The first time I saw this, I thought I was looking at the bike of someone whose dollars spent exceeded the number of miles ridden on his bike. I mean, who else would have a Campagnolo quick-release lever in that position?
A second glance revealed, of course, that it wasn't a quick-release lever. But could that be...a coaster brake hub?...I wondered.
I thought I knew Campy stuff pretty well. Even though I never rode BMX, I knew the legendary Italian company made some of the best components available for that kind of riding. I also remember their short-lived mountain bike lineup (Euclid). I even recalled that they made parts for aircraft and NASA spacecraft as well as race cars and motorcycles. And, oh, yes, let's not forget those big corkscrews--the gold plated ones, especially.
|It's yoooge. I mean, BIG.|
Still, I had not heard of a Campagnolo coaster brake hub until I saw a photo of it a few years ago. I have since seen a few more images of it, and a few brief mentions. I have not, however, found any Campagnolo catalogue or other literature that listed it, or any other information pertaining to it. When was it made? Why did Campy begin and cease production of it? Was its reputation on par with its Super Record racing components? Or was it like their Delta brake: a triumph of technology and aesthetics over function?
Even though the Bike Boom--which made ten-speeds all the rage--exploded during my adolescence, lots of kids still rode bike with coaster brakes. Even though balloon-tired bikes were falling out of favor with kids my age and adults, lots of kids still looked forward to getting middleweight bikes like the Schwinn Typhoon or Hollywood, which came with coaster brakes. Even the low-rider "muscle" bikes like Schwinn's Sting Ray were available with coaster brakes as well as with five-speed derailleurs.
Can you imagine kids on some playground trying to one-up each other? "Well, I got a Schwinn!" "Oh, yeah. Well, mine has a Campagnolo coaster brake." What kind of a world would we have? Hmm...what would the world be like if kids who weren't Italian grew up knowing how to pronounce "Campagnolo"?
From what little I've seen of them, I'd guess that the Campagnolo coaster brake hubs were well-made. Still, if I were going to build a coaster brake wheel for myself, my first choice would be a US-made Bendix. I overhauled and fixed enough coaster brakes when I worked in bike shops to see how much better they were than the others, including New Departure or even Sachs-Fichtel or Sturmey-Archer. Bendix haven't been made in the 'States for about forty years (later ones were made in Mexico), but if you're nice to your bike mechanic, he or she might give you one (or sell it for not very much) out of the parts bin: Lots of Bendix hubs have been saved from wheels that were otherwise trashed. Still, I've seen them sell for over $100 on eBay!
A few years ago, I briefly rode a Velosteel coaster brake hub. It's certainly prettier than any other I've seen, even Campy's. Its beauty is only skin- (or shell- ) deep, though: Whenever I backpedaled to stop the bike, it seemed that the hub had to find its "sweet spot" before the brake engaged, and when I pedaled again after stopping, I experienced a "dead" stroke of about half a pedal revolution.
If you want a currently-made coaster brake hub, I'd say to buy Shimano's--even though it doesn't have the "cool" factor of Campagnolo's. Actually, half of the "cool" factor would come from simply finding a Campagnolo coaster brake hub in the first place!