Visit with Campagnolo at 2014 NAHBS

Last month I was fortunate enough to attend the 2014 NAHBS show in Charlotte North Carolina and I was glad that I did.  Near the top of my list of "to do"  list was visiting the Campagnolo booth.  It was actually one of the first that I visited that Friday morning.  I ended up stopping by to chat with the good folks there several more times that weekend.  I asked them to convince me why the axial movement is acceptable and to give me a reason to stop producing the shim kits.  All of the discussions that we had were worthwhile for me and at times both enlightening and confusing.  Here are some of my take-aways from the conversations...

  • The design of the Ultra-Torque System is not going away for the foreseeable furture.

  • From the corporate level down, they are sticking to their guns that the axial movement that occurs with some Ultra-Torque systems is perfectly acceptable.

  • We share a disdain for all of the press-fit bottom bracket "standards".

  • The tech folks and Campagnolo NA are tired of fielding calls from folks inquiring about the RogueMechanic Ultra-Torque Shim Kits...

  • Some time has been spent on this website by the Campagnolo NA folks and folks at Campagnolo in Italy looking over my posts regarding Ultra-Torque.

  • Campagnolo uses angular contact bearings in their Ultra-Torque system which can tolerate some preload...that's one of the benefits of angular contact bearings.  Both too much preload and the lack of any preload is not good.

  • When I asked one of the techs there what he would do if he had a bike with a BB shell on the lower end of the shell width tolerance allowance, he said that he would coat the internal surfaces of the cups with anti-seize.

  • We agreed that if frame manufactures made their English shells balls-on 68mm and the Italian shells balls-on 70mm wide, this would be a nonissue.

After digesting all of the information while at the same time trying my best to keep an open mind, I concluded that they have chosen not to address the issue of eliminating the axial movement.  This being said, I have come up with an "alternative" method for reducing the axial movement and thus hopefully eliminating any noise that is the result of the axial movement.  This is a "half-step" compared to the complete removal of the wave/spring washer and might be easier to swallow for the die-hard loyalists and can't accept the complete removal of the wave washer because it hasn't gotten the approval from Vicenza.  Here's "Plan B":

For bikes on the lower end of the allowable shell width variance and/or bikes that have noticable axial movement, you can add the shims externally (like the original process) while still using the wavy washer the way it was designed to be used.  This method effectively adds preload to the bearings via the wave washer by increasing the shell width by way of the external shims.  This process might take longer because you would probably have to test ride the bike in order to find out if you added enough shims to increase the preload to decrease the axial movement.  Keep in mind that since wave washers will lose their "set" over time, you might have to add a shim (or combination of shims) sometime down the road.

To wrap this post up, I still believe that the original process of removing the wave washer and adding external shims is the better way to address this issue.  I was grateful that the guys at the Campagnolo booth took the time to talk "shop" with me.  The love for Campagnolo at NAHBS was almost palpable throughout the hall...and it's obvious why!