What will Campagnolo release to the market next? Back at the start of the year, we’d have put money on the Italian component company launching a new groupset in 2022. Peak launch season has come and gone and we’ve seen nothing yet, so what’s going on?
It has been ages since Campagnolo launched a new top-end road groupset. The current incarnation of Super Record EPS (with electronic shifting) was introduced in early 2019, a year after the mechanical version.
Campag did launch its 13-speed Ekar gravel groupset in 2020 and there have been new EPS-compatible time trial brake levers and wheels this year – plus work has been done on a motorised hub – so it’s not like the R&D department has been twiddling its thumbs, but three years is about the usual lifespan of a top-end groupset before an overhaul.
Granted, Campagnolo doesn’t play by the same rules and Covid has delayed loads of product launches, but you’d expect something new about now. Beyond that, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Campag has been busy behind the scenes.
We ran stories in December 2021 and again in April this year telling you about Campagnolo’s power meter patent applications.
In short, the documents suggest that Campag is developing its own power meter system that's integrated into a chainset. That’s not news, but we’ve yet to see anything resulting from this.
Loads of patent applications are made – and patents granted – for products that never make it off the drawing board. We’d say, though, that Campag can’t be satisfied with its groupset customers needing to go to third-party brands for power measurement, so this one is a distinct possibility. In fact, we’d go further and say we think this is going to happen.
Would that power meter be released as part of a revamped Campagnolo Super Record groupset? Who knows? Campag has never released a power meter before so we have no history upon which to make a judgement, but it’s certainly a strong possibility.
More evidence that Campagnolo is planning something new comes in the shape of a patent we told you about a couple of months ago that appears to show an Ekar rear derailleur fitted with a battery.
At present, Ekar – Campagnolo’s gravel groupset – is available only with mechanical shifting while the brand’s EPS (Electronic Power Shift) system – now found only on Super Record – relies on a central battery; the individual components don’t have their own batteries. The picture of a battery on a rear derailleur suggests a move towards a wireless system.
This Campagnolo patent focuses on the rear derailleur’s damping device designed to prevent unwanted cage movement that would affect chain tension over rough roads, and one of the drawings shows what looks like a removable battery that’s clipped in place.
Again, this doesn’t prove anything but we’d be surprised if Campagnolo didn’t soon offer an electronic version of Ekar. Shimano and SRAM both offer electronic groupsets for gravel riding so it seems logical that Campagnolo would want to do the same.
Ever more road bikes are being made these days that are compatible only with electronic shifting and this situation could extend into the gravel market. Assuming Campagnolo doesn’t want to limit its appeal, it needs to offer an electronic version of Ekar at some stage, so we’d say that the battery-powered rear derailleur shown in the patent mentioned above has a good chance of becoming a reality.
If that is the case, then a road groupset using similar technology would seem likely. Why develop a wireless system for gravel but stick with wires on the road, especially with SRAM having been wireless for years and Shimano now offering semi-wireless systems?
Campagnolo also has a recent patent for an “actuator device for a bicycle gearshift system” – part of a derailleur – that contains an adjustable elastic element (for example, a torsion spring) that can be set “to elastically yield only if the stress discharged onto the elastic element is greater than the predetermined stress threshold value.”
The idea is to absorb impacts due to the bicycle falling, for example, or when it is loaded on and off vehicles to prevent damage. This patent relates to a motorised derailleur.
Okay, there’s a lot of supposition going on here but, looking at what we know Campagnolo has been thinking about, we’d say that an electronic – probably wireless – version of Ekar is in the works, and a new version of Super Record – probably wireless – is on the way too.
Beyond that, what form is new Campagnolo Super Record likely to take? Well, current Super Record (above) is 12-speed while Ekar is 13-speed. The obvious change would be for Campagnolo to make the most of the R&D work it has already carried out and give Super Record an extra sprocket.
You could argue that 13-speed is more valuable in a 1x (single chainring) system than in a 2x setup where the double chainset means there aren’t such big jumps between ratios. That’s not the only consideration, though. Apart from anything else, going to 13-speed on the road would be a point of difference between Campag and its major rivals. More is better in the marketing world, right?
Also, Campagnolo introduced its N3W freewheel body standard in 2020 to allow the use of 13-speed Ekar systems and, unusually in the bike industry, it was backwards compatible, taking cassettes all the way down to 9-speed.
N3W has the same groove profile as the classic Campagnolo freehub body but it’s 4.4mm shorter. It is directly compatible with new Campagnolo cassettes with 9- and 10-tooth starting sprockets, and to make it compatible with cassettes with 11-tooth starting sprockets, you just use an N3W ring. This means switching Super Record from a 12-speed to a 13-speed system could be relatively painless in this respect.
In terms of shifting, Campagnolo systems are controlled by two levers: a lever behind the brake and a thumb lever on the inner face of the Ergopower control. Some people find this thumb lever difficult to operate from the drops on Campag’s road groupsets whereas the curved and slightly moved Ekar lever used is more accessible.
When he reviewed Campag Ekar for us Matt Page said, “The new position makes it much easier to shift when in the drops than I've found with the road groupset offerings; it is a feature I find very ergonomic and I hope Campagnolo might consider using it for its road groupsets, as for me there is no downside.”
Maybe this design, or a form of it, could transfer over to the road.
Would Campagnolo ditch rim brakes at the top level? It would be a harder decision than for Shimano because Campag has long been the traditionalists’ choice. We’d guess that they’ll remain for the time being.
Of course, what comes next from Campagnolo doesn’t necessarily have to be top-level. The Record, Chorus or Centaur mechanical groupsets could get a revamp, but we can’t see currently 12-speed Record or Chorus going to 13-speed before Super Record. Campag couldn’t very well have a 12-speed flagship groupset with 13-speed lower down the hierarchy. That would just be weird (although Centaur going from 11-speed to 12-speed wouldn’t create an anomaly).
Plus, electronic groupsets are where all the action has been over recent years – it’s where the market is heading – so it would seem brave and/or nuts for Campag not to be focused in this direction. Second-tier Record was available in an EPS version but isn’t any longer – and there was an Athena groupset available in an EPS version, which no longer exists in any form. Campagnolo can’t be content with a single electronic road groupset when Shimano and SRAM each offer three.
This all contributes to our thinking that a new electronic version of Super Record or Ekar is the obvious next step for Campagnolo, with that technology eventually trickling down through the range.
When? Well, this is Campagnolo we’re dealing with. The brand famously releases new components only when it is fully ready. This year? The mechanical version of Ekar was launched in September 2020 so it’s not impossible that we’ll see a launch later in 2022. On the whole, though, we’d say spring 2023 is more likely. Of course, we’ll let you know if we hear any more rumours.
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.