Technical FAQ: Keeping Campy’s whatchamacallit in its place

With redesigned ErgoPower levers, a reader wonders about keeping the small brass cable stop in its place. LZ also touches on why Campagnolo isn't as big in cyclocross as you might expect.

Dear Lennard,
For the 11-speed versions of their Ergopower shifters, Campy slimmed the shifter cable housing from 4.5 to 4.1 mm, and the cable housing is now installed into the shifter without a ferrule on the end. Two sources I’ve read about installing these say that there is a small washer or disk that can be dislodged and possibly lost if you install the cable wire without the housing in place.

The little brass washer and the open grooves in an 11-speed Campagnolo Super Record lever
The little brass washer and the open grooves in an 11-speed Campagnolo Super Record lever

Campy’s own instructions aren’t detailed concerning this at all, and Campy’s spare parts manual doesn’t seem to show the washer or disk or cable stop whatchamacallit. How does this impact shifting operation and how does one replace one if it gets lost?

Dear Bill,
While you are right — one of these little brass washer is seated in each of the housing tunnels at the base of the lever body — I’ve never had a problem with knocking one out. The 1mm-thick washer has an outer diameter of 4mm and an inner diameter of 3mm. I’ve installed shift cables on a lot of these, always by pushing the cable through first, rather than backing it up with cable housing as I’m sliding the cable in.

As with any Ergopower lever, you push the new cable in through the hole in the cable hook and up through the lever body until the cable emerges from the housing-entry hole at the upper base of the lever body on the outboard side. On the type of levers you’re asking about, namely post-2008 Ultra-Shift Ergopower levers, the cable will pop up out of its passageway ahead of the lever base and continue in one of two grooves open to the outside in a light-colored, low-friction material before passing through another hole back into the black lever body and then exiting it. One groove routes the cable in front of the handlebar and the other routes it behind the bar, so you can choose the one you wish.

Full perspective of Campagnolo Super Record lever showing the location of the open grooves on the back of the lever body.
Full perspective of Campagnolo Super Record lever showing the location of the open grooves on the back of the lever body.

The little washer fills the same role as a ferrule, providing a more solid stop than plastic at the end of the tunnel into which the end of the housing sits.

I can see how the extra futzing around with the cable that these levers require could dislodge that washer. If you try it, you’ll see that the cable will not want to just slide along and follow one groove or the other and pass through the hole at the end of that groove without some coaxing. I imagine that in struggling with shoving it into one of the holes at a weird angle, maybe it could push the washer out of its seat.

This is how I recommend installing the cable: First, push the cable out so it pops out and protrudes above the two grooves. Put a little bend in the end of the cable. Pull it back in a bit until that bend is just visible, with it aimed toward the groove of your choice (I always use the groove directed inboard so that the cable will run under the front of the handlebar, rather than around the back of it where it can cause discomfort on the heel of the hand). Now push the cable forward again, and push down on the end of the cable with a 2mm hex key or other thin implement to get the cable to stay down in the groove you chose and then pass through the little hole at its end and exit the lever.

Doing it this way, I’ve never dislodged the washer. On the other hand, shoving the end of the housing into the tunnel beforehand, as long as you’ve opened out the end of the Teflon liner with an awl or the like so that the cable will be able to find its way in, might give you a bit of an insurance policy against dislodging the washer.

Click for larger image
Looking up into the housing tunnel for inboard routing showing the brass washer in its proper place.

If you do dislodge the washer, just slide it onto the end of the cable ahead of the housing. And if you actually lose the washer, then push the other washer out of the other tunnel and slide that one onto the end of the cable ahead of the housing; since you will only be using one of the two possible cable routing options, one of the washers is superfluous anyway. And what the hey, it may actually constitute around half a gram of unnecessary weight (oh the horror!).

Make sure the housing inserts fully into its tunnel in the lever body. If the housing won’t slip in (due to shape of the lever body and/or handlebar where the two meet), carefully use a nail to flare out the soft lever-body material outward to allow the cable housing to enter.

Campy for `cross

Dear Lennard,
Just a quick technical question on cyclocross. I have been racing on Campy in ’cross since I started eight years ago and have always been happy with it. The new lever re-design seems to address one of the major problems of the parts for ’cross, in making control better with superior braking and more to grab on to when on the hoods. Why is Campagnolo never even discussed as a legitimate option for cyclocross?

Campagnolo Record ’cross setup with double chainrings.

Sven Nys and Katie Compton used it with success during their careers and Christian Heule and others on the World Cup use it now and I saw more people this season at the races than in the last few years with the stuff.

Dear Nate,
I think that the biggest reason is that Campagnolo does not promote its parts at all for cyclocross. Regarding Christian Heule’s use of Campagnolo for ’cross, Dan Large, Service Center Manager for Campagnolo North America Inc., told me, “Officially at this time, Campagnolo only sponsors major peloton road racing teams. Sometimes racers will race on Campagnolo components through their bike company/team sponsorship.”

I, too, think Campy works great for cyclocross and use it on both of my ’cross bikes (see photos). The one place that I find Campagnolo to be a distinct advantage in ’cross is in opening and closing the brakes, thanks to the release button on the lever. As many ’cross riders know, when you have cantilever brakes (or even V-brakes) adjusted with the pads close to the rim for quicker braking, it is hard to pull the straddle cable end (or cable noodle) out to release the brake, and it’s hard to pull it back in place as well. But with the little release button on an Ergopower lever, you can give yourself some slack in the cable first, and then it’s really easy to remove and re-insert the straddle cable end (or cable noodle).

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Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (, a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn. Zinn’s column appears here each Tuesday.