Its official. Campagnolo has launched their electronic group and perhaps the biggest surprise is its actually two groups, an Electronic Super Record and Electronic Record group. The official name for the product? Electronic Power Shift, or EPS.
Campagnolos electronic shifting took a long and circuitous route to its ultimate launch. We had all seen it on pros bikes this season, and even many seasons earlier in 10 speed form, but the initial idea within Campagnolo dates back to 1992.
Early attempts failed due to technology lagging too far behind the engineers ideas. In 1994 the system suffered from a lack of voltage due to cables being too long and batteries too weak. They also had to continually update the system as mechanical shifting went from 8 to 9 and then to 10 speed. One of the very last hurdles in their way was placed there by Campy themselves, the move to 11 speeds when their 10 speed electronic system was essentially ready for market.
The entire way Campys pro teams played a key role in developing the product. Their desire for faster more precise shifting makes perfect sense, but one of the final tests was not so obvious. After a wet Giro stage they discovered the system, while able to handle rain at race pace, could not handle the rain atop a team car doing 150 kph on its way to the next hotel. What did they do? They made the entire system waterproof. You could ride Super Record EPS under 1 meter of water.
The system has a long and detailed tech story, but before we bring you that story and a full test ride, here are the bullet points.
Shifting: The system uses ErgoPower, the finger lever and thumb lever we have come to know from Campy mechanical. The click is much firmer than Di2s buttons and designed to mimic the Campy feel. Fine tuning shifting is possible from the hoods through a small button next to the thumb lever. Big news here is multiple shifts. Press and hold the thumb lever or finger-tip lever and you can shift across your entire cassette with a single motion. Campy claims each shift takes .35 seconds as opposed to .47 for mechanical Super Record. To downshift across your entire cassette takes only 1.5 seconds.
The Battery: While it may live in the same place as the Di2 battery, this is much more than just power. Its actually called the Power Unit and holds the brains of the electronic system (DTI Digital Tech Intelligence) as well as the battery. It is this unit that talks to the derailleurs and gets them to play nice, which means, like Di2, they trim instantly based on where the other is, to ensure no chain rub even while overlapped. An interesting feature of the system is its firmware soul. It is possible that in the future Campy could offer updates to the firmware that could allow the unit to interface with power meters or other devices. The battery can be fully charged in only 90 minutes, and offers an incredibly long charge life, based on your riding volume. If you ride 2000k a month it will last one month, at 500k a month youll get over 3 months between charges. Indications are that it will far exceed these numbers in actual usage as the Movistar riders present at the launch claimed they only charged their batteries 5 times all year. One feature that could lead to headaches for some users is the need to recharge while still fitted to the bike. Unlike Di2, the battery cannot be pulled out for desktop charging. The Power Unit also has a fairly robust warning system. Each component is color coded at the cables, and should you have a malfunction of any kind, you will hear an audible buzz and an LED will light in the color that corresponds to the component malfunctioning.
Vibration: Each of the components has been extensively protected from vibration. The sensors in the front and rear derailleur are Magnetic Hall Sensors, rather than contact sensors, to remove the effects of vibration. The Power Unit itself is heavily dampened to further ensure vibration is not an issue. This fact was again attested to by the Movistar riders, as both Flanders and Roubaix were completed on EPS without any issues what so ever.
Weight: While there is a slight penalty to pay vs. Super Record mechanical, Campagnolos published weights make both Super Record and Record EPS the two lightest electronic groups on the market, 2098 and 2184grams respectively. The electronic components add a little less than 200 grams to the weight of Super Record EPS.
Super Record EPS vs Record EPS: While each group will utilize the existing mechanical versions cranks, chain and brakes, both will share the same electronics. This means that shifting performance should be almost identical, with differences measured in grams and seen in materials. Ceramic bearings, titanium, carbon and light-weight sculpting are in full effect on Super Record EPS, while Record EPS makes do with more aluminum, steel, standard bearings, and less carbon.
Price and Availability: No question these two are first and foremost in everyones mind. Look for high-end bikes specd with EPS to be arriving in December. After market groups will be available in Spring. Incidentally this is most likely when we will see TT shifters for the groups. Pricing has not yet been released as they are just ramping up to full-scale production. Look for Record EPS to go head to head with Shimano Dura Ace Di2 on pricing. As far as Campy is concerned those are the two groups that match up in terms of quality and performance. Super Record 11 will be something else altogether. They feel it is setting a new standard for what is a premiere road group in cycling, and as such should not be compared to Dura Ace Di2. Of course, that also means it will be priced significantly higher than Dura Ace Di2.
As the unexpected launch of 2 electronic groups shows, Campagnolo is clearly committed to electronic shifting and sees it as the future. As Mr. Campagnolo said himself, to close the EPS product launch, Campy is investing heavily for an electronic future. Never before has the company developed so many new products. Mechanical with an emphasis on electronic products. I confirm with you our effort to keep pushing hard on the pedals
Stay tuned for more on Campagnolos EPS as we get some ride time on the group and dig into the engineering more deeply. One thing does seem quite certain, it looks like the ultimate bike many of us put together in our day dreams will have a new group.