Deference: Gianni’s Campagnolo Down Tube Shifter

Gianni's Campag DT Shifter adorns my keychain as a constant reminder of the sport and it's history

It is dark now when I rise.  It is dark when I return home from the office.  Leaves crunch under the soles of my shoes as I walk in the city. The rides that once occupied a devoted period of each day have now become stolen indulgences of either serendipity or careful planning.

The rain falls more regularly now; the Rain Bike is in top circulation. Bikes #1 and #2 hang from the wall, sparkling still from their last cleaning, now several weeks ago. The Rain Bike is covered in grime more often than it is clean. Cornering is a practice undertaken with great care as the leaves and their rotting remnants provide an abject reminder of  Rule #64.

It is easy for the mind to forget it is a cyclist when the days are short and cold. Ritual becomes an increasingly important factor to keeping the cyclist’s rhythm in the body. This is why I continue to shave my legs throughout the winter even though they are covered when I ride. This is why I walk down to the basement to visit my bikes every day, even though I may not ride them. Such things remind us to keep living La Vie Velominatus.

A few months ago, Gianni mailed me his old Super Record front downtube shifter. It mesmerized me. It is a tool from an era long past, but echos in every piece of modern kit we use today. Designed firstly to serve a purpose and secondly to be gorgeous, it represents the duality of uncompromising function and unyielding beauty that fills every recess of cycling.

I carefully polished it and slipped it onto my keychain. Its gleaming form reminds me every day of the grace an elegance that punctuates our amazing sport.

Grazie, Gianni.

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53 Replies to “Deference: Gianni’s Campagnolo Down Tube Shifter”

  1. I’ve been lusting after a NOS Campy Super Record bike at my LBS for a couple months now. All I can figure out is playing the lottery for it.

  2. Oh, one more thing Frank. With the picture above, a small file, and a little bit of talent (remember, I got skillz), you might come home to a Cyclops in your basement drinking your IPAs and drooling on bikes #1 and #2.

  3. @Cyclops
    You’re welcome to try. Of the approximately two-hundred pounds of dog you’ll find greeting you loudly, you’ll find the most surprising factor to be the 6 pounds of crabby cat which will likely do considerably more damage.

    Let me know when you plan to make your attempt; I’ll be sure to set up a video camera.

  4. Do Castelli do a catproof legwarmer in Velominati colours? Should they?

    ..and @Cyclops he forgot to mention the crates of scented candles down there too…are you secure enough in your manhood (as Frank is) to be around those babies?

  5. Great article, Frank. My heart yearns for spring, and this article gives succour to that yearning. I’ve just vacuum packed my summer bike after cleaning, servicing and oiling and put it in my (damp) cellar until April 4th and I find it all quite depressing.

    Awesome keyring – a mental motivational talisman through these dark, cold times.

    @Cyclops: +1 on great observation skills, but I’m putting my money on the dog/cat combo, ex-USMC or not.

  6. Hard to argue with that keychain being the shit…very cool. I think all of us feel the pain of rising and coming home in the dark now. Quite depressing actually…right now, spinning in the basement watching the TDF and A Sunday In Hell is keeping my spirits up…and of course looking forward to the spring classics. FML?

  7. You guys need to get into cyclocross – opens up a whole new range of possibilities such as the local park etc – that will get you through the short cold shitty days and will keep the motivation up – or even better hit the velodrome if you live near an indoor one.

  8. Kiwicyclist :
    You guys need to get into cyclocross – opens up a whole new range of possibilities such as the local park etc – that will get you through the short cold shitty days and will keep the motivation up – or even better hit the velodrome if you live near an indoor one.

    Would you believe I bought this cross bike last week and the day I brought it home we got hammered with snow and freezing rain? Tis true…it’s currently sitting in my basement waiting for a “slightly” better day to go outside.

  9. @caviarboy
    YEAH! Dirty that fucker up! I hear a lot of shit about “dirt” and “snow” and whatever, but I see no fucking “dirt” or “snow” on that bike. Also your drop is not in compliance. Get on it. Nice wheels, by the way.

  10. I have had this Suntour shift lever as a WTF kinda funny for the past umpteen years.

    This is another key ring. My buddy back Christmas 2000 gave me this saying, “The only Ti bike you’ll ever own bitch. So you can try and be cool like me.” Thanks Brian.

    You know, with technology the way it is, he’s right. Carbon everywhere.

  11. @nvvelominati
    Fucking GOLD. Actually, Suntour is the perfect example of how something functional and amazingly good just slips under the radar because it’s not sexy. That shit was magic, and didn’t sell.

    It looks fucking beat up; polish it, show it some love. That is a gem – if you ask me.

  12. mike, best of luck with the lottery! (I mean it, we all deserve such a gruppo)

    Frank, any talk of a Velominati “phone book”? It might allow us to just directly ask another a question and not muck up a good article with shop talk. And if it has some info (that people willing share) maybe some of us could meet up in person, if one is maybe on a trip to a city where another V Clubber lives.

    Just an idea. Like a self-reporting contact info. page, in case, you know I want to check in on you and make sure you aren’t riding in sandals & wool socks…

    I hope all of you get a pedal in tomorrow, holiday or not.

  13. Today encapsulated why I ride. A nice tour through Jerseyville, Harrisburg, and Orkney, before returning for an espresso at my local coffee haven. Not a car to be seen anywhere along the route, through rolling and twisting roads. Sun. Below zero. No need for longing just yet, although snow is in the forecast…

  14. @Ron
    First off, we love the questions and the side-tracking of conversations. In my opinion, is’s one of the best aspects of this place. We just take the conversation where it goes. No threads, no rules. Just The Rules, of course.

    But, yeah, we’re chucking the idea about of adding a member’s and social networking aspect to the site that would allow that kind of thing. We’d love to do it, it will take some time. We have lots of ideas and very few arms to work. If anyone wants to help out on the programming for that stuff, contact us via the contribute address. It would be a great thing to roll out for January 2011.

    Also, another idea we’re kicking around is the creation of Cogals. The Illuminati had Cabals and one of the things we’d like to organize are Cogals, which would be local chapters of the Velominati where you could connect and ride with people locally. Obviously, that would also need volunteers. Contact us at the same address to let us know if you want to be involved.

  15. @frank

    I went into that pharmacy in Wallingford and they had just stopped carrying Baxter’s. Add that together with the other three or four (discontinued) items I was shopping for that day and it’s tough to support the local bike/beer/book store.

    Maybe you can convince Speedy Reedy to start a Velominati Corner with all the good stuff.

  16. @Frank

    Cool keychain piece. My first real road bike sported those shifters in the early ’80s.

    As others mentioned – get out there on a ‘cross or mountain bike for winter fun. I had a blast on my 29er in the woods yesterday. The snow conditions were perfect – compact and dry. Fast and fun. And here in the Seattle area, not common. It’s usually wet, heavy crap.

    Gotta enjoy it while you can.

  17. Frank: I realize that there are a million Gianni’s in Italy, but this is not THE Gianni (Bugno) that you are referring to is it?
    btw, great keychain! I will have ti make my old Shimano downtube shifters that I still have into a key chain. Love the idea!

  18. I love the keychain foto. Wish I could do that with mine, but they are still on my ’79 Marinoni sporting Campy drivetrain, Mavic GEL 280s and TTT bars and stem. I got a Campy pumphead I need to get re-chromed somewhere. Any suggestions?
    And Suntour was superior to Shitmano!

  19. Excellent keychain! My Campy shifters are in a box, as my last race bike of the 80’s sported Simplex friction shifters (all still in the garage looking retro). BTW, as juniors, we used to put our Campy crankset dust covers on our keychains. We could spin them annoyingly and perpetually. Our girlfriends, teachers, and parents were very proud.

  20. Happy Thanksgiving, American friends. While you’re feeling the soporific effects of turkey, the rest of us are Rule V-ing it. You’ll have some catching up to do next week.

  21. My wife and I were leaving last Saturday to drive to a CX race (as spectators) and only got about ten blocks from home before turning back because of the ice/snow. I’ve been sitting on the trainer watching the ’01 Tour. Just saw Der Kaiser go over the bars in stage 13. As much as I don’t like the boy from Texass he was pretty awesome with “The Look” and then waiting for Jan when he overcooked the corner.

    I think I can probably take Frank’s cat.

  22. eddysboy :
    my ’79 Marinoni sporting Campy drivetrain, Mavic GEL 280s and TTT bars and stem.

    This statement is useless without photos!

  23. Cyclops:
    I think I can probably take Frank’s cat.

    Famous last words. It’s actually not a cat, but a rabbit from Caerbannog, with nasty bug pointy teeth and a vicious streak a mile wide. You’ve been warned.

  24. @Steampunk
    Thanks mate. It’s just me and this fucking turkey now. I don’t like losing and I know I can take it. By next February, I’ll be back to my racing weight.

    Fucking Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims move to the good ol’ US of A, realize that can’t grow anything for shit, and can’t kill an animal to save their lives. Nice planning fuckers, they didn’t have fucking Arby’s yet in 16-whatever, so you got to kill shit yourselves. Flummoxed completely, famine ensues for a year until finally one of them get the bright idea to ask one of the natives how the fuck they do it.

    A partnership ensues, the dumbass Pilgims live and celebrate by having a massive feast. Then a few years later they steal the natives’ land. We celebrate annually in the classically American glutenous way by stuffing our already too-fat faces with greasy food. And then do it again at Christmas and New Years.

    What a fucking awesome holiday. Merckx bless America, assholes.

  25. frank :
    …my favorite bits from my favorite band, Big Head Todd and the Monsters

    Good call on Big Todd, Frank. I was a fan of Midnight Radio and saw them up close in Chicago in the early ’90s. I had forgotten about them. Nice to go back for a listen. “Bittersweet” on the player.

  26. Kiwicyclist:
    An example of how your bike should look:

    My CX ride after one of the winter races last July.

    Nice…I should have known better than to post a pic of a virgin cross bike, unsoiled and pristine, lest I incur the wrath of my fellow velominatus. Am heading out of town today so will post a few more appropriate pics of it after my return.

  27. @xyxax

    Good call on Big Todd, Frank. I was a fan of Midnight Radio and saw them up close in Chicago in the early ’90s. I had forgotten about them. Nice to go back for a listen. “Bittersweet” on the player.

    I’ve been following those guys since about ’89, I think, or there abouts. Marko is a big fan, too. Music tastes change, but BHTM is always still there. They just had their 20th Anniversary of Midnight Radio, and they recorded it love at Red Rocks last year. Check it out.

  28. @frank
    I dunno, Frank. I thought it was in compliance with Rule #44; I think it’s the angle of the shot. But I’ll defer to the expert in these things.

  29. Can this qualify for hardness? It’s attached to an EMX5 Eddy Merckx w/ Campy Record 11 and Euros wheels w/ Gommatalia rubber.

  30. @poppapro
    It qualifies as something, though I’m not sure what. What is that saddle? I’ve never seen one. Overall, it sounds like a sweet rig which begs the point, we need more photos.

  31. Brilliantly written piece! Thanks! Reminds me of how much I long to be back in 619-land with my friends and out the hell of New England.

    Now, frank, go take that bottle cage off that cross bike before someone thinks your a newbie!

  32. @Buck Rogers

    I realize that there are a million Gianni’s in Italy, but this is not THE Gianni (Bugno) that you are referring to is it?

    Ah, alas, no. Not Gianni, although I would happily take one from him should he offer it. This keychain came from a Gianni perhaps more legendary – with perhaps an even more magnificient stroke. Our own Gianni.

  33. @poppapro
    What a ride! Another Campy boy, good on ya.

    @Buck Rogers

    Frank: I realize that there are a million Gianni’s in Italy, but this is not THE Gianni (Bugno) that you are referring to is it?

    Nay…only in my dreams am I Gianni Bugno. I’m glad the shifter has had a new life on Frank’s key chain and I’m glad it is still thrilling a new owner. It came off my old steel bike when I went Ergo, the other one must be somewhere. It was the single best upgrade I’ve ever made to a bike.

    Imagine the thrill of opening the original Campy boxes with all the components inside, sweet jesus, extremely exciting. Those boxes looked cool enough on their own but a rear derailleur inside, man, so much fondling before it was even installed. And that is why I am still a Campy fan, no Shimano on my road bike.

  34. @poppapro
    That belongs over the The Bikes, my friend – but between now and when you upload that one, please remove that fucking saddle bag.

    Though, I have to say that is one of the finest modern Merckx’s I’ve seen in a while.

  35. Like most Seattle residents, I saw snow and assumed the worst. I was preparing for 3 months off the bike.

    But like Seattle always does, it warmed up a few days later. I bathed the rain bike two days ago, did this to it yesterday morning:

  36. Greetings! New to this site and I love IT! Here is a way to endure a ride in the nasty weather. First you need these….

    Then you can go do this!

  37. @Booksy
    Dude, that bike looks like it was shat on by a gnome named Gerry who happens to have dysentery. Any interest in giving us some context?

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