You'd have to know me to understand the gravity of the above picture. When I first started riding a road bike I chose Campagnolo components not only because they had a great reputation, but also because service parts are readily available. This appealed to my 'do it myself' approach that had served me so well in the past (and still serves me well to this day). For about $15 in parts, you can have a functionally brand new set of shifters. Sign me up. In fact, I still have that entire gruppo I bought almost 10 years ago. The last few years the parts have served well on various iterations of cyclocross bikes to good effect.
In addition, once I find something I really like I stick with it with a passion - not unlike what most people know Italians to have. In line with my do it myself strategy, staying with one brand longer allows me to 'get to know' a company and their design and product philosophy in the same way one gets to know a person. This is a huge time saver because one doesn't have to invest scads of time to re-learn subtle nuances for any given thing.
Anyway, back to Shimano. People I ride with regularly know me as a Shimano hater. In part that still holds true; I really don't like the Shimano mountain bike gruppos. To me they feel mushy and generally not positive. Ever since I switched to SRAM 4 or 5 years ago, I've become ever more used to the flat out solid gear engagement and not only audible, but tactile clicks for each gear change. Don't get me wrong - Shimano make good mountain components or they would not be as well known as they are. I even have a Shimano front derailleur on my mountain rigs.
All that being said, there are a few annoyances with Campy gear that got me to thinking it wouldn't be bad to try something else. They're really not that big of a deal but they stayed in the back of my mind over the years. For example, freehub bodies. Of course Campy has to have a different style than Shimano because they believe it to be better, but this makes it difficult to test out a change if you've got a good number of wheels. Since I'm a wheel whore, I fall into that difficult-to-change category. This leads into cassettes. Shimano (and SRAM) cassettes are generally 1/2 to 1/3 what Campy cassettes cost. This makes outfitting wheels with cassettes an expensive proposition when you're the aforementioned wheel whore. There are a few other things but they're really not important enough to merit attention, but they do add up to plant a seed of doubt.
On to the actual riding. I've had the gruppo on my road bike for just over a week and I finally was able to log some solid miles on the road (trainer miles don't count in this case). As expected, it took about half the ride to purge my Campy shifting habits. I expected no less, but the shifting is quality. The ergonomics are good, as well. Different, naturally, but just fine. The different hand positions I've come to use with Campy ergonomics will mostly not work on the Shimano so I'll have to come up with new ones. Such is life.
So a week in I'm not in love, or even smitten for that matter, but I'm confident it will always do the task required without fuss. Since I'm ever increasingly looking for ways to have free time, that alone may mean the gruppo finds favor with me.
But let's be honest: What Italian man hasn't had a mistress at some point in his life? Maybe this is mine. They are a passionate people, you know.