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The greatest Campagnolo derailleurs (and two duds)

By Spencer Powlison


Greatest Campagnolo derailleurs
In the pantheon of road cycling, there is no god above Campagnolo. It is woven deeper in cycling’s fabric than any other marque. After all, Campagnolo has been manufacturing components since 1933. Prior to Shimano’s ascendance, you’d be crazy to forgo Campy on a proper race bike. By orders of magnitude, no other component brand has won as many Tours de France, world championships, or classics as Campagnolo.

Sure, the Italian component brand has fallen out of favor in the last decade or two, but iconic Campy parts from the past century remain sought after for their elegance and enduring performance. And what better part to highlight than the rear derailleur?

So with a little (okay, a lot) of help from The Pro’s Closet’s CCO — that’s Chief Campagnolo Officer — Sean “Sully” Sullivan, we’ve compiled a list of Campagnolo’s greatest rear derailleurs. And, just to keep it real, we threw in a couple of bungles that didn’t quite live up to the high standards Campagnolo has set for itself.


The most beautiful: 1984 C-Record, first generation

Campagnolo C-Record derailleurWas it lighter than the competition? No. Was it more aerodynamic? Debatable. Did C-Record offer innovative shifting performance? Not really. But in a way that only Campagnolo could, the C-Record’s aesthetics gave cycling purists the butterflies, defying rationality. 

“C-Record worked beautifully with friction shifting but horribly with Synchro indexing,” said Sully. “It’s heavy as a boat anchor, but it reminds me of a 1930s art deco steam train. In my opinion, it’s the most beautiful bike component ever made.”

Disraeli Gears concisely described the irrational appeal of C-Record: “in a strange kind of way, the C-Record was a stroke of genius. Campagnolo was well aware that quasi-religious faith, rather than rationality, governed the equipment choices of many road racers. The C-Record, through its very irrationality, preserved that faith.”

See a gold-plated C-Record group on this Colnago C35 from the TPC Museum

A shift for the Campionissimo: 1952 Gran Sport

Campagnolo Gran Sport derailleurImagine the humiliation: Fausto Coppi, arguably the greatest Italian cyclist of all time, the “champion of champions,” shuns Campagnolo in favor of Simplex, a (gasp) French component company. And the Campionissimo goes on to win the Tour de France. What’s Campagnolo to do? Legend has it, this late-1940s soap opera spurred Campagnolo to create the Gran Sport. Perhaps from an innovation standpoint, the Gran Sport could be faulted for copying its competitor’s design, but today, 72 years later, we aren’t making a list of the greatest Simplex derailleurs now are we?

Purely iconic: 1980 Nuovo Record

Campagnolo Nuovo Record derailleurBetween 1968 and 1980, the first man walked on the moon, the Watergate Scandal rocked the U.S., email, cellphones, and Apple computers were invented, plus The Beatles broke up. One thing did not change: Nearly every top cyclist in the world rode Campagnolo Nuovo Record. Although it could be criticized for some stubborn shifting tendencies, this derailleur was, nay, still is, tremendously durable and consistent. Plus, it was a harbinger of the widespread use of aluminum in bike components.

“Nuovo Record is probably one of Campagnolo’s most successful products and one of the most iconic cycling products of all time,” said Sully. “A 1970s NR rear derailleur that has not been overly abused works just as well today as it did when new. Absolutely bombproof.”

Modern marvel: 1983 Super Record

Campagnolo Super Record derailleurAn appropriate derailleur for the age of excess that was the ‘80s, Super Record cost nearly twice as much as Nuovo Record. But was it twice as good? Well … There were some incremental improvements, such as weight savings via titanium hardware and better, yet not perfect, shifting geometry. But the biggest reason to get a Super Record derailleur was that black-anodized aesthetic.

“The radical modern look and titanium parts made it the premier racing derailleur of the ‘80s,” said Sully. “It was also able to handle a 28t largest cog, not that anyone used it!”

See it on Davis Phinney’s Olympic bike in the TPC Museum

Unheralded brilliance: 1988 Chorus A/B

Campagnolo Chorus A/BSure, the Chorus derailleur was panned for its ungainly appearance and chunky weight, but the Italian engineers produced a clever concept. It just never really caught on. For starters, Chorus was Campagnolo’s first slant parallelogram derailleur, finally an answer to Suntour’s superior design. But beyond simply copying its competitor’s cage geometry, Campagnolo designed a derailleur with two slant angles for different cassette spreads. 

“I used to dislike this derailleur, mostly for its aesthetics,” said Sully. “The poorly functioning Synchro index system really hid the brilliance of this derailleur though. Once I got one and set it up with friction shifting I was amazed. It has an A and B setting that rotates the body slightly, in the B setting, it can handle up to a 32t cog. It’s versatility is amazing. I have one setup on a bike now with 52/35t x 14-30t and it has not missed a beat.”

The golden anniversary: 1983 50th Anniversary Super Record

Campagnolo 50th Anniversary Super RecordFrom a technical standpoint, all that’s been said about the Super Record applies to this derailleur. But the 50th Anniversary Super Record tugs at the heart strings because it not only commemorates Campagnolo’s 50th year but also the passing of Tulio Campagnolo, the company’s founder.

“The majority of these groups are kept in their beautiful storage cases and are never ridden, which is a crime — I use mine all the time!” says Sully. “But I sort of understand. Only 15,000 were made. Group #2 was given to the Pope. Plus every rear derailleur has real gold highlights and Tulio’s signature engraved on it.”

Lucky 13: 2020 Ekar

Campagnolo Ekar derailleurFor this list, choosing a modern Campagnolo rear derailleur is perilous. The bar is so high in terms of aesthetics, racing pedigree, and performance. The ‘90s Tours de France were all won with Campagnolo Record derailleurs — not bad, though any result in that era must be viewed with healthy skepticism. EPS electronic shifting is also notable but seems a bit old-fashioned next to the latest Shimano Di2 or SRAM AXS. 

That’s why Ekar gets the nod. This all-black rear derailleur looks muscular, almost post-apocalyptic — that feels right for gravel roads leading beyond civilization. It also works with 13-speed cassettes, surpassing its competitors and doing so with a great deal of backwards compatibility. And finally, Ekar is Campagnolo’s first gravel-specific derailleur and drivetrain, also a notable milestone.

Buy it on The Pro’s Closet

MTB mistake: 1992 Campagnolo Icarus

Campagnolo Icarus derailleurEarly ‘90s mountain biking was indeed a bright ray of sunlight in the bike industry but Campagnolo surely flew too close to it. The day before the first UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Durango, Colorado, American Juli Furtado was primed to win it all, except for one thing. The Campagnolo drivetrain on her Yeti would not stay in gear. Yeti owner John Parker went to the Campagnolo tech support truck but was essentially told that Furtado was not important enough to merit their attention. Desperate to give Furtado a shot at the rainbow jersey, he surreptitiously asked his contacts at Shimano for help. Overnight, the techs installed a Shimano Deore XT drivetrain, taped over the Campagnolo logos on the frame and the rest is history. 

To be fair, Furtado’s 1990 worlds win did not single handedly destroy Campagnolo’s mountain bike ambitions. Reportedly, Shimano did the same favor for British riders Tim Gould and David Baker at Mammoth that same year. You can read more about that saga on Mountain Bike Action.

Design disaster: 1987 Croce d’Aune

Campagnolo Croce d'Aune derailleurThink that Chorus derailleur we mentioned earlier is ugly? The Croce d’Aune says, “hold my bellini ...” This derailleur shared some of the odd aesthetics of the Chorus with none of the shifting technology, instead relying on Campagnolo’s classic cage geometry, which by this point was a bit threadbare next to the slant parallelogram designs previously discussed. Not only that, the heavy Croce d’Aune’s complicated cable clamping mechanism and a peculiar tie-rod to maintain even pulley-to-cog spacing led to unreliability. 

In a sad twist of fate, this dismal derailleur was named after the holy ground where Tulio Campagnolo is said to have devised the concept for a quick-release in 1924. Plus, only a fluent Italian-speaker could pronounce the name, so it’s typically referred to in coarse shorthand as CDA.

Honorable mention: 1946 Cambio Corsa (is it really a derailleur?)

Campagnolo Cambio Corsa derailleurCampagnolo made its name with the first quick-release lever in the pre-war era. So why not see if that technology can work to shift a chain! Turns out it did, although shifting between the four rear cogs took a bit more forethought than we’re all used to. Nonetheless, the Cambio Corsa was used to great effect by Gino Bartali, Coppi’s greatest rival. In fact, legend has it that Coppi, fed up with the Cambio Corsa, resorted to the Simplex derailleur in 1949. And the rest is history.

Further reading: Disraeli Gears
Thanks to Mike Kone and Peter Chisholm for providing derailleurs to supplement those from TPC’s Museum.

What is your favorite Campagnolo rear derailleur? Let us know in the comments.

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  • I have to disagree with the comment on the Rally. I rode from Maine to Washington state on a custom built bike that was full Campy record with triple front 36-42-52 with a 5 cog rear topped by a 34T. My Rally rear never missed a shift and that includes all the mountain climbs when I went to Hawaii for 6 weeks after the tour. Another bike I rarely ride but like my Colnago still shifts like a charm. Just an aside after the article on American frame builders my frame was custom made by a guy named Peter Mooney from Boston. The workmanship was so spectacular that I spent 3 days as a honored guest with the Hells Angels because they admired the craftsmanship of his metal work.

    Sam Tate on

  • This article has it right, the Nuovo Record rear derailleur was the racers work horse during the 1970’s through mid-80’s. A beautifully made component, elegant to look at, durable and very functional. Kept clean and attended too it’s nearly indestructible I remember as a 14 year old owning my first Peugeot race bike with the crappy Simplex delrin bodied item yearning for a new shiny Campagnolo Nuovo Record rear derailleur sitting in the glass case at the local Schwinn shop. Problem was it was $55 (on sale) and I made $1.50/hr working on the farm. That’s a significant investment when my whole Peugeot race bike cost $200. I did save up to buy it and fitted to the Peugeot (no easy feat due to the Simplex dropout). A couple years later I mounted it on an Italian made Viner and finally on a custom American built frame. Forward 50 years and I still have that bike with the same Campagnolo derailleur which still works fine. They don’t make bike parts like that anymore. Tullio Campagnolo was a genius, Campagnolo bicycle components are timeless, I won’t ride anything else.

    Frank H. on

  • I don’t recall Campy promotional literature calling it C-Record. Or even Record C. It was just Record

    Aaron Goss on

  • Fantastic Article!

    Nicholas Martin on

  • Nice to see, let me nominate the “Rally” as the Boat Anchor award!

    Craig Ryan on

  • Campagnolo Triomphe is my favorite. It works on my 32 tooth cog with mountain bike friction shifters and full cable housing. Elegantly beautiful and timelessly simple.

    Brian Maldonado on

  • I own a 1983 Raleigh Professional from new. Fitted with Campy Nuovo Record front and rear derailleurs with a 7-cog cassette. Still works great.

    Ian Whalley on

  • Funny to see this article today. Today, riding my Super Record equipped 1984 Colnago, I flubbed a shift; and it got me to thinking…
    I think the only derailleur I’ve ever had, that always shifted flawlessly (& I mean always), is a Campy CDA with Syncro downtube shifters.

    Bill Metcalf on

  • Robert Clark
    I have been using a 1st generation 3450 Rally since the early 80s recently got a longer Rally cage to fit on a Record 1020/A body .. so Like the 2nd generation Rally 5011/06,* It did not cope with the same Gearing (50-40-24 triple + 13-28 t (6 speed freewheel) .. what gear combination did they have in mind for those.. *(cage 3453&3453 vs short 814A & 815A) ..

    Robert on

  • Growing up in Brooklyn NY in the 60s and 70s if you showed up for the Central Park group rides without Campagnolo components on your rig, you were not cool. Fast forward to the 90s and a move to California I have always had Campy on my bikes since. But I must admit had I known that Shimano with its dominance in SoCal so prevalent, I probably would have opted to go with them. Local bike shops here don’t carry Campy.Thank goodness for the internet.

    Philip on

  • Had a Schwinn Paramount 60th Anniversary with Record Ti components sans carbon fiber.Sleek silver surfer.In 50 years of cycling I have never owned anything but Campy.Why change beauty and function?

    Bruce Gelman on

  • My prize possession is a mid 70’s Colnago with Columbus SLX tubing and every possible Campy Super Record component. It has downtube shifters that operate flawlessly on that once a year occasion I ride it. Other than inflating the tires ( sewups of course ) the bike hasn’t been worked on since I did a complete tear down and rebuilt nearly 40 years ago. I’ve never had a current bike that comes even close. Campagnolo will always be the holy grail of cycling components. Technology can’t replace soul.

    Sam Tate on

  • When i was a child my Dad had a bike with the the Cambio Corso. He rode in Italy before the War. He was a youth riding with Coppi and Bartali.

    Anthony DeMarco on

  • Two comments. The article implies that the 1952 Campagnolo Gran Sport copies Simplex. The Simplex at the time, the Tour De France did not have a parallelogram etc. It is finicky, a bit frail and can take 45 minutes to properly adjust from scratch if you go through the setup sheet. It can shift like a dream over its limited gear range once you are done with the fussiness. The Campagnolo was incredibly robust, operates over a wider gear range, crashes through changes with glee and has simple limit stops. Arguments that Campagnolo copied the Nivex are rather strained. Turning to the Croce, the combined action of the regular parallelogram and the tie rod equals a slant parallelogram. Breaking down and combining mechanisms are normal design practices. That said, the Croce was ultra stupid as the Suntour patent had expired. It would have been a good design solution to avoid the patent around ten years earlier.

    Joe on

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