Campagnolo Electronic Power Shift: the details inside
We have our first test ride next week; meanwhile the EPS nuts and bolts...
As we posted on Monday evening, Campagnolo have launched their inaugural electronic shifting system and named it Electronic Power Shift or EPS. Now we've had a chance to digest the information it's time to walk through the components in theory and see what the maker's hope to offer before we fly off to the factory next week to try them out.
There are five components in the EPS system; reasonably familiar-looking front and rear gear mechs, a pair of Ergopower levers that look more or less identical to the mechanical items and then there's two very new parts; what Campagnolo call the DTI Interface which attaches around your handlebars somewhere convenient and the Power Unit containing the electronic brains and the battery bolted ideally to the downtube, downhill from the bottle cage. It could also be argued that the cable set is another component which Campagnolo don't mention other than that the connectors are extremely waterproof and from our own experience are extremely thin and pliable.
Nevertheless, however familiar the traditional components look, they're really not the same inside at all. Yes, a combination of aluminium, various high-tech composites and ceramic bearings in the case of the Super Record rear derailleur as before but the big change is that each gear instead of a cable pulling a parallelogram against a spring to 'de-rail' the chain, now has a motor and a worm-drive powering the mechanism a precise amount both ways under the command of the electronic brain which in turn responds to sensors in the shift levers.
Completely unchanged because their roles are still entirely mechanical are the crankset with its bottom-bracket bearings, the cassette sprockets and the the brakes. Interestingly, as we will see when we look at the component weights later, it is these traditional parts that mostly differentiate the two groupsets, Super Record EPS and Record EPS, that Campagnolo have launched initially and simultaneously.
EPS Ergopower Controls
Having established a system that they've stood by since the inception of Ergopower combined brake and gear levers for Campagnolo back in, what, 1992, the Italian makers have stuck with a formula that their customers will be familiar with. Namely, a first lever that purely operates a brake, a second smaller lever behind that which sweeps across to the inside with the first finger or two and which either moves the chain at the rear from smaller to larger sprockets at the rear from the right lever or, using the left-hand lever, moves the chain from the small chainring to the large chainring at the front.
Still on mechanical Ergopower, there's then an inboard smaller lever operated with the thumb that releases the gears using springs built into the front and rear gear mechanisms back across in the opposite direction, giving you higher ratios at the rear and lower ones at the front. Mechanical Ergopower in the latest and posher versions on the right-hand lever offers up to four ratios in one sweep going one way and three the other. Bear with us here, because it makes an interesting contrast with the electronic version despite the apparently similar appearance.
One lever, one action
Campagnolo call this carried-over principle - clearly aimed straight at the multi-purpose levers of Shimano and SRAM - "one lever, one action" with the objective of being simple, understandable and extremely ergonomically efficient. That means comfort as much as anything and they also strongly feel that braking efficiency is improved. While we're here we'll also mention that Campagnolo set great store by the mechanical feel of their shifting; what some people experience as clunkiness compared to silky-smooth Shimano, their fans feel offers positive tactile feedback that a shift is clearly and obviously taking place.
On the EPS Ergopower levers, the first and second levers are unchanged in appearance and position but the thumb shifters have been repositioned lower on the left and right lever bodies and in doing so remedying the one thing that we've always struggled with on Ergopower; that the thumb levers are hard to reach from the lower, dropped, handlebar position.
Shift all 11 gears in one go
OK, now onto shifting with the new EPS levers. One of the things we're looking forward to trying next week is that Campagnolo have aimed to replicate the same sensation, both in feel and sound, as the mechanical levers using what they describe as an array of metal discs working in conjunction with the electronic sensors and called Multi-Dome Technology. Even better, though, is that they're saying all eleven sprockets at the rear will be achievable in one press of either the up or downshifting levers; how many depending on how long you press with 1.5 seconds being the maximum time taken to move across all eleven.
There's a fourth and new control on each EPS lever, a raised dimple behind each thumbshifter called a Mode button. Anyone's who's ever set up a bike computer or digital clock will be familiar with how these work. Pressed individually or together and for how long provides the setting control for the entire EPS system.
'Digital Tech Intelligence' Interface; control and system status at a glance
They're calling the whole package of electronics Digital Tech Intelligence with the DTI Interface being the point where the cables from the various components intersect and provide some visual feedback right where you need to see it at the handlebars. Needless to say, there's a lot of clever signalling going back and forth through this junction but, apart from initial setting up and resetting in the event of changing wheels or crashing, the most obvious thing you'll want to see on it is the state of the battery and pressing momentarily on either of the Mode buttons causes the little window on the Interface to light up according to how much charge you have left. The resulting colour of the LED display means:
Steady green = 100% to 60% charged
Flashing green = 60% to 40% charged
Steady yellow = 40% to 20% charged
Steady red = 20% to 6% charged
Flashing red = 6% or less charged + warning sound
Set up, simply...
Setting up of the front derailleur from scratch is completely automatic once you're in what Campagnolo call 'Zero Mode' using the left Mode button. The rear is set using the Mode buttons again and a technique not unlike setting the mechanical gears only here both the 2nd and 10th sprockets are used to give the derailleur its whereabouts in relation to the frame dropouts.
Once you're set up and riding and, say, you change a rear wheel you can fine tune the adjustment of the rear gear using 'Riding Mode' and those buttons again. Pressing the right Mode button for six seconds shows a pink light in the Interface meaning that the rear gear is ready for you to use the 'up' and 'down' second and third levers to nudge the gear 0.25mm with each press, either way. Then pressing the right Mode button saves the setting. Easy. The 'Riding' adjustment of the front gear works similarly using the left Mode button, only the fine tuning increments are 0.1mm.
Where the power comes from
If the Interface shows graphically what is going on with the EPS system, the actual electronic brain of DTI is built into the Power Unit which as the name suggests is mostly a sealed Lithium-ion battery which drives the electric motors in the front and rear gear mechanisms. Campagnolo say that DTI manages the battery, "enabling and monitoring the front and rear derailleurs, signalling any anomalies through the Interface LED and acoustic buzzer."
Campagnolo say that combining the DTI brain and battery in one 167 gram unit makes the whole system less vulnerable to water, oil and dust as well as vibrations, "such as those generated by professional athletes on the road of classic north routes," as they put it, obviously referring to the grimmer races like Paris-Roubaix. The power unit being sealed is designed to be replaced in its entirety when the battery needs replacing - after potentially one million km, we make it - and it's also designed to be charged on the bike so better check where the nearest power socket is to where your bike will store.
DTI Power Unit: plug in that little magnet and the system will go into six month's standby.
Battery life good for 2,000Km
The Power Unit has two input/output data ports one of which mainly serves as the charger input with a waterproof seal but the potential is there to update the firmware later.
If the plan is for the bicycle to be unused for an extended period and for setting up and service, the battery can be placed in standby mode - that little removable plug contains a magnet for the purpose of parking in the power port - meaning that the battery pack will hold its charge for up to six months before it needs charging again.
In use, Campagnolo claim battery life as follows:
If you ride 500 Km/month, you can ride 1,552 Km or 3.1 months
If you ride 1,000 Km/month, you can ride 1,841 Km or 1.8 months
If you ride 2,000 Km/month, you can ride 2,029 Km or 1 month
The battery is of the Lithium-ion type and fully-charged operates at 11.1 nominal Volts with a maximum of 12.6 Volts and a capacity of 950mAh.
By the way, Shimano claim a life for each charge 'between 1,000 and 2,000Km depending on conditions' for their Di2 battery, which is also common to both Dura-Ace and Ultegra. Their battery, however, is removable for charging.
EPS Front Derailleur
EPS Super Record has carbon outer plate; on Record they're both aluminium.
Campagnolo make a big thing about the motors in the front and rear gear mechanisms along with their little worm-drive gearboxes being developed in partnership with a Swiss company that produces electric motors "used in missions to Mars, allowing movement," as they say, "to be transferred in an exact and rapid manner."
"Compared to the traditional mechanical derailleur," they go on, "that could be adjusted with micro displacements made by acting on the levers manually, the EPS derailleur is equipped with a very sophisticated electronic Automatic Position Correction system. The DTI receives impulses from the controls through the interface that communicates with the sensor placed inside the derailleur, which indicates its position at all times. Depending on the sprocket that has been selected with the controls, the EPS re-positions the derailleur to optimise its position with respect to the chain. This allows chain crossovers that are not optimal in traditional systems."
Still quoting from Campagnolo, "The artificial intelligence of the system does not stop at self-adjustment but, thanks to a special algorithm, it can manage the power and speed of movement based on the sprocket being used and the type of action that you decide to execute. To make it easier to shift uphill in case of a high chain crossover, the derailleur performs an extra stroke compared to the one that should be carried out and after a few moments it moves into its definitive position. The stroke and extra stroke of the derailleur are proportional to the sprocket being used each time and cannot be adjusted by the user."
"EPS front derailleur regulation is fully electronic," they go on, "and does not include any type of mechanical regulation. This means that there are no screws to adjust the mechanical limit switch of the derailleur.
"The EPS front derailleur, according to Campagnolo, "is completely waterproof and based on lab‐conducted tests it is capable of being immersed in water for 30 minutes at a depth of one meter without any water leaking inside," they conclude on the EPS front derailleur.
EPS Rear Derailleur
According to Campagnolo, "The rear EPS derailleur represents the pride and joy of the EPS project and encompasses a series of technologies and innovations that allow shifting speed to be optimised and guarantee unprecedented precision, even in the case of multiple shifting with 11 sprockets at a time."
Unlike the front derailleur, at the rear there are two mechanical screws; one to adjust the travel towards the spokes and the other for 'optimising' the distance between the top chain pulley and the sprockets.
The rear gear is designed to uncouple its travel from the motor mechanism, partly to allow for accidental impact and partly so that it can be manually decoupled and placed in a chosen gear in what Campagnolo call 'Ride Back Home' mode. In other words, you're not stuck in an unsuitable gear if the battery does run down.
In the event of an accident and assuming that the gear hanger of the frame is still true, the derailleur can be reconnected by means of a combination of presses on the Mode buttons on the Ergopower levers and in extreme situations by manually reconnecting. In short, whether you are a professional with a following car or a self-reliant amateur sportive rider you shouldn't be any worse off than you are now in the event of a disaster. Might be an idea to have read the Mode combos, though, eh?
Ceramic pulley bearings and a touch more relieving in the carbon for Super Record
How are Super Record EPS & Record EPS different?
Most of the difference between the Super Record EPS and Record EPS groups - and its all about saving weight, a total of 86 grams depending on chainring combinations and so on - is due to the unchanged mechanical components; the cassette, brakes and crankset including the Ultra Torque bottom bracket bearings. The chain, which is also unchanged, is common to both groups. More titanium is used in the Super Record parts; three more sprockets on the cassette; a total of six larger ones, with the remaining five made of steel; the chainset with Ti instead of steel used for the bottom bracket axle and fixing bolts; finally titanium cable clamp bolts on the brakes.
That little lot accounts for roughly 75 grams of the 86 leaving just 11 grams difference in the EPS parts, with the Power Unit and Interface being common to both. Apart from the red labels, things you can see are three little slots in the tops of each Super Record brake lever but the rest of it as you can see in Campagnolo's own little chart below, is pretty subtle behind the scenes.
The weight difference between EPS and standard versions of Super Record and Record? The Electronic groups are roughly 200 grams heavier, mostly attributable to the Power Unit (167g) and Interface (24g) but both front and rear derailleurs are heavier than their mechanical counterparts and newer Ergopower EPS levers lighter.
EPS rear gear: you can see how the motor pulls and pushes the parallelogram.
Comparison with Shimano Di2
Of course, there are more differences between Campagnolo EPS and Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 than weight although Campagnolo have been quick to point out that Super Record offers an approximate 200 gram weight saving under Di2. Even Record EPS will be 100 grams lighter than Dura-Ace but it is expected that Record will share with DA an all-up price of somewhere just over £2,000. We're still waiting for better UK pricing than guestimates but the premium for Super Record EPS is expected to be hefty; we're thinking £3,000 at least for the initial period when it will be much in demand amongst the glitterati.
One important difference between Dura-Ace Di2 and new EPS but under the hood, as it were, is that Campagnolo have made the leap straight to a fully digital system running along a thinner two-core cable whereas Dura-Ace is strictly speaking an analogue electro-mechanical protocol using four-core leads. The new Ultegra Di2 set, however, is digital which explains the new thinner cable and Dura-Ace Di2 is due to get that upgrade at the same time the rumoured 11-speed update takes place at some still unspecified future date.
Functional differences that the rider can feel lie in two if not three connected areas and we're looking forward to riding EPS in Italy this coming week, especially so soon after the recent experience with new Ultegra Di2 here and here. First, there's the 'one lever, one action' Ergopower principle which we're familiar with but is bound to feel different in the context of EPS and especially now they've moved the thumb lever down a bit. Then there's the business with shifting to all available sprockets in one move, which is distinctly different to Shimano's system of one ratio per button press. Commentators are already saying that they can press the appropriate button on Di2 ten times in faster than 1.5 seconds but there's bound to be more to it than that.
Then combining it all together is the promised 'mechanical feel'. It's certainly going to be interesting comparing that with both Campagnolo's own familiar cable-actuated sibling and the Shimano electronic Di2 rival.
Super Record EPS levers one and two get weight saving slots.