Bisogno cambiá qualcossa de drio!

translation from Italian: ‘Something must change in the rear’

In the old days, racing bicycles usually had two gears which consisted of two cogwheels of different size, situated on each side of the rear wheel. Changing gears therefore meant that you had to take out the rear wheel, turn it and put it back in so that the chain would now run over the other cogwheel. In this way you created a different ratio between the front cogwheel and the rear one, thus making cycling lighter (going up the mountain) or heavier (going down the mountain).

Another problem with this construction (and I hope you can see the first one) was this: the wheels were thightened with large wingnuts which had to be loosened in order to change the wheel (and therefore the gear). This leads to another problem, especially on a cold day in the Italian Dolomites. When the wingnuts are frozen, chances are that your fingers are frozen as well. This makes loosening the wingnuts rather difficult, if not impossible. This is what happened to Tulio Campagnolo on the 11th of November, 1927 during a race in the Dolomites and apparently, while trying to change gears he muttered the words “Bisogno cambiá qualcossa de drio!”… Something has to change in the rear.

First, he tackled the wingnut problem by designing the worlds’ first quick release lever. Not long after that, he came up with the very first derailleur, which enables a cyclist to change gears without changing the wheel (the quick release lever is still very handy in case of a flat tyre though).

So, in short…by changing stuff in the rear, Campagnolo was the one who lay the foundations of the modern racing bicycle.


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