Shimano Derailleurs and Campagnolo Ergopower Levers Happy Together

Shimano derailleurs and Campagnolo Ergopower levers happy together

By popular demand, we’re finally publishing our Bike Hacker story (originally published in our premier issue, Issue 1) online. [Note: It was written prior to the emergence of Campagnolo 11-speed drivetrains, Shimano STI levers with hidden cables and the popular SRAM DoubleTap. Be sure to pick up a copy of a Issue 9 for an even more in-depth look that covers additional mix and match options, including our editor's new favorite involving the now-discontinued Shimano Rapid Rise (low normal) rear derailleurs. See more details at the bottom of the article.]

Most ‘cross racers don’t have the luxury of component sponsors, don’t receive new bikes or new drivetrains each year, and lack pit crews to clean their bikes every lap. So, they need to select parts that will perform, be reliable under all conditions, are lightweight and affordable, and hopefully last many seasons.

We at Cyclocross Magazine are no different, and as we choose parts for our ‘cross bikes, we take all these things under consideration in hand-picking our parts. Over the last few years, we’ve come to be fond of one particular setup:  Campagnolo Ergopower shifters mated to Shimano derailleurs and cassettes. Some fondly call this setup “Shimergo.”

What the hell?  These two aren’t supposed to work, you say?  Don’t believe the companies or the brand loyalists. As long as 8 or 9 speeds 8,9, or 10 speeds in the back is enough for you, they work great, and the combination also allows you to save some money if you’re buying individual parts as well as some precious grams you’ll appreciate when lifting your bike for the 23rd time.

Run 10 speed Ergopower Levers with a Shimano 9 speed drivetrain just by clamping the cable as shown

Run 10-speed Ergopower Levers with a Shimano 9- speed drivetrain just by clamping the cable as shown

How does it work?  We won’t bore you with cable pull measurements, but basically Campagnolo shifters pull more cable per shift than Shimano STI shifters, and it just so happens that when you mate a 10-speed Ergopower shifter to a Shimano derailleur, they work perfectly with a Shimano 8-speed cassette  Prefer an extra gear? With just a simple change on how you clamp the shift cable, this setup will work perfectly with a 9-speed cassette as well (see picture at left). [Update: 11-speed Ergopower shifts work perfectly with 9-speed Shimano cassettes, and 10-speed cassettes with the alternative cable clamping.]

We love the Campy shifter / Shimano drivetrain setup for a few reasons:

It’s lighter. Campy shifters are lighter than Shimano shifters, about 90-130 grams lighter than their Shimano equivalents.

It’s cheaper. Campy shifters are cheaper than their Shimano equivalents. Yet Shimano derailleurs are cheaper than their Campy equivalents. And Shimano-compatible wheels are cheaper, or more readily available, either from another bike, a local bike shop, or the local swap. We’re not rollin’ in it and need burrito and beer money. Priorities, right?

It’s cleaner. Those shift cables are nicely tucked under bar tape, away from the elements, and won’t get caught on people’s bikes, tree branches, or a poorly placed course-marking pole. [Update: Obviously with the 7900/6700 level of components, Shimano now has hidden shift cables]

It’s more reliable. Okay, this might be subjective. But we’ve had many an STI-lever give out, with weak springs or broken springs or from a crash, and much fewer problems with Campagnolo Ergopower. And we can rest easy knowing Ergopowers are easily repairable and parts are readily available. STI repairs, on the other hand, have been known to end a race season or even a marriage.

Does it matter what Shimano rear derailleur you use?  Not really. There’s no such thing as a Shimano 7, 8, 9, or 10-speed rear derailleur. As long as you avoid pre-9-speed Dura Ace rear derailleurs, everything will work great.

But modern parts are 10 speed…why would you want to use 8 or 9 speeds? Cyclocross in most areas is a muddy sport. The wider spacing and more cable pull between cogs allows more reliable shifting when mud/grass/snow get in the way of the cable and derailleur, and it’s been our experience that the wider spacing doesn’t get as jammed full of mud as the narrower 10-speed cassettes. But with Campagnolo’s 11-speed levers, 10-speed Shimano cassettes are now an option. [Ed. note: if you're really tired of mud derailing your shifting and drivetrain, consider Retroshift's shifter options, or converting to singlespeed for cyclocross.]

What’s the downside?  There are two potential downsides we can think of. The first is that many people, especially those with larger hands, prefer the longer Shimano STI lever bodies, especially the newer 10-speed models. These longer levers are also easier to point up, creating a large surface to push against and a position similar to mountain bike bar ends. [Ed. note, this is a moot point with the larger Ultrashift-shaped Ergopower hoods]. The second drawback for some is that it’s harder for some people to upshift during a sprint from the drops. This often depends on the exact positioning of the levers, as pointing them upwards makes it harder for those with shorter fingers to reach the upshift button. If this might be an issue, get a back copy of Issue 9 in print or digital format right away, and learn about our solution for this problem.

Want to try this setup but don’t want to lose a gear or clamp your cable differently?  You can either buy re-spaced cassettes or use a little pulley from Jtek Engineering.

Save Weight and Money…Mix and Match!

Brake/Shift LeversRear DerailleurWeight (grams)*Price*
Campagnolo RecordCampagnolo Record324 + 184 = 508$310 + $280= $590
Shimano Dura-AceShimano Dura-Ace420 + 180 = 600$400 + $120 = $520
Campagnolo RecordShimano Dura-Ace324 + 180 = 504$310 + $120 = $430
Shimano UltegraShimano Ultegra485 + 205 = 690$300 + $77 = $377
Campagnolo CentaurCampagnolo Centaur334 + 227 = 561$200 + $120 = $320
Campagnolo CentaurShimano Ultegra334 + 205= 539$200 + $77 = $277
Shimano 105Shimano 105500 + 221 = 721$280 + $65 = $345
Campagnolo VeloceCampagnolo Veloce351 + 250 = 601$140 + $80 = $220
Campagnolo VeloceShimano 105351 + 221 = 572$140 + $65 = $205

*Your results may vary. Weights and prices for 10-speed parts as seen in major catalogs in Fall 2007.

The rear cable clamp on a Rapid Rise rear derailleur to run 9 speeds on a 10 speed Campagnolo lever. © Cyclocross Magazine

The rear cable clamp on a Shimano Rapid Rise rear derailleur to run 9 speeds on a 10 speed Campy shifter, or 10 speeds with an 11 speed shifter. © Cyclocross Magazine

Notes:

  • Front derailleurs vary less in price and weight between the two brands. We’ve used Ergopower with Shimano front derailleurs with success, but a Campagnolo front with Ergopower shifters is ideal.
  • You’ll need a 9-speed Shimano-compatible cassette to complete the package, which can also save weight over 10-speed cassettes.

Want to get started? Check these out:
Campagnolo Ergopower shifters
Shimano 8-speed cassettes
Shimano 9-speed cassettes
Shimano 10-speed cassettes

 Update: This article was originally published for our Issue #1! Since then some of the Cyclocross Magazine team has experimented and successfully adapted Campagnolo 11-speed shifters to Shimano high-normal and low-normal rear derailleurs and Shimano and SRAM 10-speed cassettes. Our favorite is the Ultra Shift models (Super Record, Record, Chorus, and older Athena) of Campagnolo 11-speed shifters with a Shimano pre-Dynasys GS (medium) cage XTR, Deore XT or Deore LX Rapid Rise (low normal) rear derailleur. Got all that? That combo results in the fastest cyclocross downshifts, with multiple gear shifts at once possible.  See these images for how to clamp the cable on Rapid Rise derailleurs. 

For a different take on mix-and-match, one could pair Campagnolo Ergopower shifters with the 2013 Shimano-compatible Retroshift BURD rear derailleur.