Tuesday, February 19, 2008

How To - Campy Chain Tool

One of the cool things about Campy is that they have some of the nicest tools around. The "Campy Tool Kit" is an incredible (but sort of outdated) tool kit, useful for everything from facing a bottom bracket shell to chasing fork threads to aligning the rear derailleur hanger to installing a fixed cup.

If you don't know what some of those parts are, you're not alone. I haven't seen a new "cup and bearings" bottom bracket for probably 10 years. Head tubes rarely need facing nowadays, ditto bottom bracket shells. You can't tweak an aluminum derailleur hanger, nor a titanium one. And heaven forbid you try and "align" some carbon fiber dropouts on your fork!

What made the Campy tool kit so nice was the incredible precision used to craft the tools. The various pieces moved in slow motion, the tolerances so tight that the film of grease acted as a brake. Try and slide a spacer off the headset pressing tool and it would slowly, on its own time, work its way down, like it was a hydraulic device sliding along the shaft.

I, unfortunately, don't own such a kit. I worked at a shop that had two (!) of them. But I personally never had one.

When I updated my 9s Ergo bike to 10s, I learned that my Shimano HG chaintool, so nice for a 9s setup, didn't work well for the narrower 10s chain. After a harrowing experience installing my first 10s chain with the wrong tool, I decided I'd get the right one.

Problem was that it was something like $100.

A couple things convinced me to make the investment.

First off, sweating bullets while installing a chain is not my idea of fun.

Second, breaking said improperly-installed chain would lead to disastrous results. I'm risk averse, believe it or not, and having a sketchy chain on my bike is way beyond risky to me.

Finally, if I bought a Campy chain tool, well, it's a Campy chain tool. I figured it's got to be something spectacular.

And so it was.

It came in a cardboard box. For $100 I wasn't expecting wood, unlike the much more expensive Campy Tool Kit or its smaller brother, the Campy Freewheel Tool Kit. But that's okay, because the tool made up for it. This sucker was heavy!

Note mass - about 2/3 of a pound. You could kill someone with this tool.

So what makes this tool so, well, Campy?

Luckily, I took a bunch of pictures.

One of the things that is a real pain when installing chains is having the chain creep up and out of the tool while you're trying to press a pin through it. This happens anytime the pin is hitting the link at a non-perpendicular angle.

Since it's very difficult to control the user (a.k.a. "the nut holding the tool"), Campy, in their infinite wisdom, chose to control the chain.

The little pull tab thing is what holds the chain in place.

Campy designed the tool to use a double pronged, spring metal "chain holder", something that to me reminds me of a grenade pin.

(Having never touched a real grenade, I couldn't tell you what such a pin looks like, but if I were to make one up, I'd make it like this one.)

This slides into a perfectly machined pair of holes, over the chain (sitting in its little well), and into two more perfectly machined holes. With four points of contact with the tool, the chain holder can't flex. The chain is perfectly aligned with the pin driver. It's virtually impossible to screw up the install at this point.

The chain tool with the "pin" in place, sitting on the illustrated manual describing how to use the whole tool.

I took a picture of the manual. You can see how the pin slides in, trapping the chain.

Since I'd already installed my chain, I had to wait until I needed to install another chain. This ended up taking about a year, when I bought a back up frame. Apparently I didn't ride enough (and still haven't ridden enough) to warrant replacing the original 10 speed chain.

The back up bike here, the chain in its box, I quickly retrieved the Campy chain tool from its lair deep within my Bike Tool Box. I gingerly pulled the Tool out, lay it down next to the chain.



Pin thing (the "master pin" for the chain).


Campy Chain Tool.


I measured out how much chain I'd need to "cut", using my preferred small-small method. This is where I put it in the small-small (39x11) and figure out where the chain starts to exert tension on the rear derailleur (with the b-screw completely unscrewed).

I cut the chain using the Tool.


Then, with the very precious (I only had one) master pin, I started assembling the two ends of the chain on the Tool. The hand grenade pin thing held the two ends of chain in place, and when I drove the self-guiding master pin in, everything moved smoothly.

It took only slight pressure on the T-handle to screw in the master pin, which in turn slid into the chain about as smoothly as the grenade pin thing slides into the Tool.

When the master pin is in enough to look like its neighbors, I removed the grenade pin and took the chain out.

No stiffness. No unwanted flex. No link damage. No pin damage.


Just like it's supposed to be.


Hocam said...

Good to hear that expensive price tag may be worth it, and I can completely relate with using a normal chain tool on the campy chain. Well over two thousand miles later and I can't measure any stretch either so the new chain from Christmas is still in my closet. It sounds like you've gotten a similar amount of miles out of yours.

gmf said...

Nice to hear that the current Campy 10-speed tool works so well. Too bad I bought the required (at the time) Permalink tool for the first iteration of Campy 10-speed chains. It's now useless, though Lennard Zinn at Velownews suggests that it makes a nice nut cracker...

suitcaseofcourage said...

I've been toying with getting one of these for a while - esp. after hearing your first description of it as the "difference between a screen door and a bank vault door." This even-more-detailed post confirms it even further - now I just gotta find one . . .

Aki said...

I rejected a comment by "John" which had an erroneous link. However, it seems the link is to here. It's a good alternative to buying a $100 tool.

Dan said...

Great post! I've just bought the tool and installed a Record chain off the back of this, having resisted buying Campy chains for years because of the tool cost. Awesome tool, awesome stress-free installation procedure, awesome chain (my drivetrain has never shifted smoother).... Don't know why it took me so long to get here!

Aki said...

I'm glad you got the tool and appreciate it! Chains are one of those things you have to do right - I've seen way too many chain failures due to improper installation, and some of them resulted in substantial injuries. A Campy chain tool makes it virtually impossible to screw up a Campy chain installation (given the right version tool + chain).