Campagnolo Athena EPS 11-speed launched

By Robin Wilmott in Vicenza, Italy | Tuesday, July 17, 2012 5.03am

Seven months on from the launch of their Super Record and Record EPS electronic shifting systems, Campagnolo are showing the path their future will take with a new Athena EPS 11-speed groupset. 

The aim of the new electronic group was to retain the quality, design and performance of its big brothers while reducing the price by using different materials for some parts.

The lower-specced electronic groupset is said to work exactly the same as its siblings. Campagnolo’s Multi-Dome Tech is carried over and means the electronic shifting should convey the same mechanical feel and sound as the brand’s non-electronic groups. But whereas those can shift down five sprockets or up three in a single action, EPS enables you to shift all 11 sprockets in either direction when a lever is held down for 1.5 seconds. 

Should your battery die when you’re out on the road, Campagnolo’s Back Home unlock system allows you to manually set the derailleurs in a suitable gear. That said, the battery life of the non-removable combined power unit and brain is identical to that of the Record and Super Record groups – it should last up to three months for a rider covering about 500km per month, or roughly a month for someone riding about 2,000km in four weeks. 

Battery status is indicated by an LED traffic light system on the stem-mounted control unit. This changes from green to red, then flashes red, and there’s also an audible warning when the charge falls below six percent.

View of the control and led display unit, mounted under the stem. on the other side is a small led that changes colour to indicate charge level and assist alignment adjustment: view of the control and led display unit, mounted under the stem. on the other side is a small led that changes colour to indicate charge level and assist alignment adjustment

The LED unit, mounted under the stem

The power unit and brain package is also a diagnostic interface, for accredited service centres. It’s protected within a cleverly lined, shock-proof, waterproof shell and, along with all of the system’s electronics, has been tested 1m under water.

Each shifter has a small adjustment button next to the inner lever. This is used for initial alignment setup, displays the remaining battery life and operates as an on-the-fly alignment adjuster. 

Following a straightforward process, it’s possible to alter chain alignment while riding. Hold either shifter’s button (the right one for rear mech adjustment, the left to adjust the front) down for six seconds, illuminating a pink LED on the stem-mounted control unit. The gear shift levers are then used to tweak the chain in either direction until a perfect alignment is reached. Another press of the button saves the new setting, and that’s it. EPS also has an automatically adjusting front mech that trims itself whatever the chainline, allowing cross chaining if required, with no chain rub.

The shift lever ergonomics are hugely improved from the mechanical version across all three EPS groups, using the same Campagnolo ‘one lever, one action’ approach carried over from the original Ergopower shifters. The lower inner lever is hugely improved, with its swept-down shape permitting easier and more accurate shifts on the drops or tops. 

Inner view of the athena eps left-side ergopower lever, showing the much-improved inner lever with its swept-down shape: inner view of the athena eps left-side ergopower lever, showing the much-improved inner lever with its swept-down shape

Inner view of the Athena EPS left-side Ergopower lever, with new swept-down shape

Although the technology can easily support them, satellite shifters are not yet an option – Campagnolo believe the current road shifters are so ergonomic that they shouldn’t be necessary.

Separating Athena from Record and Super Record

So, what makes Athena different from Campagnolo’s two headline EPS groupsets? Most obviously, the brake and shift lever blades are aluminium instead of carbon, as are the inner and outer plates of the rear derailleur. The front derailleur cage is steel, and the chainset is a hollow aluminium affair. Athena is heavier than its cousins, although final weights are still to be confirmed.

The athena eps front derailleur: the athena eps front derailleur

The Athena EPS front derailleur

Although the Super Record, Record and Athena power units are the same, the Record’s level wiring harness is incompatible with Athena’s. A different configuration, polarisation and slightly thicker wires mean that Record and Super Record components can’t be mixed with Athena.

First ride impressions

BikeRadar was riding a Pinarello Dogma 2 in Campagnolo livery for the Athena test ride, in the hills around Vicenza, Italy. The bike had a double Athena EPS road groupset and Campagnolo Shamal Ultra wheels

Our initial impressions were extremely positive as we zipped up and down through the sprockets, several at a time. We’ve always been big fans of Campagnolo’s hood design but found the previous inner shift lever to be too high for the drops. This led to occasional over-shifts, but the new swept-down lever solves that issue and is perfectly placed for use on the hoods or drops.

Shifting feels tactile and satisfying, with positive lever clicks and obvious gear changes. The two uniquely positioned shift levers make it impossible to confuse them. 

On the test route’s many hills, we tried to upset the system by up-shifting when out of the saddle, under full load and not in the dead spot of the pedal stroke. Athena EPS wasn’t flustered, though. 

Even when we made repeated up and down shifts while standing on the pedals it never missed a shift, and none of the 14 riders in the group dropped a chain. Combining front and rear shifting without easing off the power also failed to confuse the brain or unship the chain.

Our pinarello dogma 2 test bike in campagnolo livery, fitted with the new athena eps 11-speed groupset: our pinarello dogma 2 test bike in campagnolo livery, fitted with the new athena eps 11-speed groupset

The Athena EPS-equipped Pinarello Dogma 2 used by BikeRadar

The ability to shift across the entire cassette in one movement is mightily impressive, even if it’s not a feature we would use every day. We marvelled at the speed with which the chain slid across from side to side. 

Campagnolo insist that Athena EPS offers the same quality of feel and function as its bigger, lighter brothers. We have to admit that if there’s a difference in performance then it’s so small it’s insignificant. 

In real-world riding conditions, Athena EPS makes for a fantastic riding experience, combining truly ergonomic controls with precise engineering and clever electronics. If this is the direction Campagnolo are intending to take, the group is a stunningly accomplished start.

Prices for the Athena EPS groupset will be announced at Eurobike this August.

Time trial shifters

Athena EPS includes an improved, shorter time trial bar-end shifter. Record and Super Record will soon feature ones that are shorter still, as pro riders wanted to minimise the overall length of their TT bars and levers for a better aero setup within UCI regulations. All of the levers feature the Back to Zero position, maintaining aerodynamics and allowing simple operation while still being able to shift 11 sprockets at once. 

A cervélo p5 built with super record eps and the new time trial brake and bar-end shifters: a cervélo p5 built with super record eps and the new time trial brake and bar-end shifters

The new brake and bar-end TT shifters on a Cervélo P5

The time trial brake levers have two gear shift buttons, with carbon or aluminium levers for Record or Athena respectively, and a quick-release for opening the brake callipers when changing wheels. They also feature the Switch Mode, with a small button under the lever for micro adjustments of chain alignment.

For more, see our Campagnolo EPS TT group first ride review.

Aero cranksets

The new aero cranksets are the Bora Ultra, at 780g, and Bullet Ultra, at 815g. 

The top-of-the-range Bora uses a hollow spider with an Ultra Torque titanium spindle. This turns on Campagnolo’s CULT greaseless bearings, which they say are nine times smoother than conventional ball bearings and even smoother-running than ceramic ones. 

The new bora ultra aero carbon chainset:

The new Bora Ultra aero carbon chainset

The Bullet Ultra has ceramic bearings and a Power Torque spindle.

Triple cranksets 

Triple cranksets are still in the Campagnolo range for 2013, largely due to demand from the French and Dutch markets – not because of Holland’s well-known mountain ranges but because many of their cyclists like to ride in the French and Italian mountains. 

The new triple cranksets are available for 11-speed Athena, and the Centaur and Veloce 10-speed groupsets. Athena is the only triple 11-speed on the market and comes in 52-39-30. Centaur will be available in either 52-39-30 or 50-39-30, and Veloce in 50-39-30. 

All use Power Torque spindles, with hollow aluminium cranks, and dedicated front derailleurs. The rear derailleurs use Campag’s 11-speed Ultra-Shift design and a longer cage. Campag’s U factor is only increased by 2mm on the right side, and not at all on the left, making it 12mm narrower than the competition’s. The triple cranksets will be compatible with any bikes that take Power Torque.

Cassettes and wheels

To complement the triple chainsets, Campagnolo have launched two new cassettes for 10- or 11-speed transmissions, which cover the 12-27 and 12-30 ranges.

New among their wheel range, Campanolo’s Scirocco set now has 35mm deep aluminium rims and weighs 1,725g per pair. It’s available in road or cyclo-cross (CX) versions that feature improved sealing for off-road use and Mega G3 flange hubs to increase torsional wheel stiffness and responsiveness. 

The new rear campagnolo scirocco wheel with customary grouped spoke pattern:

The new rear Campag Scirocco wheel with customary grouped spoke pattern

Also announced was the Zonda 2-Way Fit wheelset, weighing in at 1,570g for the clincher version and 1,555g for the CX variant.

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