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Verdict: 
Crisp shifting, excellent ergonomics and superb braking courtesy of Campagnolo's powerful disc brakes
Weight: 
2,609g

Since Campagnolo launched Potenza back in 2016, it may not have come close to dethroning Shimano's Ultegra as the most popular groupset for competitive cyclists without an unlimited budget – but after thoroughly enjoying my time with it I would definitely consider Potenza an Ultegra competitor, despite it being fourth in Campagnolo's groupset hierarchy. It's durable, the ergonomics are great and in its disc version you get impressively powerful braking with no discernible difference to the feel or looks of the levers. It also looks cool, and I love the snappy, definitive action of the thumb levers.

  • Pros: Precise shifting, looks cool, wide cassette options, great braking
  • Cons: More expensive than the competition, slightly delicate downshift lever can cause a mis-shift

Potenza was brought in to provide a sensibly priced option for serious cyclists who can't quite stretch to Campag's more luxurious Chorus, Record and Super Record groupset offerings. It's made mostly out of aluminium and comes in at 2,609g in total. That's only 156g more than Campag's Record 12-speed gruppo, and although that has the extra sprocket and carbon luxury throughout, you pay almost an extra £1,000 for the privilege.

> Find your nearest dealer here

My test bike was a Tifosi SS26, and as you can read in my review of that here, Potenza was probably the number one highlight of the bike for me.

Here's a breakdown of my verdict on each of the main components.

Brake levers and shifters

Claimed weight: 504g pair
RRP: £162.99 each

tifosi_ss26_disc_potenza_-_bars_and_shifter.jpg

Campagnolo's Ergopower shifters for disc brakes are just slightly taller than the rim brake versions, and look almost the same. I've always got on really well with the hood and brake lever shape of Campag's groupsets, and in its Potenza guise you get plenty of plush comfort.

The thumb buttons are angled downwards slightly and are bigger than previous lower-tiered Campag paddles. They're much easier to find without looking and really comfortable in use. In fact, I can't really notice the difference between the Potenza and Record/Super Record thumb shifting. In action there is slightly less of a snap and it's marginally less definite than the top-end stuff, but you still get a good old 'click' when moving down the cassette.

The shift levers that take you towards the back of the cassette on the right and back up to the big ring on the left are the only slight criticism for me, as I find them a little flimsy in use. By this, I mean when you make a shift on the cassette it can be a bit slippery and requires quite a throw to get it to move, but it just takes a bit of getting used to. If you're a fan of Campag's multi-shift on its Chorus, Record and Super Record gruppos then I'm afraid you can't do that with the thumb button, it's just one at a time; but you can shift three sprockets back with a throw of the lever.

In terms of adjustability, you can change between two positions for the bite point on the brake lever, depending on how sharp you want your stopping to feel.

tifosi_ss26_disc_potenza_-_bar_and_shifter_2.jpg

Front derailleur

Claimed weight: 94g
RRP: £60.99

tifosi_ss26_disc_potenza_-_front_mech.jpg

The front mech moves quickly and sharply, and even under considerable load on very changeable Somerset terrain I never managed to throw off the chain when moving down to the small ring and back again. The one-piece design with a steel cage looks pretty much the same as high-end Campag front mechs, the differences are just in the weight and materials used.

Rear derailleur

Claimed weight: 211g
RRP: £135.99

tifosi_ss26_disc_potenza_-_rear_mech.jpg

My test bike came with an 11-32 cassette, so it was the 72.5mm longer cage rear mech I sampled (the shorter cage deals with the 11-29 cassette and smaller, as used by Stu in his review of the rim brake version of Potenza). Again, it looks the same in shape and design as the higher end Campag 11-speed kit, but has a technopolymer/carbon mix construction instead of full carbon. It served me very well over a long test period, staying perfectly aligned the whole time at the top and bottom limits.

Campag's Embrace technology means the chain covers more teeth on the sprockets when you're pedalling, which is supposed to reduce wear to your drivetrain and make the shifting smoother. I haven't used a previous lower end Campag groupset such as Athena to compare, but I can vouch for the shifting being smooth and the components staying in perfect working order after over 1,000 miles of riding.

Chainset

Claimed weight: 801g
RRP: £204.99

tifosi_ss26_disc_potenza_-_crank.jpg

The aluminium crankset with a steel axle is available in the now standard 53/39, 52/36 and 50/34 chainring options, and I had the mid-compact on my test bike. As Stu mentioned in his review of rim brake Potenza, removing it is far easier nowadays as there is now an internal crankset extractor to reduce the need to buy super-expensive tools and/or hammer the crap out of your bike to get the thing out (see our round-up of Shimano and Campagnolo's greatest design blunders).

It felt stiff and smooth at all times, and more than capable of being used in furious sprints, with no concerns about flex. Most importantly of all, I think it looks great and maintains the classic Campagnolo aesthetics that its new 12-speed cranksets are moving away from (not something I mind, but we have noticed grumblings in our comments section) so you might even prefer Potenza in the looks department.

Cassette

Claimed weight: 251g (11-32)
RRP: £146.99 (11-32)

tifosi_ss26_disc_potenza_-_rear_drop_out.jpg

Your cassette options are 11-25, 11-27, 11-29, 12-27 and 11-32, and I had the latter on my bike. Shifting felt great, and while things can get a bit gappy towards the back (25 to 28, and 28 to 32) which would leave me wanting a closer ratio for racing, the 32 provides a great bailout option for hilly rides with no discernible compromises for most. It's built using one triplet and eight single sprockets with aluminium spacers, and weighs in at 251g.

Chain

Claimed weight: 256g
RRP: £42.99

tifosi_ss26_disc_potenza_-_drive_train.jpg

You get the same chain as on Camapg Chorus here, which is 5.5mm wide with steel links and a nickel/PTFE anti-friction treatment. It's 36g heavier than the Record and Super Record 12-speed chain and obviously a bit wider. In use I had no issues with it at all, still finding it worked liked new after over 1,000 miles and a weekly blast through a chain cleaning tool.

Brakes and rotors

Claimed weight: Calliper 115g; Rotor 99g
RRP: Rotors £35.99 each; Callipers £199.99 each

tifosi_ss26_disc_potenza_-_rear_disc_brake.jpg

Potenza went disc brake in 2017, and you're getting the same rotors and callipers as you get on the higher-end Campag groupsets. That means, as I've already mentioned in my review of Record Disc, fantastically sharp braking that doesn't squeal or get way too hot under a lot of load. I had a 140mm rotor at the rear and 160mm at the front on my test bike, which provided plenty of stopping power. They have rounded edges just in case you're still worried they will cut you to bits, and don't add a great deal of weight (99g for a 140mm) to your bike.

The brake callipers have the classic Campagnolo logo on them and for what it's worth, look pretty cool. They use the bang-up-to-date flat mount standard, and have a clear wear indicator so you know when to change the pads. The pads themselves are rounded to make for quicker disc insertion and wheel changes, which I can vouch for as I found wheel removal and mounting was pretty faff-free. The braking is as powerful and confidence-inspiring as any other road discs on the market, in my opinion, and easily tuneable to get the perfect amount of modulation via screws on the inside of the levers.

tifosi_ss26_disc_potenza_-_front_disc_brake.jpg

Value

In terms of value, as a standalone groupset its RRP might seem a little expensive considering it's in the middle of Campag's groupset hierarchy; although it's safe to say most customers will probably be buying it on a bike, and you're probably looking at around the £2-2.5k mark for a carbon frame with full Potenza groupset and middling alloy wheels. Examples include my Tifosi SS26 test bike at £2,499 and down to £2k online nowadays, and the Cinelli Veltrix Disc at £2,499. That's about in line with what you'd pay for a bike with a mechanical Ultegra disc groupset and similar build, so although your options are limited you can get Potenza on off-the-peg bikes without a significant levy.

> Your complete guide to Campagnolo groupsets

All in all, I was hugely impressed with Potenza Disc, and would have it on my race bike in a heartbeat. Shifting is precise and accurate, the components are built to last and the disc braking is a good as you'd get on Campag's top-tier groupsets. There's little not to like in my opinion, and if you're a fan of classic Campagnolo looks then you might even prefer it to its latest top-end 12-speed offerings.

Verdict

Crisp shifting, excellent ergonomics and superb braking courtesy of Campagnolo's powerful disc brakes

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Campagnolo Potenza Disc

Size tested: 52/36, 11-32

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Campagnolo says: "The premium aluminum offering from Campagnolo, the Potenza 11 disc brake groupset combines the performance of the top end groups with the increased versatility of a rear derailleur capable of incorporating up to 32 tooth cassettes. Add Campagnolo disc brake technology and you have a groupset that is ready to take on anything that the road may put ahead of you."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Up to 32t cassette, five cassettes in total to choose from

Potenza 11 Ergopower hydraulic levers and hoods

Aluminum brake levers

Long or short cage derailleurs

Hollow crankset - 'Power Torque +" System

Chain - wider link design

Front derailleur - new steel cage, new cage mounting position, new rod design

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Typically cool Campag looks, well engineered and and designed in all areas of the groupset.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Does the job for everyday riding and is good enough to race too.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

Really hardwearing; over 1,000 miles before any adjustments were needed.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10

Weighs about the same as Ultegra, which comes in at just over 2,500g for the whole groupset.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
9/10

Super-comfortable levers and hoods, ideal.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

More expensive than the competition.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Really well – very reliable and hardly ever needs any adjustment.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Great braking, really comfortable levers, stiff through the cranks, reliable, durable...

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Downshift lever can be a little slippery, and it's expensive.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It's more expensive than the Shimano Ultegra 11-speed disc groupset, both at RRP and discounts online. Ultegra R8020 has an RRP of £1,099 while Potenza is £300 more. Considering Potenza is Campag's fourth tier (although it's supposed to be a direct Ultegra competitor) it is comparatively pretty expensive. SRAM Force 11 Disc is also quite a bit cheaper with an RRP of £1,040.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes, but on a bike and probably not as a groupset-only.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

I really enjoyed my time with the Potenza groupset. The marks down are just for the extra cost compared to the competition, and I still think the right downshift lever could be made a little sharper.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 27  Height: 179cm  Weight: 75kg

I usually ride: Road bike (currently Specialized Tarmac)  My best bike is: Ridley Chronus TT bike

I've been riding for: Under 5 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, triathlon races

After cobbling together a few hundred quid during his student days off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story), Jack bought his first road bike at the age of 20 and has been hooked ever since. He joined road.cc in 2017 having previously being Staff Writer at 220 Triathlon magazine, and reports on all things tech as well as editing road.cc's live blog. He is also the news editor of our electric-powered sister site eBikeTips. Jack's preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking (the latter being another long story), and on Sunday afternoons he can often be found on an M5 service station indulging in his favourite post-race meal of 20 chicken nuggets, a sausage roll, caramel shortbread and a large strawberry milkshake. 

20 comments

Avatar
mylesrants [503 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

It would be far to say this compares with the Shimano 105 hydro groupset on performance but NOT on finish, where the half price groupset is far better than this! I have owned both in 2018 and this was end of a 30 year love affair with the brand.

The Magura made brakes look like they are painted with hammerite and the shifting is left for dead, especially at low revs with the new shimano shadow design rear mech.

Not sure how they will sell one bike with this grouppo in a shop with Ultegra..

Avatar
Nick T [1305 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

I’ve built a gravel frame up with this and it’s been stellar so far, I’ve taken it through some very muddy trails and the shifting has been wonderfully fast and precise despite having half of Hertfordshire caked around the mechs.

Avatar
Chris Hayes [459 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

I know that Campag claim that it is the equivalent of Ultegra, but this is very expensive for a fourth-tier groupset. Can't imagine that there will be that many  'off-the-peg' Potenza-equipped bikes either, I doubt that you could hide the price without slashing the quality of the other components... 

Plus, that chainset is quite FUGLY - possibly the worst looking on the market.   

Avatar
Prosper0 [239 posts] 8 months ago
3 likes
Chris Hayes wrote:

I know that Campag claim that it is the equivalent of Ultegra, but this is very expensive for a fourth-tier groupset.  

 

Groupset “tier” numbers are irrelevant, completely different company, completely different products. 

Price, weight and performance are very similar to Ultegra - only a nicer looking, more ergonomic and intuitive shifting system and more interesting/exclusive than bog standard Shimano. 

Ie. A slightly more expensive and a slightly superior product to Ultegra, which was its design purpose. 

Avatar
TonbridgeJon [22 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

I have the rim brake version on my steel winter bike. It’s nice, but the black colour doesn’t half wear off the cranks quickly.

Avatar
TonbridgeJon [22 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

I have the rim brake version on my steel winter bike. It’s nice, but the black colour doesn’t half wear off the cranks quickly.

Avatar
TonbridgeJon [22 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

I have the rim brake version on my steel winter bike. It’s nice, but the black colour doesn’t half wear off the cranks quickly.

Avatar
Mathemagician [71 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes

I've had this groupset on my bike for just under a year now, love it. I personally prefer the shifter ergonomics infinitely more than Shimano's and Sram's- Shimano hydraulic STi I just find hideously bulky- big noises were made when R9120/R8020/R7020 came out, about how the hoods were much smaller compared with the non-series stuff that came before, but they're still f*cking huge if you ask me. Sram's feel OK in the hand but they don't look particularly nice...again, personal preference.  

I sort of know what the reviewer means about the mis-shifting thing, but this only happened with me the first few times I rode it...once I got used to the feel of the shifting, it hasn't happened since. 

At the end of the day people are gonna find ways to criticize what they don't like, which sums up some of the comments above- calling the chainset ugly when Shimano's looks more or less the same, for example. 

Also, there's not much point paying too much attention to RRP- I bought my groupset for £1100 and that was 12 months ago from a local bike shop, so I imagine it can be had for much less now. 

Avatar
darnac [29 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes

I've been riding this groupset configuration on my Wilier Cento 10 NDR for a year now and entirely agree with the review. The discs saved my life a year ago when confronted with a tanker truck coming round a blind corner up the very narrow road I was descending near my home in the Pyrenees. I braked so hard that I split open a new Conti 4 Seasons back tyre but the bike stayed on line - impressive!

Avatar
Jimmy Walnuts [86 posts] 8 months ago
3 likes
TonbridgeJon wrote:

I have the rim brake version on my steel winter bike. It’s nice, but the black colour doesn’t half wear off the cranks quickly.

 

That's not the crank's fault. You need to get a bike fit and get your feet/foot alignment sorted. I bet your bike shoe(s) look a mess too.

Avatar
Chris Hayes [459 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
Prosper0 wrote:
Chris Hayes wrote:

I know that Campag claim that it is the equivalent of Ultegra, but this is very expensive for a fourth-tier groupset.  

 

i think i said that.

Avatar
Chris Hayes [459 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
Prosper0 wrote:
Chris Hayes wrote:

I know that Campag claim that it is the equivalent of Ultegra, but this is very expensive for a fourth-tier groupset.  

 

i think i said that.

Avatar
Dingaling [110 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

About two years ago I saw a Storck frameset on offer for 345 quid and decided I could get it and build a road bike for my daughter. It was a few months before I was able to pick it up from my mate's home and another 3 months before I got down to buying the components. Being a fan of Campag gear I settled on the Potenza groupset. What surprised me at the top of this article was the price tag. I must have been lucky because I got the whole group, admittedly with rim brakes , for under 500 quid. I'm not a fan of black, I like a coloured frame and I thought the Potenza group would look better on the blue frame in silver. I can't comment on how it feels but my daughter is happy riding it which is saying something because her first try on a road bike a few years ago, after coming from a mountain bike, did not go well. She just didn't feel secure on the narrow tyres together with the road bike geometry but everything is fine on the Storck. Now I have taken a picture I just hope I can get it loaded up in the right place!!

 

 

 

 

Avatar
Miller [281 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

I have the full Potenza Disc group built onto a Genesis Vapour CX frame. I use this bike for mixed terrain riding. Yes the brakes are excellent albeit a bit shrieky at times, but somewhat to my surprise the star of the show for me is the front and rear shifting. I did a CX Sportive on Sunday in the Chilterns through absolute oceans of mud and the shifting never faltered. Don't believe that one-by is a requirement for gravel, kids, it absolutely is not when shifting like this is available.

Avatar
Miller [281 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

By the way, the Potenza HO chainset for the disk group is ultra-torque fitting, not power-torque as stated in the article.

Avatar
Surfshack [10 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

I recently put the rim brake version on a Storck as well and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Good stuff. Would buy again.

Avatar
srchar [1565 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Wiggle and CRC are both selling a Potenza disc groupset for a penny shy of £600 at the moment. I've placed an order to replace the Tiagra groupset that always looked a bit wrong on Mrs Srchar's Pinarello Gan.

Avatar
srchar [1565 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Hmm, back up to a grand now. May have been a misprice, given it was the same price as the rim brake groupset. I should've bought two..

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ficklewhippet [111 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Yes, it was the 170mm crank gruppo that was 599, must have been a typo as now it's 999 and the 172.5mm is 1099! Whoops!

Avatar
keith_h [2 posts] 2 days ago
0 likes

I have both groupsets on different bikes and find they both work well enough, but are different in how they deliver. Campagnolo levers/hoods are a much better fit for my hands than Shimano. Shimano shifting is somewhat slicker, Campagnolo has a bit more noise but is no less effective.

Worth pointing out RS785 Shimano calipers had a defect, mine had cracked pistons from new and I've replaced them with Clarks calipers which easily stop a fat bloke down steep hills. Shimano replacements weren't available at the time the problem was detected. No issues with Campagnolo brakes at all. Both setups provide confident stopping at speed.

Oh yes, aesthetics. The dark Shimano groupset looks purposeful and hides the grime. The polished Campagnolo groupset looks great but the crank is not the prettiest ever made and marks easily. It requires frequent cleaning to keep it looking at its best. But its the only choice for some bikes that demand a polished gruppo.

Comparisons of "tiers" is a marketing furphy. It's horses for courses and you'll buy what works for you at the best price you can find at the time. Right now I prefer the Potenza gruppo over Shimano Ultegra, although as with anything, that may change in future.