sure he could cope with that. In Hoxton, Frank would feel at home with all the other Rule #50 deniers…

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  12. @chris

    @Teocalli

    @frank You may be better going back to the NL! The good news is that the Vbugetatis has OKed the Strada Bianchi. So just need to be online for the next release slot on the 26th.

    If he went back to the NL, Frank would be the least Dutch guy in the room. I’m not sure he could cope with that. In Hoxton, Frank would feel at home with all the other Rule #50 deniers…

    Shit, I read that as a different meaning of “deniers” and was worried you knew something about @Frohnkk we did not……….

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  13. @Oli

    @Teocalli It was called the Cambio Corsa and you certainly did have to pedal backwards to shift. I’ve tried one and it’s fiendishly hard to use at first!

    That is just soooo COOL that you have actually ridden this mech before. I should not be surprised but I am, surprised and amazed! I did not know that there were still working ones out there.

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  14. @Teocalli

    @frank You may be better going back to the NL! The good news is that the Vbugetatis has OKed the Strada Bianchi. So just need to be online for the next release slot on the 26th.

    Oi!!! You lucky bastardo!!! I felt lucky to have cleared the RVV with the VMH and kiddos! Next year I will either ride the LBL or the Strade Bianchi cyclo. I really think it will be the Strade as that is just a dream for me. We’ll have to meet up at the RVV for a pint (or three) and you can tell me all about it! Super jealous here that you are doing both!

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  15. @frank

    @Teocalli

    @Buck Rogers

    @Oli

    @Buck Rogers Bartali – Bartoli was the guy who won those 90s classics. :wink:

    Ahhh FARK! See, we really need that edit function!!! Must be b/c I literally just watched the ’96 RVV on youtube yesterday while doing an hour on the rollers. Getting so psyched for the 2017 RVV cyclo this spring!!!

    I have a couple of buddies going to the Strada Bianchi – very sorely tempted to join them……be a nice run in for RVV.

    Well, given the development here yesterday, I may move to London which would make doing both those rides a lot easier! FFS.

    Well, you do know that we have a room reserved for you at our place in Germany if you need a place to crash while getting the London flat worked out!

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  16. @Buck Rogers

    @Teocalli

    @frank You may be better going back to the NL! The good news is that the Vbugetatis has OKed the Strada Bianchi. So just need to be online for the next release slot on the 26th.

    Oi!!! You lucky bastardo!!! I felt lucky to have cleared the RVV with the VMH and kiddos! Next year I will either ride the LBL or the Strade Bianchi cyclo. I really think it will be the Strade as that is just a dream for me. We’ll have to meet up at the RVV for a pint (or three) and you can tell me all about it! Super jealous here that you are doing both!

    Entered. I think. Not the easiest web site I’ve ever used…………

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  17. @Oli

    @Teocalli It was called the Cambio Corsa and you certainly did have to pedal backwards to shift. I’ve tried one and it’s fiendishly hard to use at first!

    Presumably the lever lifted to come over the chain to push “the other way” for up and down shifting? On the colour photo it’s not obvious that the lever can do that. Though is that the other lever and it worked on the feed side of the chain that is out of shot. In the lead photo there only seems to be a single lever that must have been able to push both ways……….

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  18. Photo uploads are working again. Sidebar: When David saw my bike and the seatpin height he said, “Well, it’s got to look good when it’s just sitting there, doesn’t it?”

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  19. @chris

    If he went back to the NL, Frank would be the least Dutch guy in the room. I’m not sure he could cope with that.

    I got a good laugh out of that!

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  20. Speaking of old shifters, my front downtube shifter on the Somec isn’t tightening down properly. I have to use so much force that I’m sure the D-ring is going to snap off. Hand-tightening is not possible. I’ve taken it apart and everything appears to be assembled correctly. Maybe one of you seasoned mechanics like @Oli can help me. It’s C Record, Syncros era.

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  21. @MangoDave

    Speaking of old shifters, my front downtube shifter on the Somec isn’t tightening down properly. I have to use so much force that I’m sure the D-ring is going to snap off. Hand-tightening is not possible. I’ve taken it apart and everything appears to be assembled correctly. Maybe one of you seasoned mechanics like @Oli can help me. It’s C Record, Syncros era.

    If you put an extra washer on the outside does that make it work?

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  22. @MangoDave Also, I can’t remember without taking one of mine apart, but is the nylon part the same on both sides? If so try swapping them over and see if the problem transfers with the part.

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  23. @Teocalli In fact try swapping all the common parts one by one to see if one part is worn/at fault.

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  24. @Teocalli

    @Teocalli In fact try swapping all the common parts one by one to see if one part is worn/at fault.

    Thanks. I wondered if a very thin washer would fix it, or just a new nylon piece. It looks like there are a couple of common parts, but it’s hard to tell Image result for campagnolo c record syncro diagram.

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  25. @chris

    @frank Nice article, it’s good to remind our selves not loose the connection with the bike and that shifting is a skill that needs to be honed. On the flip side though, as the shifting gets easier, people shift more often rather than working harder to maintain momentum as the gradients change. BTW, that crank doesn’t look much like it’s Camagnolo, what is it? The spider looks a lot like one of my Cannondales.

    Campa stopped making a 177.5, so this is actually my old Rotor 177.5 while I wait for Rotor to build me a new 177.5. Carson Hedrick sprayed it in matte black and it looks completely badass. You make a great point at maintaining momentum, but I don’t see EPS vs Mechanical making that all that different; the DT shifter to Brifter with powerglide was the big innovation there. But I do think I’ll use the 39 more. So easy to shift.

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  26. @ChrisO

    @KogaLover

    @ChrisO

    Mind you, how a 14 year old who can’t keep her phone charged is going to cope with electronic gears is going to be interesting.

    See @Chris‘ advice: “On the flip side though, as the shifting gets easier, people shift more often rather than working harder to maintain momentum as the gradients change.”

    I was thinking of it from the point of view of being stuck in the big ring because she forgot to charge the bloody battery. Seen more than a few adults do it !

    I think Campa lets you set it in whatever gear you want once its dead, but my bullshit meter is landing somewhere between “I am sure I heard that” and “I might have dreamt that”, so there is no telling if that’s true or not. And, on account of me not being a sissy, I’m not looking it up in the user manual.

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  27. @Rick

    My cycling journey has taken me through all manner of shifting. My first bike, a Raleigh touring model, featured friction shifters. The first road bike that I owned, a Bottecchia, was an upgrade to indexing on the down tube. The nine speed Trek 5200 that I rode for years shifted via the brake lever, which was a quantum leap in shifting ease. My current eleven speed Ultegra is very similar to the nine speed with the exception of having a 22.2% increase in gear choices. I loved riding each of these machines. The experience of riding each one was a bit different but the enjoyment of the ride was always the same. The more the technology changed, the more the joy of riding stayed the same. Oddly, I think my favorite ride was the Bottecchia that had indexed shifters on the down tube. There was something very pure and old school about riding a Chromor frame that necessitated reaching down for shifting gears. Enjoy your new Groupo Frank, and happy belated birthday.

    One of my favorite bikes ever was my Cannondale with Shimano 105 dt shifters and…wait for it…SCOTT DROPINS. And the more it changes, the less it stays the same.

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  28. @Clean39T

    I’m thinking about going to a 42/52 with an 11/32, but I’d like to have it go 11/13–25/27/32 so I effectively have 8 very useful gears in the middle and three at the extremes. The smaller gap up front would make for seamless shifts and the 42 would allow me to cruise efficiently up to 22-24mph before up shifting.

    I have a 42T I’ve had laying around. Can’t understand why I haven’t loaded it up. I rode it briefly in the Spring a year or two ago, when I was out of shape, but I should really have it on the #1 at all times. @Oli

    @Teocalli It was called the Cambio Corsa and you certainly did have to pedal backwards to shift. I’ve tried one and it’s fiendishly hard to use at first!

    FUCK SAKE!! @Oli

    @frank Thanks mate! …now can we have our photo privileges back please?

    Done!

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  29. @chris

    @Teocalli

    @frank You may be better going back to the NL! The good news is that the Vbugetatis has OKed the Strada Bianchi. So just need to be online for the next release slot on the 26th.

    If he went back to the NL, Frank would be the least Dutch guy in the room. I’m not sure he could cope with that. In Hoxton, Frank would feel at home with all the other Rule #50 deniers…

    You must not have noticed my face. I got a TUE from Wiggin’s DS, and I will shave it off in Spring. I consider it winter wind resistance training.

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  30. @MangoDave

    @Teocalli

    @Teocalli In fact try swapping all the common parts one by one to see if one part is worn/at fault.

    Thanks. I wondered if a very thin washer would fix it, or just a new nylon piece. It looks like there are a couple of common parts, but it’s hard to tell Image result for campagnolo c record syncro diagram.

    Yes assuming the thread is good then it wold appear as though the D-ring thread is bottoming out so an additional waffer thin mint – err washer – should hopefully sort it. If the thread is good then it should not take effort to tighten – does it thread easily when you screw the D-Ring bolt straight into the stud without the shifter or any parts? If so then it sounds like wear on the washers or nylon part so a very thin additional washer should be fine.

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  31. @MangoDave

    Speaking of old shifters, my front downtube shifter on the Somec isn’t tightening down properly. I have to use so much force that I’m sure the D-ring is going to snap off. Hand-tightening is not possible. I’ve taken it apart and everything appears to be assembled correctly. Maybe one of you seasoned mechanics like @Oli can help me. It’s C Record, Syncros era.

    The bosses are connected via a bolt through the frame. Make sure that bolt is tight otherwise the shifters will slip forward. Maddening.

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  32. @frank

    @MangoDave

    Speaking of old shifters, my front downtube shifter on the Somec isn’t tightening down properly. I have to use so much force that I’m sure the D-ring is going to snap off. Hand-tightening is not possible. I’ve taken it apart and everything appears to be assembled correctly. Maybe one of you seasoned mechanics like @Oli can help me. It’s C Record, Syncros era.

    The bosses are connected via a bolt through the frame. Make sure that bolt is tight otherwise the shifters will slip forward. Maddening.

    Unless they are brazed on……..I suspect he has brazed on and there is wear in the washers etc and the D-bolt is actually bottoming out on the frame or bottom of the thread in the boss.

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  33. @Teocalli

    @frank

    @MangoDave

    Speaking of old shifters, my front downtube shifter on the Somec isn’t tightening down properly. I have to use so much force that I’m sure the D-ring is going to snap off. Hand-tightening is not possible. I’ve taken it apart and everything appears to be assembled correctly. Maybe one of you seasoned mechanics like @Oli can help me. It’s C Record, Syncros era.

    The bosses are connected via a bolt through the frame. Make sure that bolt is tight otherwise the shifters will slip forward. Maddening.

    Unless they are brazed on……..I suspect he has brazed on and there is wear in the washers etc and the D-bolt is actually bottoming out on the frame or bottom of the thread in the boss.

    Brazed… It’s hard to imagine it would be due to wear, considering how little it’s been ridden.

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  34. @MangoDave You are not oiling them are you? That would be kinda like oiling a brake….. Key for me is can you screw the bolt in easily without the shifter on the boss and does it go in further than it would with the shifter assembled? My Gios frame had a boss with a slightly iffy thread and the bolt would not screw in easily. I chased the thread with a thread tap (very carefully!) and it was then fine.

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  35. @Teocalli

    @MangoDave You are not oiling them are you? That would be kinda like oiling a brake….. Key for me is can you screw the bolt in easily without the shifter on the boss and does it go in further than it would with the shifter assembled? My Gios frame had a boss with a slightly iffy thread and the bolt would not screw in easily. I chased the thread with a thread tap (very carefully!) and it was then fine.

    You don’t oil your brake pads? It helps get rid of the squeaking, you should try it! No, no oil. The threads are perfect, no issues getting the bolt in/out easily. Also, two of the metal washers are cupped, they need to face the proper direction. I believe (but not certain) that they offer just a tiny amount of flex, which acts as a spring for the friction adjustment. They could be the problem if they’re too crushed. I’ll play with it this evening, may have to order some new internals if I still can’t get it working. I appreciate the help.

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  36. Disregard my comment about the cupped metal washers, I was thinking about something different. Solved the problem tonight- I didn’t have a washer that would fit, but I cut down the bolt by about 1mm. Now it doesn’t bottom out before tightening the shifter. Thanks, gents,for the inspiration.

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  37. @Teocalli There are two levers in the photo of Bartali, just one is hidden by his hand. With the Cambio Corsa one lever releases and tightens the axle and the other is attached to a fork that shoves the chain over the three sprockets as you backpedal. The single lever version is the later Paris-Roubaix mechanism that worked exactly the same, only the lever had a two-stage operation rather than the separate levers of the CC.

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  38. @MangoDave Glad that’s sorted – I was about to say I had the same problem on my Vitus, sorted the same way!

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  39. @frank

    Photo uploads are working again. Sidebar: When David saw my bike and the seatpin height he said, “Well, it’s got to look good when it’s just sitting there, doesn’t it?”

    Showed this photo to my 8 year old daughter last night and said “This is daddy’s friend with a very famous cyclist” and she pointed to Millar and said, “He must be the cyclist” and I said “How did you know” and she said, “He’s the skinny one”. Ha! Had to share! But, in your defense Frahnk, she did not call you the fat one, only Millar the skinny one!

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  40. @Buck Rogers Shades of Ed Clancy – Frank needs to think about having his collar bones trimmed.

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  41. @Buck Rogers

    @frank

    Photo uploads are working again. Sidebar: When David saw my bike and the seatpin height he said, “Well, it’s got to look good when it’s just sitting there, doesn’t it?”

    Showed this photo to my 8 year old daughter last night and said “This is daddy’s friend with a very famous cyclist” and she pointed to Millar and said, “He must be the cyclist” and I said “How did you know” and she said, “He’s the skinny one”. Ha! Had to share! But, in your defense Frahnk, she did not call you the fat one, only Millar the skinny one!

    Who’s the hipster with the beard hugging David Millar?

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  42. @RobSandy

    @Buck Rogers

    @frank

    Photo uploads are working again. Sidebar: When David saw my bike and the seatpin height he said, “Well, it’s got to look good when it’s just sitting there, doesn’t it?”

    Showed this photo to my 8 year old daughter last night and said “This is daddy’s friend with a very famous cyclist” and she pointed to Millar and said, “He must be the cyclist” and I said “How did you know” and she said, “He’s the skinny one”. Ha! Had to share! But, in your defense Frahnk, she did not call you the fat one, only Millar the skinny one!

    Who’s the hipster with the beard hugging David Millar?

    I didn’t recognize our Dear Leader either. Is he going for Sagan hair?

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  43. @wiscot Do you suppose he’s gone full Winter Wookie?

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  44. @wiscot @Teocalli

    @wiscot Do you suppose he’s gone full Winter Wookie?

    That must be it, you know, in honour of the new Rogue One movie coming out in a month (although I do not know if Chewie is in it or not?–No spoilers please!)

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  45. Resolution for 2017 – figure out how to get on Campagnolo’s birthday gift list. Regarding the problem with the loose Syncro shifter. I’ve used blue loctite on my Campy friction shifters that come loose and fixed that problem. Haven’t had that problem on any of my Syncros but expect it should work. There is a little play in the shifter on one of mine after -really- tightening it down but it still shifts crisply.

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  46. @Oli That’s a beautiful Vitus! I used to see those on the road quite often, but it’s probably been two decades since the last time now.

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  47. @frank

    @ChrisO

    @KogaLover

    @ChrisO

    Mind you, how a 14 year old who can’t keep her phone charged is going to cope with electronic gears is going to be interesting.

    See @Chris‘ advice: “On the flip side though, as the shifting gets easier, people shift more often rather than working harder to maintain momentum as the gradients change.”

    I was thinking of it from the point of view of being stuck in the big ring because she forgot to charge the bloody battery. Seen more than a few adults do it !

    I think Campa lets you set it in whatever gear you want once its dead, but my bullshit meter is landing somewhere between “I am sure I heard that” and “I might have dreamt that”, so there is no telling if that’s true or not. And, on account of me not being a sissy, I’m not looking it up in the user manual.

    Di2: at something like 10% or whatev battery life… once ya shift in to the little ring it stays there. Can mash the FD button and will only get a blinky red light at junction box but no shift. The thing about Di2 is that the battery is recharged in pronto time. Maybe 30 minutes and certainly less than an hour. So it’s just not a big deal to juice up the battery before a ride if realize haven’t done it in a while. I’ve been caught out only once with the FD stuck but still plenty of juice for RD function to complete the ride. I think that the logic behind the FD no longer operating is that that is the little servo motor that consumes the all the juice vs the RD motor. Cheers I love push button motorized shifting. But I keep telling myself my next bike will be external cabled mech DA (CAAD frame set is good ex).

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  48. @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot @Teocalli

    @wiscot Do you suppose he’s gone full Winter Wookie?

    That must be it, you know, in honour of the new Rogue One movie coming out in a month (although I do not know if Chewie is in it or not?–No spoilers please!)

    Quite possibly. Clearly Frank is growing “Sagan Hair” and, as far as we know, may be doing the hairy legs a la Sagan too. Not a bad role model to be sure, but hardly rule compliant. Hells bells, you can always tell when the road season is over as threads on this site start taking really weird directions. We’re discussing the shaving and body hair management of our Dear Leader.

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  49. @wiscot

    @Buck Rogers

    @wiscot @Teocalli

    @wiscot Do you suppose he’s gone full Winter Wookie?

    That must be it, you know, in honour of the new Rogue One movie coming out in a month (although I do not know if Chewie is in it or not?–No spoilers please!)

    Quite possibly. Clearly Frank is growing “Sagan Hair” and, as far as we know, may be doing the hairy legs a la Sagan too. Not a bad role model to be sure, but hardly rule compliant. Hells bells, you can always tell when the road season is over as threads on this site start taking really weird directions. We’re discussing the shaving and body hair management of our Dear Leader.

    I’m going to put my hand up and say since velodrome season started I’ve been back to Rule #33 compliance and I’ve just upgraded my hair clippers to ensure I comply with Rule #50. I don’t think stubble contravenes this rule, which is good because I’m sure as hell not going clean shaven.

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  50. Good god. Frank, you hit 40 and now you’re wearing a beard and talking of using the 39 more?! What is going on around here! Things are not right, not right at all.

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