CYCLING WEEKLY10 OUT OF 10
Campagnolo became the first of the big three groupset manufacturers to introduce 12-speed to the road market when it unveiled new versions of Record and Super Record last year.
The Super Record groupset landed in an innocuous-looking box on Cycling Weekly’s doorstep. It came alive when installed and tested.
Look and feel
Whereas the ‘11’ featured as a central part of the design of the previous groupsets, Campagnolo left ‘12’ off any of the components — perhaps to imply that there’s more to the new gruppo than just another gear.
Both the Record and Super Record groups are new from top to bottom. It is not just the cassette and — radically different looking — rear derailleur, but a major change across all elements.
Four new versions are on offer now: both the Record and Super Record offer rim and disc-brake versions, with the former coming in direct mount or dualpivot brake options. Changes are expected to trickle down to the Chorus, Potenza and Centaur groups soon.
The rear derailleur stands out with its longer body, new parallelogram geometry and longer pulley cage of 72.5mm. The jockey wheels have gone up to 12 teeth with more aggressive teeth on the top pulley to move the chain through the cassette more smoothly.
There is also that extra aluminium link which can be removed if you have a direct-mount frame. The shorter connection should offer even better shifting and faster wheel changes with the mech back and clear of the axle. It would be good to try, but for this ride, I’m using a traditional frame and set-up.
Up front, the changes are not as noticeable but they are certainly there. The longer front derailleur arm sits separate from the parallelogram plate. Before, it was one piece of forged material, but now it pushes on a tab when shifting. Campagnolo claims this gives a straighter chainline in any gear. The design also reduces the amount of force and lever throw required to make a shift.
The Ergopower levers, as with previous versions, offer multiple index shifting to the front derailleurto find the position that’s exactly right. The right Ergopower shifter allows you to upshift three at a time — i.e. select lower gears — which is very handy when you race into the base of a climb and need to change quickly — and you can dump five gears in the other direction for the descent via the time-honoured Campagnolo thumb tab.
The double curves of the levers remain gentle and sexy, formed from carbon. Campagnolo now allows you to set the levers closer to the bars for smaller hands. Also those same small hands will enjoy a redesigned thumb tab that is wider and tilted downwards, easier to reach from the drops. However, it is not as easy to reach as the lowered thumb paddle on the electric groups.
The inner shift blade also is a bit wider and easier to flick with your index finger when needed. The tilt of both Ergo levers also edges further outwards making them even easier to reach and engage. The internals and design, says Campag, reduce much of the free play and are made for more responsive shifting. If the rear mech looks much more aggressive then the brakes and crank arms take on a sleek and aero look. I like the look of the clean brakeset against the disc setup Campag offers. These calipers, no longer skeleton, look angular and modern.
Their function, too, is on a par with Dura-Ace’s acclaimed modulation. The calipers allow for 28c tyres. They also come in direct-mount options. If you are a fan of Campagnolo’s crank-arm redesign five years ago, you will love the even sleeker new appearance for 2019. The first big change is the lack of a centre hole on the right arm, smoothed over with carbon that runs all the way to the rings, bridging the two opposing pairs of spider arms. The hollow carbon-fibre arms and extra carbon brace at the outer reaches is said to stiffen up the chainring when sprinting.
How does it perform?
It took a steady hand and attention to dial in the rear derailleur just right given that the extra 12th gear fits in the same space. Everything is more precise, tighter and better engineered.
Once it is right, it clicks like a firearm — bang, bang, bang! The chain jumps down one gear, another and another, clicking easily with those redesigned levers. I rode some of my usual routes around Florence, which are never flat for long. You are constantly climbing or descending. Before, with the 11-speed group, I never felt that I was lacking but now it seems as if the 12th gear is necessary. Clearly it gets one over on its competitors, but Campagnolo made the decision to deal with the widening gap between the smallest and biggest sprocket of rear cassettes. Even with compact and semi-compact cranksets (I tested the latter), cyclists often reach for 30 or 32-tooth sprockets. Now with the 12 gears, Campag’s engineers have filled in the spaces in the cassette so that to include a lower bottom gear doesn’t mean bigger gaps elsewhere.
On the climb to Olmo above Florence, with it in the 36 front ring, I easily found the right ratio. Again, I never felt I was lacking before with 11 sprockets, but now every option feels available. The cassettes are offered in 11-29 or 11-32, which is the one I tested. The first seven gears on both move up in one-tooth increments.
Shifting around to the extremes, I could also feel that Campagnolo improved cross-chainring riding. I put it in the 36x12: no front derailleur rub and smooth rear pulley/cassette movement. Campag says that is down to the front derailleur redesign and the new pulley and 3D Embrace Technology used in the rear mech.
Overall, everything felt precise and without any fuss finding the right ratio or being too crossed in gear selection. Braking felt perfect, too. The levers are easier to grab both from the drops and on top of a more comfortable Ergopower hood. The modulation allowed for feathering heading towards the curves or when the local Tuscan roads descended tightly, an aggressive grab felt just as smooth. Dual-pivot configurations are now used up front and behind for extra stopping power, getting rid of the single-pivot rear caliper that Campagnolo used before. The ball bearings are still there, allowing that smooth feeling from the caliper’s pivots.
10 Campagnolo has executed the move to 12 speed with its usual style and flair: the new Super Record components not only look beautiful but they perform beautifully too. Yes, it is expensive, but it’s the world’s most prestigious groupset.
The Super Record 12 groupset can be found here.