The installation of the ErgoBrain computer on the Campy Only test bike pointed out one thing: our right-side Ergo lever wasn't working correctly.

Another way to tell if your Ergo lever needs a rebuild:
With your bike in a work stand or sitting on the ground, push the large shift lever (behind the brake lever) and watch the derailleur.  If either of the following happens, you may need to rebuild: 
  1. The derailleur moves inward well before the "click" that marks the shift, 
  2. The derailleur moves inward and stays out of position relative to the cog when you release the lever,
  3. It's necessary to substantially overshift to move the chain from the smallest to the second cog, or 
  4. If you can only shift across two cogs when starting from the smallest cog.

In fact, the ErgoBrain works very well as a diagnostic tool.  Here's what we found: When shifting from a small cog to a larger one, the EB would misread the shift by one cog.  Shifting from the 13 to the 14 would be read as a shift to the 15, for instance.  The shifting seemed fine when we were riding; the derailleur always got us in the right gear, but the EB told us that things weren't quite right.  Having found a problem, we tried a few fixes (new shift cables, lubricating the lever, lubing the derailleur, etc.) with no effect.

Source: Campagnolo.comHaving tried everything else, we were left with one scary conclusion:  It was time to rebuild the Ergo lever.  We had heard from several readers about an endemic problem in our 1999 Record carbon Ergo levers, involving the breakage of a small part that holds several small springs and keeps the end of a coiled spring in place.  <-- See illustration at left

But rebuild the lever?  That's a pretty big step--in fact, most bike shops won't even tackle it (we only found one locally who had tried it).  We had visions of ending up with a pile of tiny parts and an inoperable bike.  But, there was that nagging problem with our ErgoBrain, and the knowledge that we were just a few new parts away from having from having everything working again.

So, we decided to take the leap and take apart the lever's innards.  First, however, we order several spare parts from our sponsor, Branford Bike (www.branfordbike.com)  These included:

  • The potentially broken spring post/retainer (we weren't certain that ours was broken, because we hadn't taken the lever apart yet).  Note: The left-hand lever has a different spring retainer without the post.

  • The special flat washer that sits on top of the spring retainer in the right-hand lever.  Note: The left-hand lever does not have this washer.

  • Source: Campagnolo.comA pair of the "G" springs that engage in the toothed parts of the Ergo lever's shifter and help it find the correct gear position.  We've heard that these need to get replaced about every 10,000 miles, so ours weren't quite due, but we figured since we were going to tear the whole thing apart anyway . . .  Note: The left-hand lever uses different springs

If you plan to order the parts for the rebuild, here are Campagnolo's part numbers, plus the item numbers and prices from Campy Only sponsor Branford Bike:

EC-RE111 Campagnolo 1999/2000 right side Ergopower lever "G" spring holder with a new, reinforced post. Branford Bike part #LD-97-30; $9.88 each.
EC-RE--057 Campagnolo 1999/2000 right side Ergopower lever, "G" spring holder washer. Notched for the new reinforced holder. Teflon coated also. Branford Bike part #LD-98-80; $2.88 each
EC-RE209 Campagnolo 1999/2000 right side Ergopower lever, "G" spring. Branford Bike part #LD-97-73; $4.88 each.
Campagnolo 1998/1999/2000 Ergopower Manual. Includes detailed diagrams and step by step instructions for disassembly and reassembly.  Branford Bike part #MA-80-76A; $4.88 each
Update:  Campagnolo now provides parts to convert any Ergo lever (almost) to 8, 9, or 10 speed.  Click here for more information.

With our parts in hand, we embarked on our quest--and promptly found out that the Ergo rebuild instructions we have posted on this site cover Campy levers until about 1998, when the internals changed slighty.  Source: Campagnolo.comNot to worry, though.  With the exploded parts diagram from Campagnolo's web site in hand, (click on the thumbnail at right to see the important part of the diagram) we had enough info to go on.  (Note, as shown Branford Bike also sells the latest rebuild instructions.  They're a little on the complex side, but well worth the five bucks you'll spend.)  We started disassembling, and were rewarded with the rather disconcerting sound of several springs suddenly releasing tension (restoring that tension later became the most difficult part of the reassembly process).  As we expected, the post on our part had broken off.

We continued disassembly until the spring post/retainer came out, carrying the G-springs with it.  That's where the reassembly process began.  We won't go into all the minor details of the reassmbly process, except to say that if you keep track of the order in which parts came out, keep the exploded parts diagram on hand, and have a little patience, it's not really that hard.  Here are a few tips we learned:

  • To disassemble the lever, you'll need to insert an allen key past the brake lever, where it engages with the rotating part of the Ergo lever.  It's a tight squeeze getting the allen key in, but it can be done without removing the brake lever (which we recommend you don't try, especially with Carbon lever bodies).  Note that the allen key not only keeps the insides from rotating while you disassemble and reassemble the insides, it also helps keep the parts together--you'll need to push on the allen key (toward the lever body) when you're reassembling.

  • When you put the new G-springs into the retainer, hold them in with a little grease.  You should lube the insides anyway, and the grease will keep them from falling out.

  • As noted above, spring tension is released when you're taking things apart, and it needs to be restored in order for the lever to work correctly.  This is a little tricky, especially when you're near the end and the large, coiled spring (see the exploded parts diagram) is in place but in a relaxed position.  We found that by using a large screwdriver in the notched end of the shaft that holds the spring, we could "wind" the tension back in--that's when you'll need to be pushing on the allen key from the other end to make sure that notches and keyways stay in contact.  Hold it all together tightly with one hand and tighten the small allen screw that holds it in place, and you're done.

  • We recommend that you purchase the thin washer noted above, particularly if you have a '99 or earlier lever that uses the "post" part.  Campagnolo (although they generally deny widespread problems with this part breaking) has redesigned it and added little reinforcing buttresses.  That's great, but the notch on the thin washer that fits around the unreinforced post on the older model won't fit around the larger base on the new post.  We corrected that with a small file, but you could do the same with a Dremel tool.

All in all, our rebuild process took about an hour.  We could probably do it in half the time; we spent lots of time filing the thin washer (see above) and tracking down a few little items that fell on the floor (don't do the rebuild on carpeting!).  The results, by the way, were amazing.  The lever shifts better than it did when it was new, and our ErgoBrain now displays shifts flawlessly.

So, if you're reasonably good with a few simple tools, have an hour or so to spare, and want to be the only guy on your block to successfully rebuild an Ergo lever, give it a try.  You'll be glad you did.

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