Friday, December 7, 2012

What's in the Stand: Campagnolo Shifter Rebuild

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This is one of my absolute favorite things to do at work. It takes a while, and the chance to lose some small piece is high, but it's a neat job that has a high "Wow! I fixed that!" factor.

One of the ways in which Campagnolo has Shimano beat is that their ergo shifters are rebuildable. The other, and here's the big dark secret folks, is that it's really easy to do so. Campagnolo shifters are much simpler mechanically speaking than any Shimano shifter. Even your hideously expensive Campy Super Record 11 shifters are pretty basic in terms of construction and assembly. Since I just dealt with a Shimano Ultegra 6700 shifter that had some badly corroded internals, I'll tell you right now that there are a lot of tiny moving parts inside those things. A lot of them are also press fit, which means that you may be able to take it apart at home, but you probably aren't getting it back together. The most current model year of Campagnolo ergo shifters have approximately 20 parts inside. Compare that to 40-ish for a Shimano.

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The item I rebuilt was an older Record 8-speed ergo shifter. There was nothing mechanically wrong with this shifter. The bike had been loaned to a friend and they had taken a tumble, which resulted in a big chunk of the shifter body breaking off. The second photo to the right is the new shifter body and you can see the part that's missing from the original shifter. It still shifted, but the brake lever could not be re-mounted. The solution was just to rebuild the shifter internals onto a new shifter body. There's a caveat here: make sure the parts are available before you rip apart your shifter. The decision to rebuild the shifter, instead of simply replacing it, was based on the fact that 8-speed Campy parts mostly don't exist any more. A quick eBay search found a host of replacement shifters in varying states of disrepair, but the cost for the complete shifter was quite high. We were lucky and found a replacement shifter body at another nearby bike shop. Favors were called in, goods and services were exchanged, and we went home with an NOS Campagnolo Record carbon shifter body.

The rebuild procedure is super simple. Once you release the springs simply take the shifter internals apart from front to back. I have two helpful hints. The first is that, in this age of technological wonderment in which we live, we all have some kind of fancy phone with a camera. I use mine to take a lot of pictures of repairs that are small, delicate, or very specific. At least then you can have a record of how the part looked before you ripped it to pieces, and how it should look when you're done. The second hint, and something you will likely see in every What's in the Stand post from here until I stop doing them, is that I appreciate an orderly parts layout. I lay out a clean rag and all the small parts get organized, in order, on top of it. I do this for hubs, internal hubs, headsets, and so on. It really helps prevent having to look at a pile of dirty parts and wonder which part goes in first. In this picture the parts to the left are from the back of the shifter, the gap is where the shifter body sits, and then the parts to the right are from the front of the shifter. Simple as pie.
Other people have provided better blow-by-blow-write ups of how to service a Campagnolo shifter body than I can do, so I'll leave it to them. All I would say is that if you are careful, lay the parts out in order, and pay attention to what you're doing then this is a simple job. This 8-speed shifter had exactly nine parts inside it. The only fiddly part was getting the springs re-attached. I used a small dental pick to get them back into place but I would consider that part of the job more annoying than difficult.

The final part of this repair was that the shifter was on a gorgeous 1981 Pinarello. Our customer was the original owner and she had updated the drivetrain in the '90s to a newer 8-speed ergo shifter setup. Prior to this is had Campagnolo downtube shifters. It was also my size which meant that I may have taken a slightly extended test ride around the neighborhood. I have a lust in my heart for a classic Italian road bike, and this was a bike worth coveting. And now the shifter works so it's even cooler!

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