Easier Cycling Uphill – Modifying a Campagnolo Chorus Rear Derailleur

Campagnolo Chorus Rear Derailleur with medium cage

When I go on my bike rides, for some reason, I set a goal to climb 3000 feet (914 m). With the combination of my age (67.74 years) and weight (194 lbs, 88 kg, 13.86 stone), it started to get harder for me to turn over the pedals on steep (12%-15%) grades.

I’m riding an Eddy Merckx Professional frame with 2015 Campagnolo Chorus components. I set it up with an 11 speed Campagnolo Chorus compact crank with 50/34 chainrings and an 11-29 Campagnolo Chorus cassette, which had the lowest gear at the time. The wheels are Mavic Open Pro UST rims, Campagnolo Record hubs and DT Competition Double Butted spokes.

In the 11 speed range, Campagnolo is now offering a 11-32 cassette (11–12–13–14–15–17–19–22–25–28–32). I thought that the lower gear on the new cassette would make climbing easier but the maximum sprocket size for my Chorus rear derailleur with the short cage is 29 teeth. Campagnolo has a rear derailleur technical document with the specifications. (PDF)

Campagnolo makes a medium cage for the 2015 (and later) Chorus rear derailleur (p/n RD-RE102m, see page 19 of this Campagnolo parts document), so installing the medium cage would enable me to use the 11-32 cassette.

Campagnolo 11-32 Cassette, Chorus rear derailleur medium cage, short cage

With the medium cage derailleur, 11-32 cassette and a new longer chain, I’m no longer killing myself to go up the 12%-15% grades, though the difference wasn’t as dramatic as I thought it would be. I could probably also accomplish a similar effect by losing 15 lbs.

Conzelman Road, Marin Headlands

Conzelman Road, Marin Headlands (GoPro HERO3+)

To do a little extra climbing on my short bike ride to Battery Townsley at Rodeo Beach, after I ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, I’ll ride down Alexander Avenue then south on East Road. East Road winds it way through Fort Baker past Cavallo Point Lodge and the Bay Area Discovery Museum to Center Road and Moore Road to the beginning of Conzelman Road. There, it’s about 15 ft above sea level near the Moore Road Pier, pretty much under the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

As Conzelman climbs up the headlands, it passes several scenic turnouts where all those generic Golden Gate Bridge photos (with the San Francisco in the background) are taken. The road climbs up Hawk Hill for almost 770 feet in a little less than 2.5 miles to the Marin Headlands Vista Point.

If you venture down the hill past the Vista Point parking lot, you’ll be rewarded with this view of the Marin Headlands, the Pacific Ocean beyond the Golden Gate and a brief but very steep 18% drop in the road.

Pharoah Sanders at Yoshi’s

Pharoah Sanders at Yoshi’s, November 29, 2019, with Benito Gonzales, Tabari Lake & Marvin Smitty Smith

The first time I saw Pharoah Sanders, he was performing live at Seventh Avenue South, the Brecker brothers’ jazz club in Greenwich Village. That was probably 40 years ago.

I’ve pretty much gone to see him every chance I had in New York Jazz clubs, probably at Sweet Basil, Fat Tuesday’s, the Blue Note, Lush Life, the Village Vanguard, the Village Gate, Seventh Avenue South, Iridium, et al and lately at Yoshi’s in Oakland and SF Jazz.

Campagnolo Super Record Headset

Campagnolo Super Record Headset

I removed the Campagnolo Super Record Headset from my blue De Rosa, in anticipation of getting the frame resprayed and installing the 2012 Campagnolo Chorus groupset that was on my Eddy Merckx, which I had replaced with a 2015 Campagnolo Chorus groupset. I may have changed the bearings a couple of times since it was installed in the early 1980’s.

Then I started thinking I should come into the 21st century and get a modern bike. After all, it’s been 20 years since the first Tour de France victory on a carbon bike, when Lance won in 1999 on a carbon fiber Trek 5500.

Sorting through all the choices is overwhelming and I start to think that I’d be really be happy with a titanium De Rosa Solo, but maybe not $7500 (for the frameset) happy.