Is Campagnolo planning to do away with its thumb button for electronic shifters?

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Campagnolo recently filed a patent application that outlines a new design for the company’s electronic road shifters. Bearing the title, “Bicycle control device and method for manufacturing it”, the application clearly shows a new lever/button design that replaces the company’s iconic thumb button.

The new design re-positions the button near front of the lever body, just behind the blade. Where once the thumb button was an obvious protuberance, now it integrates cleanly into the contours of the hoods for a cleaner and sleeker aesthetic. Campagnolo propose a few different shapes for the button, but in each instance it is designed to be pushed inwards rather than downwards. By contrast, the shifting paddle positioned behind the brake lever remains unchanged.

Campagnolo's newest lever design features a new shape and position for the thumb button. A new button, labelled part #33 in this figure of a right-hand lever, is designed to be pushed inwards. The lever paddle behind the brake lever remains essentially unchanged.
Campagnolo’s newest lever design features a new shape and position for the thumb button. A new button, labelled part #33 in this figure of a right-hand lever, is designed to be pushed inwards. The lever paddle behind the brake lever remains essentially unchanged.

The new button design may signal a new direction in Campagnolo’s thinking for the design of its EPS levers in general, and indeed, the application allows for both wired and wireless embodiments for the design of the shifter. The new design follows on from an earlier patent application that outlined the design of a new remote shifter for the company’s electronic groupsets.

Campagnolo has long emphasised the importance of ergonomics to the design of its levers/shifters, yet some riders find that the current thumb button can be difficult to use (e.g. when riding in the drops). The new design seems to address this issue to some degree and perhaps Campagnolo is looking to capitalise on the freedom that electronics provide for a fresh take on gear-shifting strategies (just like SRAM has done with its eTap shifters).

What seems more likely though, is that the new button/lever design is simply more affordable and is headed for a new lower-priced range of products. In this regard, the patent application suggests other embodiments that should appeal to enthusiasts (rather than racers), such as a version to suit flat-bars with options to control other devices such as a cyclocomputer. The inventor has even allowed for the button/lever to be integrated directly into the handlebars or the frame.

A closer look at how the new lever design integrates with the right-hand lever. While this diagram depicts a wired connection, the patent application allows for a wireless embodiment as well.
A closer look at how the new lever design integrates with the right-hand lever. While this diagram depicts a wired connection, the patent application allows for a wireless embodiment as well.

While a patent application does not represent a commitment from the company to bring the product to market, it does provide important insight on Campagnolo’s current thinking on electronic transmissions. First, they are considering a move to wireless communication between the levers and the derailleurs; second, they can see broad application of the technology for cyclists at a range of pricepoints; and third, they are looking to greater integration of electronics, both with other devices, and the design of the bicycle in general.

Click here to see the full patent application.

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