There is little The Hub enjoys more than getting hands-on with the latest kit, so the arrival of road cycling’s first ever 12-speed groupset caused quite a stir around our HQ this week.
Campagnolo’s paradigm-shifting suite of components, released in May 2018, is pushing cycling technology into a new gear, with the addition of an extra sprocket triggering innovations throughout the brand’s top-level Record and Super Record gruppos.
Leaping at the chance to see the Super Record system first hand, The Hub welcomed cycling-tech boffin Gary Turner, key account manager at leading Campagnolo’s UK distributor, Chicken Cycling Kit, to help unpick the new features component by component.
Above: Campagnolo’s 12-speed cassette is intensely engineered to provide smooth shifting over a huge gear range
The launch of the 12-speed Super Record and Record groupsets comes exactly 10 years after the Italian brand pioneered the 11-speed cassette, a development which has left an indelible print on road cycling ever since.
The improved shifting and performance of 11-speed led to its domination of top level groupsets across all the main brands over the last few years. And while there is scepticism throughout the cycling world over the additional sprocket, the success of its predecessor suggests there is every reason to think Campagnolo’s extra cog could soon be just as commonplace as 11-speed is today.
To find out more, The Hub’s Lyn Weir spoke to Gary about the new suite of components and how each has been redesigned to crank up the performance of Campagnolo’s next-generation drivetrain.
The first item for the big unveiling is the ‘Ergopower’ levers and hoods. It’s here where the changes in appearance for the 2018 groupset are most apparent. A sweeping and ergonomic curve now fits the hand more easily, while Gary explained easy adjustments can be made to fit a variety of hand sizes.
Next was the revolutionary 12-sprocket cassette. Despite the extra gear, the cassette’s width remains the same width as the previous 11-speed Super Record version. This was achieved by reducing both the space between the cogs and the width of each sprocket, which means the new cassette is compatible with existing freehub bodies – good news for cyclists who want to continue using the same wheels and frame without huge modifications.
Meanwhile, the extra sprocket allows for single tooth increments all the way to the 7th sprocket, so only two cassette ranges feature in the new groupset – 11-29 and 11-32.
For 2018 the Super Record brakes have a new aerodynamic profile and slicker look and feel. Campagnolo users will be glad to know the controlled and predictable actuation of former models remains, while removable brake shoes make the callipers easy to modify.
The success of the 12-speed system hinged on changes to the rear derailleur, which has undergone a significant overhaul. Gone are the various cage lengths, with only a medium cage necessary to service the two 12-speed cassette sizes. Dubbed 3D, the derailleur now pivots on three axis points to provide superior shifting across its enlarged jockey wheels.
According to Gary, thinner arms and better action across the full spread of gears are the headline features of the new front derailleur. The component has also been optimised for use with wider tyres.
The 12-speed chain is narrower, allowing it to run smoothly on the thinner sprockets of the cassette. And, despite its lighter materials, Campagnolo has stress-tested it to the same longevity standards as its tough 11-speed brothers.
The final item to be opened was the distinctive Super Record chainset, which features a smoothed and aerodynamically optimised four-arm layout. The unidirectional carbon finish is just as striking in real life, while the hollow weight-saving carbon construction makes is surprisingly light.
The Campagnolo 12-speed groupset is available now at Chain Reaction Cycles. Check out the link below for more detail, full product description, and pricing.
What do you think of the shift to 12-speed? Do you welcome the continuing advancement of cycling technology or is it a sprocket too far? Let us know in the comment section below…