Campagnolo has launched an all-new 13-speed gravel-specific mechanical groupset called Ekar (pronounced ECK-ar).
With 1× gearing only and cassettes that start with a tiny 9-tooth cog, Ekar aims to match the range of 2× drivetrains “without compromise”.
Campagnolo claims Ekar is the lightest gravel groupset on the market at 2,385g complete.
It’s priced below the brand’s Chorus 12-speed road groupset, but well above the entry-level 11-speed Centaur, with a full groupset (including bottom bracket and brake rotors) set to retail at £1,449 / $1,764 / €1,696.
Ekar is named for the Cima Ekar, a mountain “gravel heaven” not far from Campagnolo’s Italian headquarters.
Campagnolo Ekar: big range and gravel-specific features
Campagnolo says it surveyed 4,500 gravel riders and consulted industry players and gravel athletes to come up with a list of requirements for a gravel groupset.
The brand’s research concluded that the key attributes were durability, braking performance, chain security, gear range and the ability to run 1×.
To tick these boxes, Campagnolo settled on a 1×13 drivetrain with no option to run a front derailleur.
The chain is pushed around and kept in check by an all-new clutched rear derailleur, while cassettes starting with a tiny 9-tooth sprocket supply the necessary range.
Ekar isn’t the first 13-speed groupset on the market – Rotor 1×13 got there first and e*thirteen already offers cassettes with 9-tooth cogs – but in combining these features into a gravel-specific drivetrain, Campagnolo is offering something genuinely new.
It’s a bold step for a brand that has been road-only for almost three decades, having previously only dabbled in mountain bike componentry.
Let’s take a look at each component in turn…
Campagnolo Ekar cassette
Campagnolo hinted at a new drivetrain earlier this year when it launched wheels with the new N3W driver body (freehub).
N3W is backwards compatible with existing 10-, 11- and 12-speed Campagnolo cassettes with the addition of an adaptor that effectively lengthens the freehub body, but in its native state it accepts Ekar’s new 13-speed cassettes.
Campagnolo describes N3W as “open and trademark free”, so third-party wheel makers can manufacture their own freehubs, but they must comply with the brand’s terms for using the design.
Campagnolo is offering 9-36 (‘Endurance’), 9-42 (‘Gravel Race’) and 10-44 (‘Gravel Adventure’) cassette options for Ekar, aiming to cover all types of gravel riding.
Ratios and claimed weights are as follows:
- Endurance (340g): 9-10-11-12-13-14-16-18-20-23-27-31-36
- Gravel Race (390g): 9-10-11-12-13-14-16-18-21-25-30-36-42
- Gravel Adventure (410g): 10-11-12-13-14-15-17-19-22-26-32-39-44
The cassettes are constructed from a combination of steel and aluminium, and the ratios were apparently chosen to keep cadence as constant as possible while offering plenty of range.
- Price: £226 / $274 / €265
Campagnolo Ekar rear derailleur
There’s just one derailleur to cover the three cassette options and it’s constructed from a combination of aluminium and carbon-reinforced polyamide, with stainless steel hardware.
It’s clutched to keep the chain in check and the clutch is always on, but can be ‘locked forward’ to aid wheel removal.
- Claimed weight: 275g
- Price: £210 / $256 / €247
Campagnolo Ekar Ergopower levers
The main one is, of course, that only the right lever is a shifter, because Ekar is 1×. The left lever is used for braking only and, as you’d expect from a gravel groupset in 2020, Ekar is hydraulic disc only – there’s no rim brake option.
As ever with Campagnolo, shifting is controlled by one lever behind the brake (for easier gears, i.e. downshifts) and a thumb-operated paddle on the inside of the lever body (for harder gears, i.e. upshifts).
- Related reading: How to change gear on a road bike
The thumb paddle uses a new stepped design that’s meant to be easy to operate from both the hoods and the drops.
Campagnolo has used a few different designs over the years and some haven’t been particularly easy to reach from the drops, but that shouldn’t be an issue at all with Ekar.
Slightly confusingly, Campagnolo refers to Ekar’s shifting as Ultra-Shift, which in years gone by denoted groupsets that permitted both multiple upshifts and multiple downshifts.
Ekar does let you downshift up to three gears in one go, but the thumb paddle clicks through one gear at a time, which Campagnolo says is more appropriate for riding on rough terrain (where it would be possible to accidentally upshift through more gears than you intended by resting on the paddle).
Ekar’s brake levers are aluminium, while the shift paddles are plastic. Both levers and paddles have laser-cut texturing for better grip.
- Claimed weight: 420g per pair
- Price (RH with hose, caliper and oil): £326 / $395 / €382
- Price (LH with hose, caliper and oil): £260 / $316 / €304
Campagnolo Ekar brake calipers
Ekar’s hydraulic disc calipers are flat-mount only and share their internals with the brand’s road groupsets, which were developed in collaboration with Magura.
They use mineral oil as brake fluid and get new DB310 pads with an organic compound that’s claimed to offer improved performance and lower rates of wear in both wet and dry conditions.
- Claimed weight: 110g front with adaptor kit / 95g rear with adaptor kit
- Price: See levers above
Campagnolo Ekar brake rotors
Ekar’s disc rotors use a floating style design with both the braking surface and spider made from stainless steel, and the latter anodised black.
Campagnolo notes that you could run its lighter road rotors, which have an aluminium spider, if you prefer.
The Ekar discs are available in 140mm and 160mm sizes, and appear to be Centerlock-only, although that’s to be confirmed.
- Claimed weight: 157g (160mm) / 123g (140mm)
- Price: £31 / $41 / €36
Campagnolo Ekar crankset
Ekar’s 1× crank uses a four-arm design much like the brand’s road groupsets, but naturally, it’s more compact, with a 123mm bolt circle diameter that accepts specific 38t, 40t, 42t and 44t chainrings with a narrow-wide tooth profile.
The crank arms are carbon while the spindle is steel and splits in two at a Hirth joint, as Campagnolo’s Ultra-Torque cranks have done for years.
Again, following an established Campagnolo design, the crank bearings are mounted directly onto the spindle, rather than residing in the bottom bracket cups.
This makes them easy to access for cleaning, but necessitates specialist tools when it comes time to replace bearings.
Cranks will be available in 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm and 175mm lengths, and Campagnolo notes that Q-factor is narrow at 145.5mm.
- Claimed weight: 615g (172.5mm, 38t)
- Price: £297 / $360 / €347
Campagnolo Ekar bottom bracket
Ekar gets its own dedicated bottom bracket, one similar to existing Ultra-Torque units, but with ‘ProTech’, which Campagnolo describes as “a patented sealing ring and strong fibreglass-polyamide tube”.
It’s designed to withstand the rigours of gravel riding in wet and muddy conditions and will be available in “all threaded and press-fit standards”, including BSA, ITA, BB86, BB30, BB30A, BB386, PF30, BBRight and T47.
- Claimed weight: 50g
- Price: £28 / $33 / €33
Campagnolo Ekar C13 chain
With the move to 13-speed, Ekar gets an even narrower chain than Campagnolo’s 12-speed drivetrains, although the difference is just 0.25mm.
Its inner links have a “nickel-Teflon surface treatment” to reduce wear rates, while the outer plates are steel with a shiny nickel-chromium coating, supposedly to withstand greater mechanical stresses.
Campagnolo says the Ekar chains are manufactured at the brand’s Vicenza facility, and receive an ultrasound lubricant bath designed to coat every part of the chain completely.
They’re available in both pin and ‘C-Link’ (quick-link) options.
- Claimed weight: 242g
- C-Link chain price: £40 / $48 / €46
- Pin chain price: £38 / $46 / €44
Campagnolo Ekar first impressions
Campagnolo has supplied us with a Specialized S-Works Diverge kitted out with Ekar, and we’ll be bringing you a full review of the groupset in the very near future.
First impressions are that ergonomics are consistent with Campagnolo’s road offerings, with the same distinctly mechanical shifting feel and very effective braking.
Campagnolo Ekar availability and accessories
Ekar is available to buy immediately as a groupset, and we’re expecting complete bikes for the 2021 model year from brands including 3T, Pinarello, Ridley, Specialized and Wilier.
Campagnolo tells us that, in addition to its own products, buyers will initially have a choice of DT Swiss, GW Manufacturing, Newmen, Roval and Tune wheels with the N3W driver body.
A range of Ekar clothing and gravel accessories such as bikepacking bags will also be available.
BikeRadar’s take | Ekar is a bold and welcome move
While Campagnolo has forged ahead with 12-speed and electronic groupsets for the road, we were doubtful whether a brand so wedded to on-tarmac riding would be able to make the leap to gravel.
Releasing Ekar is a bold step for Campagnolo and, by going straight to 13-speed and committing to 1× from the off, it’s a real statement of intent.
Campagnolo hasn’t simply tweaked one of its road drivetrains, and it feels like the brand is truly invested in gravel as a riding category.
While Ekar has arrived a long time after Shimano and SRAM jumped on the gravel bandwagon, it’s notable that Campagnolo gives you two whole extra gears compared to GRX and SRAM’s current mechanical offering (eTap AXS may be 12-speed, but the American brand’s non-electronic groupsets are still 11-speed).
What remains to be seen is whether gravel riders will be tempted away from the big players.
Ekar’s spec sheet is impressive, but it’s not exactly a cheap drivetrain at full retail, and switching to it is likely to involve investing in new wheels, unless you happen to have a set from one of the brands that’s come onboard with the N3W driver already.
Ekar will certainly appeal to existing Campag riders looking for an excuse to get gravelly. While it has distinctively gravel-specific features, its aesthetics and ergonomics are unmistakably Campagnolo.
We’re looking forward to spending some time with this fascinating new groupset. More competition in the world of drivetrains can only be a better thing from a rider’s perspective.