Campagnolo and the aesthetics of cycling

There was a time when Campagnolo could be relied upon to provide the highest level of cycling style. Perhaps it wasn’t bleeding-edge technology, but it was almost invariably a durable yet beautiful component that anyone who fancied themselves a “cycliste” would proudly display on their Made-in-Italy wonderbike. Sure, Suntour and Mavic had a few neat parts, but Campagnolo simply exuded class.

What the heck happened?

Dressing three classic steel Italian bikes (a Cinelli Super Corsa, a Pogliaghi, and a Casati Ellisse), I immediately turned to Campagnolo, then just as quickly turned away.

Gone are the polished alloy cranks and the smoothly-rounded and engraved derailleurs. In their place are carbon fiber and painted labels.

And now, Campagnolo announces 11-speed. If the look of the new levers are any indication, it seems that the next-greatest-thing will renounce all ties with industrial beauty and swear its allegiance to all-form-over-function (as long as form is black). Now we can all look the same, no matter what components we purchase!

As it happens in most businesses, as soon as the void is created, a contender appears to fill it. Leave it to Shimano–who already bucked the trend some years back with the flowing lines of their all-alloy Dura Ace crankset–to introduce the 2009 Dura Ace line. Smooth lines, lots of shine, and clear attention to detail mark this set as the one to own for new bikes with a bit of classic style. Even better, those who want a carbon crankset can get one, but those who don’t can get the alloy. Who’d of thought of that idea? A choice!?

My money is now on Shimano. It works well–very well–and it looks good, too.

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