Campagnolo has now released more new and wholly redesigned groups in the last two weeks than in the previous three years.
The Italian drivetrain brand is further expanding its electronic EPS lineup, applying the motorized touch to its venerable Chorus group, and is updating its value-oriented Athena and Veloce mechanical groups as well. The announcements come hot on the heels of the release of brand new Super Record and Record mechanical groupsets just over a week ago.
New Chorus EPS
The new Chorus EPS electronic group will borrow in equal parts from the new top-tier mechanical groups and from its lighter, much more expensive EPS siblings.
It will use the same high-torque motors as Super Record and Record EPS, so the shift performance will be completely identical between all three groups. Chorus EPS simply downgrades materials, ditching much of the carbon fiber and titanium found on the Super Record and Record groups and replacing it with aluminum and steel.
Chorus EPS will retain a carbon fiber lever blade to help keep weight low, and will use the same EPS V2 internal battery as the other EPS groups.
The thumb shifter has been modified, lowered within the shift body, to improve ergonomics and allow for easier shifting with the hands in the drops.
Chorus EPS will utilize the new 4-arm crankset design debuted with the new Super Record and Record mechanical groups, which allows the user to swap between compact, semi-compact, and standard chainring options without swapping crank arms. Like its more expensive siblings, the Chorus crank arms will be carbon fiber.
A complete Chorus EPS group will retail for $3,500.
New Athena and Veloce mechanical groups
Campagnolo’s value-oriented Athena and Veloce mechanical groups haven’t seen a major update in some time, so this redesign is a welcome advancement. Both groups have been notoriously durable but lacked some of the ergonomic touches of Campagnolo’s latest groups. It’s no surprise, then, that this redesign focused on bringing the groups’ fit and feel in line with the company’s pricier drivetrains.
Both Athena and Veloce get the new, more ergonomic thumb shifter, the shape of which is borrowed from the EPS groups. The throw of the new shift button is shorter, further easing shift actuation.
Both cranksets see a slight redesign, and the Athena crankset will now incorporate Campagnolo’s new SC-14 chainrings, borrowed from the Super Record RS race group, which the company claims dramatically improve front shift performance. As before, the Athena crankset will be carbon fiber. Veloce’s crank arms will be aluminum.
What does it mean for Campagnolo?
In the last two weeks, Campagnolo has announced major updates to the majority of its available drivetrains, with only the top-tier EPS groups and mid-range Centaur mechanical left untouched. This is not insignificant — it is the culmination of a research and development push at the venerable Italian brand. That can only be a good thing for a company that has seen its market share dwindle dramatically over the past two and a half decades, and which has not been renowned for its innovation in the last few years.
The updates are great for aftermarket consumers, and Campagnolo devotees, of course. But Campagnolo has been relying on devotees for too long. The mass of announcements in the last two weeks may be a sign that the Italians want to branch out beyond the aficionado market in a significant way once again.
The wide spread of updates, across the full width of Campagnolo’s lineup, is a positive sign. High-quality, mid- and low-tier groups are required to make the sort of OE (original equipment, or groups sold to bike brands rather than consumers) push required to bring Campagnolo back to bike shop floors in big numbers. It needs groups that can compete on level footing with Shimano Ultegra, 105, and SRAM Rival and Force. Campagnolo knows it needs to win back some of the OE market, and these updates are a positive step.
The company’s take on electronic groups is encouraging as well. In its own words, “The goal of Campagnolo is not to decide for a given athlete if he or she should choose mechanic or electronic, nor does it intend to take a stance in the mechanic vs electronic debate.”
This is why we saw the wholesale redesign of two top-tier mechanical groups last week, and why it has announced the addition of an EPS option to its mid-range Chorus group today. Both sides of the aisle are obviously being treated equally within Campagnolo’s engineering division. This stands in contrast to Shimano, which has made it clear that while it will continue to support its mechanical groups, it sees electronic drivetrains as the way of the future.
Chorus EPS is intended to compete with Dura-Ace Di2. Though a cursory glance at the lineups from both Shimano and Campagnolo would suggest that Chorus should compete with Ultegra, the new Chorus, with internals identical to Record and Super Record, does seem a bit more refined than Ultegra Di2. It’s also $1,000 more expensive. Campagnolo insists that Record EPS sits above Dura-Ace, hence much higher price — we’d perhaps dispute that claim, but regardless it’s nice to see an option in the $3,500 range.
Prices on the rest of the new groups have not yet been released. We can only hope that this Achilles heel of Campagnolo’s groups, the above-average price relative to the rest of the market, will finally be rectified, or at the very least that the price gap will shrink.