Including the three EPS electronic shifting versions, Campagnolo currently offers eight groupsets from Veloce up to Super Record EPS. In the way that we journos and the great cycling public like to compare different manufacturer’s wares, we’ve always thought that Shimano’s popular Ultegra groupset matches up somewhere between Chorus and Athena, but it never felt like a fair fight.
Well for all lovers of parity and equality, worry no more, because Campagnolo’s new Potenza 11 Speed groupset is aiming to strike a direct hit on Ultegra, seemingly shuffling Athena out of the way in the process. Meaning power, intensity and strength in Italian, Campagnolo describes Potenza as an Ultegra rival (no SRAM pun intended), but with more soul. The Italians think they suffer a little in the marketplace from having too many groupsets (five mechanical options).
Sitting fourth in line beneath Campagnolo’s other mechanical groupsets (Super Record, Record and Chorus), Potenza gains trickle-down technology from its loftier cousins. The groupset is mostly alloy, and made entirely within the European Union, with production beginning in Campagnolo’s Vicenza factory, then moving to Romania as it scales up.
The new Ergopower levers maintain their familiar family ergonomics, but the tops are a little more rounded to improve the grip of riders who prefer to rest their hands there. The rubber hoods have been redesigned to stay grippy at all times, with Varicushion technology to improve vibration absorption, and a new surface that ensures water drains away. The bar clamp is now said to better fit all current road bars, and the lever body is made from a material Campagnolo calls Technopolymer, which is reinforced with carbon fibre.
The brake lever is alloy, while both shift levers are of composite construction, and the new power shift mechanism allows up to three upshifts (to inboard sprockets) at a time. Because an EPS-style thumb shift lever is fitted, downshifts are limited to one gear at a time, but ergonomics are improved. The left hand lever maintains its trim function, with an extra click between ring shifts to fine tune chain line when exceeding the front derailleur’s ideal eight-sprocket range.
The front derailleur shares its design with the recent Rev11+ groupsets, with a similar structure to Super Record units, but exchanges carbon for a die cast alloy body, forged alloy plates and steel cage, which is shaped to assist downshifts and repositioned to work with larger ratio cassettes. A new longer cable pull rod design reduces shift effort at the lever too, and Campagnolo claims upshifts are 10% more precise than the competition’s midrange groupsets, and a surprising 52% more than its own previous incarnations.
Out back, the rear derailleur’s Rev11+ inspired design promises the same shift performance as higher-range groupsets. Its upper and lower body uses lightweight reinforced technopolymer, with forged aluminium inner and outer plates, and small hex screws for travel limit control. The new derailleur employs what Campagnolo calls Embrace Technology, which reduces the spacing between the cassette and upper jockey wheel, engaging more teeth for improved power transfer and reducing wear. It comes in short or medium cage options, with the medium version capable of handling a 32 sprocket rather than the short cage’s maximum of 29.
A new range of five cassettes called Campagnolo 11 has been created, consisting of 11-32, 11-25, 11-27, 11-29 and 12-27t options. Apart from the 11-32 cassette, all are built with a triplet of the largest sprockets, followed by eight single sprockets and alloy spacers, which are compatible with each other.
We used each and every sprocket on this 11-32 cassette on a mountainous ride
There’s an obvious family resemblance for the Potenza 11 Speed crankset, with the same claimed performance as Super Record, but different materials, construction and weight. The cranks are hollow forged aluminium, and that four-arm spider is stiff for better shifting, as well as having an eight-bolt fitting system that makes one crank compatible with all common road ring combinations – 50/34, 52/36 and 53/39. Its one-piece hollow steel axle uses a new Power Torque+ system that improves on the original Power Torque by incorporating an internal crank extractor that only requires a 10mm hex key, plus a four-pronged tool to remove the outer cover. This is a huge improvement over Campagnolo's previous Power Torque design.
Potenza’s skeleton brake calipers look very familiar, and are said to have been updated with new pads, and if that’s the only change on top of renaming them, it’s no bad thing, as Campagnolo’s skeleton brakes work well across the board.
Claimed weights per component
- Front derailleur: 94g
- Rear derailleur: 211g
- Shifters: 370g
- Crankset: 754g
- Chain: 235g
- Bottom bracket cups: 69g
- Brake calipers: 321g
- Cassette: 249g
- Total: 2,303g
Campagnolo has high hopes of breaching the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) market with Potenza, though the only pricing we have at present is in Euros. Potenza will be available in a choice of anodised black or polished aluminium. There’s also no definite date for availability, but presumably following on from the examples we tested, production will ramp up, and it should be on sale relatively soon.
Potenza 11 Speed (black or silver finish) pricing
- Ergopower shifters: €174.99
- Power-Torque crankset (any combination): €227.01
- Braze-on front derailleur: €65.62
- Power-Torque BB cups BB386: €41.96
- Power-Torque outboard BB cups: €23.54
- Rear derailleur (either cage): €145.82
- Brake calipers: €58.33
- Chain: €41.01
- Cassette 11-25, 11-27, 11-29: €154.94
- Cassette 12-27: €116.20
- Cassette 11-32: €167.85
- Groupset with 11-32 cassette: €904.18
- Groupset with 12-27 cassette: €852.53
First ride of Campagnolo Potenza 11 Speed
Our experience riding the new Potenza 11 Speed groupset offered the chance to try out the new ‘extreme’ 11-32 cassette in the mountains of Gran Canaria. As a riding destination, there’s something for everyone, unless you prefer straight, pan-flat highways, as you’re seemingly going up or down much of the time.
Our initial impressions stemmed from the levers, as the new hoods feel well cushioned, and as ergonomic as ever. The more rounded tops are inviting for when there’s a need to stretch out, and the grip available is excellent, whether you’re wearing gloves or not, even on a hot climb.
Shift feel is very positive, with multiple upshifts carried out swiftly and accurately. Unlike the cheaper plastic versions, there is no obvious flex from the long shift lever. We’ve always preferred the EPS-style thumb shifter as it’s too easy to over shift with the right-angled one, and even though this restricts down shifts to one at a time, that’s really not a hardship, as the lever – even if you’re sprinting – is ideally placed to flick repeatedly.
Feeling thankful for the 34x32 ratio on a steep section
With the ever-changing roads, we explored every gear ratio available, and despite some ill-advised and ambitious operation, the drivetrain was never flustered, running relentlessly smoothly all day. Shifts elicit a satisfyingly accurate snick, and each one is so swift you’ll never question its speed. As the road ramped up to 16% on a particularly gnarly section, we were more than glad of the 34x32 combination, and helped by the efficient crankset, it performed without fuss which is more than could be said of our lungs. The wide ratio cassette didn’t throw up any big jumps between gears, and when it was time to barrel downhill again, we had an 11t sprocket.
Running on fairly middling Zonda wheels, we found the brakes to have ample power and great modulation, which is exactly what you want on roads that resemble spaghetti strewn across a steep hillside. The sculpted aluminium brake levers maintain Campy’s tried and trusted shape, and they’re easy to tease with two fingers and still gain plenty of purchase. In fact, one of the best plaudits we can level at the new groupset is that it never interfered with our ride, it just helped to make it better, and that counts. We’re looking forward to seeing Potenza 11 Speed denting Shimano’s dominance of the mid-range OEM market, as that would mean we get to ride it more often.
Our 4.5/5 star rating is based on early impressions. We hope to have an in-depth and longer term review for this groupset in future.
Shamal Ultra wheels
Remember that image of Miguel Indurain speeding to another crushing time trial victory in more than one of his five early 90s Tour de France victories? Well those highly polished aluminium wheels he was riding were the original Shamals, which were groundbreaking at the time for being one of the first assembled wheels whose component parts were all created specifically for them. Things have moved on a bit these days, but the Shamal continues, and offers similar weight to a mid-range carbon wheelset, making it truly raceworthy.
The new Shamal Ultra C17 can call on great pedigree, since the model has previously innovated differential rim heights, the G3 spoke pattern, oversized drive side flange, USB ceramic bearings, MoMag magnetic nipple fitting technology, oversized aluminium aero spokes, 2-Way Fit rim profiles and Rim Dynamic Balance.
But for 2016, there’s a new 17mm internal width, up from 15mm, which is designed to create a more aerodynamic profile specifically with 25mm or 28mm tyres, as well as a larger tyre contact patch, more comfort thanks to greater air volume, and increased rigidity and reactivity. The front hub body is carbon fibre, and both hubs have USB ceramic bearings with an adjustable lock ring – first seen on the Bora wheelset – for preload adjustment.
The drive side rear flange is oversized, and there are 16 radial anodised aluminium spokes up front, with 21 behind in the Mega G3 pattern, and Campagnolo’s anti-rotation system ensuring they don’t turn in use. Chrome finished self-locking nipples look good and can be adjusted conventionally, while the rims are lightened through toroidal milling, which shaves away metal where it’s not needed.
They’ll be offered in clincher and 2-Way Fit (tubeless) versions, and claimed weights are 1,435g per pair for the clinchers, and 1,515g for the 2-Way Fit version. Prices are only available in Euros at the moment.
- Shamal Ultra C17 2-Way Fit, front & rear, Campagnolo freehub: €1250.37
- Shamal Ultra C17 2-Way Fit, front & rear, Shimano/SRAM freehub: €1255.75
- Shamal Ultra C17 clincher, front & rear, Campagnolo freehub: €1201.92
- Shamal Ultra C17 clincher, front & rear, Shimano/SRAM freehub: €1208.08