Tullio Campagnolo




Tullio Campagnolo began his career in cycling as a racer, competing in various regional road races in Italy between 1921 and 1930. It is said that the inspiration for Campagnolo's entry into the world of bicycle parts manufacturing came in a cold weather race in November, 1924, when Campagnolo could not remove the wing nuts holding his rear wheel to effect a repair of his gears, and he lost the race.

In 1930, Campagnolo invented the first of many cycling components with which he is credited, the quick release rear hub. This device permitted the rear wheel to be released from the rear portion of the bicycle frame through the activation of a lever, without the need to remove wing nuts or any other attachment. The device would be the first of 135 inventions patented by either Campagnolo or his company.

In 1933, Campagnolo his manufacturing company, an organization that would be one of the first in the sports world to make specialty components dedicated to improved sports performance. Campagnolo made the first of a series of derailleurs, the mechanisms that permit the gears of a bicycle to be changed without removing the rear wheel as had been the previous technology. The first Campagnolo derailleur was composed of two levers that were operated by the rider. The first lever was used to partially release the rear wheel from the frame to give the wheel a degree of lateral movement. Once the wheel was loosened, the second lever was used by the rider to move the bicycle chain from one cog to the other. Very skilled riders, with practice, could execute a gear change without stopping.

The derailleur was a significant leap forward in cycling technology. Campagnolo's initial design was greatly improved with the addition of a cable that permitted the rider activate the derailleur without changing position in the bicycle seat.

Elite racers riding machines equipped with Campagnolo parts enjoyed significant success in the major European races. Campagnolo continued to develop cycling technology through his hands on relationship with racers, as Campagnolo believed his ability to design high quality components was directly related to the input he received from athletes.

The Campagnolo derailleur was a seminal cycling invention, as the concept remains the standard by which most bicycles gearing systems are operated today.

SEE ALSO Cycling; Cycling gears; Cycling: Tour de France.