Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
This week’s tech question is from a reader named Dave. You’ll see after reading his query and my reply that we could use more help. We’re hoping that some of you Campagnolo tifosi who may use the same cables David uses will be able to offer some.
I have a question that I can’t seem to find a consensus on. I bought and installed a Campagnolo Record 12 speed mechanical rim-brake group on my 10 year old Moots Vamoots last winter. It works great but I broke a shift cable inside the right shift lever body in November after approximately 4,500 miles.
It was a Campy Ultra Smooth 12 speed shift cable and housing that came with the groupset. I had to take the lever off the bar and remove the wind-up reel to get the shift cable out.
My question is this: I don’t want this to happen next year, (I had to ride a hilly 11 miles home in the 36 x 11). So should I use a different cable, housing, or both, or just replace my cables mid season?
Campy doesn’t sell the cable separately and the Ultra Smooth 12 speed shift cable with housing is about $70, ouch. I am hoping you have some advice for me.
Sorry to hear about your cable breaking, Dave. I don’t have any experience with those cables. But, according to the only reference I could find in Campagnolo’s instruction sheets they say you should replace their cables and housing yearly or after 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles). Which suggests yours might have failed a bit early.
I couldn’t find an instruction manual on Campagnolo’s website showing the proper installation and setup for the cables and shift levers. I did find the cable and housing sets listed in numerous places online for $74 (photo).
I did a little googling and found a couple of other people on a bike forum who said their cables broke, too. It’s a pretty common problem for people with Shimano shifters, too.
Here’s what the guys on the forum wrote:
“I’ve had a maximum smoothness cable break in my Chorus 12 right lever. Which was very surprising as I’ve never ever had a Campagnolo cable break. It broke inside the lever and was quite difficult to get the end piece out.”
“I also had a Campagnolo Ultra Smooth right shift cable break inside the lever body. Had to take the reel out to remove the frayed and broken cable. Replaced it with a Jagwire Elite cable and it is working fine.”
I wonder if Campy’s tech guys could tell us more about the issue and what causes it? Might be worth calling them and asking to speak with technical support.
With Shimano STI levers of which I have fixed quite a few broken shift cables, it can be installation issues that cause the breaks. And, I wonder if that’s true with Campy. I’ve written about this before on Shimano levers here:
I don’t know if Campy 12 speed levers and problems with the cable and housing routing or setup can cause the cable to break, but in theory they work similarly to Shimano’s so maybe that’s worth investigating or thinking about.
Should you try other cables?
Even though Campy says to replace them yearly or after 15K kilometers, at $70 a cable set I would hope a cable would last a long, long time, like at least 5 years if not more (I have plenty of cables a lot older than that and still going strong). Campy seems very proud of their cable technology so it’s very curious to me that it broke at 4,500 miles.
I would also hope that the Campy cables are higher quality than replacement cables from Jagwire, etc. After all they are supposed to be designed to be the highest quality and to complement the Campy components specifically, which they also designed.
Which makes me think that maybe only Campy can answer the question with any authority because if the cables are breaking due to something people are doing wrong when installing the cables, levers or housings (assuming that these $70 cables are actually the super cables they’re claimed to be), it seems like Campy would know exactly what those wrong things are.
Campy contact info
I looked up their contact number in the USA. In their instructions they do recommend calling them for technical help so with any luck you’ll reach someone who can help.
Campagnolo North America Inc.
5431 Avenida Encinas, Suite C
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Tel: +1 760 9310106
Sorry I can’t give you a better answer but maybe something here will help or if you can reach techs at Campy maybe they can help.
I heard back from Dave that he had left a message with Campagnolo’s tech department and had not yet heard anything back.
Calling all Campy experts
Please leave a comment if you can help Dave with his Campy cable conundrum. Thanks!
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.
I do know Campy shift cables are, or at least were, a fraction of a millimeter smaller in diameter compared to Shimano, I believe Shimano is 1.2mm and Campy 1.1mm. The heads are smaller too. I once purchased several at BikeTools etc many many years ago. I actually used them in Shimano shifters to decrease drag. I never had a problem. And I know you can get the 1.1mm from other makers. I think Sram had some, but again this was well over ten years ago.
I’d check with local bike shops and other Campy riders.
I too had a cable break inside the right shifter after just over 2 years of use (30 miles out, rolling terrain, and on my 11-tooth cog!). On Facebook is a group “Campagnolo Tech Talk” which has addressed cable failure (including mine), and the moderator just happens to be one of The Top Guys at Campagnolo UK.
Those in the group hint that Campy cable breakage is quite rare. It all comes to cable installation. HINT: for 12-speed, NO cable ends are to be used! They introduce friction which wear out the cables until they fail. (The weird looking cable ends? Those are for internal cable routing where they enter/exit the frame.)
One must follow both the instructions in the too-brief packaged instructions AND need to view the video on installation (https://www.campagnolo.com/US/en/Support/installation_of_12speed_campagnolo_mechanical_groupsets). Cable installation starts at about 3’40”.
Besides using a cable end on the cable going into the lever, position of the lever on the bar is vital. Too high or too low introduce a “bend” where the cable exits the lever.
In my case, I did have a cable end going into the lever body.
Unfortunately, the video has no text or voice, and can be a bit on the quick side…
David Stihler says
“NO cable ends are to be used!” What does this mean. Every cable has an end. I use Campy 12 speed groupset and like others broke the right hand shifter cable and had to did out the remaining parts. Can you please clarify what you mean be cable ends.
Rob Jorgenson says
I don’t have experience with campy 12sp but have two bikes with record 11sp. I’ replace my rear derailleur shifter cable every year as they do start to shred after 9000-10000 miles. You don’t have to replace the housing, just the cable .
Mark Follmer says
I’m going to replace my cables every year (5,000 miles +/-).
After I change cables, housings, chains, sprockets, etc. I find myself saying “Ahhhh. Why did I wait so long?”
Is this a Powershift Campy? If so, the internal parts could be worn which can make the cables break in shorter period of time. If it isn’t a Powershift, Campy also had a lever design that bent the cable around a shift drum and a plastic pale yellow or cream colored, some were black, teflon guide that is a part that was inserted into the plastic body, this is visible right on top if you fold back the hoods, if that part is missing that could cause an issue with the cable, but regardless if the part is missing or not, that bending does cause earlier than expected cable failure, and there is no fix for it; like bending a paperclip back and forth, you can do it for awhile but then it will snap; if that part is missing it will break the cable sooner.
Even Shimano had a lot of issues with what I call premature cable failure due to the excessive bending of the cable inside the briftor, although a different cable path from the Campy, it still had to bend a lot, and thus they failed a lot like the Campy.
You should try buy and new wire with housing, and since they break so much you could experiment with different brands to see if any other brand will last longer, I would try JagWire Elite Ultra Slick Polished Stainless steel cable and housing first; if those don’t last then try Aican cables and housing I’ve heard that both of those seem to work really good with Campy.
My experience is with Record 10sp. They last so long I keep a “post it note” of when I change cables and housing. Another source of information would be trade teams who are using these groups.
Replace mechanical Campy with EPS. I had the same cable breaking problem with mechanical Shimano and converted to Di2, a little pricy but worth the cost.
Charlie W says
I just got a Record 12SP gruppo for my old Ti bike last April. The right shifter cable broke!!! I’ve ridden Campy 9SP and 11SP, and my wife has Campy 10SP. Cable breaks on those are quite rare – like I’ve had one break in about 150,000 miles of riding. I have replaced more than that, but this 12SP break was just *snap* out of nowhere. I’m somewhere in the range of 6000 miles on this 12SP, and 7 months…
I put 120000 miles on 2 or 3 sets of 10 speed cables. They never broke and they always worked fine although new cables are noticeably nicer than old ones – I say just having changed them recently. Someone will answer the phone at campy and they are remarkably knowledgeable. Someone call and post their response.
Aaro Paavo Heinonen says
Have ridden Campy for over 30 years and had only one cable break in the shifter (2014 11 speed SR). That cable was a Jagwire which came with the frame. Most shops have a replacement Campy cables for about $10 and if not, they are easily found on line. Try Excel Sports in Boulder. For real problem solving, call Vecchios in Boulder, CO. They know everything.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for helping Dave out everyone!
I find it hard to believe that people are saying this breakage in the lever body is rare. I have been a long time user of Chorus and I had the cable going to the read derailleur break every year. One other guy I know also used Chorus and had the same issue. So my buddy just bought a new bike with Chorus 12 speed. It’s only been 5 months maybe 4000 miles and the cable broke in the usual spot. I went to the bike shop to get a cable to help him with the repair and they told me $40 for a cable. Usually sold as a set for more but if I wanted just a cable it was going to cost $40. Campy has a serious issue because you don’t treat your customers like that. The 11 speed cable is only $8. If this cable is going to fail that quickly you don’t rape your customers like that. Forcing them to buy a complete kit too is wrong because in just a few months of use the housing isn’t going to be bad if you don’t ride in rain and get slop all over your bike. Cycling is becoming way too expensive and I think the time is getting closer for me to hang it up or go with a single speed. 🙁