Sunday, September 26, 2010

Campagnolo C Record delta brake calipers

A flawed concept. But beautifully executed.

Nostalgia has a funny effect on how we choose to remember things. And, as I have said before, there are some things in this world that are so beautiful to behold that we forgive the fact that they didn't actually do their job all that well. In my nostalgic, cyclocentric world, Campagnolo delta brakes have been a shining example of this.

The following are what I understand to be the 5 standard incarnations of the Campagnolo C Record delta brake calipers. Missing from the lineup are the 2nd generation calipers with the Campagnolo logo etched into the faceplate (see my previous post).

1st generation

2nd generation (printed logo on faceplate has faded)

3rd generation

4th generation

5th generation

The first generation delta calipers appeared in 1984/5 but were soon pulled off the market after reported failures (in the interim, they were replaced by the Cobalto brakeset). Delta calipers then reappeared in 1986/7 and lasted until the end of the C Record era in 1994. More information in my first post (2008).

An iconic piece of cycling history.


LENHAM said...

Dear mr Wingnut,

I wanted some Campy Delta's for a long time and i surfed the web about them a lot. Often i visited your blog. Since a few days i have my Delta's! They are not NOS so i wanted to clean them very thoroughly. Do you know if there is some kind of instruction manual online for taking apart a set of campagnolo delta's? Or do you possess that knowledge?

Hope u will email me!

wingnut said...

Hi Lenham,
Personally I would remove the faceplate, spray some degreaser then use an airgun (from a mechanic shop) to flush out the grime. I haven't seen any manual or recommendation for dismantling delta calipers and I have never done it. I will post an exploded diagram of the delta caliper which I have from the Campagnolo 1994 spare parts catalogue later this week if you are mechanically-inclined - and brave...

Ca!mpy Lover said...

Very late in response, but they are pretty easy to take apart and re-assemble (at least my 2nd gen ones were!) This is how I remember doing it:
1) Remove faceplate and top adjuster
2) Undo special nuts at back of arm pivot bolts
3) Remove arm pivot bots
4) Remove arms and linkages in one
5) Dismantle as much of this assembly as you wish - it's not that hard to put back together, but just make a note of the order in which the plates and the tiny washers go!

Removal is a revers of the above, except you remove the spring retention pins from the back-plate prior to refitting the arms. This enables the whole thing to be reassembled without fighting the spring tension - then once assembled, push the spring with a screwdriver/pliers or something similar and push the spring retension pins back in - they will be held by the springs once in place.

Hope this helps someone!


Ian said...

My father passed his two bikes to me about 10 years ago, one a Bob Jackson frame and the other Tommasini Frame, both hand build by himself, in the late 80s early 90s.

Having been approached at a set of lights whilst riding the Tommasini bike and more recently when I got the bike serviced, the brakes I believe to be a sort after item and the frame to be of high quality.

Link to the Tommasini bike photos

I have also posted a similar question on bike radar asking for advice and also some advice on brake levers and brakes I was left with, these having never been used still in their original packaging.

I would be grateful on any comments you could offer, though I am struggling researching the bike myself.

I know you don't give valuations, though at some point I would like to move the Tommasini bike and brakes onto a collector and more full time cyclist than myself and ask what media you would recommend selling bike equipment for example eBay?

Kind Regards
Glossop, UK

wingnut said...

Hi Ian,

Tommasini & Bob Jackson have enough brand recognition to have a following but nothing like the big hitters Colnago, Cinelli, De Rosa etc. Your, particular Tommasini is fitted with a Campagnolo C Record groupset (cranks, front & rear derailleur, brake levers, delta brake calipers) with Simplex retrofriction shifters - a common combination that indicates the bike was set up by someone with experience. The seatpost is a Chorus model, again suggesting knowledge and expected use of the bike (the C Record post was lovely but had a reputation of fracturing). I can't see the wheels clearly but the hubs are NOT C Record. If the wheels are original to the bike then it has hardly been used as the anodising (grey colour on the rim) has not been scrubbed by the brake pads.

Prices of steel bicycles have gone up over the past few years for a number of reasons not least the increased popularity of the sport and the nostalgia of middle-aged men. Smaller frames tend to sell for higher prices than larger frames (yours would be regarded as a larger frame) but ultimately a bike simply sells for a value that someone else is prepared to pay. It would be reasonable to expect $1600-1800 USD on an auction site like ebay.

Key words in your title/ description should include: Tommasini Super Prestige, Columbus SLX, Campagnolo C Record, and Delta brakes. Measure the seat tube (along the line of the semi-vertical tube that goes to the seatpost) from centre of the crank axle to the centre of the top tube and the top tube (the horizontal tube) from the centre of the seat tube to the centre of the head tube and indicate those measurements in your description. Take photos of the bike under natural light (ie out in the open). Cleaning the bike also helps!

Cheers & good luck.

wingnut said...

ADDIT - that price estimate was probably towards the top end of market tolerance.

Steve Barner said...

I actually like the progressive braking that is inherent in the Delta brakes' design, meaning that lever pressure is amplified at the caliper as you squeeze harder. It may not have worked well at times in the peloton, but this certainly is no longer a concern, as no one has been racing with Deltas in decades. Dual-pivot brakes do a fine job on their own of creating panic in the peloton when an inexperienced rider applies too much friction to the rims. The biggest issues with all the Delta brakes were with the cable attachment. The design crushes the cable, yet the space for the cable to protrude past the anchor is exceedingly short, so the cable typically frays as soon as the anchor is tightened. My approach has been to use galvanized cable, which I solder from the end to the area the anchor screw will contact it. This helps the cable keep its shape. The other issue was the use of a 3.5mm hex key to tighten the anchor. Luckily, these are now included with many standard sets of hex keys, but that wasn't true back when the Delta was in production, so you had to be careful not to misplace the tool.

The other big issue was with the brake pad holders. The arms were very beefy and couldn't be bent to toe in the pads, and the only adjustment in the holders was the ability to pivot them up and down to match the braking surface of the rim. Most people assume the set screws in the holders were intended to keep the pads from slipping backwards, but that's not true. The set screws push against a thin steel plate that lies between the pad and the holder and the intent is to be able to force the front of the pad out slightly, so that it will hit the rim before the back. The holders are aluminum, there isn't much thickness to support a thread, and the tread fit was often a bit loose, all making these screws prone to stripping. They can also freeze up and there isn't much steel around the hex, so they can split when you try to turn them. After that, there is no way to toe the pad, which is one of the primary reasons the Delta has a reputation for squealing. To complicate things (which Campy was very good at doing), I don't think that the pad holders for any version in any generation interchanged exactly with any other, so good luck ever finding the correct replacement. At least almost all the pads were the same shape. While the rounded-end pads are as scarce as hen's teeth these days, you can easily file the end of any standard pad that fits the earlier Record brakes and it will interchange nicely. I have salmon Mathausers in a pair of Croce d'Aune Deltas.

The Delta was not a truly innovative design, but it was achingly beautiful in its execution. Other manufacturers had pioneered the basic geometry decades earlier, but no one other than Campagnolo ever took it to the height of the Delta. The precision and engineering, combined with an amazing finish make this a brake that any aficionado of classic bicycles is justified in wanting to own. Once properly setup, these brakes are not only easy on the eyes, they work remarkably well, as long as you understand their design. I usually dislike similes that compare bicycle parts with women, but if there is one that fits, it's the Delta. Set it up correctly, understand how it works, and pay attention to it and it will reward you with an experience and satisfaction like no other. Oh, and everyone will turn their heads to look, as well.

wingnut said...

Thank you for the insightful comments Steve. To this I’ll add that delta calipers seem to work better on wider rims then on the narrower rims that came into fashion towards the end of 1980’s (Mavic’s open 4CDs and the like) - although I do recall that there were shims to accommodate the narrower profile. No doubt many riders had the finesse to use and maintain delta brakes. Unfortunately I was not one of them. And there were plenty of other calipers that are lighter, easier to maintain, and (for me at least) provided better feel at the lever. But, as you say, none ever surpassed the magnificent aesthetics of Campagnolo’s delta brakes.