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Technical FAQ: Campy 11-speed shifters with 10-speed cassette

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Jun. 2, 2009
  • Updated Feb. 24, 2011 at 9:40 PM EST

Dear Lennard,
Thanks for all the great articles from Italy. I have a quick (Italian) question for you: Can I use Campy 11-speed shifters with a 10-speed cassette and drivetrain?

If they are not compatible right out of the box, can they be modified to work? Is it possible to put 10-speed guts in an 11-speed shifter? I really like the ergonomics of the new 11-speed shifters, but I don’t want to swap everything else out.

-Jon

Dear Jon,
I have not tried that, but I’m sure it won’t work. Since the 11-speed Ultra-Shift Ergopower lever pulls less cable with each shift than your 10-speed Ergopower lever, your chain won’t line up with any more than a cog or two on your system.

I don’t believe the 11-speed levers could be modified to work with your system at this point, either. The Ultra-Shift internals are completely different from pre-existing levers, and Campagnolo is not making a 10-speed Ultra-Shift parts kit for 11-speed levers.

An exploded view of pre-2009 Centaur QS/Escaped 10-speed Ergopower lever.

Photo:

Where the 10-speed Record and Chorus levers have an indexed gear that engages a pair of G-shaped springs, the 11-speed Ultra-Shift levers have a plate with grooves on its face to engage a spring-loaded detent ball. Check out the plate and the detent balls and springs in this photo I took of an exploded Campagnolo Super Record Ultra-Shift Ergopower lever when writing the overhaul instructions for it for the third edition of “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” which I’m reading the page proofs of now.

You also can’t use the guts of the much simpler “QS” or “Escape” lever (2006-2009 Centaur and below groups), because those are also very different. They incorporate a steel index gear without G-springs and have far fewer parts inside, as you can see from this exploded view I photographed for the new book edition.

The exploded view of the pre-2009 Chorus and Record Shifters.

Exploded views of the pre-2009 Chorus and Record lever guts are illustrated in the first and second editions of “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance;” attached are exploded views of both 8-speed and 8/9-speed ErgoPower levers from “ Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”

You could, of course, buy the new Centaur 10-speed Ultra-Shift Ergopower levers, which have the same ergonomics as the 11-speed Chorus, Record and Super Record Ultra-Shift levers; they would shift fine with the rest of your system intact. It may actually even be possible eventually to buy a 10-speed indexing plate for the new Centaur Ultra-Shift levers and substitute it into an 11-speed lever, but I don’t know about this, as I have yet to disassemble a 10-speed Ultra-Shift lever.

As another option, Dave Zimbelman, a friend I used to race with in the early 1980s and who now works at Salmon Cyclery in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge has gone to 11-speed without getting the derailleurs or cranks.

A look at the 8-speed system.

He wrote me this: “I have been riding a “minimal” Campy 11s setup to see what works; this means 11s shifters, chain and cassette only w/ SRAM Red crankset (177.5mm CT, which Campy doesn’t make) and Campy 10s derailleurs; I’ve used this about 1200 miles with great results; it shifts as fast and clean as another bike which I use as a “baseline” which has full Campy Super Record 11s and which also has been ridden for about 1100 miles. To date, the system works fantastic, better than a pure 10s system.”
-Lennard

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Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance 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. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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