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Stiff "paddle" (finger shift lever) on Athena brifters

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Stiff "paddle" (finger shift lever) on Athena brifters

Old 10-02-19, 09:50 AM
  #1  
John Nolan 
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Stiff "paddle" (finger shift lever) on Athena brifters

The "paddle", or finger shift lever, on the Campy Athena brifters on my '95 Marinoni are quite stiff. The thumb shift controls respond well, but I sometimes have to push quite hard going the other way.

Any ideas what could be causing this, and how to remedy it?
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Old 10-02-19, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by John Nolan View Post
The "paddle", or finger shift lever, on the Campy Athena brifters on my '95 Marinoni are quite stiff. The thumb shift controls respond well, but I sometimes have to push quite hard going the other way.

Any ideas what could be causing this, and how to remedy it?
I would start by shifting to the largest cog and then upshifting to the smallest cog with the rear wheel held fixed from turning.

This will free up a bunch of cable slack so that the shifter's movements can be examined independent of cable tension for frictional/viscous resistance (that would indicate time for a lever overhaul).

Perhaps it is only cable friction that is causing the difficult shifting(?).
Maybe I'd first try just tugging on the exposed cable along the downtube, checking here for free and smooth take-up and release of cable.

I do not recommend trying to lubricate or "flush" any Ergolever while it's in place on the handlebar, as the lube/fluid will saturate the area between lever and hood, ruining the hood. Campagnolo levers are relatively service-friendly and can be rebuilt at home using online video tutorials.
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Old 10-02-19, 11:31 AM
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Thanks for those tips.
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Old 10-02-19, 02:48 PM
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My initial thoughts as a Campy Ergo lever user (former user? None in the stable currently) is that if it's stiff/reluctant/hard to use the large lever/paddle (going to a bigger gear, which requires pulling cable) and easy to use the thumb lever (letting cable 'out'), then it is very likely a cable+housing friction issue. Ergos tend to be pretty sensitive to cable friction, whether that be from old cables and housings, or from cramped routing underneath the bar tape (sharp turns on the bars--ramps to tops). New shift cables (Campy-specific with the smaller head, is my official recommendation; though standard shift cables plus good grease on the head also works well and allows for easier extraction when they need replacing) and housings should do it. No one or the other, just do both to properly solve the problem as both cables and housings wear out/go bad/whatever together and trying to reuse one or the other is wasted time and effort with middling-at-best results.
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Old 10-02-19, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by RiddleOfSteel View Post
... (Campy-specific with the smaller head, is my official recommendation; though standard shift cables plus good grease on the head also works well and allows for easier extraction when they need replacing) and housings should do it. ....
I'd be very careful with that. Some "universal" shift cables have heads that do seem to fit into a Campag receiver but they are snugger than a Campag-specific head from JagWire or Campagnolo. I've never dared to risk it, well, not deliberately. A head seized into the receiver is a royal pain in the butt which you will discover only a long time in the future because the cables are long-lasting. (Ditto brake cables, by the way.)

But agree with the advice otherwise. Cable / housing deterioration is much more likely than shifter innard failure (which usually presents as failure to stay in gear.) You might find that you have broken cable strands already that are getting jammed in the housing as you try to pull cable with the lever. If cable is damaged, I suggest to deliver an inch of cable backwards out of the shifter and cut the head off. Then pull the cable from its other end back through. I find that trying to pull the cable out by its uncut head just causes strands to unravel further inside the housing until the cable jams tight. With the cable completely out, work the shifter controls back and forth through the range to see if they are now smooth.

Replacing housing is good advice, yes. But, ... I usually cheat if it means unwrapping bar tape that still looks good. Can't hurt to try: pass the new cable into the shifter and through the housing and slide it back and forth, then seat the cable head and work the shifter against hand tension on the cable. If it feels really smooth as silk, no catching or dragging, I'd just settle. (I should say that on tandems, I think cables break before housing deteriorates as much so perhaps that's why we get away with it.) We've been running Ergo on the tandem since 2008 or so (since our Ultegras died) and I probably replace housing only with every third or fourth cable.

Also agree: never flush Ergo levers with solvent. It was a desperation move that sometimes bought some time to palliate "Ultegra disease" but it is useless and potentially damaging to Ergo. When I've opened mine up to replace G-springs and occasional broken bits, the innards are quite clean and non-gunky, almost like a watch. They are amazing little gizmos.
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Old 10-02-19, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by conspiratemus1 View Post
I'd be very careful with that. Some "universal" shift cables have heads that do seem to fit into a Campag receiver but they are snugger than a Campag-specific head from JagWire or Campagnolo. I've never dared to risk it, well, not deliberately. A head seized into the receiver is a royal pain in the butt which you will discover only a long time in the future because the cables are long-lasting. (Ditto brake cables, by the way.)

But agree with the advice otherwise. Cable / housing deterioration is much more likely than shifter innard failure (which usually presents as failure to stay in gear.) You might find that you have broken cable strands already that are getting jammed in the housing as you try to pull cable with the lever. If cable is damaged, I suggest to deliver an inch of cable backwards out of the shifter and cut the head off. Then pull the cable from its other end back through. I find that trying to pull the cable out by its uncut head just causes strands to unravel further inside the housing until the cable jams tight. With the cable completely out, work the shifter controls back and forth through the range to see if they are now smooth.

Replacing housing is good advice, yes. But, ... I usually cheat if it means unwrapping bar tape that still looks good. Can't hurt to try: pass the new cable into the shifter and through the housing and slide it back and forth, then seat the cable head and work the shifter against hand tension on the cable. If it feels really smooth as silk, no catching or dragging, I'd just settle. (I should say that on tandems, I think cables break before housing deteriorates as much so perhaps that's why we get away with it.) We've been running Ergo on the tandem since 2008 or so (since our Ultegras died) and I probably replace housing only with every third or fourth cable.

Also agree: never flush Ergo levers with solvent. It was a desperation move that sometimes bought some time to palliate "Ultegra disease" but it is useless and potentially damaging to Ergo. When I've opened mine up to replace G-springs and occasional broken bits, the innards are quite clean and non-gunky, almost like a watch. They are amazing little gizmos.
Yup, which is why I couched the first part as an official recommendation and the second part as (implied) personal experience. Needle nose pliers grabbing the shift cable just past its exit point on the lever, and pushing the cable+head down/out has worked well for me getting stuck cable heads out of early Ergo shifters (when I'd pick them up used). Grinding down normal shift cable heads also works as a spec'd diameter is all that's really needed (that is, if the cable's quality is good) to get it right. It's a fidgety process, but worth it for the $$ savings and/or immediate availability.

Your point on internal failure manifesting itself as an inability to hold gear is spot on. I've gone into the aft portions of a number of 8-10-speed Ergos and a G-spring and G-spring carrier are usually the (cheap) tickets to restoration.
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Old 10-02-19, 07:21 PM
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Ahha! I didn't even know that there were Campy specific cables. That sounds like a plan. Thanks everyone for these tips.
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Old 10-05-19, 04:13 PM
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Just one more and maybe the simplest. If there is any pressure at all on one lever it will cause the other to bind. A lot of times it's just the hood being a little out of place. There are small dimples molded into the inside of the hood that fit into notches in the lever body and if anything age or bar tape causes it to not all fit together well it can cause problems like that.

Just one more from the Campaphile file.
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Old 10-05-19, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Ronsonic View Post
Just one more and maybe the simplest. If there is any pressure at all on one lever it will cause the other to bind. A lot of times it's just the hood being a little out of place. There are small dimples molded into the inside of the hood that fit into notches in the lever body and if anything age or bar tape causes it to not all fit together well it can cause problems like that.

Just one more from the Campaphile file.
Right. Sometimes if I've not been careful (or have been ignorant) about this when taping handlebars, the little dimple in the hood gets dislodged from the lever body in trying to get the tape to lie down flat and tight. There is a tendency to want to widen the space to slip the tape under the hood by popping this dimple out. Nope, can't do.
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Old 10-06-19, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Ronsonic View Post
Just one more and maybe the simplest. If there is any pressure at all on one lever it will cause the other to bind. A lot of times it's just the hood being a little out of place. There are small dimples molded into the inside of the hood that fit into notches in the lever body and if anything age or bar tape causes it to not all fit together well it can cause problems like that.

Just one more from the Campaphile file.
Never know that either!
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