Italy's Campagnolo looks set to launch a new 13-speed gravel groupset called Ekar soon. It is specced on complete model year 2021 bikes.
Rumours have been circulating after a retailer website listed – and swiftly deleted – Campagnolo Ekar 1x13 build options for a Wilier Jena gravel bike last week (below).
Now, if you go to the Jena page on Wilier's website you'll see Campagnolo Ekar 1x13 listed on two complete bikes: with Miche Graff Alu wheels for € 4,700 (about £4,280), and with Campagnolo Shamal Carbon C21 wheels for €5,600 (about £5,100).
Click on those options and you're led to these individual components:
Campagnolo Ergopower Ekar 13S shifters
Campagnolo Ekar brakes
Campagnolo Ekar 13S RD21-EK13 rear derailleur
Campagnolo Ekar 40-tooth FC21-EK13 chainset
Campagnolo Ekar 13S 9-42T CS21-EK1392 cassette
Campagnolo Ekar CN21-EK13 chain
The brakes in question are disc brakes, of course, using 160mm Campagnolo AFS rotors.
The most interesting information here is that the sprockets range from 9-tooth to 42-tooth. Yes, 9-tooth.
Bear in mind that the smallest sprocket available for Shimano's GRX gravel groupset is 11-tooth, and it's 10-tooth with SRAM.
With the Wilier Jena's 700c wheels and 38mm Vittoria Terreno tyres, the 40-tooth chainset and 9-42-tooth cassette would give you a gear range of 26in to 121.4in.
For comparison, a 42-tooth Shimano GRX chainset (the largest 1x chainset you can get with GRX is 42-tooth) with an 11-tooth sprocket and the same wheels/tyres would give you a 104.3in gear.
With SRAM you could have a 42-tooth chainring and a 10-42-tooth cassette (or even a 10-50-tooth cassette). Your largest gear here, again with a 700 x 38mm tyre, would be 114.7in.
We told you last week that Campagnolo's new Shamal Disc wheels hinted at suitability for gravel gearing. Campagnolo said that it's new N3W freehub “prepares us for the future”.
The N3W freehub has splines that are spaced like an existing Campagnolo freehub body, but the length of the freehub body has been reduced by 4.4mm.
We reported, "Campagnolo says that this makes the freehub lighter, but it’s not a stretch to imagine the real reason being that 10, or even 9-tooth cassette cogs are on their way from Campagnolo."
The N3W freehub is backwards compatible with current 10, 11 and 12-speed cassettes using an N3W adapter.
Campagnolo dropped another hint that a gravel groupset is on the way when it described the new Shamal disc wheels as being “gravel ready”.
Fitting 13-sprockets on to that freehub is going to involve some interesting jiggery-pokery (it's a technical term) in terms of spacing. The smallest sprocket(s) will almost certainly need to sit outboard of the freehub body.
Thirteen sprockets would trump gravel groupsets from other brands, Shimano currently offering a maximum of 11-speeds with GRX and SRAM giving you 12-speed options.
Campagnolo's own Super Record top level road groupset is 12-speed with an 11-tooth smallest sprocket. The brand hasn't offered mountain bike groupsets for years so expanding into the gravel market is a significant step.
One other thing to bear in mind is that there's no mention of EPS (Electronic Power Shift) electronic shifting in anything we've seen, implying that all of these parts are mechanical. We don't know for certain, and that's not to say that an EPS version of Ekar won't be available as well.
In terms of pricing, the Wilier Jena with a Campagnolo Ekar groupset and Miche Graff Alu wheels is a little more than a model with the same wheels and a SRAM Force eTap AXS (electronic) groupset – €4,700 versus €4,400.
Seeing as the Italian bike industry usually shuts down for pretty much the whole of August, an official announcement could be a while off. Mind you, this has been an unusual year to say the least, so who knows? More info when we get it.
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.