Campagnolo Potenza Groupset review£754.00

Can Campagnolo overpower Ultegra?

BikeRadar score4/5

Fourth in line beneath Campagnolo’s Super Record, Record and Chorus mechanical groupsets, the Campagnolo Potenza (Italian for power) benefits from trickle-down technology. It’s made from aluminium, with the lever bodies and parts of the rear derailleur made from what Campagnolo calls Technopolymer, a plastic that's reinforced with carbon fibre.

For riders who have used Campagnolo before, Potenza’s Ergopower levers have familiar ergonomics but with a more rounded ‘horn’ and new Varicushion rubber hoods to improve vibration absorption and grip.

The brake levers’ familiar sculpted shape means they’re easy to tease with two fingers and still gain purchase

There are alloy brake levers and composite shift levers, the inner thumb lever following the down-swept EPS style, which improves control over Ergopower’s original right-angled design. The right-side lever’s Power Shift mechanism allows three upshifts (inboard) at once, but only one downshift. The left shifter maintains its trim function, with an extra click between ring shifts for fine tuning your chain line.

The aluminium front derailleur has a steel cage that’s shaped to improve downshifts and work with larger ratio cassettes and shift lever effort has been reduced. The rear derailleur promises identical performance to its loftier siblings and reduces the spacing between the cassette sprockets and upper jockey wheel, engaging more teeth with the chain for better power transfer and reduced wear.

Five cassettes accompany the groupset. We tested the 11-32. Then there’s the four-arm crank, which replicates Super Record performance, but in hollow-forged aluminium. Its eight-bolt fitting system is compatible with common road ring combinations and the one-piece hollow steel axle has a Power Torque+ system incorporating an internal extractor driven by a 14mm hex key.

The skeleton brake calipers look to be carried over from neighbouring groupsets, which is a good thing as they work well. The groupset’s available in anodised black or polished aluminium, and our black version with 50/34 rings, outboard bottom bracket cups, medium cage rear derailleur and 11-32 cassette weighed in at 2,442g. For comparison, Shimano Ultegra 6800 weighs in at 2,294g with a shorter cage derailleur and 11-25 cassette.

As part of my testing, I made several ill-advised shifts under power in an ultimately vain attempt to fluster Potenza. Shifts always feel positive, producing a satisfyingly accurate shift and are so swift that speed is not in question. The 34x32 low can scale any climb.

The new lever hoods feel superbly cushioned and grippy with or without gloves. There’s no obvious flex from the shift levers and we’ve never found making one downshift at a time a problem.

Shifts always feel positive and are so swift that speed is not in question. The 11-32 cassette’s ratios are well spaced.

The brake levers’ familiar sculpted shape means they’re easy to tease with two fingers and still gain purchase. The skeleton calipers have ample power and great fine modulation. With a high-quality component finish and classy feel and function, Potenza outperforms its cost-based market position and has enhanced our riding.

How does Potenza compare to Ultegra?

So how does it compare to Shimano's second-tier Ultegra? As part of my job, I test ride Ultegra bikes seemingly daily and I’m always satisfied with it; it functions superbly, I’ve never had a problem with it, but I do also look upon it as functional and workman-like.

There’s no feeling of passion for an Ultegra rear derailleur or a yearning for more Ultegra shifters. That’s where Campy gains an advantage; there is more of an organic, connected feeling about their mechanical groupsets, and how the levers feel. Ergonomically, and in terms of shifting with the Potenza and EPS style inner levers, I find them more intuitive and positive.

In price terms, at least going with RRP, Potenza wins over both Shimano and SRAM's second-tier Force. (Remember, Potenza is fourth in Campy's line, behind Super Record, Record and Chorus.) The problem will be limited spec on complete bikes. In short, Potenza is at least on a par with Ultegra.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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