Campagnolo brake levers, the differences
I get many questions about the exact differences between Campagnolo brake levers, so I decided to start a series of blog posts to help you recognise them.
Shimano came up with their AX components line and Campagnolo had to strike back fast, very fast. Campagnolo ended up making a very clean looking groupset which looks Aero and fast but is actually heavy and an aerodynamic disaster. The brakes outperformed and the derailleurs worked quite good but broke extremely fast (see the post about c-record derailleurs coming soon). I can’t complain about the other pieces, they are durable as always and they have some improvements over the older Campagnolo groups (for example the seals in the hubs).
C-record first gen from 1983-’86 a.k.a. “Cobalto”
Campagnolo manufactured the Cobalto, a very clean looking brake lever of high quality materials. It has an anodised body, silicone based hoods (last very long), grippy anodised aluminium levers and last but not least the option to run your cables under the bartape or in the classic way.
- choice between Aero or non-Aero cable routing
- no quick-release (those were attached on the first generation Delta brakes and Cobalto brakes)
- often used with Super Record brakes (latest generation) Delta brakes (first generation) or Cobalto brakes (those with the blue stone)
- mounted with black hoods on the Bianchi Centranio 1985 “100 year anniversary” model
- the Aero kit contains 2 adapter plates to run the cable smoothly trough the lever body and 2 small caps to fill in the holes
These hoods are NOT compatible with later brake lever models of Campagnolo! Super Record hoods are incompatible too, however, I have seen people fit them on there. (But it looks like a grandma wearing leggings, about to explode once you touch it.)
The fastest way to recognise first generation hoods from second gen
- ribbed top for extra grip (see photo 2)
- no cutout for the quick release
- very shiny, they came out of polished moulds (the later hoods had more structure for better grip)
Second gen 1986-’88
These levers can be easily distinguised by the quick-release. This quick-release was a necessity as the famous Delta brakes didn’t have one to enable riders to easily remove the wheel. First gen Delta’s and Cobaltos do have a quick-release but the First gen Delta’s intend to fail very quickly…
From 1988 these levers were also used as part of the Campagnolo Chorus group hence that in this year the third generation C-record Powergrade levers were introduced.
- built-in quick-release “button” this allows the lever to set back further into the lever body opening the brake further and giving more clearance from the brake pads to the rim allowing to change the wheel much faster during a race
- same grippy lever design
- easy to dissable and maintain, not so easy to polish or remove scratches
- Aero and classic cable routing possible
- spring loaded (for C-Record)
- hoods available in black and white (there are brown replicas to be found, white and black replicas as well. But watch out, the white ones are not that great in quality…
- used in the following groupsets: Croce d’aune, Chorus (not springloaded) and Athena (plastic body, not metal!, also not springloaded)
- also available in graphite finish (for the Chorus and Athena groupset)
Chorus vs Athena vs C-record
as this can be a bit tricky we will explain these a bit more specific
- “made in Italy” stamped in the bushing
- quick release spring
- no “made in Italy” in the lever
- metal body
- “made in Italy” in the lever
- quick-release spring
- metal body
- “made in Italy” in the lever
- no quick-release spring
- plastic body
Third gen “powergrade” levers 1988-’91
These had a major improvement to adjust the momentum to the cable so everyone could adjust them to their own preference and perfectly finetune their Delta brakes. With the later 5-pivot design this feature became unnecessary. These were introduced together with the Croce d’aune groupset and new delta’s.
- also available in graphite finish (for the CDA groupset) and century finish for C-Record
4th generation 1992-’93
- small hole on top
- only Aero cable routing
- only avalable with black hoods
- also used for Chorus and Athena (Athena has a plastic body)
looking for cobalto brake hoods rebuilding 1985 pz10 thanks gary
hi, I had some NOS but those are all gone by now, if we ever come across any more we will let you know or post them on our (future) webshop
Hi, could you tell the difference between CdA and C-Record power grade levers? Is it only the return spring that CdA has and C-Record dont? Are there any other ? thanks
it seems to be yes, to be honest i haven’t had a pair yet with a return spring, a friend in America pointed this out to me, he had bought a dozen pair of c-record ‘era’ levers to find the right set for his build and helped finding out all the different models. We couldn’t find any other difference
I love your site. I was wondering if there is a way to convert a super record brake lever (the ones with many holes) to aero. Probably no very original, but I think it would look great on my bike.
Great article! Thanks a lot. Nevertheless, I think there might be a bit of missleading information. You mention that the hole on top belongs to the last generation from 92, but looking at pictures of Lemond or Indurain one can see the levers with the hole as early as 1990, with both deltas and cobaltos…I think that, the hole was an option with the 3 rd generation deltas and stayed as the only option with the 4th and 5th generation as the powergrade was no longer needed. See this…http://bikecult.com/works/archive/06bicycles/lemondTVT90TdF.html
Thanks for your comment! I will have to look in to that, certain pro’s did get stuff sooner than the regular market, also a chance that they were replaced with other ones after the race for some reason. unless we can find some ‘in action’ photo’s of course.
Hi, I have just bought an old bike that is fitted with the levers pictured on the right of your top photograph. They have a quick release and have been aero cable routed so am guessing they are second generation. However, I when I rebuild the bike want to route the cables traditionally but, in trying this the cable nipple and its carrier just slide up the slot so there is no “vertical” pull on the inner cable. Should there be something blocking this slot so this does not happen ? Did you have to remove something to aero route the cables originally ? Any help would be much appreciated. Many tahnks, Tony
I have the same question as Tony. Do we need any insert, a fulcrum etc.?
oops, looks like I missed some comments… sorry. these brakes are intented to be routed aero (brakes much better as well). Non aero was concidered “old” already then, especially on the second gen levers, some people cut holes in the hoods to make them non aero anyway because it looks ‘classic” as they say but for me it’s kinda ridicilous having delta’s, aero tubing and stuff and then non aero cables…. anyway for non aero routing you should remove a small plate where the cable runs on, this little plate fits just in the two slots on the side of the lever (only visible when ‘engaged”). This one gets lost extremely fast so put it in a bag or something if you buy a set of levers and know that you are going to move them around a lot without mounting them on a bike yet.. so yes you need a fulcrum to go aero https://www.ebay.com/itm/Campagnolo-C-Record-Brake-lever-Aero-inserts-plugs-for-hoods-Bike-black-NOS-/282401052232
Thank you very much for sorting out the whole issue of aero brake levers. I am replacing my brake levers on a 1985 steel bike, in particular one with internal cable routing. There are several offers on ebay but I could not tell the difference.
“First gen Delta’s and Cobaltos do have a quick release but the First gen deltas intend to fail when braking…”
Doesn’t quite make sense … I think you mean that Cobaltos did have a QR on the caliper but Deltas didn’t …
Braking on 1st gen Deltas was a bit sketchy but later levers (like PowerGrade) with a different pull ratio improved it no end. We still use Deltas on our tandem with no problem – original brake shoes and blocks, too!