By Matt Pacocha
In Feltre, Italy, this week, just 15km away from the memorial to Tullio Campagnolo at the summit of the Croce d’Aune pass, Campagnolo reintroduced its Super Record racing group.
Super Record was Campagnolo’s mystical racing group, but it has been decommissioned for more than 20 years. For 2009, it, along with new Record and Chorus groups, will help celebrate the brand’s 75th anniversary. In addition to the groups, Campagnolo will offer new versions of its four top wheelsets: Hyperon Ultra Two, Bora Ultra Two, Shamal 2-Way Fit and Eurus 2-Way Fit.
The technologies and the range of products presented are nothing short of truly impressive. With SRAM’s Red, the new Shimano 7900 Dura-Ace group and now Campagnolo’s three new groups, 2009 will offer more choice and technology than ever before for those in the market for a new set of components.
But this is about Campagnolo. Its new products highlight the brand’s willingness to approach its competitors head on with its own innovation and new technology. On another hand, Campagnolo hasn’t lost its passion or respect for its own heritage; the new groups are as artful and stylish as any it has ever produced. And the new components are all still produced in Campagnolo’s factory in Vicenza, Italy. The three groups are based on and share technologies surrounding two key features: the third edition of Ergopower, which is called Ergopower Ultra-Shift, and an 11-speed cassette.
Yes, for 2009, Chorus, Record and the reintroduced Super Record have 11 cogs.
Campagnolo maintains its commitment to the original Ergopower concept with its new Ultra-Shift controls, that is: One lever, one action. The Ultra-Shift retains three levers, each of which operates a sole function: braking, upshifting and downshifting. Campagnolo also keeps its ‘Micrometrical’ front derailleur trim, so that every single one of the 11 gears can be reached in either chainring. It also preserves the ability to shift up (five higher, harder) or down (three lower, easier) gears on the cassette with a single lever stroke. These are Campagnolo’s benchmarks. Upon these benchmarks, Campagnolo claims that the lever effort required for the rear derailleur has been decreased by 13 percent, while the stroke of the front derailleur’s lever is 18 percent less.
While the mechanical premise of the Ultra-Shift levers is the same, the geometry and ergonomics has been completely redesigned. The shape of the lever bodies is asymmetric to provide multiple hand positions when riding on the hoods. It also suggests that the inward hooking tops can be used as aerodynamic aids on the flats. Brake lever actuation has been improved from the hoods as well, as Campagnolo has recognized that this is where riders spend most of their time. This is achieved through the double curve of the lever and the repositioning of the lever’s pivot. Because of the lever’s new shape, it offers more room on the underside of the hood for a rider’s fingers, yet a closer position for brake lever when reaching from the drops. While reach adjustment isn’t mechanical, Campagnolo will offer a shim that increases the space between the lever and the bar by 8 percent.
The hoods themselves offer a 15 percent larger contact patch and dual-density rubber in the hoods. The contact area differs for the palm and fingers. The palm rests in a softer rubber, while the fingers have a firmer rubber for better grip. Campagnolo claims the rubber used is non-allergic and UV resistant and has better elastic memory than previous versions. The final part of the ergonomic story of the new levers is new routing for the cables, to reduce their bulge under the handlebar tape.
For the answer to the inevitable question of why Campagnolo would offer 11 speeds, it’s best to go straight to Campagnolo for an answer.
“Why not?” says Francesco Zenere, Campagnolo’s press manager. “There is constant demand from customers for cassettes, which have an extra sprocket within the usual range or those that would increase the metrical range. Cyclists are never truly happy whether they are professionals or amateurs. Campagnolo therefore decided to use the redesign of the Super Record, Record and Chorus groups as an opportunity to offer them something extra. The 11th speed is in fact the icing, while the cake is the remarkable makeover of the three groupsets dedicated to competition use.”
Every drivetrain component has been redesigned to make 11-speed work: Ergopower Ultra-Shift mechanism, front and rear derailleurs, chain, cassette, chainrings and crankset.
Rear derailleur rigidity is one of the factors that translates into snappier, more precise shifting. Campagnolo increased the rigidity of its 11-speed rear derailleurs by redesigning the parallelogram and the carbon fiber front link, a piece that is said to be 150 percent stiffer torsionally than its 10-speed predecessor.
Campagnolo also increased the diameter of the deraillleur’s pulleys. This is said to reduce vibration and ensure the chain runs as smoothly as possible onto the cassette. The pulley material is also lighter and dramatically molded to save weight.
“The demand from professional riders was clear: greater rigidity for swifter shifting under stress and without hesitation.” says Zenere. That was the reason for this season’s release of the Record Red shifters. Campagnolo’s engineers have completely redesigned the inner cage of the 11-speed group’s front derailleur. It’s more rigid to increase shifting performance. The inner cage’s new design works in tandem with the new 11-speed chainrings. The large ring has two oppositely positioned ramps for up shifts and chamfers for downshifts. The new design is said to guide the chain rather than force it. The shape, paired with the front derailleur trim, allows all 11 gears on the cassette to be used in the large chainring.
The Chain: Narrower and Stronger
The width of the C11 chain is 5.5 mm (5.9 for the C10) and it is forged from a new steel that is said to be 20 percent stronger that the C10. The chain is still installed using a pin system called Ultra-Link. Campagnolo believes this is the strongest method of assembling a chain. Like the other components of the drivetrain, the new C11 chain is designed to aid in shifting. The design of the outer plates allows it to be picked up by the cogs and chainrings more easily than previous designs.
This was the hardest piece to engineer, says Palo Mantica, Campagnolo’s R&D director. It was redesigned from the ground up. Campagnolo’s engineers looked to redesign the sprocket’s timing to obtain better shift performance. Specifically, a sharks fin-shaped tooth was added to assist the chain’s transition from one gear to another.
Two new aluminum carriers for the six largest cogs transform three sprockets into a single and solid block with a 180 percent increase in torsional rigidity. The 11-speed cassette will fit all of Campagnolo’s wheels, as the freehub body dimensions were not changed. The first available combinations will be: 11-23, 11-25, 12-25 and 12-27.
Aside from the chainrings’ opposed up-shifting sectors, and two down-shifting sectors, Campagnolo’s Ultra-Torque cranks are similar to the current models. All three cranksets are made from carbon, although each differs by manufacture and design.
Customer Confidence: A four-year warranty
Campagnolo is so sure of the quality of its new 11-speed groupsets that it decided to add an extra year’s warranty to the three normally given.
Ceramic Standard: USB and CULT
If 11-speed is icing on the cake, Campagnolo’s introduction of ceramics to Record and Super Record is the sparklers used in place of candles. Campagnolo will also use ceramic ball bearing as standard dress for its Hyperon Ultra and Bora Ultra wheels. Campagnolo first introduced ceramic bearings to its wheels in 2004. At the time they were too expensive and not as understood or coveted as they are today.
Once again Campagnolo decided to use ceramics and it strives to offer the best with two new technologies: USB (Ultra Smooth Bearings) for Record cranks and derailleur pulleys and CULT (Ceramic Ultimate Level Technology). Cult will be adopted both with wheels and with Super Record cranksets.
For this technological solution Campagnolo uses the highest grade ceramic ball bearings on the market, silicon nitride (Si3N4).
Comparing the USB ceramics with Campagnolo’s steel option, the bearings are 30 percent lighter and 40 percent harder. These ball bearings use technopolymer cages, which Campagnolo says further reduces all rolling friction.
CULT bearing technology increases the performance of USB technology by eliminating the bearing’s grease and most seals. The ceramic ball bearings are always the best in existence (silicon nitride), but Campagnolo adds races made from a new steel developed in collaboration with the German company INA-FAG.
The new steel is called Cronitect; it increases the bearing system’s resistance to corrosion so that no grease is necessary for lubrication. These bearing can be lubricated with oil alone, and the biggest reason they need to be lubricated is to keep them silent. Campagnolo believes this solution increases the efficiency of ceramic ball bearings past the point of any other manufacturer and will delight those for whom racing is a way of life.
The use of Cronitect steel for CULT bearing races will be a Campagnolo exclusive for the next three years. CULT bearings will be standard equipment for Super Record bottom brackets and in Campagnolo and Fulcrum carbon rimmed wheels.
In 2009 Campagnolo will embrace tubeless technologies with two wheels: Shamal Ultra 2-Way Fit and Eurus 2-Way Fit. The 2-Way Fit moniker refers to the wheels’ ability to accept tubeless or standard clincher type tires. Campagnolo convinced itself of the merits of tubeless with internal testing.
Campagnolo believed the features presented by Hutchinson in its release of tubeless road tires (Comfort, resistance to pinching and safety if punctured) were impressive, but what convinced it to participate is the improvement in rolling resistance. Campagnolo believes tubeless tires reduce a wheel’s rolling resistance by 31 percent.
Campagnolo realizes that tubeless tires are still rare and that there is still indecisiveness on the part of tire manufactures surrounding the technology. For this reason, it decided not to build a wheelset that would only work for tubeless, but also offer compatibility with standard clinchers.
Campagnolo 2-Way Fit wheels will only be compatible for tubeless use with Hutchinson tubeless tires.
More to Come
The preceding technologies transcend Campagnolo’s three 11-speed groups and the wheels that support them. For a breakdown of the technical specifications of each group and each wheelset look for further reports in the coming days.