Many years ago a couple friends came in to purchase a Co-Motion Sky-Capp tandem. The captain was already accustomed to riding a half-bike equipped with Campagnolo components, including Ergopower shifting. The problem for most of us is that Shimano’s wider range of gearing was more appropriate for tandems. Additionally, there were few modern Campy-compatible rear hubs appropriate for heavy tandem use; instead most “tandem hubs” are meant to be Shimano-compatible only. Since the inner blade on an Ergopower lever causes a downshift, and the inner blade on a Shimano STI lever causes an upshift, the captain believed, if he were to ride with STI, he might have a tendency to miss-shift or mistakenly move the wrong lever. (Those of us who ride tandems know that stokers do not often appreciate errors like this.) He also felt the Campy levers were more comfortable. The solution obviously was to find a way to manage a Shimano drive-train using Campy Ergopower controls.
The first three bikes we built with this setup were tandems, including our own. I chose to install Ergo-levers on our personal bike because the Shimano STI hoods at the time were too small and cramped my hands. We subsequently built up more tandems and singles this way, including a restored vintage Paramount and my own classic steel bike.
On each bike the shifting operated as smoothly as any we had ever seen at the time. For a few in fact the combination turned out to be a solution to some other shifting issues in the original all-Shimano systems. Tandems can be finicky that way, and for us this always resolved finicky drive-trains. They are were nearly silent with a clean and lubricated chain, with crisp and accurate indexing.
In my original article, a couple years before building my own single, I acknowledged it would work just as well, but questioned whether there would be any reason for putting this on a single. I later received a kind note from Chris Juden of Britain’s CTC:
“… we find there are several [reasons to do this on a single]… Loaded tourists, older riders, and anyone with steep hills (15% is common and 25% not rare on English country lanes) to tackle can use MTB [wide range] gears on a road bike. Also the Shimano 135mm hub is a stronger design axle, bearings, and spokes-wise.
But they want Campagnolo Ergopower because, well, it’s more ergonomic, easier to use from the tops where tourists mostly have their hands, and doesn’t have a wobbly brake lever or cables that interfere with a handlebar bag. Also the not-really-indexed front shift lets us do as we please with the chainset and front mech… So thanks for the idea!”
I subsequently built numerous singles this way, and have since put thousands of miles on one of my favorite bikes, and it still has its original Chorus 10-speed controls flawlessly managing a Dura-Ace 7700 9-speed rear mech, and a Record 10-speed front. My reasoning? Campy Ergo-controls were lighter, will change more gears in one motion, can actually be repaired, had more convenient (and elegant) cable-routing, have a safer quick-release method, and are far more comfortable in my hands. The Shimano drive-train generally afforded superior shifting performance, more gearing options, more component choices – especially for hubs – and a more reliable wheel design.
How did we do it? Because of the wide-range-gearing requirements of our tandems we used a Shimano 9-speed rear derailleur (SGS) and a Shimano-compatible 9-speed cassette (11-32 or 11-34). Other large-capacity derailleurs were available but nine speeds allowed for a smaller step inside that wide range. Campagnolo 10-speed Ergopower Shift/Brake controls (the right or rear shifter must have the 10-speed indexing ring – a 9-speed ring will not work) and a Campagnolo triple front derailleur are also necessary. Most properly set up 9-speed chain-wheels should work. The final elements were of course a 9-speed compatible chain and well-lubricated high quality cables.
I understand others have used and preferred a Shimano front derailleur. It does work but I found the standard compatibility between the Ergo-controls and a Campy front derailleur to allow for easier adjustment and a more forgiving trim.
Here’s the meat-&-potatoes… The actual setup and adjustment of the system is identical to any other except:
The pinch-bolt on the rear derailleur, which secures the wire, should have a hooked washer between the head of the screw and extension from the parallelogram. Normally when using a Shimano shift-lever the hook faces rearward and the tab, which clamps the cable, points inward toward the rear wheel. The wire rests in the small groove in the body of the derailleur and points forward.
When using Campagnolo 10-speed Ergo-levers however the “hooked washer” must be turned 90 degrees so that the “hook” is facing the rear wheel and the “tab” is pointing directly forward. The wire is then wrapped tightly around the hook and clamped beneath the tab so that the wire points outward away from the bike. The wire should then be running perpendicular across the small groove in the body of the derailleur.
Wrapping the wire around the hook may not be as easy as simply running it through the groove but it is necessary to making this combination work. I would also recommend adjusting the cable such that the extra click in the control occurs after the lowest gear rather than before the highest. This allows you to adjust the derailleur’s lower-limit screw so that the 10th gear position is locked out and the 10-speed control becomes, in effect, a 9-speed control.