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Mar 16, 2016 – When it came to launching new offerings, Italian component maestros Campagnolo chose the volcanic vistas of the Canary Islands as their testing ground for a trio of incoming products.
We were here at the southern tip of Gran Canaria to ride the all new Potenza 11 groupset, updated Shamal Ultra wheelset, finished and ready ‘My Campy’ App and matching EPS3 drivetrain. But what of the elephant in the room, disc brakes? More on that subject later.
Sun is shining, weather is sweet yeah. Our regiment of blue and white uniforms fettled with saddle heights and Garmins as we took to the hills on day one of the Campy press camp to try out the all new Potenza mechanical groupset aimed squarely at the crucial battle ground of the mid range price point.
This is a group aimed to take on Ultegra not least in the OE arena where the Japanese staple somewhat cleans up. This is a new group, lined up to slot in below the Super Record, Record and Chorus mainstays, but one that has inherited a fair chunk of those super groups’ DNA. Most apparently in the crankset. Looking very similar to it’s more expensive relations, all be it primarily made of aluminium, Campy is very keen to highlight this trickle down of features from the race proven groups to the more every day component line.
Potenza11 & Shamal Ultra.
Rolling my Campagnolo branded Sarto frame out onto 15k of false flat before heading sharp up into the shadows of the mountains, first impressions are positive. The rear mech has been designed to include the ‘Embrace Technology’ originally seen on the SR RS group that preceded the current Rev11 SR. Basically the main body barely moves during shifts keeping the chain to cassette gap minimal with an aim for smoother safer shifting across the plate.
Shifting is fast, solid upshifts on newly redesigned paddles precise but customarily quiet and effortless downshifts on the rear while raising the chain at the front end is just as efficient a process. Ramping is smooth, pick up very quick and lever action light, but not vague, there is cable feel. In an age of electronic ease especially in front shifting, it’s a matter of preference how you’d like your shifts to ‘feel’, but personally I don’t mind a little weight and resistance, similar to car driving feel becoming ever desensitized, I consider a little weight and communication a nice thing, that’s not to say these shifts are heavy, far from it, but there is clear feedback to confirm the move.
Hoods are again a preference and these carry on the tradition of comfort Campagnolo has prided itself on. That slightly awkward looking lean over at the top translating into a great shape to hold is still there, but on this group has been slightly reworked to be more comfortable for the ‘sit on top of the nose’ aero rider, something that will presumably trickle back into future generations of other groups in the range. Minor tweaks to the hood rubber and bar/ band interface also translate into more comfort and a better grip and position on the increasing choice of available drop design.
Gathered atop this mountain, our group splits into bunches taking turns in holding and photographing their bikes in detail – indeed an odd view for the surprised tourists who crest the narrow accessed beauty spot only to navigate a gangly blue and white army in all directions.
Decent to our base in Mogan begins together and rapidly transfers into the good and the brave and me. Vantage points for photos being the only time we hook up together again before lunch. It’s perhaps in the braking that this group most resonates. Calipers are a typical Campy skeletal affair, light, still strong, but a simple update to brake pad compound leaves me feeling greatly increased confidence on these steep switchbacks down to the sea. ‘Better all round performance’ was the the term, but not a grabby stop, more a kind of a strong deep hold with plenty of feel through the lever is the reality. A part then of fresh DNA that you could feed back up the chain to your Super Record group if you’re running aluminum braking surfaces.
Next up – to a new take on a classic name – Shamal Ultra. Campagnolo have always considered the Shamal to have been a classic, from the beginning it was a wheelset designed independently, each component part being thought out to work along side the others. This was never a generic wheelset, but one that perhaps shaped the specific factory made complete package that has now become the norm.
This latest Shamal Ultra is more evolution than revolution, highlighting some small but significant changes in design to keep it up to date, namely the widening of the rim profile from C15 to C17. This in keeping with the current trend for wider road rims is presumably largely to do with aero advantages but is also down to the reality that tyre sizes are changing. The new/ old standard of bigger volume road tires means a wider rim will seat a 25mm or 28mm tire better and more securely, meaning greater braking and cornering performance along with the claims of improved aerodynamics.
Bikes are re-shod and we take these wheels out on local climbs to see the differences first hand. One of the most obvious things I think you can really feel straight out of the box by way of upgrades on bicycles is ceramic bearings – on smooth tarmac during long days in the saddle you can really feel the difference a set of ceramic hub bearings can make to both energy usage and overall ride feel. For the Shamal Ultra Campagnolo offers it’s USB ceramic set up. Straight away, once onto the quiet roads it’s a typical smooth Italian roll. Cornering and braking improvement is noticeable too, running 25mm Conti clinchers, the confidence in turn in and slightly later braking due to the improved pad compound is widely noted. This combination works well, but why the inclusion of a ‘Two Way Fit (tubeless compatible) and Clincher version when there’s only 10g between them? Surely just make the one that does both and save resources? The answer comes back that they are better suited to one or the other, yes the rim that copes with both will do just that, but it will take you longer to change / seat clinchers on the tubeless compatible wheel and they presumably won’t seat quite as well as they would on the clincher specific version. So, I guess it’s a choice for those that want to go tubeless rather than dabble once in a while. And if you don’t, well, there’s your answer – save 10g and 50 euros and go normal. if you do, future proof yourself and have the ability to run a clincher on the odd occasion you need to.
Campagnolo Disc Brake Project
The final presentation from our Italian hosts openly addressed the elephant in the room. It had been anticipated, guessed, hoped that these hills might be the test ground for our first outing on what would surely be Campy’s hand in the disc brake game. After various tests of new offerings over the last few days, I feared I’d be leaving none the wiser. Surely the inventors of so many of cycling’s innovations had to have a hat in the ring soon, in this official UCI test year? Hints and questions were deflected amiably all week but when the lights went down for a series of short films highlighting the firm’s history and the gravitas of it’s footnotes in cycling’s timeline, the feeling was that the moment had come. When Coppi, Anquetil, Merckx, Lemond etc had stirred the soul in black and white and 1970’s and 1980’s color washes, the lights came on to reveal a banner reading the words ‘Campagnolo Disc Brake Project.’ It was here. We were not going to get to ride this yet, but here sat unveiled for the first time three bikes with differing Campagnolo disc brake prototypes. Campy’s own Sarto, a Ridley and a Specialized all shod with what will presumably eventually become the Super Record disc brake. Shrouded in secrecy, talk was of joining the party uncharacteristically late for a company prided on innovation and design, but also of wanting to properly get it right first time, making it as good as it can be, making it as beautiful as it could be.
First impressions up close were of near elegant Ergo hood design, far from clumsy, almost fluid in shape they are a little larger to house that reservoir but as expected or at least hoped, but they are genuinely comfortable to grip and they could be considered in keeping with the aesthetic of the rest of the group (even that crankset is starting to grow on many). Simple curved machined black calipers, wavey rotors, bolt thru axles, what looked like disc specific Boras.
These versions were not market ready but are apparently not that far off and will be being rolled out in pro teams in the coming months. As soon as they are ready to ride, we will no doubt be on them, until that time, these first images of all three disc specific bikes should wet the appetite.
My Campy App
Another day, the same sun. Where yesterday’s ride was all mechanical, today’s is a tech tour de force. Now at this point I should admit to being someone that doesn’t necessarily understand how a record player works. And when mentioned in the presentation for the new ‘My Campy’ App, it turns out there was somebody in the room without a Strava account after all. I mean I do a few Apps, but they can often seem to be a bit token from big companies, at best, a feeling of being resigned to having to create one, at worst a cheap shot at the end user to just market new news and sales gumph. And so, probably not alone it was with reservation I listened to the unveiling of this series of buttons that was going to revolutionize my garage, until it did actually sound like something the boffins at Campy’s ‘Tech Lab’ had come up with as a way to unify all this EPS technology and crucially open up it’s potential for us, the punter.
So, in a nutshell, ‘My Campy’ can be seen as a passive piece of clever software that you can update your stable with and keep a track and a history of mileage and wear on individual components through, but it has a more active raison d’etre too. Here it seems is a tool to allow the consumer themselves to not only log data as they ride ‘live’ interactively with their Garmin, but more over, fine tune and customize their equipment to specific personal requirements either at base, or on the fly via a smartphone. It’s pretty impressive stuff actually. I mean, we have been doing this with all manner of things from home hi-fi and cameras to car suspension set ups for years, but although this could just be tech for tech’s sake, it actually makes so much sense that you should be able to specify anything from shift action lag or amount of multiple shifts in one click, to power, feel or responsiveness of shifts or indeed which paddles or buttons perform what function. Now that is really a good idea…to be able to set up both mechs on one Ergo unit or up/ down shifts on main Ergo down shift buttons etc opens up a whole arena of change for specific riding situations not to mention the geek-out potential for monitoring what your shift patterns are on your logged routes etc. And presumably this is only the beginning. I ask about the ‘Shift Assist’ feature that will automatically drop or raise the rear shifts in multiples and speeds of your choosing when you change up or down at the front, and whether it can detect the terrain, the gearing you might be about to need or predict and replicate the same cadence from a front shift by adapting the rear ‘not yet’ is the official response, but clearly this has miles of potential and we are literally just setting off on the first outing with it.
Heading up through the pine woods into the roads that narrow enough to deter the main throng of the island’s tourist drivers, the group splits out into it’s respective power outputs, only to be re-collated when passing individuals tinkering with loaned smartphones changing shift preferences and looking at diagnostics by the side of the road instead of the beauty spot vantage points they probably ought to be. It is true that it could herald a new era in pre, during and post ride faff that fellow riders or families may not truly appreciate, but this is actually really interesting. In the greater scheme of things to most of us it changes little but it does affect some habits within minutes. No looking down at the cassette to clock where you are in the block now that your Garmin is displaying chain placement live on the fly. And you don’t need the phone on you either, Ant+ and Bluetooth antennas mean the Garmin and the mechs talk to each other under your nose if you want to keep your pockets light and ride sans smartphone.
Clearly it is designed to work best with EPS and this EPS3 under test allows the most option when it comes to customizing and feedback, but that said it will still be of some use to mechanical groups and even other manufacturer’s offerings, all be it more in the logging and librarian side of the ‘my garage’ part of the app as opposed to live shift data and set up.
And it really does work, you can clearly feel the difference in set ups between the three main generic choices ‘Race’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Comfort’. Clearly Movistar will choose ‘Race’ and that has up to now been the default EPS set up, but as much as the temptation is to go for ‘HARD’ shift feel and ‘FAST’ movements, there were definite benefits to be had from some of the more pedestrian settings you can find playing with the options.
Early days then but in it’s first hit Campagnolo seems to have really created an actually useable extra connection between their tribe and it’s tools where it so easily could have created an APP because, er…, it should, and one that might do little but allow them to pump you with sales blurb. I get the impression instead that this was as much fun to create as it will be rewarding to have set up. Data protection is a subject raised and of course the system feeds back to the mothership all manner of stuff from wear rates to shift trends, but one can’t help thing that’s not actually so bad a thing, if it means Campagnolo can then improve or tweak components to better suit how people actually use this stuff in the real world. This luddite is left part converted.
My Campy App:
Price – Free.
Compatibility – Android/ IOS/ Windows.
Garmin Edge 520.
Potenza 11 groupset: (with 11-32cassette) – € 904.18 (with 12-27 cassette) – € 852.53.
Complete groupset weight – 2,303g
Available in Silver or Black finish.
Available in 34/50, 36/52 & 39/53 ring choice, 170, 172.5 & 175mm length.
Hollow Alloy construction, steel axel.
One bolt pattern for easy compact/ std swap outs.
Price – € 227.01
Ergo Power Shifters:
Newly designed upshift paddles, hood top shape and rubber grip pattern, bar/ band interface.
Price – € 174.99
Skeletal pattern alloy. Newly designed pad compound.
Price – € 58.33
Weight – 69g
Price – € 41.96
weight – 235g
Price – € 41.01
Newly designed cage positioned further back to accommodate the 32t cassette available.
Price – € 65.62
Newly designed alu and ‘technopolymer’ construction, includes ‘Embrace Tech’. Available in Short or Mid cage length.
Price – € 145.82
newly designed. Built around one triplet and the rest single cogs with spacers.
Available in, 11-25, 11-27, 11-29, 11-32, 12-27.
Price – € 116.20 – € 167.85
Shamal Ultra wheelset:
USB Ceramic bearings
Clincher & Two Way Fit versions available
weight: 1495g (clincher), 1505g (Two Way Fit)
Price – € 1201.92 (clincher), € 1250.37 (two way fit).
Zipp have long been known for two things: aerodynamics and... Read more →