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
Weight: 404g (including cables)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Weight: 278g (11-27t, including lockring)
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.
RRP: £58.33 (pair)
Weight: 157g front/162g rear
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
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.
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.
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.
Slick shifting and powerful braking from Campag's latest groupset offering
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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:
Two different rear derailleurs
Upper body in ultra-light technopolymer reinforced with glass fiber
POTENZA 11 FRONT DERAILLEUR
Features & Benefits:
New steel cage
New cage mounting position
New rod design
POTENZA 11 CRANKSET
Features & Benefits:
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
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.
About the tester
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.