Campagnolo has at last revealed details of its hydraulic disc brake project which will cover its Super Record, Record, Chorus and Potenza groupsets, including the Super Record EPS and Record EPS electronic variants.
“You might ask why we are presenting disc brakes this year when we all know what happened last year: the pro teams were allowed to test disc brakes but then after Ventoso’s accident [in the 2016 Paris-Roubaix, blamed on a disc brake rotor, although that is disputed] everything was stopped,” said Lorenzo Taxis, Campagnolo's marketing and communication director.
“This season started with the same concept: the teams are allowed to test but let’s see what happens. We thought we couldn’t wait any longer, so we decided to finalise the project. We are the last company in the peloton to launch disc brakes, so we need to be the best.”
We had the chance to use the new products when Campagnolo flew us out to the launch in Gran Canaria a couple of weeks ago. We’ve had to keep shtum about them until now; that’s part of the deal.
Before going into detail, here are the essentials:
• Campagnolo’s new high-end disc brake systems are called H11 and they’re available in both mechanical shifting (for Super Record, Record and Chorus) and EPS (for Super Record and Record) versions.
• Discs are not (at this stage, at least) being added to the Chorus EPS groupset.
• Campagnolo’s mid-level Potenza groupset gets its own hydraulic disc brakes, the design being similar to that of the H11 brakes but using a different material.
• Campagnolo initially partnered with Magura on the hydraulic cylinder but took the design and modified it. Everything except the hydraulic cylinder has been 100% designed by Campagnolo, and it is all made in Campag’s own facilities in the EU.
• The master cylinder is positioned at the front of the Ergopower control. This makes the front end 8mm taller than the rim brake equivalent.
• The front brake will use a 160mm rotor while you’ll have the choice of either 160mm or 140mm at the rear, Campagnolo suggesting 160mm for riders weighing over 80kg.
The master cylinder, which is identical across the range of Campagnolo disc brakes, is positioned vertically at the front of the Ergopower control so the front end is higher than that of the equivalent rim brake version, but only by 8mm. The bleed port is positioned at the top for ease of operation and the system uses low viscosity mineral oil.
Although the ergonomics are almost identical to those of the rim brake Ergopowers when you’re resting your hands on the hoods or using the controls from the drops, this slight increase in height does give you a much more secure hand position when you grab the top of the controls and ride with your forearms parallel to the ground.
The disc brake Ergopower levers certainly look a bit more nose-heavy than rim-brake Ergopowers and there will doubtless be people who object to them on that basis. Campag, of course, reckons that this is “perhaps the most elegant disc brake command solution available.” The shape reminds me more of SRAM’s hydraulic levers than Shimano’s, although the front-end rise is less extreme.
The brake levers still have a double curve but they have been slightly modified to include an outward curve towards the bottom that’s intended to make it easier to brake when you’re using the drops of modern handlebars.
The H11 Ergopower controls for Super Record, Record and Chorus groupsets have carbon-fibre brake levers while the Potenza Ergopower controls have aluminium brake levers.
You can adjust the amount of free stroke you get at the lever before the brake engages using what Campagnolo calls its Adjustable Modulation System (AMS). You have the choice of two different positions – long and short – and swapping between them is a simple job with a 2.5mm hex key.
You can also micro-adjust the reach to the brake lever and independently adjust the reach to lever 3, the shift lever that sits behind the brake lever.
The forged aluminium disc brake callipers are flat mount standard, compatible with all flat mount frames and forks out there without the need for an adaptor which could compromise the rigidity and integrity of the system. The two screws need to mount the brake calliper are available in several different lengths.
The brakes feature 22mm pistons made from phenolic resin, chosen for its thermal insulation qualities. The idea, of course, is to minimise the amount of heat that gets transferred from the pads to the rest of the system.
Rather than using a mechanical spring, the brakes have a magnetic spring on the pistons. Campagnolo says that this won’t wear out like a mechanical spring and it guarantees a faster return.
Campagnolo uses an organic resin pad compound that it says is extremely resistant to heat and provides uniform and consistent braking performance whatever the climate and however much braking you do.
The pad, which sits in a frame that’s made of steel for strength, has a visible indicator to show you when it has worn out. It is designed to make a louder noise during braking when it’s time for a replacement too.
The front brake will use a 160mm rotor while you have the choice of either 160mm or 140mm at the rear, Campagnolo suggesting 160mm for riders over 80kg.
Campagnolo’s steel rotors are, of course, designed to dissipate heat to maximise safety without adding too much weight, hence multiple slots in the braking surface.
In the light of safety concerns from the pro peloton, the edges of the rotors have been rounded off, adding an extra element to the production process. Those edges are about as smooth and unblade-like as you can imagine!
A disc brake-specific chainset? Yup. This requires an explanation.
“As the geometries and spacing found on disc brake frames differ a good deal with respect to their traditional rim brake predecessors, the design of the transmission and chainline must take these differences into account to ensure optimum performance,” says Campagnolo.
“Campagnolo engineers have developed the H11 chainset to match perfectly with Super Record, Record and Chorus transmissions, as well as a new Potenza 11 chainset, to ensure shifting is as crisp, clean and precise as any other groupset with rim brakes. This new chainset design, in both H11 and Potenza 11 versions, ensures excellent precision for 142mm rear spacing and does so without altering the Q factor [145.5mm].”
So there you go, that’s the reasoning. Campagnolo says even the chainrings are specific to the disc brake system.
Here’s what Campagnolo’s new disc brake components will cost. We only have prices in Euros for the individual components.
Potenza chainset €254.97
2 Potenza Ergopower + calliper and screws €781.92
2 rotors €100
Bleed kit €33.25
H11 chainset €649.94
2 H11 Ergopower + calliper and screws €986.90
2 rotors €100
Bleed kit €33.25
H11 chainset €649.94
2 H11 Ergopower + calliper and screws €1,105.68
2 rotors €100
Bleed kit €33.25
We do have UK prices for complete groupsets with hydraulic disc brakes:
Potenza mechanical £1,339.43
Chorus mechanical £1,985.81
Record mechanical £2,231.11
Record EPS £3,443.26
Super Record mechanical £2,439.68
Super Record EPS £3,725.95
The new disc brakes should be available from the end of this month.
I got the chance to use the H11 brakes on a bike with a Super Record mechanical groupset. The ride was about 2:30hrs long with 1,300m of climbing and descending – some hairpins, some meandering roads, and some long, straight downhills.
The first thing you notice is that, as Campagnolo promises, the ergonomics of the Ergopowers are very similar to those of the rim brake controls. They feel just as comfortable when you’re riding on the Vari-Cushion hoods and the levers are equally accessible.
There are a couple of differences. First, the brake lever kinks out just a little bit more at the bottom, the idea being that it works better when you’re on the drops. To be honest, the difference is so subtle that I don’t think I’d have even noticed if I hadn’t been told about it.
The other difference is that the height of the Ergopower has been increased at the front by 8mm in order to accommodate the hydraulic brake’s master cylinder. This is something that you will notice if you’re familiar with Campag’s rim brake Ergopowers.
Visually, I don’t think the disc brake Ergopower is quite as attractive as a rim brake version, but it doesn’t particularly offend me either. You’ll doubtless have your own feelings on that.
What’s not really a matter of dispute is that this higher front end gives you a far more secure position when you lean forward, put your hands on the tops of the Ergopowers and ride with your forearms parallel to the ground. I like riding in this position and the small increase in height makes a big difference when you want to get low and aggressive.
What about when you actually apply the brakes? Campagnolo claims that its disc brake groupset decelerates faster than its competitors for the same amount of pressure at the lever – anywhere from 23% to 26% faster in the wet, depending on the competitor, and anywhere from 4% to 55% faster in dry conditions.
We rode in completely dry conditions so I can’t comment on wet weather performance. The experience in the dry, though, was excellent. These brakes really bite, offering an impressive amount of progressive power without the need to apply too much pressure at the lever.
Are they 4-55% better than the opposition? Pfff! On an unfamiliar bike and unfamiliar terrain, I’m not able to verify that claim. What I can say is that haring down a 30 minute descent, I didn’t have to give a second thought to the braking, and that’s always a good sign. Need to feather off a little speed for a slight right-hander? The slightest of squeezes will achieve it. Find yourself overcooking it into a tight hairpin? There’s masses of power to bring yourself back on track. The Campag brakes performed faultlessly and virtually noiselessly throughout.
The Adjustable Modulation System (AMS) works well. This allows you to adjust the amount of movement at the lever before the brake starts to bite. You can choose between long and short positions, switching between them with a 2.5mm hex key. The difference is significant, the choice between them coming down to a matter of taste. I’m sure you’d get used to either setting pretty quickly.
You can also dial the brake levers in closer to the handlebar if you have small hands, as you can with Campagnolo rim brakes (and those from many other manufacturers), and independently alter the distance to lever 3, the shifter paddle that sits behind the brake lever.
Campagnolo says that the system “is fully capable of withstanding heat and maintaining performance in situations that cause failure in certain models of the competition.”
We descended for maybe 45 minutes, but only about half of that required a lot of braking, the remainder being shallow and straight. That’s not long enough to find out whether the brakes are likely to cook on a long Alpine descent in the middle of July.
All in all, early impressions are positive. Campagnolo has rocked up to the party late but it has arrived with some prosecco tucked under its arm. The Ergopower controls are great and the braking performance feels to me to be at least on a par with the other big players out there. Long term use will reveal more but it looks like Campag has spent its time well getting everything up to a high standard before release.
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 road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. 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.