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Is Campagnolo about to ditch thumb lever on wireless groupset?

Italian groupset brand set to introduce a new system with two shift levers behind the brake lever, and small buttons on inner face of shifter body

Just-published patent applications give the clearest indication yet that Campagnolo is about to launch a wireless Super Record groupset, and it looks like the brand’s distinctive thumb levers are on the way out, replaced by a second finger-operated shift lever that sits behind the brake lever, and buttons on the body of the shift unit.

We’ve written a zillion stories (I’m rounding up here) suggesting that Campagnolo is planning a wireless groupset – and it is – but all of the evidence so far has come from rear derailleur patent applications. This is the first time we’ve gained insight into the shifters.

> Is Campagnolo planning a wireless groupset? 

A patent application (US 2023/0031666 A1) for a ‘manual control device for a bicycle’ shows a shifter that is powered by a coin cell (marked 69 on the pictures). Campagnolo’s usual thumb lever on the inner face (referred to as the ‘proximal face') of the shifter body is missing. Instead, the patent application shows two finger-operated levers (marked 10 and 11 on the pictures), one sitting above the other.

The thumb lever has been a defining characteristic of Campagnolo shift systems for years. Campag could have easily ditched it when introducing EPS (Electronic Power Shift) but wanted to retain some of the look and feel of a mechanical system. You know, brand recognition, point of difference... stuff like that.

2023 Patent Application Campagnolo shifters - 1

The shifter has a rounded hood reminiscent of a Shimano design, although that doesn’t mean that the final product will be this shape.

Control lever 10 is for upshifts and control lever 11 is for downshifts. Campagnolo has clearly thought about making sure you don’t press the wrong one accidentally. It intends for you to use your forefinger for the upper lever and your middle finger for the lower one.

“The cyclist’s finger may therefore ‘specialise’ and an involuntary actuation is avoided,” it says.

“The control regions [for the individual levers] may have a different surface texture so as to allow them to be distinguished by feel… [and] may be separated by a slit.”

2023 Patent Application Campagnolo shifters - 4

As well as those levers, the shifter body (which is called the ‘support body’ in the patent application) also features push buttons (marked 16 and 17) broadly where the thumb lever sits on previous designs.

These buttons “are in charge of, for example, issuing commands to electronics of controlled equipment, in particular to the electronics of the front derailleur in the case of the left control device shown, of the [rear] gearshift in the case of the right control device”.

They’re positioned there “so as to be easily accessed by the cyclist’s thumb, and in a position to be visible to the cyclist.”

> Is a 13-speed Campagnolo road groupset on the way?

In other words, it looks like you’ll be able to move both derailleurs with your thumbs using these buttons when you’re riding with your hands on the hoods. 

The part marked 18 on the pictures is a ‘luminous indicator’ – presumably something like an LED to indicate which chainring you’re currently using or perhaps battery level.

The shifter body will be covered in the usual way, with either holes to allow you to press the buttons or areas of greater flexibility in that area.

If we were in any doubt about this being a wireless system, Campagnolo spells it out.

2023 Patent Application Campagnolo shifters - 3

“The control device may comprise a coaxial cable [marked 24 in the pictures] having an antenna function for wireless communication with one or more pieces of equipment controlled by the control device and/or with other electronic devices.”

In other words, the shifter will be able to communicate wirelessly with the rest of the system and also with things like bike computers and apps.

Campagnolo doesn’t yet have the approval necessary to use a wireless system in the US but we’re confident that’s just a matter of time.

We always point out that anything patent-related isn’t guaranteed to become reality but Campagnolo has done so much work on a wireless shift system that we’d be stunned if we didn’t see this being used by pro riders over the next few months. We imagine that we’re looking at a revamp of the top-level Super Record groupset soon, and possibly an electronic version of the Ekar gravel groupset before too long too.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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matthewn5 | 1 year ago

I like Campag thumb levers. Indeed, I ended up with a bike with Shimano Di2 a couple of years ago, and really couldn't get to grips with the 'two buttons together' thing. So I've put Shimano's 'sprinter' shifters on where the thumb levers go, and programmed them to work like Campag thumb shifters, and programmed both buttons on the levers to work like Campag shifters. Works fine now cheeky

griggers | 1 year ago

I'd happily cut both my thumbs off to contyuding Campagnolo 

chrisonabike replied to griggers | 1 year ago

That reads like you did - I hope it worked, whatever you wanted?

cyclisto | 1 year ago
1 like

I ride on 9 speed Sora brifters that I had bought used 10 years ago. Very rarely I will fall on drops where the thumb trigger is indeed not very comfortable, so for lazy riders like me they are perfect.

wtjs | 1 year ago

I remember using a thumb shift on somebody's bike many years ago, and that was fine, and have been using Shimano levers for decades and they're also excellent. None of these are awful, or crap etc. I have no reason to change to Campag. but I am sure they will be good.

ChuckSneed | 1 year ago

Good riddance. The thumb lever is awful and I'm sure the only reason they haven't moved on sooner is because Shimano and Sr*m have the only other ways of doing it.

jpj84 replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago

I've twice tried di2 in the past, and ditched it, because I could never remember which button did what. This looks like I'll have the exact same problem.

So I'll stick with ultra shift, which has always been great for me.


Robbiedondo replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago

I personally am a fan of the thumb lever, works for me

Dnnnnnn replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago

Not sure what's awful about it - I find it perfectly fine and probably preferable to Shimano's two-levers-together approach, especially when wearing winter gloves.

HLaB replied to ChuckSneed | 1 year ago

Shimano got it way wrong with the Sora thumb shifter and I'm glad they ditched it but Campagnolo got it right for me and I'll miss it.  I loved being able to shift up from all positions (with sora you needed to be on the hoods).  On long climbs I found it particularly useful at or near the crest being able to shift up quickly with the flick of a pinke finger whilst still being upright on the tops.

Dnnnnnn replied to HLaB | 1 year ago

HLaB wrote:

Shimano got it way wrong with the Sora thumb shifter and I'm glad they ditched it but Campagnolo got it right for me and I'll miss it

Exactly my view. The old cheaper Shimano button wasn't great (and even then it wasn't awful) but the Campag one is much better.

ubercurmudgeon | 1 year ago

Even if they do, it'll be so exclusive and expensive that any thumb-lever fans reading this won't need to worry about having to retrain their muscle memory this decade.

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