Since Campagnolo launched Potenza back in 2016, it may not have come close to dethroning Shimano's Ultegra as the most popular groupset for competitive cyclists without an unlimited budget – but after thoroughly enjoying my time with it I would definitely consider Potenza an Ultegra competitor, despite it being fourth in Campagnolo's groupset hierarchy. It's durable, the ergonomics are great and in its disc version you get impressively powerful braking with no discernible difference to the feel or looks of the levers. It also looks cool, and I love the snappy, definitive action of the thumb levers.
- Pros: Precise shifting, looks cool, wide cassette options, great braking
- Cons: More expensive than the competition, slightly delicate downshift lever can cause a mis-shift
Potenza was brought in to provide a sensibly priced option for serious cyclists who can't quite stretch to Campag's more luxurious Chorus, Record and Super Record groupset offerings. It's made mostly out of aluminium and comes in at 2,609g in total. That's only 156g more than Campag's Record 12-speed gruppo, and although that has the extra sprocket and carbon luxury throughout, you pay almost an extra £1,000 for the privilege.
My test bike was a Tifosi SS26, and as you can read in my review of that here, Potenza was probably the number one highlight of the bike for me.
Here's a breakdown of my verdict on each of the main components.
Brake levers and shifters
Claimed weight: 504g pair
RRP: £162.99 each
Campagnolo's Ergopower shifters for disc brakes are just slightly taller than the rim brake versions, and look almost the same. I've always got on really well with the hood and brake lever shape of Campag's groupsets, and in its Potenza guise you get plenty of plush comfort.
The thumb buttons are angled downwards slightly and are bigger than previous lower-tiered Campag paddles. They're much easier to find without looking and really comfortable in use. In fact, I can't really notice the difference between the Potenza and Record/Super Record thumb shifting. In action there is slightly less of a snap and it's marginally less definite than the top-end stuff, but you still get a good old 'click' when moving down the cassette.
The shift levers that take you towards the back of the cassette on the right and back up to the big ring on the left are the only slight criticism for me, as I find them a little flimsy in use. By this, I mean when you make a shift on the cassette it can be a bit slippery and requires quite a throw to get it to move, but it just takes a bit of getting used to. If you're a fan of Campag's multi-shift on its Chorus, Record and Super Record gruppos then I'm afraid you can't do that with the thumb button, it's just one at a time; but you can shift three sprockets back with a throw of the lever.
In terms of adjustability, you can change between two positions for the bite point on the brake lever, depending on how sharp you want your stopping to feel.
Claimed weight: 94g
The front mech moves quickly and sharply, and even under considerable load on very changeable Somerset terrain I never managed to throw off the chain when moving down to the small ring and back again. The one-piece design with a steel cage looks pretty much the same as high-end Campag front mechs, the differences are just in the weight and materials used.
Claimed weight: 211g
My test bike came with an 11-32 cassette, so it was the 72.5mm longer cage rear mech I sampled (the shorter cage deals with the 11-29 cassette and smaller, as used by Stu in his review of the rim brake version of Potenza). Again, it looks the same in shape and design as the higher end Campag 11-speed kit, but has a technopolymer/carbon mix construction instead of full carbon. It served me very well over a long test period, staying perfectly aligned the whole time at the top and bottom limits.
Campag's Embrace technology means the chain covers more teeth on the sprockets when you're pedalling, which is supposed to reduce wear to your drivetrain and make the shifting smoother. I haven't used a previous lower end Campag groupset such as Athena to compare, but I can vouch for the shifting being smooth and the components staying in perfect working order after over 1,000 miles of riding.
Claimed weight: 801g
The aluminium crankset with a steel axle is available in the now standard 53/39, 52/36 and 50/34 chainring options, and I had the mid-compact on my test bike. As Stu mentioned in his review of rim brake Potenza, removing it is far easier nowadays as there is now an internal crankset extractor to reduce the need to buy super-expensive tools and/or hammer the crap out of your bike to get the thing out (see our round-up of Shimano and Campagnolo's greatest design blunders).
It felt stiff and smooth at all times, and more than capable of being used in furious sprints, with no concerns about flex. Most importantly of all, I think it looks great and maintains the classic Campagnolo aesthetics that its new 12-speed cranksets are moving away from (not something I mind, but we have noticed grumblings in our comments section) so you might even prefer Potenza in the looks department.
Claimed weight: 251g (11-32)
RRP: £146.99 (11-32)
Your cassette options are 11-25, 11-27, 11-29, 12-27 and 11-32, and I had the latter on my bike. Shifting felt great, and while things can get a bit gappy towards the back (25 to 28, and 28 to 32) which would leave me wanting a closer ratio for racing, the 32 provides a great bailout option for hilly rides with no discernible compromises for most. It's built using one triplet and eight single sprockets with aluminium spacers, and weighs in at 251g.
Claimed weight: 256g
You get the same chain as on Camapg Chorus here, which is 5.5mm wide with steel links and a nickel/PTFE anti-friction treatment. It's 36g heavier than the Record and Super Record 12-speed chain and obviously a bit wider. In use I had no issues with it at all, still finding it worked liked new after over 1,000 miles and a weekly blast through a chain cleaning tool.
Brakes and rotors
Claimed weight: Calliper 115g; Rotor 99g
RRP: Rotors £35.99 each; Callipers £199.99 each
Potenza went disc brake in 2017, and you're getting the same rotors and callipers as you get on the higher-end Campag groupsets. That means, as I've already mentioned in my review of Record Disc, fantastically sharp braking that doesn't squeal or get way too hot under a lot of load. I had a 140mm rotor at the rear and 160mm at the front on my test bike, which provided plenty of stopping power. They have rounded edges just in case you're still worried they will cut you to bits, and don't add a great deal of weight (99g for a 140mm) to your bike.
The brake callipers have the classic Campagnolo logo on them and for what it's worth, look pretty cool. They use the bang-up-to-date flat mount standard, and have a clear wear indicator so you know when to change the pads. The pads themselves are rounded to make for quicker disc insertion and wheel changes, which I can vouch for as I found wheel removal and mounting was pretty faff-free. The braking is as powerful and confidence-inspiring as any other road discs on the market, in my opinion, and easily tuneable to get the perfect amount of modulation via screws on the inside of the levers.
In terms of value, as a standalone groupset its RRP might seem a little expensive considering it's in the middle of Campag's groupset hierarchy; although it's safe to say most customers will probably be buying it on a bike, and you're probably looking at around the £2-2.5k mark for a carbon frame with full Potenza groupset and middling alloy wheels. Examples include my Tifosi SS26 test bike at £2,499 and down to £2k online nowadays, and the Cinelli Veltrix Disc at £2,499. That's about in line with what you'd pay for a bike with a mechanical Ultegra disc groupset and similar build, so although your options are limited you can get Potenza on off-the-peg bikes without a significant levy.
All in all, I was hugely impressed with Potenza Disc, and would have it on my race bike in a heartbeat. Shifting is precise and accurate, the components are built to last and the disc braking is a good as you'd get on Campag's top-tier groupsets. There's little not to like in my opinion, and if you're a fan of classic Campagnolo looks then you might even prefer it to its latest top-end 12-speed offerings.
Crisp shifting, excellent ergonomics and superb braking courtesy of Campagnolo's powerful disc brakes
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Campagnolo Potenza Disc
Size tested: 52/36, 11-32
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?
Campagnolo says: "The premium aluminum offering from Campagnolo, the Potenza 11 disc brake groupset combines the performance of the top end groups with the increased versatility of a rear derailleur capable of incorporating up to 32 tooth cassettes. Add Campagnolo disc brake technology and you have a groupset that is ready to take on anything that the road may put ahead of you."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Up to 32t cassette, five cassettes in total to choose from
Potenza 11 Ergopower hydraulic levers and hoods
Aluminum brake levers
Long or short cage derailleurs
Hollow crankset - 'Power Torque +" System
Chain - wider link design
Front derailleur - new steel cage, new cage mounting position, new rod design
Typically cool Campag looks, well engineered and and designed in all areas of the groupset.
Does the job for everyday riding and is good enough to race too.
Really hardwearing; over 1,000 miles before any adjustments were needed.
Weighs about the same as Ultegra, which comes in at just over 2,500g for the whole groupset.
Super-comfortable levers and hoods, ideal.
More expensive than the competition.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well – very reliable and hardly ever needs any adjustment.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great braking, really comfortable levers, stiff through the cranks, reliable, durable...
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Downshift lever can be a little slippery, and it's expensive.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's more expensive than the Shimano Ultegra 11-speed disc groupset, both at RRP and discounts online. Ultegra R8020 has an RRP of £1,099 while Potenza is £300 more. Considering Potenza is Campag's fourth tier (although it's supposed to be a direct Ultegra competitor) it is comparatively pretty expensive. SRAM Force 11 Disc is also quite a bit cheaper with an RRP of £1,040.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, but on a bike and probably not as a groupset-only.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
I really enjoyed my time with the Potenza groupset. The marks down are just for the extra cost compared to the competition, and I still think the right downshift lever could be made a little sharper.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road bike (currently Specialized Tarmac) My best bike is: Ridley Chronus TT bike
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, triathlon races
After cobbling together a few hundred quid during his student days off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story), Jack bought his first road bike at the age of 20 and has been hooked ever since. He joined road.cc in 2017 having previously being Staff Writer at 220 Triathlon magazine, and reports on all things tech as well as editing road.cc's live blog. He is also the news editor of our electric-powered sister site eBikeTips. Jack's preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking (the latter being another long story), and on Sunday afternoons he can often be found on an M5 service station indulging in his favourite post-race meal of 20 chicken nuggets, a sausage roll, caramel shortbread and a large strawberry milkshake.