Cycling in the Trenches
Most cyclists – even many serious amateurs – have to do without many of the luxuries that come with multiple component sponsorship deals. The best equipment is expensive; this is often a major concern for unsponsored competitors. Sponsored riders often have a team of professionals dedicated to the upkeep, repair and evolution of their bike; sponsors also typically provide cyclists with new drive trains every year, and the most generous replace the entire bicycle. Most cyclists, however, don’t have this kind of help; for them, choosing reputable, dependable, durable components often means the difference between first place and also-ran status.
Shimano and Campagnolo
Two of the largest and most highly respected manufacturers of cycling components are Shimano and Campagnolo; parts made by these two companies are often featured in Velo News, Road Magazine and Cycling News. Shimano produces over half of the bicycle parts sold across the world, and is best known for its brakes, wheel components, pedal parts and drivetrains. The company, headquartered in Japan, is renowned for its contributions to road bike technology; it also produces components for mountain and hybrid bikes. Many elite cyclists, including Lance Armstrong, Paolo Savoldelli and Andy Hampsten, have won major races with Shimano components. Shimano’s primary competitor is Campagnolo (nicknamed “Campy” by many riders), the Italian counterpart to Shimano. Headquartered in Vicenza, Campagnolo manufactures almost all the components found in a road bike; it also manufactures wheels and seat posts. World-class cyclists who favor Campagnolo parts include Miguel Indurain, Jan Ulrich, Marco Pantani and Oscar Pereiro.
Both manufacturers have large, loyal fan bases. Devotees of Campagnolo praise the interchangeability of all its gear clusters and hubs. Campagnolo’s chains require no custom pins, and the elegant design of the rear hubs means that riders can service their own bikes without needing special dismantling tools from the manufacturer. The majority of elite or professional road racers use Campagnolo pedals, even if the rest of their bike is outfitted with components made by other firms; many feel that Shimano’s pedals feel unstable beneath their feet.
Shimano and Campagnolo discourage riders from simultaneously using parts from both companies, and many devoted fans of one manufacturer are self-described “purists” who are aghast at the notion. However, in certain scenarios, parts from each can be combined to give the rider an even greater advantage. The most popular “hybrid” setup involves Shimano derailleurs and cassettes used with shifters made by Campagnolo; this saves money and results in a bike whose weight is around 130 grams lighter than a comparable bike using only Shimano parts.
Making the Best Choice for the Best Ride
Shimano and Campagnolo offer several different product lines at varying price points. All of the components have a reputation for reliability and durability; the most elite products are the most expensive, due to the materials used and the painstaking workmanship from which they are made. To a large extent, determining the proper components to use is a matter of personal preference and riding style. The rider and bike must work harmoniously; the most expensive parts in the world won’t win a race if they don’t perform in a way that benefits that specific rider.