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!

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The Best Rig for the 2015 Oregon Outback

For a ride such as the Oregon Outback you’re gonna want a bike that can take a beating (and not pass the beating back to you), brakes that will give you control through the rough stuff, and fat tires.  Like really fat tires.  But you don’t want a mountain bike, ’cause you wanna go fast (they don’t call it a race, but let’s face it, it’s a race).  So this means something with drop bars.  And as any alpine climber worth his salt will tell you ‘speed is safety,’ so forget the fully loaded bike with front and rear racks and panniers.  For portage, a handlebar bag, seat pack (something like this or this) and maybe a frame bag. Maybe. Enough room for a jacket, an extra layer, chain lube, food, etc.

The bike which I am describing is of course, the Lynskey Cooper with disc brakes and 650b tires (the Compass Babyshoe Pass 42c’s, to be exact).  The ti frame and Whiskey carbon fork lightens things up a bit, while also providing a balance of comfort and stiffness ideal for covering a lot of ground in a little time while not doling out extra wear and tear on your body.  The chainstay clearance on the Cooper allows for fat tires, or slightly less-fat tires with fenders. Which brings me to my next gear choice: no fenders.  I’m sure there are those who would lament my decision to forgo the ol’ mudflaps on such a ride, to whom I would reply simply, “Ira Ryan“.

Disc brakes for a gravel/dirt road ride (read: race) seem like a no-brainer and the Lynskey Cooper is specced just so.  Jerry (the bike’s owner) built his up with the TRP HyRd’s.  There were issues in the past with the HyRd which TRP has since resolved in a later model of the brake.  The pull is a little long with Campagnolo levers but when it bites, it really bites.  If you can get used to the feel of the brake, it’s a great option for drop bar levers.  Their reliability and increased strength as compared to a linear-pull or cantilever brake make disc brakes a definite go-to for the Outback.

This is hands down my ideal setup for tackling the 360 miles of Oregon backcountry come next spring. To sum it up: Lynskey Cooper, 650b, disc, Compass Babyshoe Pass 42s.  The backbone of the perfect gravel-grinder-monster-cross-drop-bar-mountain-bike, whatever you choose to call it. My perfect tool for the job.  And after all that to-do I’ll be detailing what I’ll actually be riding as we get closer to the ride!

(Planning) on Going Down Under in the 2015 Oregon Outback!

I may be a little late on this one but info on the 2015 Oregon Outback is up! I first heard about the ride from Jan Heine’s account of the ride in Bicycle Quarterly earlier this year.  I was immediately determined to do the ride this coming year.  Why do a 360 mile rando-style ride on the road when you could do it (mostly, 75% to be exact) on gravel and fire roads!?  I’m all for getting on dirt whenever possible and the route sounds like too much of an adventure to pass up.

For those who haven’t heard of the ride before, the Oregon Outback is a 360 mile ride in the backcountry of the Beaver state, starting in Klamath Falls in the south and ending up north above the Deschutes River.  The route links up dirt and gravel roads, with the recommended tire width being about 2″ knobbies.  Upon first hearing about the ride I thought to myself, “But damn, I bet registration’s pricey.”  This is one of my favorite parts about the event; because there is absolutely no support whatsoever – no sag wagon, no assistance with injury or mechanicals, nothing – it’s totally free.  There isn’t even registration.  Just a start time and an awesome route.  All you’ve gotta do is show up with a bike and turn the cranks over (and then ride 360 miles). Which brings me to the next issue: what kinda rig do I whip for a ride like this?? And how to tackle the distance? One big push? Take it easy and camp? Everyone’s got their ideal tool and strategy for a job like this; post your ideal ride and approach in the comments!

There’s a bicycle I believe would be perfect for the application that occasionally lives in the shop that is begging to be ridden in the Oregon Outback.  Expect a profile of the bike and why I think it’d be the best for the task later!  To be followed by a reality check and what I will actually be riding (to be clear, a bike I’m equally in love with).

Stay tuned!