Off Road Campy drivetrains

Building a STEEP hill climbing bike? Interested in creating a modern gravel bike but love your Italian shifters? We’ve been playing with ways to fit larger cassettes onto our Campagnolo equipped bikes, to get those ultra-low gears desirable for eye-watering grades. Here are a few tricks needed to convert your road group into a do-it-all drivetrain.

  1. 11-speed cassettes are brand interchangeable, so an 11-speed 11-40 Shimano XT cassette will share nearly identical cog spacing to an 11-speed 12-25 Campy Chorus cassette. This was not the case for 10-, 9- or 8-speed cassettes, as cog spacing was different enough to cause shifting issues when mixing cassettes. The cassette will have to match the freehub body, which has its own particularities: 11-speed Shimano Dynasys mountain cassettes fit on SRAM/Shimano 9/10-speed freehubs, or 11-speed freehubs with a spacer. 11-speed SRAM wide-range road cassettes only fit on 11-speed SRAM/Shimano road freehubs. 11-speed SRAM XD mountain cassettes only fit on SRAM’s new XD hub body.
  2. You’ll likely need a long cage rear derailleur. Cage length is important when gear ranges are large, as extra chain length needs to be taken up by the derailleur. See our write up of chain wrap here: http://branfordbike.com/articles/rear-derailleurs-pg62.htm. Early 11-speed Campagnolo derailleurs used the exact same derailleur geometry as 10-speed, and the older 10-speed derailleurs handle 11-speed chains just fine. Thus, you’d be able to choose from pre-2008 Record and Chorus 10-speed medium and long cage rear derailleurs. We’ve found that the medium length cages work well up to 32 tooth cogs, and we’ve successfully tested long-cage derailleurs up to 40 tooth.
  3. In 2015, Campagnolo derailleur geometry and cable pull ratios changed for the Ultra-Torque line (SR, Record, Chorus), so if you own 2015+ UT shifters, your only option is to use concurrent short cage derailleurs, while being mindful of chain wrap requirements of desired gear combination. The Power-torque family has a compatible Athena triple rear derailleur still in production. 2015 is the same year Campy introduced the conspicuous four arm Ultra-torque cranksets (see here).
  4. In order to clear the larger cog sizes, the upper derailleur pulley wheel must be lowered beyond the capacity of the b-screw. Wolf Tooth Components makes an elegant solution for lowering the derailleur past large mountain cogs. The Road Link is seen here: http://branfordbike.com/product/wolf-tooth-components-road-link-1359.htm.

To recap, the specs you’ll need are:

  • 11-speed wide-range cassette, with compatible hub.
  • Medium- or long-cage rear derailleur.
  • Wolf Tooth Road Link.

With this, we can take our Campy-equipped bikes further than ever before. Maybe we’re getting tired of riding the same old roads, or just like having a bike capable of climbing that driveway without a knee-breaking grunt session. Versatility is a characteristic some may scoff at, but we are embracing it with open arms. See you on the trails!

Winterize your road bike

Jerry’s repurposed Look 585

Given a blank sheet of paper, our ideal winter bike would along the lines of the bikes described in our previous post. However, a whole new bike is not always possible, be it financial and space constraints or objections from a significant other. This post covers a solution for converting any older road bike sitting in the corner of your garage, gathering dust.

This is shop co-owner Jerry’s Look 585, which was given the “winter” treatment. Jerry started out by shrinking his wheels from 700C down to 650B. The actual rim diameter changed by about 40mm, providing room for larger tires in the frame as well as all-important fenders. SKS full fenders do the job nicely, held in place with Portland Design Works’ quick release fender mounts and zip ties at the bottom bracket.

Standard road caliper brakes are not compatible with the smaller wheels, so they were replaced with Paul Component’s Racer center pull brakes. Jerry didn’t stop there. Swapping in a Winwood cyclocross fork, he was able to squeeze a front disc brake into the picture for even better braking.

Lights are a must for the sunshine-limited months, so a set of NiteRider lamps keeps Jerry from getting caught out in the dark.

We’ll admit it is not the cleanest build to roll out our door. The true beauty lies in its capacity to withstand anything mother nature serves up.

Ultimate Winter Machines

Ah, yes. Winter in Seattle. While it is tempting to trade helmet for car keys, we like to think that riding can STILL be fun this time of year with the proper equipment. Below are three of our favorite Lynskey bikes, built especially for all-weather riding and incredible comfort. Just click on the images to bring up a full sized gallery.


Sportive Disc – Singlespeed build

Forgoing the convenience of gears, this bike was made to reduce the wear of winter on drive train parts, and provide the rider with a bit of workout on Seattle’s hills. Starting with Lynskey’s Sportive Disc frame, the manufacturer was asked to leave off all cable stops, leaving a very clean looking frame.

Drivetrain courtesy of White Industries’ ENO line: crank, BB, freewheel and eccentric rear hub. Wheels built with HED Belgium rims, with stopping power provided by TRP Spyre carbon-armed mechanical disc brakes. 28mm Compass tires are shielded by PDW’s beautiful alloy fenders.

The build is completed with ENVE bits, a Chris King headset, and gutted Campy Ergo brake levers (we are Branford Bike, after all). The road stays illuminated at night thanks to NiteRider’s MiNewt X2 and CherryBomb lights.


Pro Cross custom

Here is another custom Lynskey from our friends in Chattanooga, TN. This Pro Cross features asymmetrical chain stays with a “yoke” plate to offer additional tire clearance, as well as traditional cable routing.

With disc brakes, 650B wheels are an easy option and allow the use of wider, more comfortable tires. Here, Compass Babyshoe Pass 42mm tires are mounted onto HED Belgiums and covered by beautiful Hanjo fenders. The rear wheel is built around a DT Swiss 240 hub, while the front is a SON 28 dynamo hub. This generator hub powers a SON Edelux II headlight, mounted on a custom built steel Igleheart fork and rack with very slick light wire mounts.

Campy Chorus 10 speed drivetrain, White Industries road crankset and ENVE cockpit complete the build.


Lynskey Urbanskey disc, fenders, Chorus, 650b

Titanium is king for long, endurance rides to prevent body fatigue, while still serving as a light, responsive frame material. This stock Lynskey Urbanskey was built up with Campagnolo’s fabulous 2015 Chorus groupset. With updated shift mechs and a crankset that is compatible with both standard and compact chainrings, this group offers some of the best performance in Campy’s history, without breaking the bank.

Rolf Prima’s hand built wheels from Eugene, OR are outfitted with plush 650Bx38 Panaracer tires. Braking is done with TRP’s Spyre mechanical brakes. Disc brakes are unfazed by the wet conditions which render rim brakes hopeless, and are a priority for winter riding. With Spyres,the cable actuates both pads simultaneously, providing better power, even pad wear and preventing rotor deflection compared to other mechanical brakes on the market. SKS full fenders protect the rider from wheel spray throughout the winter.