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A Cyclingnews special sponsorship feature
Virtual Visit: Campagnolo, Vicenza, Italy
By Cyclingnews staff
What goes on behind the doors of one of the world's top two bicycle component manufacturers? Tim Maloney takes a tour of Campagnolo's factory and finds out how the legendary Italian company goes from raw materials to finished parts.
Bicycle component maker Campagnolo does not allow the public to tour its factory, but during the last Giro d'Italia, Cyclingnews visited the Vicenza, Italy firm and came away with this exclusive Virtual Visit for our readers.
In 1933, Italian racer Tullio Campagnolo decided to patent two ideas he came with through his cycling experience. The first patent was for an innovative quick release system for the bicycle wheel, while his second patent was for a rod-controlled front derailleur system. Campagnolo's creations were intended for road racing bikes and were highly sought after by the day's top riders.
Seven years later, Tullio Campagnolo hired his first employee to keep up with the demand for his parts. Up until that time, Campagnolo would make the bike parts himself in his family's metalworking business and sell them himself. Although World War Two slowed things down, it didn't stop Tullio from working on more innovative ideas for bicycle components. In 1949, Campagnolo unveiled his new design for a parallogram rear derailleur with springs; a sleek, smooth-shifting gear change that immediately became first in class among bicycle shifting systems.
Besides improving on his original designs with the legendary Campagnolo Record and Super Record groups, in the years from 1950 to 1980, Tullio Campagnolo worked on other projects. Among them was the legendary Campagnolo corkscrew, as well as working with lightweight aluminium alloy and magnesium for NASA, for use in the construction of the Apollo space module. Campagnolo also developed helicopter rotors and a unique braking system used by GP motorcyclists Walter Villa and Johnny Cecotto to win GP's and World Championships. Nonetheless, the core business at Campagnolo continued to be the bicycle sector.
In 1981, Campagnolo moved from its original home at Corso Padova, 101 in Vicenza to a new, purpose-built factory in the industrial zone near the autostrada. In 1983, Tullio Campagnolo passed away and his only son, Valentino took over management of Campagnolo Spa. After some dabbling in the mountain bike arena in the late '80s and early '90s, Campagnolo decided to focus 100 percent on its core business of components for road racing bikes.
With a judicious application of high technology and years of expertise in the bicycle component market, Campagnolo has re-established itself as not only a viable alternative but also as a solid competitor to the giant Japanese bicycle component firm Shimano. Currently Campagnolo sells 33 per cent of its turnover at home in Italy and via commercial subsidiaries (in France, Spain, Germany and the USA) and agents (in Benelux, Denmark, Sweden, England, Australia, Russia, South America and Eastern Europe).
Seventy years after Tullio Campagnolo developed his first innovative products, road cyclists the world over consider Campagnolo the ultimate in bicycle componentry.
Images by Tim Maloney/Cyclingnews.com