Campagnolo has ushered in a revolution in cycling with the launch of the first ever 12-speed drivetrain for the road bike.
The launch of the 12-speed Super Record and Record groupsets comes exactly 10 years since the 11-speed cassette was pioneered, revolutionising road cycling in 2008.
Unveiling its Super Record and Record groupsets on Monday, the Italian cycling specialist released details of completely redesigned components, including re-engineered derailleurs, crankset, ‘Ergopower’ shifters and hoods, and even a newly designed chain.
The stunning system, featuring a unique marble-effect finish, is part of the respected manufacturer’s ‘Movement’ concept, which was enigmatically teased in November 2017, causing a flurry of speculation throughout the cycling world.
It had been thought the ‘Movement’ teaser ads referred to the development of a Campagnolo watch, but in December a new clothing line was launched under the ‘Movement’ banner, dashing any expectations for a new groupset innovation.
However, the discovery of a patent for a Campagnolo 12-speed cassette in March this year fuelled a fire of expectation that the system was close to launch, despite the company managing to keep details out of the public gaze – until now.
The creation of a 12-speed road cassette follows a flurry of innovation in cycling, particularly since SRAM’s ground-breaking 12×1 Eagle system which revolutionised the mountain bike drivetrain, and rendered the double chainring almost obsolete on the trail.
Unlike SRAM, however, Campagnolo’s 12-speed system has surprised many by retaining the double crankset at the front.
With 12 sprockets on the cassette, and the double chainring intact, the Italian maker said its testing showed much smoother gearing and better performance.
So far, details of the new groupset make no reference to electronic shifting, a feature of the current Super Record EPS system. But while such a development remains pure speculation at this stage, it seems unlikely Campagnolo would ignore the opportunity to combine its successful EPS technology with this latest drivetrain innovation.
The launch of the 12-speed system also raises questions about the progress of similar systems by Campy’s two rivals, SRAM and Shimano. SRAM, which has already developed a 1X road chainring (although no 12-speed cassette for road bikes yet), is currently close to launching its first electronic mountain bike system, while Shimano is believed to be tinkering with its first 12-speed MTB and road drivetrains.
The Super Record and Record 12-speed groupset will be available from Chain Reaction Cycles from May 2018.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the new system is that the 12-speed cassette remains the same width as the previous 11-speed Super Record version. According to Campagnolo, this was achieved by reducing both the space between the cogs and the width of each sprocket. It means the new cassette remains compatible with existing freehub bodies, which is good news for cyclists who want to continue using the same wheels and frame without huge modifications.
What has changed, however, is the need for a large number of cassette ranges. The company explained the extra sprocket allows for single tooth increments all the way to the 7th sprocket. Because of this, only two cassette ranges feature in the new 12-speed Super Record groupset, 11-29 and 11-32 – a significant reduction from the previous groupset’s seven cassette configurations.
To handle the new gearing ratios, the latest Super Record groupset uses a completely new rear derailleur design, featuring larger pulley wheels, thinner cage width, and a more versatile hanger system that can work with any frame, disc or rim. And, despite having an extra sprocket to handle, Campagnolo managed to keep the weight to within three grams of the previous derailleur.
The advancements have also allowed Campagnolo to ditch multiple rear mech cage lengths, with a one-size-fits-all medium length cage compatible with both cassette ranges.
Check out the new derailleur in action below:
Operating the mech is a new, ergonomically designed shifter system featuring a larger thumb lever allowing you to shift down by up to five gears in one motion. An enlarged upshifting lever, meanwhile, can traverse three gears at a time, a feature borrowed from Super Record’s previous incarnation.
The levers themselves find themselves more closely integrated with the brake levers, with Campagnolo stating huge amounts of time was spent meticulously investigating hand movements to create the ‘double curve’ lever, which are attached at a new pivot point on a lighter, more comfortable hood design that uses ‘Vari Cushion technology’.
The crankset too has been overhauled, with Campagnolo introducing advanced carbon technology. It sports a unidirectional carbon finish, and a hollow weight-saving carbon construction, with the company asserting its manufacture involved “aggressive” weight cuts with no compromises in terms of stiffness, reactivity or reliability. The Italian engineers added to the crank’s structural rigidity by using extra ‘brace’ material on the larger chainring, as that is where the highest torque is applied.
It features an ultra-torque titanium axle with ceramic bearings and an improved four-arm spider design. The front chainrings will be available in 50/34, 52/36, and 53/39 ranges. Each of these combinations has a bespoke chainring design, with a different number and location of pins, tailored tooth design, and optimised shifting zones depending on the specific chainring combination.
One of the most interesting aspects of the introduction of 12-speed was the need for Campagnolo technicians to redesign the chain. The company’s internal lab was challenged to provide a chain able to handle an additional gear, but because the cassette cogs are thinner and closer together, the chain needed to be slimmed down without losing performance or durability.
According to Campagnolo, the new 12-speed chain, is thinner, lighter, and engages more quickly without losing any of the durability of its 11-speed predecessor.
The 2018 outing of the Super Record gruppo also features aerodynamically designed rim braking modules. At home on the most advanced aero bikes, the brakes are compatible with tyres up to 28mm in width and perfect for both c17 and c19 inner width rims.
The use of bearings in the activation of the lever system has provided increased smoothness, while rigidity has been added thanks to Campagnolo’s direct mount brace system.
The Record hierarchy, which falls just under the top-of-the-range Super Record, has also benefited from the advancements, with Ergopower Record brake levers, front derailleur, rear mech, and crankset all hitting the market together.
While delivering the same reliability and performance, the Record uses slightly heavier materials, with a complete set around 200g heavier than the Super Record gruppo. However, the extra grams will translate into big savings for those willing to step down a tier for the Record system.
Founder Tullio Campagnolo, a racing cyclist, started the company in 1933 in a Vicenza workshop. It’s first major contribution to road cycling technology was the quick release mechanism for bicycle wheels.
The company holds some 135 patents. In the 1970s, Campagnolo supplied the wheels for Ferrari’s Formula One cars, while in the same decade the company introduced the inaugural Super Record groupset. In 1997 the company launched its 9-speed groupset, followed by its initial 10-speed cassette in 2000.
Cyclists had to wait eight years for Campangnolo’s 11-speed, which they released in 2008. After ten years of development, the Italian specialist maker is now the ahead of the market with the pioneering of road cycling’s first 12-speed in 2018.
Would you upgrade to a 12-speed road groupset? Are you surprised about the double chainring? Let us know in the comments below…