Campagnolo is bringing back its Centaur aluminium groupset to replace the current Veloce range, although it's now 11-speed and features technology that has trickled down from the Italian brand’s higher level groupsets.
Centaur was a feature of the Campagnolo lineup for a long time before being sidelined two years ago. New Centaur comes into Campagnolo’s groupset hierarchy below Super Record, Record, Chorus and Potenza with the aim of competing directly with Shimano 105. Campag says that Centaur offers much of the same Revolution 11+ technology as its higher end groupsets but using different materials which allow for lower prices. The material choice also means that Centaur is heavier than Campag’s more expensive options.
“The Centaur project saw its central aim as offering an accessible groupset without offering entry level performance or features,” says Campagnolo.
Unlike Campag’s higher level groupsets, Centaur is rim brake only – there are no disc brakes here. Like next-level-up Potenza, shifting is mechanical only – there’s no EPS electronic version.
The complete Centaur groupset is available in two different finishes:
• Centaur black £539.33
• Centaur silver £571.10
The silver components are slightly more expensive than the black equivalents except for the brakes which are listed as being the same price.
All weights below are supplied by Campagnolo.
Campagnolo took me out to Gran Canaria a couple of weeks ago where I had the chance to use Centaur out on the road. The performance is such that you’d hardly know that it’s designed as a value groupset. The braking in particular is excellent. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a look at the key components.
Price £143.00 (black) £155.71 (silver)
Weight 875g (50/34-tooth, 170mm)
The Centaur chainset comes with a four-arm spider – a design that has trickled down from Super Record although here it’s made from aluminium rather than carbon. The idea is that the arms are positioned where they are most needed for strength and rigidity.
A single chainset will accept all chainring combinations… speaking of which, the Centaur chainset will be available in 52/36-tooth (semi-compact, mid-compact, faux pro, or whatever else you want to call it) and 50/34-tooth (compact) versions. There’s no 53/39-tooth (standard) option because Campagnolo doesn’t see that as relevant to the Centaur market.
The inner and outer chainrings are fixed using separate bolts, so there’s one bolt circle diameter for each. Campag says that this allows the bolts to be located closer to the edge of each ring for extra rigidity.
The Centaur chainset is the first aluminium model with Campagnolo’s high-end Ultra-Torque axle. Essentially, half the axle is attached to the driveside crank, the other half is attached to the non-driveside crank, and teeth on the end of each half mesh together in the middle. Campag reckons this design offers the best performance in terms of stiffness, weight and efficiency of power transmission.
Price £127.11 (black) £135.58 (silver)
The Ergopower controls look a lot like Campag’s top-end Super Record Ergopowers although, again, the materials used are different. The Ergopower body is made from a lightweight techno-polymer reinforced with carbon fibre while the brake lever is aluminium.
Campag sticks with its ‘one lever, one action’ philosophy. Instead of the brake lever doubling up as a shift lever, changing gear is handled by a thumb lever and lever 3, a shifter that’s tucked behind the brake lever. Rather than sticking out at a right angle to the Ergopower body, the thumb lever is angled downwards, a lot like it is on Campag’s EPS control, to make it more accessible from the handlebar drops.
Campag’s Power-Shift internals mean you can use that thumb lever to shift down the cassette just one sprocket at a time, which is the same as Potenza – you can’t shift multiple sprockets down the cassette with one push like you can with Campag’s highest level groupsets. You can, though, shift up the cassette a maximum of three sprockets with one push.
Price £41.32 (black) £45.97 (silver)
The front derailleur uses the Revolution 11+ technology that Campag has used on its higher end groupsets over the past few years. The one-piece steel cage, for example, takes its cues from the Super Record RS cage. The idea of using a one-piece construction is to increase rigidity and precision.
The long rod is designed to reduce the force and lever throw required for upshifting from the small chainring to the large chainring.
Price £63.55 (black) £69.49 (silver)
The rear derailleur comes in a single version that can handle cassettes with sprockets as large as 32-tooth. The fact that there aren’t short cage and long cage models means you don’t need to worry about swapping your rear derailleur if you change your cassette to one of a different range.
The only technology that Campagnolo hasn’t been able to filter down from its higher level groupsets is Embrace which changes the angle of the rear derailleur relative to the cassette as you come down through the gears. That means the Centaur rear derailleur has to remain at one angle in relation to the cassette across the various different sprockets, and Campagnolo has altered this angle from that of previous designs.
“Having one angle, you have to choose the one that’s going to be the most reliable and most efficient,” said Campagnolo’s Joshua Riddle. “With our angle we are able to hug tighter for each sprocket on the cassette compared to our competitors.”
Campag has lengthened the teeth of the upper pulley wheel which, it says, makes it easier for you to regulate the rear derailleur, while the teeth of the lower pulley wheel have been shortened to reduce friction when the chain is at an extreme crossover angle.
Campag says that the Centaur rear derailleur is 15g lighter than the long cage version of any of its competitors.
Price £61.44 (12-32-tooth) £74.15 (11-29-tooth, 11-32-tooth)
Weight 291g (11-29-tooth)
The 11-speed cassette is the same as for Potenza but with a slightly different finish.
You can choose from:
• 11-29 tooth
• 11-32 tooth
• 12-32 tooth
These cassettes are designed specifically for the Centaur groupset but they’re compatible with other Campag 11-speed components.
Weight 247g (110 links)
Campagnolo has designed a new chain specifically for the Centaur and Potenza groupsets (although it’ll work with any Campag 11-speed groupset) with, it says, a focus on precise chainring engagement.
“It’s a really efficient chain, it’s lightweight and it’s super, super durable,” said Campag’s Joshua Riddle.
Campag says its tests show that the new chain will outlast anything else that’s out there at the moment.
The Centaur brakes are dual pivot front and rear and Campag claims that they are 50g lighter than those of the competition.
The pads are made from a new compound that’s designed to provide increased stopping power in all conditions.
The bottom bracket cups are available in various different standards to fit different frames.
We’ve given you the weights of the individual products above but here they are all together.
Ergopower controls 373g
Front derailleur 103g
Rear derailleur 230g
Bottom bracket cups 40g
Campagnolo says that Centaur is lighter than any of its price point competitors by 30-50g (depending on the selected specs).
I got the chance to use new Centaur on a dry, hilly ride of about 2:20hrs in Gran Canaria. That’s not long enough for a full review, obviously, but here are my early impressions.
The standout feature of the groupset is the braking. I was riding a bike fitted with Campagnolo’s newly reinvented Scirocco wheels and the braking performance on the aluminium rims was superb.
As mentioned above, both front and rear brakes are dual pivot (there’s no single pivot option for the rear) but my guess is that it’s Campagnolo’s new pad compound that’s making the difference here. Whatever it is, the brakes feel excellent, particularly considering that Centaur is Campag’s fifth tier groupset. Good brakes give you the confidence to ride fast. Our route took in a fair few hairpins and I was able to leave braking as late as I ever have, knowing that there was enough power to decelerate safely with very little fingertip pressure before chucking the bike into the bend. This really isn’t the kind of braking that you might expect on an entry-level groupset.
The rest of the groupset is almost as impressive. It might not be as light as Campag’s higher end groupsets, and it might not look as expensive, but Centaur feels almost the same when you’re riding.
Ergonomically, the Centaur Ergopower levers are pretty much the same as Super Record. Chances are that you spend most of your time riding with your hands on the hoods, right? The Vari-Cushion natural silicone hoods are super-comfortable and very grippy even when rain or sweat has made them wet.
Shifting uses Campag’s Power-Shift mechanism, the same as you get with Potenza. The long shift lever that’s tucked behind the brake lever allows you to move up the cassette a maximum of three sprockets at a time, depending on how far you push it, while the thumb lever allows you to move down the cassette one sprocket at a time.
For comparison, Campag’s Ultra-Shift mechanism found on the Super Record, Record and Chorus mechanical groupsets allows you to move up the cassette a maximum of five sprockets with one throw of the lever, and the thumb lever allows you to move multiple-sprockets with one push too.
To be honest, it’s not often that you find yourself wanting to move more sprockets than Power-Shift allows, so it’s not a massive limitation. Plus, the thumb lever has to come out from the Ergopower body at right angles on the higher level groupsets to allow enough cable movement for those multiple shifts down the cassette. That’s not an issue with Centaur so Campag can position the lever in such a way that it’s much more accessible when you’re riding on the drops. In other words, when you’re in a racing position it’s easier to shift using that thumb lever on Centaur Ergopowers than it is on Super Record Ergopowers.
In terms of shifting, Centaur performs exactly as you’d hope it would, although my bike had just been set up by Campag’s own mechanics so the chances of it not behaving itself on a quick test ride were always going to be slim. I did my best to flummox it but the drivetrain wasn’t fazed by multiple shifts or swapping between chainrings under load.
My bike was fitted with a compact chainset (50/34-tooth) and a cassette going up to 32-tooth, the maximum the system will allow. You can get a lower gear if you go to SRAM’s WiFLi but chances are that this is going to be plenty to see you up the longest and steepest of climbs.
It might seem odd but Campagnolo is really proud of the new chain that has been designed for the Centaur and Potenza groupsets. The feature the brand is most pleased about is the durability. Obviously, that’s not something I can comment on after a 2:20hr ride, but Campag seems confident that you’re going to get a long life from this one.
You can’t make firm judgements on a groupset in a couple of hours but early indications suggest that Campagnolo is on to a winner with new Centaur. The fact that a lot of the technology has filtered down from the more expensive Campag groupsets means that, although new in this format, it is already tried and tested. In terms of function, there’s really not much to separate Centaur from those higher end groups, it’s just the materials and the weights that are different. We hope to give Centaur a full test on road.cc soon.
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.