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Campagnolo introduces new 12-speed groupsets

Super Record and Record mechanical systems have been redesigned

Campagnolo 12-speed cassette

Twelve. Count ’em. There are 12 cogs on cassettes in the new mechanical Campagnolo Super Record and Record groupsets. Recently, at press events on Gran Canaria, the third largest island in the Canary Islands, the Vicenza, Italy-based company revealed its new components, discussed how they were made and allowed me to gain some first impressions out on twisty roads in the hot sun.

The New Campagnolo Super Record and Record 12-speed cassettes

Campagnolo has two 12-cog cassettes—11–29 and 11–32—for its two top-tier mechanical gruppos. At the low end, you have modern, high-tooth-count cogs to allow you to spin up nicely on tough climbs. While Campy is a company steeped in tradition, it seems ready to abandon the classic 11-23, which it had for Record, as well as 11-25 and 11-27.

The largest six sprockets are part of two single-piece triplets. Each triplet is machined steel. The smaller six cogs are single units separated by aluminum spacers. Each spacer is 2 mm wide, plus or minus 0.03 mm. Designers needed to achieve high tolerances here because even small differences in width would cause significant variations when added up. Aluminum became the material of choice because polymer spacers just wouldn’t cut it. One thing mechanics will appreciate is that all the spacers are interchangeable.

The smallest six sprockets increase in one-tooth increments starting at the 11-tooth in the first position.

The 12-speed cassette fits on a standard 11-speed freehub body. It’s a smart move by Campy. Riders can use their existing wheels with the new gruppos. There’s no “new standard” to worry about.

A 11–29 cassette weighs 266 g.

Campy had to make a new chain for the 12-speed cassette. The links are narrower, yet the company says the chain is just as durable as its 11-speed model. Also notable: the chain’s pins and rollers don’t sit proud of the plates on the inside. This arrangement means the front derailleur only faces two surfaces in a shift from the small ring to the big. The whole setup leads to smoother shifting.

The chain, at 110 links, weighs 220 g.

Why 12?

Why 12 cogs? Because of 16.

That may sound cryptic, but bear with me. Campagnolo was a bit coy at first when it introduced the 12-sprocket cassette. The company produced a funny video in which a hammy actor in a lab coat discusses the almost mystical significance of the number 12. One of the more concrete reasons later cited was to have a smooth progression among the smaller cogs.

Campagnolo product manager Michele Tittonel reminded me that cassettes in the 11-23 days had less dramatic jumps between cogs. On a contemporary cassette, such as the old 11-speed Super Record 11-32, there are some significant increases across the range as you move from the smallest to the largest cog. In this cassette, there’s no 16-tooth. There’s a 15-tooth in the fifth position and a 17-tooth in the sixth position. Tittonel pointed out that this has a noticeable and quantifiable effect on the rider. If a rider has his chain on a 50-tooth ring and a 15-tooth cog, one full turn of his crank would move his bike 7.12 m. If he were to shift to the 17-tooth, one full crank revolution will move him 6.28 m. That’s a difference of 0.84 m. It’s a difference that pro riders could feel on certain roads on which they needed a more subtle gearing adjustment. Those pros wanted their 16-tooth cogs back, which only creates a a difference of 0.45 m when shifting from a 15-tooth.

Campagnolo Super Record and Record rear derailleur

A new rear derailleur moves the chain from cog to cog. It has a 72.5-mm-long cage, allowing it to work with both the 11–29 and 11–32 cassettes. On that cage, the top jockey wheel, with its 12 teeth, is larger than its predecessor. It’s teeth are also higher to increase precision. The lower jockey wheel also has 12 teeth, but they are chamfered to allow for better lines of travel to the rings.

The previous derailleur had what the company calls 2D Embrace technology. It kept the top jockey wheel close to whatever cog was selected. The arrangement made precise shifting and good chain wrap around the teeth. The new derailleur has an extra dimension. The 3D Embrace technology not only keeps the jockey wheel close to each cog, but also more forward, further increasing chain wrap. Better wrap means better power transfer.

The component’s hanger can work with more classic hanger mounts or direct-mount frames. The mech has an upper-body return spring that keeps the derailleur in position and also helps to minimize the effects of road vibrations.

The carbon-fibre Super Record component is about 3 g heavier than its predecessor at 181 g. (The Record rear derailleur weighs 216 g.) To my eye, the whole unit seems to sit more outboard from the frame. This shape and position is in contrast to newer Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra rear derailleurs that are more tucked in. The Japan-based company designed their derailleurs in that way to offer the parts better crash protection.

Campagnolo Super Record and Record front derailleur

Like the rear derailleurs, the new Super Record and Record front derailleurs have been redesigned. Campagnolo says it has almost eliminated any free stroke and improved shifting speed. Some of the component’s improved performance comes from the way it now moves. The derailleur’s cage doesn’t travel in a pendulum-like swing as it moves the chain from ring to ring. Instead, it follows a more linear trajectory.

As with the last generation of mechanical front derailleurs, the new models keep the top swing arm. On contemporary bike frames running wider tires than in the past, a swing arm and the cable that is affixed near its top can find themselves without enough room. With the new Super Record and Record front mech, you can screw the cable-grip bolt in either from the front or the back of the arm, allowing you to find the best path for the cable. Campagnolo says the derailleur shouldn’t have any problems with 32-mm-wide tires.

The Super Record front derailleur weighs 79 g, while the Record model weighs 81 g.

Campagnolo Super Record and Record crankset

Campagnolo says its new cranksets have a more aerodynamic design. They look really shiny, too, which isn’t just an esthetic choice. The resin in the carbon not only helps to reduce the weight of the component, but it acts as a UV blocking agent. Think of it as sunscreen for the component that increases its lifespan.

The Super Record cranks have a hollow carbon construction, while the Record does not. The Super Record component uses CULT (ceramic ultimate level technology) bearings, which Campy says are nine times smoother than stainless-steel bearings. Record gets USB (ultra-smooth bearings), said to be twice as efficient as stainless steel. Both have a four-arm spider and eight bolts to affix the rings. The high-bolt count means the rings stay rigid to enhance shifting performance. On the Super Record spider, two sets of arms have a “brace” to further increase rigidity. The Q-factor on has stayed the same: 145.5 mm.

The company has added a new crankarm length, 165 mm, to the existing lineup of 170 mm, 172.5 mm and 175 mm. You can run either 50/34–tooth rings, 52/36 or 53/39. All are anodized to increase their longevity. They also all have specific shift zones. No matter where you are in your pedal stroke when you click the lever to move the chain from the small ring to big, pins and other design features on the big ring will ensure the chain moves only at the correct part of the stroke, giving you a smooth and successful shift.

A Super Record crankset with 172.5-mm-long arms, 50/34–tooth rings and bearings weighs 618 g. A Record crankset with the same setup weighs 710 g.

Campagnolo Super Record and Record Ergopower

Campagnolo calls its hoods and levers Ergopower. The internals have been redesigned to work with the new rear and front derailleurs. Also beneath the surface, the Vari-Cushion silicone material on the hoods has seen some improvements for comfort.

The hoods themselves have a new shape as do the brake levers. Those levers still have the double curve, but there’s more of a lip at the bottom now. What Campy calls the upshift lever, the one that either moves the chain to a larger cog or larger ring, is better incorporated behind the brake lever and is thus a bit more aero. The upshifter also as a larger surface area. The downshift/thumb lever is bigger too and shaped so that it’s easier to use when your hand is down in the drops.

As with the previous Ergopower controls, you can move as many as five cog when you’re after a harder gear. When you’re after an easier gear, you can jump as many as three cogs.

A pair of Super Record Ergopower controls weigh 339 g. A Record pair is 363 g

Campagnolo Super Record and Record rim brakes

The new brakes look less “skeletal” than the previous models. The brake arms are solid and smooth making them more aerodynamic. They work with tires as wide as 28 mm. It’s a welcome development. With my 11-speed Record rim-brake group, I have found that even some 25-mm-wide tires barely have enough clearance.

The new brakes come in traditional rim models as well as direct-mount. Each direct-mount brake has a brace to increase rigidity and to keep unwanted forces from being applied to the frame.

There are disc brakes, too

The new mechanical groupsets are compatible with Campagnolo’s hydraulic disc-brake setup. Each Ergopower control is 8 mm taller to accommodate a hydraulic master cylinder, which sits vertically. The bleeding port is at the top of each cylinder when you need to do maintenance on the mineral-oil system.

The brake levers are customizable. You can adjust their reach as well as their performance. You’d like brakes to engage quickly? You can set them up to be more “grabby.” Or, if you like a smoother engagement, you can dial that in, too.

The calipers are flat-mount. You simply need the right length of bolt to attach the calipers to your frame. They can handle a 160-mm-diameter rotor at the front and a 140-mm or 160-mm rotor at the back. The calipers have phenolic resin pistons that keep heat from getting transferred back to the oil. In each unit, a magnetic spring moves the pads, which are made of an organic resin. They are said to offer uniform braking in the cold and in the heat. The pads are chamfered at their bottom edges to allow for easier wheel changes. Once you wear the pads down too much, they’ll let you know as they have audible wear indicators.

Availability of Super Record and Record mechanical groupets

Campy is planning to have the Super Record rim brake set available in May. The disc brake version should be out this summer. As for Record rim brake gruppos, those should be here in June, while Record disc brakes will be out a month later.

Full Super Record 12-speed with disc brakes will cost $4,570. The rim-brake setup will be $4,060. Full Record 12-speed with disc brakes is $3,480 and $2,760 with rim brakes.

What about EPS?

Electronic versions of the 12-speed gruppos are in the works. The hard part of the development process was the mechanical elements of the new systems. While the electronic features of the forthcoming EPS groups do require added work, they are not quite as complex as the changes that have already been made.

Campy has not given any firm dates for the release of the 12-speed EPS sets.

Super Record and Record 12-speed first impressions

Campagnolo 12-speed

During my first day of testing on Gran Canaria, I rode a Record gruppo with direct-mount brakes on a De Rosa Protos. The shifting was smooth and precise. The front derailleur was quite stunning. It seems to require very little force to move the chain from the small ring to the big. As for the cassette, well, the 32-tooth cog was great paired with the 34-tooth ring during a 9-km climb. It wasn’t until the second day, when our rides had more rolling terrain, that I appreciated the subtleties of the 11 to 17-tooth cogs with their one-tooth increments. I had quite a few options for finding the right cadence and power with those cogs.

I’ve long been a fan of the Ergopower setup, especially the brake levers. They seemed custom designed for my hands. While the new brake levers feel great, they don’t feel as “custom,” especially near the bottom of the lever when I’m in the drops. It’s a small quibble, and something I might be able to solve later. The reach of the levers is customizable, so with more time, I might be able to dial in those levers better. I do like the redesigned thumb shifters. They live up to their promise of making shifting easier and more comfortable.

The direct-mount rim brakes work very well. After the first day’s climb, I had a descent of about 13 glorious kilometres. I could scrub a lot of speed or a little depending on the turn. On the second day, I had a Super Record setup with the disc brakes. Even though I had seen the disc brakes two years ago, this was my first time riding with them. They are impressive. Their modulation is refined and stopping power is strong. Thanks to them, I felt confident screaming toward hairpin turns.

They were great first rides. I’m looking forward to more.