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Verdict: 
Slick shifting and powerful braking from Campag's latest groupset offering
Weight: 
2,413g
Campagnolo Potenza
9 10

Campagnolo Potenza has kicked off the whole Campag vs Shimano argument all over again thanks to its precise shifting and powerful braking, with Ultegra directly in its sights. It's about £60 cheaper at RRP, plus you can have a choice of finishes – black or silver – to suit your bike. Read on for my thoughts on each component.

Campagnolo-equipped off-the-shelf bikes have been quite low in numbers compared with those using Shimano or even SRAM, especially around the £1,500+ mark, where Ultegra has long dominated. In fact the number of Campag-equipped bikes we've had in for testing over the years at road.cc can probably be counted on your fingers and maybe a few toes.

Campag reckons this is about to change, though, thanks to this new groupset with its mainly aluminium construction offering great performance while keeping costs down. In fact, we've already had two bikes in with this groupset: the Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza and Estrella Camino Liso Potenza.

Potenza has taken a lot of the technology from the groupsets that sit above it – Chorus, Record and Super Record – which has given ergonomics and performance a real boost at this price level. Mat had a first ride on a Potenza-equipped bike last year, but I've spent a bit longer with the groupset to see whether the shine wears off or just gets deeper...

 

Ergopower Shifters 9/10

RRP: £174.99

Weight: 404g (including cables)

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - shifter.jpg

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - shifter.jpg

I've always been a fan of Campag's Ergopower hood shape and the curved nature of the brake lever, which lends itself well to a natural hand and wrist position.

The first thing you notice is the angle of the thumb button on the inside of the shifters; it always used to stick out horizontally but the Potenza shifters now mimic the EPS (electronic) shifters higher up the range, with it being slanted towards the floor. It is much more comfortable to use than the original setup, with your thumb in a more comfortable position.

The trade-off is that the sloped position doesn't allow enough cable movement for multiple gear changes, so you can only drop one sprocket of the cassette at a time. It's not a massive issue for me, being something I very rarely used on previous bikes.

Thanks to the Power-Shift mechanism used inside the levers it is still possible to go up the cassette in multiple jumps of three sprockets at a time, depending on how far you fling the lightweight composite paddle that sits behind the alloy brake lever.

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - bars and shifter.jpg

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - bars and shifter.jpg

If you're a fan of Shimano's light gear shifting you might find Campagnolo's slightly clunkier, but it soon wears in over time and becomes much smoother. That pronounced click remains, though, and makes for a very positive shift whether you are changing up or down, meaning you always know that the gear you wanted has been selected. There are also plenty of trim options to avoid chain rub.

One thing I wasn't a massive fan of with the Potenza gear shifts was how long the throw of the paddle is to select one gear change up the cassette; it's just a little bit past the point of comfortable compared with Ultegra, especially on a ride of four hours or more, when you honestly get 'finger fatigue'.

That's my only criticism of these levers, though. They are hugely comfortable and impressive in terms of performance.

Value-wise they score too: the Ergopower shifters are around £145 less than their Ultegra (£319.99) rivals.

 

Front Derailleur/Rear Derailleur 9/10

RRP: £65.62 (plus £24.79 for band-on if required)/£145.82

Weight: 97g/208g

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - front mech.jpg

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - front mech.jpg

The front derailleur is a pretty simple piece of kit and Campag has said that technology from its high-end groupsets has inspired the rod design, to reduce the range of motion and force necessary for upshifts and to help shifting under load.

Whether that is true or not is difficult to quantify, but in use the front mech does exactly what is asked of it with a quick shift from small to big chainring and back again. Yep, even under load after you've turned that corner to find a 25% beast of a hill right in front of you.

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - rear mech.jpg

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - rear mech.jpg

The rear mech is exactly the same. As I mentioned with the shifters, the gear change is much more defined than with Shimano and even SRAM, and as you watch the Potenza mech shift you can see that it's a very solid, controlled movement.

Both the Bianchi and Estrella test bikes I mentioned earlier were set up with the short cage Potenza rear mech, which is capable of dealing with up to 29 teeth, though Campag also offers a medium cage that'll work with its 32-tooth largest sprocket. Both versions are the same price too.

 

Chainset 9/10

RRP: £227.01

Weight: 779g

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - crank.jpg

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - crank.jpg

The Potenza chainset features hollow-forged aluminium cranks, hard anodised aluminium chainrings, and a steel axle, and is available in 'traditional' 53/39, semi-compact 52/36 and compact 50/34 variants, so you can choose what's suitabe for the type of riding you do. All use the same cranks, and the rings are interchangeable.

One new and welcome addition to the Power Torque axle design used here is that Campag has now included an internal crank extractor to make removal easier. Anyone who has ever tried to remove a previous version of the Power Torque crank, found on Veloce or Athena, after a winter of riding will know what a complete pain in the backside it is. I once had to resort to a hammer after even the specific puller tool I'd bought just shattered in my hand trying to separate the tapered splines of the non-drive side crank from the drive side.

As for performance, the Potenza comes up feeling strong and very stiff. Admittedly it's usually the frame that flexes before the cranks, but the Potenza has that rigid feel about it.

Shifting between the rings was crisp and quick, and apart from a little bit of chainsuck under load a few times, there were no issues at all.

It is a bit of a weighty beast, though, being 100g heavier than the equivalent Ultegra – although it is £28 cheaper.

 

Cassette 8/10

RRP: £154.94

Weight: 278g (11-27t, including lockring)

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - rear hub.jpg

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - rear hub.jpg

I used both the 11-29t (Bianchi) and 11-27t (Estrella) cassettes during testing, both offering a good range for the majority of riders on varying terrain when paired with the choice of crankset options.

You can also get a 12-27 (£116.20) and an 11-25, plus – a first for Campag – an 11-32 (£167.85).

Campagnolo's cassettes have always been on the pricey side, but I've always found their durability very good, making up for the initial outlay.

Shifting, as with the rest of the groupset, feels good, and the ramps on the teeth offer very fast gear changes even when out of the saddle or really putting the hammer down.

 

Brakes 9/10

RRP: £58.33 (pair)

Weight: 157g front/162g rear

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - front brake.jpg
Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - rear brake.jpg

Campagnolo's Skeleton design dual-pivot callipers have been on the market for a long time, but they are still up there among the very best, no matter what level of the range they are sitting at.

These Potenza branded ones are no different, offering loads of power and modulation plus plenty of feel back through the brake pads thanks to their slightly soft compound.

The callipers are stiff too, and pretty reasonably priced – plus, if you need them, there is also a direct-mount option with the front and rear, costing £89.92 each.

 

Chain/Bottom Bracket 8/10

RRP: £41.01/£23.54

Weight: 72g/256g

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - frame detail 2.jpg

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - frame detail 2.jpg

The chain is carried across from the Chorus groupset. It's 5.5mm wide and uses steel links with a nickel/PTFE anti-friction treatment. It's a little heavier than the Record/Super Record chain, but it performs just as well.

Just like its cassettes, Campag's chains have always been good longterm performers in my experience.

Thankfully, the bike trade has narrowed down the bottom bracket standards to just over a handful, and Campag has them covered. The price above is for the pretty standard outboard cups that are available in either British or Italian thread, but you can also buy BB386, BB86, BB30, BB30A or PF30, which are all priced at £41.96.

In use the BB does its job – as in, you don't notice, and the cranks spin smoothly.

 

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - drive train.jpg

Bianchi Infinito CV Potenza - drive train.jpg

Overall

Campagnolo has delivered a very good groupset here, offering great performance at a sensible price. At full RRP (which is what all the quoted prices are), it comes in at about £60 cheaper than the groupset Campag has aimed it at – Ultegra – although the Potenza is 100g heavier.

> Read our reviews of other groupsets here

Online, they are virtually identical in price, so if the extra weight doesn't bother you, which should you pick? Well, to be completely honest, I have no idea. They are so similar in terms of performance that, in my opinion, it all comes down to personal preference, and will depend on whether you like the light or heavier gear shift feeling or the looks.

Verdict

Slick shifting and powerful braking from Campag's latest groupset offering

road.cc test report

Make and model: Campagnolo Potenza

Size tested: 11s

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Potenza is the Italian company's latest groupset which is aimed squarely at Shimano's Ultegra.

Campagnolo says: "The highest-tier aluminum groupset available offers the same race-winning shifting performance as its carbon fiber counterparts seen atop professional rider's bikes. For the most part the only differences between the two are represented by slight changes in the material used in their construction.

"Potenza 11™, which in Italian is a noun which means strength or power, is designed around the strengths that made its higher tier Revolution 11+ brethren so successful: lightning fast shifting, embrace technology, fantastic ergonomics, Campagnolo performance and reliability.

"The newest addition to the Revolution 11+ family comes in the form of the Potenza 11™ groupset and just as its name implies, its strength will help you power your way to the finish line."

The Potenza is a very refined groupset but has a completely different, more 'clunky' feel to it than Ultegra. You'll either like that or you won't.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

POTENZA 11 ERGOPOWER CONTROLS

Features & Benefits:

New Power-Shift™ mechanism

Downshift lever position and ergonomics

Hoods in silicon material with Vari-Cushion™ technology

POTENZA 11 REAR DERAILLEUR

Features & Benefits:

Hi-End design

Two different rear derailleurs

Upper body in ultra-light technopolymer reinforced with glass fiber

POTENZA 11 FRONT DERAILLEUR

Features & Benefits:

High-End design

New steel cage

New cage mounting position

New rod design

POTENZA 11 CRANKSET

Features & Benefits:

Hollow crankset

The same BCD matches all different chainrings

New 'Power Torque +" System

CAMPAGNOLO 11 SPROCKETS

Features & Benefits:

New 11-32 Campagnolo 11™ cassette

New cassette layout

Five Campagnolo 11™ cassette ranges

CAMPAGNOLO 11 CHAIN

Features & Benefits:

Wider link design

Ultra-Link™ chain connecting system

POTENZA 11 BRAKES

Features & Benefits:

Updated standard rim brakes

Direct Mount option

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
9/10
Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

The equivalent Shimano Ultegra 6800 parts add up to just under £970.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

The shifting is a little heavier than that of Ultegra but the gear changes are still crisp and precise. The dual-pivot brake callipers are impressive.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The shape of the Ergoshifter hoods.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Long travel on the gear paddle.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

A great rival to Shimano Ultegra, with impressive braking power and solid, crisp gear changes. The Shimano vs Campag argument just got stirred up again.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 38  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed

Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.

22 comments

Avatar
Ogi [100 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes

I recently changed from Shimano 105 5800 to Campagnolo Chorus. The differences are not major: ergonomy of the shifters is personally a lot better, more "clicky Campagnolo" feel, and some weight savings (in my case around 300g). All in all, I prefer Campagnolo but this was only to pursue my strong wish (dream/vanity, call it whatever). On the longevity front, we shall see. 105 was awesome on that front (I assume Ultegra is pretty close).

Potenza is probably very close to Chorus, other than up to 5 clicks down option and some additional weight penalty due to shiny carbon bits. I would definitely recommend it and I think it's a great alternative to Ultegra. Now, new model is coming soon (this or next year) and we'll see whether Shimano will come with something innovating (I doubt it given the 9100 vs. 9000 differences).

I think what Potenza needs is EPS (relatively affordable and cheap), although I wouldn't be ever in the market for it (mechanical preference). Also, the crank ring options with respect to BCD is super funny (112mm and 145mm) - limits the aftermarket options (only TA does it so far that I know). Also, running some 1x options - impossible with new four arm Campagnolo cranks, unless you want some kind of bodge.

Avatar
darrenleroy [217 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Does the reviewer know if the brake levers are adjustable for smaller hands? 

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unconstituted [2355 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes

Potenza shifters look lovely devil

Avatar
ped [270 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
darrenleroy wrote:

Does the reviewer know if the brake levers are adjustable for smaller hands? 

I'm sure that Stu can confirm, but most ergo shifters come with wedges to reduce the reach.

Avatar
Freddy56 [244 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Agree....., except the brakes. Im a campag rider but own an winter bike with 105 and the braking is far better than my Record equipped summer bike

Avatar
Valbrona [188 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Likely to attract a lot of Dura-Ace users who want quicker and more positive shifting, and also better Ergonomics on account of the EPS-style button.

How I would like Potenza hydro.

Avatar
mike the bike [900 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
Freddy56 wrote:

Agree....., except the brakes. Im a campag rider but own an winter bike with 105 and the braking is far better than my Record equipped summer bike

 

Like you I ride both Campag and Shimano and yet my braking experience is the opposite.  My old(ish) Centaur brakes, fitted with genuine Campag blocks, are superb.  The 105s, using real Shimano blocks, are OK, but nothing to write home about.  Maybe one of us is doing something wrong ....

Avatar
Lexy91 [6 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

I never know where to stand with Campy 11 Speed groupsets.

Is this replacing Athena?

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Vejnemojnen [240 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

so pity they do not offer a wide range of variety with chainring options.

 

ie.: 50-39, 50-36, 48-36, 46-36. of course, one can always buy a small chainring for fraction of a price from a manufacturer like ta or stronglight, but heck, these options should be offered as well!

and shame, that there is no option for 13-29 or 13-30 cassettes...

the weight of the brakeset is a joke though. the old centaur br11-cedp models were lighter and powerful as well..

 

the new chainset is certainly a superieur design to the former power torque, but due to the two separate bcd, more screws and beefier design, it is heavier than it's predecessor.

 

anyway, for 600 euros (bike-components.de) it's a nice group.

Avatar
srchar [454 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Lexy91 wrote:

I never know where to stand with Campy 11 Speed groupsets.

Is this replacing Athena?

No. Athena will continue as an option for people who want a more classic look.

Potenza was developed to a price point with the OEM market in mind.

If you're buying a groupset by itself, I really would try to find the extra couple of hundred for Chorus. Lovely carbon bits and Ultra Shift are worth it IMHO.

Avatar
Nick T [1052 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes

Campy's 4th tier groupset is 60 quid cheaper and ~100g lighter than Shimano's second tier group, what a time to be alive 

Avatar
srchar [454 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
Nick T wrote:

Campy's 4th tier groupset is 60 quid cheaper and ~100g lighter than Shimano's second tier group, what a time to be alive 

I've always loved how Campag troll Shimano by saying that Chorus == Dura Ace and Shimano don't make anything that's the equivalent of Record and Super Record.

Avatar
rockley [4 posts] 2 months ago
3 likes

I am the very fortunate owner of a road bike equiped with campagnolo  potenza. I also own a road bike equiped with shimano ultegra.  The potenza as with (in my opinion) all campagnolo groups is far better looking than shimano. Then I am an old rider who actually owned C record delta brakes. Obejectively though, the shimano and campagnolo are both good groups, they both change very well with the front mech on the campagnolo changing slightly better than the shimano. The rear mech of both groups is about the same but I am not comparing like with like in that the campagnolo runs 11-32 whilst the shimano is 11-28. The braking on the campagnolo is much better than the shimano although again the campagnolo is standard callipers  while the rear brake on the shimano is direct mount. The levers and hoods on the campagnolo are much more comfortable. I will agree with the tester when he says the  rear mech paddle on the campagnolo has too much travel and I did find ths anoying when I first used this kit but I soon go used to it and  now have no problem. I  think both groups are good and work well  and would satisfy most people at this price point. However, for me campagnolo looks better and because it was the manufacturer whos equipment I lusted after when young, the potenza would always be my first choice.

Avatar
Valbrona [188 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
srchar wrote:

I've always loved how Campag troll Shimano by saying that Chorus == Dura Ace and Shimano don't make anything that's the equivalent of Record and Super Record.

The Kelme team for a long time rode Chorus, but SR wasn't around at the time.

I'd like to see Campag supplying some teams with Chorus. Especially the second-string and women's teams they are associated with.

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Nick T [1052 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

Men's teams get SR but give the women Chorus? Sounds like a PR disaster 

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derek n clive [250 posts] 2 months ago
2 likes
srchar wrote:

 

No. Athena will continue as an option for people who want a more classic look.

 

 

No. Athena has now been withdrawn with the exception of the Triple touring edition.

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Valbrona [188 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

And a dork disc as well ...

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pwake [422 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
derek n clive wrote:
srchar wrote:

 

No. Athena will continue as an option for people who want a more classic look.

 

 

No. Athena has now been withdrawn with the exception of the Triple touring edition.

That's a real shame. The silver Athena crankset was almost as good looking as first-gen C-Record and was perfect for a neo-retro build on a good steel frame, but the silver Potenza crankset looks like a disaster on that kind of build.

My own humble opinion, of course....

Avatar
miken28v [4 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Have just bought a new bike with 105 - my previous bike had Campy 10 spd mix of  Record crankset, Chorus mechs, Centaur levers & brakes.  I'm really missing the directness of the Campy.  105 feels light in changing & not as precise - inexact somehow.  Appreciate that I've gone from 10 spd to 11 spd plus the sound is different but even so...  If I don't get used to it I'll maybe splash out on Potenza at some point

Avatar
srchar [454 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
derek n clive wrote:

Athena has now been withdrawn with the exception of the Triple touring edition.

That's not what the Campag stand were saying at the Maratona last year.  A shame.

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Vejnemojnen [240 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

there is one advancement over previous athena, which the article fails to adress:

 

the new rear mech design is a vast improvement, due to the fact that the chain literally "embraces" more cogs at the cassette, thereby reducing drivetrain wear and makes the shifts smoother and faster..

 

still missing the 13-29 cassette, though  1

Avatar
nowasps [520 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
pwake wrote:

That's a real shame. The silver Athena crankset was almost as good looking as first-gen C-Record and was perfect for a neo-retro build on a good steel frame, but the silver Potenza crankset looks like a disaster on that kind of build.

My own humble opinion, of course....

 

I have the silver 11spd 105 on my "neo-retro" steel build, and it can't possibly look worse than that.