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Basic Guide: Introduction to Campagnolo Road Groupsets

If cycling were said to have a soul, then Campagnolo would arguably be the embodiment of it. Founded in Vicenza, Italy in 1933 by Tullio Campagnolo, the company has built a reputation for making beautiful and highly functional components and following their own path. Tullio was a professional racer in the 1920’s who had an epiphany one day while riding through freezing weather in the Alps. After flatting, Tullio struggled to remove the wingnuts on his wheel axle and lost valuable time in the race. Being a better engineer than a racer, he took to his work shop and invented the quick-release wheel skewer, which revolutionized wheel design. It was a hint of what was to follow.

From the 1940’s until the 1980’s Campagnolo was the dominant manufacturer of bike components in the world, and partnered closely with frame builders like Ernesto Colnago and riders like Eddy Merckx (who was a personal friend of Tullio’s)  to produce the best racing gear of the time. Gruppos like C-Record and Nuovo Record were the pinnacle of racing technology of the day, and are still highly sought after by collectors. The components were more than just highly function objects, but were imbued with a design philosophy and craftsmanship that reflected Tullio's deeply held love of and respect for the bicycle.

The company suffered however in the 80’s and 90’s as rival Shimano took the technological edge with indexed shifting and the combined brake and shifter levers, and began to dominate the road bike market thanks to their ability to cheaply produce vast numbers of high-quality bike parts. Campagnolo was unwilling to compromise their Old World approach to manufacturing (most of their components are still hand built in the original factory in Vicenza, the rest are built in a nearby factory just over the border in Romania), and refocused on the high end market. To that end, Campagnolo became an early adapter of carbon fiber and titanium construction techniques, and computer-assisted modeling and design.

Over time, Campagnolo has earned a a loyal following of dedicated riders who love the brand as much for its heritage as much as it’s unique approach to component construction. Today the Campagnolo brand is run by Tullio’s son Valentio and continues to pave the way in innovation. They were the first to market with 11-speed, and recently debuted their EPS electronic gruppos to near universal acclaim.

Campagnolo makes four 11-speed mechanical gruppos, three electronic gruppos, and two 10-speed mechanical gruppos. Before we delve into the gruppos though, here are a few things to keep in mind:

 

CAMPAGNOLO ROAD GROUPSETS

 

SUPER RECORD 11 EPS: This 11-speed electronic gruppo in many ways represents the pinnacle of shifting performance. All carbon fiber construction (even the front and rear derailleurs), titanium hardware and crank spindles, ceramic CULT bearings, electronic servos, and the ability to shift up to 11 gears at the same time set this gruppo apart from the competition. The advanced electronics package is completely waterproof, and also lets the rider make adjustments to the system while riding. Super Record EPS is by far the most expensive groupset available from any manufacturer, but Campagnolo designed it to deliver up the ultimate in performance. For the rider who demands nothing but the best, you can do no better. Campagnolo says the EPS battery is good for 1,200 miles per charge. Click here to learn more about electronic drivetrains.

 

SUPER RECORD 11: Super Record 11 is a pro-level 11-speed mechanical groupset that leaves nothing on the table when it comes to performance.  All carbon fiber construction (even the front and rear derailleurs), titanium hardware and crank spindles, and ceramic CULT bearings and bushings mean that everything is engineered to perfection so you get the most out of every pedal turn and every shift. Super Record 11 uses Ultra-Shift technology which gives you the ability to downshift up to 3 cogs at a time, or upshift 5 cogs at a time. For the rider who doesn’t want electronic, but wants the ultimate in performance, Super Record is the way to go.

 

RECORD 11 EPS: Record 11 EPS is the gruppo that’s preferred by most of Campagnolo’s sponsored pro teams. Record 11 is almost exactly identical as Super Record EPS, but uses more conventional (and much less costly and more durable) steel bearings and alloy hardware and crank spindles. It retains the all carbon-fiber construction and ability to sweep the entire cassette in one shift, but gains a few grams on its big brother. But don’t be fooled. The advanced electronics package is completely waterproof, and also lets the rider make adjustments to the system while riding. This is the gruppo that was ridden by Nairo Quintana in his successful Tour de France debut and by Rui Costa when he won the World Championships. Campagnolo says the EPS battery is good for 1,200 miles per charge. Click here to learn more about electronic drivetrains.

 

RECORD 11: Record 11 is an 11-speed mechanical groupset that is almost exactly identical to Super Record 11, except it replaces the titanium crank spindle and hardware with aluminum, and uses conventional steel bearings instead of the CULT ceramic bearings. Record 11 retains the all-carbon fiber construction found in Super Record for increased stiffness and improved performance. Record 11 uses Ultra-Shift technology which gives you the ability to downshift up to 3 cogs at a time, or upshift 5 cogs at a time. Record 11 gains a few grams on Super Record, but delivers pro-level performance that is tough to match.

 

CHORUS 11: Chorus 11 is an 11-speed mechanical groupset that delivers plenty of performance in a more affordable package. Mechanically it’s nearly identical to Super Record and Record, but Chorus moves away from the entirely carbon fiber construction to an alloy front derailleur and an aluminum rear derailleur cage (the knuckle is still carbon fiber). Chorus uses Ultra-Shift technology which gives you the ability to downshift up to 3 cogs at a time, or upshift 5 cogs at a time. For the rider who still wants a high-performance groupset without the performance-at-all costs construction (and expense) of Super Record or Record, Chorus is the way to go.

 

ATHENA 11 EPS: Athena 11 EPS is Campagnolo’s entry-level electronic 11-speed groupset, but there’s nothing entry level about it. Athena 11 EPS is exactly the same, in terms of function, as Super Record or Record EPS, but substitutes the expensive carbon fiber construction for aluminum. Aluminum shifters and front and rear derailleur (and carbon crank) are more durable and crash resistant than carbon fiber, but add a little bit of weight. Like it’s big brothers, Athena EPS features an advanced electronics package is completely waterproof, allows the rider to sweep the entire cassette with one shift, and also lets the rider make adjustments to the system while riding. Campagnolo says the EPS battery is good for 1,200 miles per charge. Click here to learn more about electronic drivetrains.

 

ATHENA 11: Athena 11 is the workhorse 11-speed groupset in Campy’s line up. It’s available in three different flavors: with silver alloy components, black alloy components, or black components with carbon fiber levers and crankset. Athena 11 features all-aluminum construction, which makes it more durable and ideal for cyclocross, gravel riding, or riders who want 11-speed performance without shelling out big bucks. Athena features Power-Shift technology which allows the rider to downshift up to three cogs at a time, and upshift by one. Athena 11 delivers true pro-level 11-speed performance at an exceptional value.

 

CENTAUR 10: Centaur 10 is Campagnolo’s performance-level 10-speed groupset. Centaur 10 is essentially a rebadged version of the company’s 10-speed Record gruppos from a few years ago, and features some impressive technology at a great price point.  Centaur is available in four different versions: silver alloy, black alloy, black alloy with red graphics, and black alloy with carbon fiber shifters and crankset. Centaur features Power-Shift technology which allows the rider to downshift up to three cogs at a time, and upshift by one. Centaur delivers pro-level 10-speed performance at an exceptional value.

 

VELOCE 10: Veloce is Campagnolo’s workhorse 10-speed group, and it’s available in two varieties: silver alloy or black alloy. Veloce features the same ergonomic designs as the rest of Campy’s gruppos, and is constructed with Power-Shift technology which allows the rider to downshift up to three cogs at a time, and upshift by one. Increasingly, Veloce is becoming the gruppo of choice for cyclocross racers who prefer to ride Campy, thanks to its bombproof construction and looser, 10-speed tolerances. Veloce delivers the distinctive Campagnolo look and shift feel, along with excellent 10-speed performance at an exceptional value.

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