I (heart) Shimano


by Mark V on Jan 14, 2007 at 12:51 AM

Dura%20Ace%20sti.jpgA few days ago I finally mounted up some Shimano Dura Ace ten-speed STI to my everyday road bike, the last of my three road bikes to get the DA-10. Of course, the rest of the components on that bike are still nine-speed, and somewhat beat-down at that. But these STI are so sweet and precise. Yeah, KA-CHUNK into gear, solid like a hammer to a firing pin. I freaking love Dura Ace.

You don’t have to look far to find a flag-waving Campagnolo fan, going on and on about Italian flare and finish BLAH BLAH BLAH Tour de France BLAH BLAH Nuevo Record BLAH BLAH but DA just works soooo well. You can tell me that you like the style of Campagnolo, or the ergonomics of it are better for you. I could respect that.

But I am so over listening to people yammer on about how Campy is just so better than that Japanese stuff. Oh, yeah, before you tell me all about how you can rebuild an Ergopower shifterSTOP…I don’t care. If I have to pay to replace my Dura Ace STI after the 3 year warranty expires (hello, how long is a Campy warranty?) I will still feel satisfied. And you want to tell me how Campy Record is heirloom quality and you’ll be riding it 20 years from now you are deluding yourself, Grandpa. This ain’t 1977. None of this new stuff, Campy, Shimano, otherwise, is gonna last. I’m not saying that just about bike components. You’re reading this on the internet now, right? Do you for one moment think you’ll be using that computer 10 years from now?

Oh, but I have a dirty secret. (in a small voice) I used to be a Campy tifosi (that means fan in Italian, for you lay people out there). Yes, it’s true! When I first started cycling, I had an Italian bike with Italian Campagnolo components, Italian saddle, and Italian bar/stem. My girlfriend was even Italian (ok, so she was half-Rumanian and all legal-but that’s another story). This is back in the days of eight-speed drivetrains, when downtube shifters were still the standard on many bikes. I was so proud of my bike, but then one day nine-speed appeared on the market like an apple tree in the garden of Eden. I wanted it everyone wanted it, but then I found out that I would have to replace rear hub (I had two sets of wheels), cassettes, chain, and half the parts out of my shifter. Crap! How could this be? I thought Campy parts were eternally rebuildable and upgrade-able. My God, why have you forsaken me?

Ah, but then there was the new ‘97 Dura Ace so much sleeker, shinier, and sexier than the old eight-speed.yesssss, and lighter too. Oh yeah, and the cassettes fit on the same hubs as the old stuff. Mmmm yeah, I could get a cheap set of training wheels anywhere. Parts available at just about any local bike shop. And check out that crank! Freakin’ sweet! You know it’s the stiffest one out there! Yes, YES, YES, I gotta have it, baby! RIGHT THERE, THAT’S THE SPOT. AHHHHHHHHH!

So boys and girls, that’s the story of how I came to have nine-speed Dura Ace on all my bikes. Then eventually Dura Ace 7800, the new ten-speed components, arrived on the market, and just like Rod Stewart I had to have the latest model.

Actually, my favorite Dura Ace is the track gruppo, cause I’m kinky like that.

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I love my DA as well, but I’ve found that the “trickle-down” effect of Shimano is far better with their 10sp groups than it was with 9sp.  I’ve been really happy with the 105 group on my Portland.  I’m intrigued by the
Tiagra 10sp group that’s new for 2007.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I might be looking at that for my travel bike.

Hmm, I’ve heard that Campy are good and all but the number of bike shops that will work on them are very few as compared to those that can work on Shimano components, e.g. if you’re caught out on a trip needing some work it’ll be hard to find a shop that can fix your Campy drivetrain.  So, therefore, it’s better to just choose Shimano unless you can fix your own bike.  Any truth to that?

Shimano has certainly corrected the light shifting and wearing out problems from previous years, especially with Ultegra, which is an absolutely capable group. For me, Campy v. Shimano has always been like Apple v. Mac: boutique v mass produced, etc, but the price difference is too great for a racing bike and the shifting is equally good when they both went to 10 speed.

There aren’t that many dedicated Campy tools, so if other shops aren’t so keen to work on Campy bikes it’s probably because they don’t stock the spare parts, which are bloody expensive. unless the shop does a high volume of campy road bikes, they’re not gonna tie up so much money in the inventory.  to make matters worse, campy has repeatedly made small changes to the derailleurs almost every year, and the customer doesn’t want last year’s version because it doesn’t have the new carbon doohicky. a shop may not stock Dura Ace, but they’re gonna have Shimano something that will work i a pinch.  also, if the local shop mainly does bmx, they ain’t gonna be skilled with campy.  It’s not really hard to work on Campy, it’s just different. (ATTENTION ALL MECHANICS: For the love of God, DO NOT install a Shimano shifter cable into an Ergopower unit.)  So the shorter answer to the question is this: fewer shops have the parts, savy, or enthusiasm to work on campy.  of course, if you can wrench your own bike, then that makes things easier.

Well, points taken, but with 10 speed, the tolerances are close enough that you can use a chain for example or a cassette and make it work.

almost.  if you have a campy cassette hub, you need a campy cassette.  wear out your chainrings, and most road rings won’t fit (135mm bcd), never mind having the proper shape for good shifting.  campy square taper BBs are tapered different from Japanese/Taiwan, and integrated crank BBs are nothing like Shimano nor FSA.  cartridge brake pads are different shape.  it’s just not economically viable for many small shops to stock these parts.  and a lot of the bread & butter distributors do not sell campy and few of those offer small replacement parts.  this wouldn’t be an issue for dedicated roadie shops or (maybe) larger retailers.

I have Shimano Ultegra 10sp on my bike right now. But I think it is a myth that Campy is so much more expensive. I tend to agree with people who say Chorus is really DA equivalent (at least in weight).

Shifting action? Shimano wins hands down. SO much smoother, especially with an SRAM 1090 chain.

Ergonomics? SRAM’s hoods are better. But for shift action, not really sure which one I like better.

Bling? Campy. Being able to run cables under the wraps is pretty nice, and if I had a bike with internally routed cabling I would probably go with SRAM or Shimano just for that reason. Although that gray Ultegra SL is pretty hot.

I like that there is more competition in the market, SRAM Rival is a totally great deal (once they get the RD malfunctions out of the way). FSA is entering soon with their group.

I’ve always favored Campy until this latest rev of Shimano, and the incrementatl upgrades to it for 07. It’s the combination of light action and solid shifting. And they seemed to have worked out the touchiness of the drivetrain. Meaning, it shifts well a lot more consistently than before.