Posts Tagged ‘campagnolo’

Robert Penn’s bike

I caught Robert Penn’s fantastic documentary on BBC4 on Monday night. The Story of the Bicycle, timed to coincide with the launch of Penn’s book All about the Bike (jacket below), saw the one-time round-the-world cyclist build his dream bike from parts sourced direct from manufacturers in many different countries – bars from Italy, hand-built wheels from the U.S., etc.

The resulting super-rig, the bike of dreams, turned out to be a Brian Rourke steel frame equipped with full Campagnolo Record, Continental tyres, Chris King headset, Cinelli bars, and – the cherry on top! – a Brook’s saddle. A fine combination of kit, if not exactly in line with my tastes. However, you have to ask – why the blue and orange colour scheme? Dark red, white panels and black lettering, surely?

Jacket image: All About the Bike by Robert Penn.

Campagnolo Ultra-Torque – don’t try this at home

I’m on the market for a new chainset. Well, basically, I need new bearings for my bottom bracket so figure I may as well spend £250 rather than £20…

Just bought a new chainset, to be fitted Thursday by those wrench-wielding legends at Condor.

During an hour of web-based research prior to buying said chainset, wondering whether or not I could install the beast myself, I discovered this how-to video. It’s quite comedy, because there’s nothing to suggest at the start that, rather than being a user-friendly demo from a mustachioed Italian mechanic, it is in fact ridiculously technical. The guy just keeps pulling out more attachments and tools, all at the same precise pace. The lack of audio makes it all the more bizarre.

Seriously, anyone contemplating upgrading or repairing an ultra-torque BB would be best advised to get it to a shop. Apart from skills in brain surgery, you will also need to purchase £300+ of tools beforehand – then you’ll break it and have to take it to the shop anyway.


Yesterday was the probably the worst roadside breakdown scenario I’ve experienced. I’ve had rides brought to a premature end by forgetting to bring a pump, or multiple flats. I’ve had to radio for a car pickup miles from home before, and on a few occasions have had to beg bus drivers to give me a lift to the nearest train station. But this one takes the cake.

Picture it: beautiful, bright, crisp morning, early rise, good breakfast, 7.24 train from Marylebone. Humming along on the Denham loop, making good time. Set for a solid 4 hour ride, then back for a coffee on the train and big lunch.

Ping. Sounded funny. What the…

The hole where the spoke snapped off.

The hole where the spoke snapped off.

A spoke on my rear Neutron Ultra had snapped off at the rim and twanged into the middle of the road. The wheel instantly went way off true.

Realising the ride was effectively over, I checked the map and headed slowly towards Prince’s Risborough. The wheel was wobbling badly but I figured it would get me 5 miles to the train station, where I could pick up the line I came out on.


Shredded sidewall.

Shredded sidewall.

I should have seen it coming, but the wobbling wheel had (within about 200 yards) rubbed against the brake pads, worn the sidewall of the tyre down and exposed the inner tube, resulting in blowout.

Luckily, I was about 1 mile from Stoke Mandeville. Nothing for it but to walk, in cleats, along the road to the station. Could have been worse. Unfortunately, Stoke Mandeville is on a different line, so I’d have to buy a new ticket. No great shakes. It’s Saturday, though, and there’s no train on the line between Amersham and London Marylebone. The bus replacement service won’t take my bike, so I’ll need to get a Metropolitan Line train from Amersham. There’s maintenance on the Metropolitan Line as well, though, so I’ll only be able to travel as far as Northwood, in Zone 6.

I’d managed to deal philosophically with the situation up to this point, but the realisation that I would have to get a taxi from Northwood back home to Hornsey was what tipped the whole experience from ‘one of those things’ into an unholy shafting. Sure enough, the taxi cost £40.

This misadventure has also tipped my feelings about my wheelset into negative equity. Check the 7-month update here.

Product review: Campagnolo Neutron Ultras

My new Campagnolo Neutron Ultra wheels have now been properly road tested and deserve a post all to themselves.

Branded wheel bags.

Branded wheel bags my friends.


Clean styling and bladed spokes.


On the rear wheel, the spokes connect with the rim asymmetrically on the non-drive side.


Freehub body and carbon fibre hub casing.

As Joe predicted the Ultras’ understated looks and colour scheme match the Wilier perfectly.

On the road, the Ultras spin up much quicker than my Fulcrum 7s, and this is noticeable on the flat as well as when climbing. The front wheel is so feather-light that on fast descents it can feel a bit skittish, but for the weight saving (400g total) this is worth it. The rear wheel doesn’t seem to weigh much less than my Fulcrum rear, which is disappointing, but I blame the beast of a cassette (Centaur 13-29) I’ve fitted with La Marmotte in mind. This is one component that will be worth its weight penalty…

I bought the Ultras on Kompressor Bike, the super-cheap Luxembourg-based site offering big discounts over Wiggle and CRC.

Update @ June ’09:

The rear hub developed play after only 3 months use. It turned out a small part had broken inside and had to be replaced – not that great really, but it didn’t cost much and apparently these things happen?

Update @ September ’09:

A spoke on the rear wheel snapped without warning while I was out riding. I’ve been using the wheels consistently throughout the summer, but this isn’t heavy use. I do pump up the rear tyre to 110 psi, but that ought to be fine. So I just don’t think this is good enough for a £700 wheelset at 7 months old. Disappointing.

Update @ May ’10:

Another spoke on the rear wheel snapped 4 hours in to a sportive, bringing my event to an end. I’m afraid that’s the final straw for this wheelset. Clearly, they are not durable enough to withstand the rigours of UK roads. I didn’t ride these all winter, so it’s not like I’ve really hammered them, and I’m only 10st 8, so I’m not too heavy. Will now upgrade.

Update @ September ’10:

I had the rear wheel repaired by Brixton Cycles. According to them, some of the spokes had been incorrectly tightened by the previous repair (i.e. by Condor) – but they assured me that the wheel was now ready to ride again. I took the wheel back to Condor and asked for an explanation. They couldn’t really do much apart from check over the wheel once again and give it back to me. Since I bought a new set of wheels to replace the Neutrons, I’m still going to sell them – but at least it looks like whoever buys them will get plenty more life from them.