Saturday, November 5, 2011

Campagnolo vs The World

Another post from yours truly extolling the virtues of Italian alloy goodness.
Or is it?
I found this article posted up on Bike Forums about how Campagnolo does business.
It's sort of long so if you don't have the time to read it, though you should, it basically outlines Campagnolo's business model and questions whether or not it will survive in the world market today.
Campagnolo's roots are firmly planted in the upper end of the bicycle market, not because of price but because it's well, Campagnolo.
They manufacture with well paid local skilled labor, not having the resources to compete against the likes of Shimano and SRAM and by their own admission, not really wanting to.
Out sourcing, according to Campagnolo, is a no no.
The idea that their products are still made by hand in the home country invokes images of the artisan in his workshop turning his wares out one by one.
Being an artisan/craftsman in Italy apparently is still a viable way to make a living.
Made in Italy still means something to folks who want handcrafted stuff.
The thing is, can they compete globally?
The thing about this whole Campagnolo thing is that it reminds me very much of Japan.
Japan was/is a land full of craftsmen.
The folks out East appreciate the handcrafted item, it is cherished and appreciated way more than it is in the West.
Well, except for maybe Italy.
If you know what I mean.
Japan is a place where the industrial revolution hit sort of late. I mean it wasn't until 19th century when ole Commodore Perry opened up trade with the West.
If you wanted to build something like a house, you went into the forest and cut down a bunch of trees and hired some carpenters.
Pretty much everything was hand made.
There is a real beauty in Japanese craft of that period, a sort of simplicity and dignity and quiet.
There is also a business like quality to the work, I mean just look at Japanese swords.
Okay, so where am I going with all this.
Where I'm going is: what happened?
Why isn't there some small Japanese company out there turning out exquisite bicycle parts not used for gambling?
Okay, they got NJS/Keirin stuff, but that's all tarck and pro.
I mean where is the Japanese Campagnolo?
Culturally, they were all set up for it.
I could imagine some Papa-san turning the alloy goodness over in his workshop with folks standing in a line across the country waiting to get a front derailleur.
Talk about a bicycle with some zen!
Instead we got Shimano.
Okay, Shimano isn't bad.
There's just no myth, no legend, no aura.
No overzealous fanatical worship.
You gotta admit, Campagnolo has got a lock on that.
The overzealous fanatical worship I mean.
Just look at me.
The thing is, the Japanese get it.
I mean they know what hand crafted means, and they're willing to pay top dollar for it.
Just look at all the Yen being converted to Euros.
Waikiki is pretty much a European designer district.
So why didn't some small bicycle component company pop out of Japan?
Suntour maybe?
I don't remember enough about their stuff to comment.
Maybe the world just isn't big enough for another Campagnolo.
I figure if you want to impress your cycling buddies in Japan, you don't use Shimano or SRAM.
That's right, you roll out the Super Record and put the rest of the salaryman peloton to shame.
I figure it's pretty much the same all over the world.
You want to impress, wear an Armani suit and run Campagnolo 11.
Is Campagnolo going to survive in the global market?
If Campagnolo were to ever go under, their product would be even more desirable.
It would be hoarded in basements and closets and sock drawers and all remaining inventory would instantly turn into bicycle gold.
Or platinum.
Old men will gather 'round campfires and talk about the days when you could get a Record derailleur for $300 and young folks will gasp and shake their heads in disbelief and dream of getting their hands on some vintage Italian Alloy Goodness.
Boy, Campagnolo will become larger than life!
Not that it isn't already.
Larger than life I mean.
Something tells me Campagnolo is fine just as it is.


Steve A said...

Old Camagnolo is a lot more artistic than the new. I DO have a Record derailleur. Sans indexing. I also have Campagnolo wheels with Mavic rims to which I will once again fit Vittoria tubular tires.

Steve A said...

But on a bike I care about riding daily, I'll go for SRAM and FSA.

John Romeo Alpha said...

I learned after the tsunami that many of the parts fabricators for industries there are small shops that make things by hand, including some parts for the auto industry. I'm sure the the image of massive machines stamping out thousands of parts per hour also occurs, but the waves wiped out some of those smaller upstream fabricators, which set back the overall production. Also, I read that article in Buycycling, too, and it briefly made me want to go purchase some Campy parts, until I remembered that is the purpose of all articles in that publication, and I moved on.

limom said...

Steve A, for some odd reason folks seem to love it or leave it.
Campagnolo I mean.

JRA, interesting stuff about the post tsunami thing.
It seems the Japanese craft industry is waning for many reasons. It seems that the new generation has no love for the family business.
Hopefully the Japanese will experience some kind of renaissance.

Steve A said...

Before we get too gaga over Italy, we should not forget that it is also the origin of Vespa and Fiat. Yes, the Fiat that was the origin of the Yugo.

And, even if we talk only of Campy, google "campagnolo valentino." I also have some of THAT. I don't think they touched on it in Buycycling...

limom said...

Gee, you mention Fiat and Vespa like they were bad things.
Let's not forget the Italians also refined the pizza!
Don't know much about the Valentino stuff except that it's sort of rare.