After plenty of rumours and hints dropped in recent weeks, it’s now official: Italian component maestros Campagnolo have become the first to go 12 speed for road, with the extra sprocket added to their overhauled high-end Record and Super Record groupsets.
A patent filed by the brand for a 12 speed cassette was spotted recently which fuelled speculation further, and the finished product is a conventional set-up with a double chainset, just with that extra gear at the rear. Campagnolo turns 85 in 2018, and 12 speed is arguably the major announcement amongst a few new products to drop this year (new kit, a revamped MyCampy app and the new Bora WTO race wheels) to celebrate the anniversary.
The new Record and Super Record groups are more than just an extra sprocket: the ergonomics of the brake levers have seen a big change, the front derailleur has been completely redesigned and the crankset now has a sleeker and more aerodynamic appearance. There’s a lot of info and a lot of it very technical, so instead of listing every last nugget I’ve attempted to answer the main questions that the road.cc team asked when we first caught wind of it plus a few more of the main details, based on the info we have from Campagnolo so far…
Why not? Is the hypothetical answer to that question. “Movement” was the theme of the presentation when Campagnolo dropped 12 speed on myself and a bunch of other unsuspecting journalists (genuinely, the idea of 12 speed had been floated but no one was fully sure of the exact details), because of course, their aim right from the very start when Tullio Campagnolo invented the first quick release skewer was to help you move more efficiently on your bike. 12 speed is the latest way Campagnolo claim to be giving us a helping hand on two wheels, albeit for a handsome sum of cash; and while it’s not going to make you a better cyclist per say, having smaller jumps between gears should make your shifting experience cleaner and more convenient.
12 speed also means that only two cassettes will be necessary, making things simpler for the consumer. The first seven sprockets all go up in single tooth increments, so there’s no need to have a smaller ranging cassette such as 11/23 to get the precise gear you need. The two cassettes on offer are 11/29 and 11/32.
Possibly recognising that it might be a tough task to get us to convert, Campag have made sure 12 speed is fully compatible with 11 speed wheels and current frame spacing. The new rear derailleur has the same spacing as the 11 speed version, made possible by a thinner chain that Campag say is just as strong and reliable. Therefore, the spacing was reduced on the cassette as well and likewise, that’s not at the expense of strength or longevity. Wheels that are 11 speed Campagnolo compatible are also 12 speed compatible, the freehub spacing is exactly the same.
Campag have simplified further by making the new cranksets compatible across all platforms too. Whether you have a rim or disc set-up and regardless of crank length, it’s the same four arm, 8-bolt spider design. The rear derailleur is also one-size-fits-all.
Yep, it’s available for rim and disc brakes. Campag went big on disc last year and that project has carried over to 12 speed straight away. The rotors come in 140 or 160mm sizes with a round edge for ‘maximum safety’, and are designed for superior heat dissipation so they perform in all conditions.
The calipers are compatible with all flat mount frames and don’t require adapters. They screw on with just two bolts, making them simpler to fit and lighter. A magnetic spring inside eliminates the need for mechanical springs between pads, making them more reliable over time. The brake pad has a wear indicator, and has a special form that is said to make it easier to guide the disc rotor into place when fitting your wheel. It’s made with an organic resin compound that’s extremely resistant to heat.
Like the 11 speed versions, the new Ergopower brake levers for disc are just 8mm taller than the rim brake levers, which shouldn’t affect the ergonomics or comfort in use.
Surprisingly (in our opinion anyway) not yet. It’s just the mechanical versions for now, but when questioned on this Campagnolo’s press officer said that making Campag’s EPS electronic groupsets 12-speed is “a natural progression”; all but confirming that we’ll most likely see it later this year or early next. Considering pretty much the whole professional peloton now use electronic shifting it does seem slightly bizarre that an EPS version hasn’t been launched at the same time; but Campag were never ones to do things completely conventionally anyway.
Will my 11 speed wheels be compatible?
As mentioned previously… yes indeed. The freehub spacing is the same as Campag’s 11 speed groupsets, so there’s no need to buy new wheels if you already run Campagnolo and want to upgrade to 12 speed.
Surely it’s heavier?
Not discernibly, and where parts have been refined or added to in order to deal with a 12 speed system, Campag have managed to get the weight discrepancy very close to the previous 11-speed version (the rear derailleur is just 3g heavier, for example). The cassette sprockets are lighter and thinner as is the new chain, and this has been achieved without sacrificing any shifting accuracy according to Campagnolo. Here is a run-down of the weights, sticking with Super Record for the individual components and the complete weights for Record and Super Record:
Brake levers (pair): 331g
Direct mount brake: 160g
Front derailler: 79g
Rear derailleur: 181g
50/34 crankset with 172.5mm cranks: 618g
Chain (110 links): 220g
Cassette (11/29): 266g
Brake levers (pair): 462g
Rotor (140mm): 99g
Caliper (140mm with pads): 115g
Record rim brake: 2,213g
Record disc brake: 2,453g
Super Record rim brake: 2,041g
Super Record disc brake: 2,323g
…the Super Record rim brake groupset actually comes in lighter than mechanical Dura-Ace 9100 which is 2,176g, so even with a heavier cassette, the new Super Record is pretty light. The previous 11 speed version of rim brake Super Record is 1,939g, 102g less.
What are the ratios on offer?
With smaller gears very much in, Campag have recognised the trend by offering an 11/32 cassette option. In fact, the only cassettes available will be 11/29 and 11/32, which are exactly the same for both the Record and Super Record groupsets.
There are no sub-compact chainring options, but you have a choice of 50/34, 52/36 and 53/39; perhaps disappointing for those who jumped to conclusions and assumed we were going to see something 1x from Campag after the 12-speed patent was spotted, but in return you're getting spoiled with enough range to cover pretty much everyone on road bikes.
The advent of 12 speed means you now have one increment changes all the way up to the seventh sprocket, making the ratios super close and the difference barely discernible as you make your way through the gears. If you do want to make a rapid shift up or down the cassette, Campag’s Ultrashift mechanism that allows you to shift three gears up with one click of the paddle or down five with one shift of the lever does the job quickly and efficiently. This appeared on the previous 11 speed iterations of Record and Super Record.
Won’t it be a pain to index, and will shifting be compromised?
Campagnolo claim it’s mechanically as good if not better than their 11-speed groupsets. The aluminium cassette spacers should guarantee perfect alignment until it’s totally worn out, and if they’re to be believed Campag have achieved adding an extra gear in the cassette without increasing width while maintaining a flawless shifting performance.
The upper pulley of the rear derailleur is placed close to the sprockets and has a trajectory curve optimised for 11/29 and 11/32 cassettes, making the shifting more precise. It moves independently of the chainring with a gearwheel system, that Campag say is better than the spring system used by competitors.
The front derailleur has an unlinked upper semi rod that eliminates free stroke and gives a more responsive upshift, and there are dedicated positions for each chainring to ensure safer and more efficient shifting, while increasing the component longevity.
The sprockets are thinner but the last two triplets on the cassette are made with monolithic steel for maximum stiffness. There’s also now a larger gap between the rear derailleur cage and the spokes while in rotation, which makes for easier adjustment of the rear derailleur, plus the design is safer and more reliable.
The cranksets are available in four different lengths: 165, 170, 172.5 and 175mm (165mm is new) and have had a bit of an aesthetic overhaul. The reason was somewhat practical with the more covered outer ring purported to be more aerodynamic. The Super Record crankset has a full carbon fibre layup with a hollow construction. The 8 bolt design has been improved so bolts are located in the right positions for each chainring, which increases the stiffness and rigidity.
The brake levers have changed shape to improve ergonomics, with a double curved shape to the levers for extra comfort and control. The upshift paddles are now larger to make them easier to locate o the drops, and the downshift levers are also slightly bigger. You can also customise the levers to your preference using just an allen key: the position of the levers for varying hand sizes and positions can be changed, and also the responsiveness and free stroke of the brakes can be altered.
The front derailleur has a dual position cable grip bolt, which allows you to officially use up to 32mm tyres (although even larger sizes may be possible), making it customisable for different tyre sizes and frame designs.
It all sounds pretty darn good, but there's one potential issue for pro riders... while new wheel standards aren't required, neutral service will now have to be persuaded to carry wheels with 12 speed cassettes on them for teams who are running the new groupsets. Proportionally there's not many teams in the peloton riding Campag anyway, and the ones that are are going to have to negotiate with neutral service providers to update their inventory; but assuming all Campag-equipped teams will move over to 12 speed, it will have to happen otherwise neutral service will be just be carrying a bunch of redundant rear wheels.
Cheap as chips! Just kidding… the RRP of the full Record group comes in at £1,750 in its rim brake guise and £2,138 for the disc groupset, and the flagship Super Record is £2,603 and £2,856 for the rim and disc versions respectively. That’s a significant jump from the 11 speed iterations, with the last mechanical rim brake version of 11 speed Super Record coming in at £1,999 when it was released. As outlined before you’re not just paying for the extra sprocket though, with significant changes been made to the levers, crankset and front derailleur on top of extensive R+D to ensure that shifting performance wasn’t compromised by going 12 speed.
While gloriously expensive on its own, according to Campag there will likely be many more options to get the groupsets on off-the-peg bikes from 2018 onwards, which might make the prices a bit easier to swallow. Bikes from the likes of Cannondale, Basso, Cervélo and Canyon appeared with the new groupsets at the launch event I attended, and we were told that all of these brands and more will be offering complete Campagnolo-equipped bikes very soon.
Is it any good?
Without giving too much away (and of course it’s too early to say definitively yet), after 70 miles or so of riding it at the launch event in Gran Canaria last month I’m inclined to say yes. Click here to read the first ride report on both the rim brake Record and disc brake Super Record groupsets for a more in-depth early review of my maiden 12-speed experience…
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 worked for 220 Triathlon magazine. 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.