The new Campagnolo Potenza groupset is a break from tradition for the Italian component and wheel maker. Some traditions run deep. For example, there’s a hammer and anvil, which is older than 90 years, that’s still in use in the Campy factory. “I think it’s a good metaphor for what Campy stands for. It’s the same anvil that Tullio Campagnolo used when he fashioned the first quick-release in his parent’s tool shop. It’s not set up in some museum. It’s still being used to make Campagnolo products,” said Joshua Riddle, Campy’s press manager.
Some the company’s traditions, however, haven’t served Campy as well. The component maker tends to look to the needs of the pros first, and then to the broader consumer base. “Another problem we’ve had, and we’re not afraid to admit fault, is that we are very, very Italian,” Riddle said. “Italy is probably the last market to change the dynamic in which bicycles are sold. It’s probably the last country to adapt to buying a completely spec’d out bike from the big-box manufacturers. It was the last country in which the lion’s share of the market would go in and buy a frame and build it up the way they wanted it. That was different from the rest of the world who had changed that habit a lot earlier than us.”
Campy has become more of a niche brand. Often, it’s not on the radar of product managers who are spec’ing complete bikes for their lines. With the new Potenza line. Campy is hoping to see it’s name on off-the-shelf bikes. Potenza is meant to go head to head with Shimano’s Ultegra groupset.
As with Ultegra, Potenza inherits many of its qualities of from above. In June 2014, Campy debuted its revamped Super Record, Record and Chorus mechanical groupsets. That launch was called Revolution 11+. Its features included Vari-Cushion hoods, Embrace technology for the chain and cassette and four-arm, eight-bolt spiders. You see these and other elements in the new Potenza. While the Revolution 11+ groups favour carbon fibre, Potenza focuses more on aluminum, which occasional uses of composite. “Potenza is pretty much the same groupset [as the Revolution 11+ groups], apart from the materials used in its construction,” said Riddle. “They are from the same DNA.” In fact, the new gruppo has some features that its senior counterparts don’t.
Potenza levers and hoods
In the lever body, the Potenza has a new power-shift mechanism. It’s matched with composite upshifting and downshifting levers. The braking lever is aluminum alloy. The body is technopolymer reinforced with carbon fibre. Where the body attaches to your handlebars, Campy improved the interface so the Ergopower unit, which is how Campy refers to its lever and lever-body system, connects better to a wider range of handlebars, especially compact bars.
With the Revolution 11+ sets, the tops of the hoods have a slightly pointed inward “hook.” Potenza’s Ergopower tops are more rounded. “We noticed in our market research that a lot of riders grab the top or, for lack of a better way to put it, the ‘horns’ of the Ergopower to get aerodynamic but still in a more relaxed position than being in the drops. So we rounded out the tip-top of that,” Riddle said.
The hoods themselves are hypoallergenic silicon. The pattern on the surface has more in common with the Rev 11+ design than the grid-like EPS hoods. The Potenza pattern is new and promises to drain away water and improve grip. On the underside of the hoods is the Vari-Cushion technology, a pattern that helps to absorb vibrations and enhance comfort.
When you use the shift lever behind the brake lever, the one that moves the chain into a large cog, you have the option for multiple shifts, as many as three gears. The thumb shifter moves you into a higher gear, one click at a time. When you shift between the big and the small rings, you have multiple positions to optimize the chainline to certain sets of cogs. The initial setting optimizes the chain for the small ring and the larger cogs. Click The lever once so that the front derailleur and chain will work best with the smaller cogs. The second and third clicks move the chain to the big ring and open up all the cogs at the back. Click the thumb lever once to drop down to the small ring. You’ll have to click it one more time to optimize for the larger cogs. All this behaviour comes via the Rev 11+ groups.
The front derailleur has a structure that derives from the Rev 11+ groups. Instead of carbon fibre making up the component, the Potenza derailleur has a die-cast aluminum body, forged-aluminum inner and outer plates and a steel fork. It’s designed to work with cassettes that sport higher-tooth-count cogs. The new rod design on the derailleur is supposed to reduce the force needed to upshift. The design also helps when shifting under heavy loads. Campy says the Pontenza upshifts 10 per cent better than competitors’ medium-range groupsets. They tested 100 upshifts from 34-tooth rings to 50-tooth rings and tracked the amount of time it took chains to engage successfully and the frequency of successful shifts. Against Campy’s previous generations of Chorus or Athena, the company found the Potenza to be more than 52 per cent more fluid.
Rear derailleur and cassette
Since the front derailleur is meant to work with big cogs, the Potenza comes in an 11-32 range (as well as 11-25, 11-27, 11-29 and 12-27). The new cassette range is called Campagnolo 11. The 11-32 cassette requires a derailleur with a longer cage. The other cassettes can run the short-cage rear derailleur. For each derailleur, each outer and inner plate is forged aluminum. The upper and lower bodies have a reinforced technopolymer construction. The pulley wheels spin on bushings as opposed to bearings.The travel-limit screws have been re-positioned for easy access.
The Embrace technology ensures that the chain (which is a Chorus chain) wraps around each cog to a greater degree. This level of engagement improves power transfer. Also, because the force is spread out across more teeth, wear should be less and the components should last longer.
The four-arm, eight-bolt spider that first appeared in the Rev 11+ groups was incorporated into the Potenza set. Each anodized aluminum chainring is affixed by four bolts with makes for a very rigid structure. You don’t need to buy a whole new crankset if you want to go from a traditional to a compact arrangement. You can simply change out your chainrings. For the Potenza, the chainring combinations include 53/39, 52/36 and 50/34. The crankarms are hollow forged aluminum.
The Potenza brakes have a new design with the familiar skeleton brake arms that keep weight to a minimum. They also run pads with a new compound to improve stopping modulation. A direct-mount brake, while not available now, is in the works.
First impressions of the Potenza
My first ride with Campagnolo’s Potenza groupset was on the southern end of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. My group at the Campy press camp rolled out of the hotel and along the island’s coast. It had been a while since I’d ridden with a Campy groupset, but as soon as I shifted into the drops, stretched my index and middle fingers to the brake levers, I remembered one of the things I really like about the Italian components. The lower part of the brake levers hold the pads of my fingers perfectly. The ergonomics of the higher-end Ergopower design definitely trickled down to the Potenza. The pattern on the new hoods is much nicer and more comfortable than the grid-like pattern on EPS Ergopower components.
I did need a few kilometres to get reaquainted with the thumb shifters for moving the chain to the smaller ring or smaller cogs. I had to ride with my hands shifted slightly farther back than I usually do. In the drops, however, the thumb shifters feel as if they are in exactly the right spot.
My group eventually turned inland away from the rolling coast. The road was flat for about 5 km. We took a short break, fueled up and then started climbing upwards. The next 10 km averaged about eight per cent. The next 10 km had parts that kicked up to more than 20 per cent. Since it was my first ride this season with so much climbing, I was really happy to have the 34-tooth ring work with the 32-tooth cog in the back. I know the traditionalists may scoff at such a large cog, but forget them. The ability to spin on grades so steep was great. The gearing made for a truly enjoyable climb.
On the descent, which went on for about 20 km, the brakes kept me in control. The power curve on the brakes was steady and strong with a good progression. The next day, with the same new Potenza pads on EPS Super Record brakes and new Shamal aluminum wheels, I was able to push my descending even more.
Weights and prices
|Potenza omponent||Weight (g)||Weight difference with Super Record mechanical||Price in euros||Price converted to CAD|
The Potenza group is available in silver and black. Both cost the same. A full group with 11-32 cassette is 904.18 euro or roughly CAD$1,341.47. For the 12-27, the group is 852.53 euro or roughly CAD$1,265.00. Potenza will start rolling out to shops in mid-March.