Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Titanium and Campagnolo

Titanium frames and components are commonplace today, but just a few decades ago they were quite rare and very expensive. Campagnolo was one of the first component makers to use titanium, eager to exploit the metal's high strength-to-weight ratio. The Super Record rear derailleur moved on titanium pivots, and the company offered pedals (SL) with a titanium axle.

One other item, a titanium bottom bracket spindle, was also offered, but as the excerpt from a recent VeloNews article on Laurent Fignon shows, the material was not always the right choice:

Knowing the roads well, Fignon made a strong solo break and he was seen by the television audience heading for victory when he suddenly fell. The crash was caused by the titanium axle on his Campagnolo Record chainset snapping in two — the “new” material was not used again for such a force-sensitive component.

One of the problems with Campagnolo's early titanium parts was that they were made of pure titanium, which can be brittle and break easily. Modern Ti parts and frames are made of titanium alloys which mix in other metals (such as aluminum and vanadium) to add strength.

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