Campagnolo launch road disc brake - first ride review

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Campagnolo launch road disc brakes across six groupsets – first ride review

Italian giants finally enter disc brake market, promising 'complete safety and reliability above and beyond the competition'

It’s the news we’ve been waiting for. Campagnolo have entered the disc brake market with the launch of hydraulic components compatible with six groupsets, from Super Record EPS right down to Potenza.

In March 2016, Campagnolo invited expectant journalists to Gran Canaria to see what was new from the Italian firm. We expected disc brakes but got the mid-range Potenza groupset and only a sneak peek at Campag’s prototype discs. This time, however, we weren’t to be disappointed and Campagnolo have finally joined Shimano and SRAM in offering road disc brakes.

– Campagnolo unveil entry-level Centaur 11-speed groupset –

In fact, Campagnolo reckon their disc brakes decelerate 23 to 26 per cent quicker in wet conditions, depending on the competition, and between 14 and a huge 55 per cent in dry conditions. We can’t verify those claims, but it gives an indication of what Campagnolo are trying to achieve.

Campagnolo have launched their first disc brakes, compatible with six groupsets from Super Record to Potenza (Pic: Campagnolo)

“Campagnolo disc brakes set a new performance standard while assuring complete safety and reliability above and beyond the competition,” says Campagnolo’s Joshua Riddle.

Essentially, Campagnolo have launched one set of disc brake calipers compatible with Super Record EPS, Super Record, Record EPS, Record, Chorus and Potenza. There are then two sets of high-end, carbon fibre, non-series ‘H11’ shifters, for mechanical and electronic groupsets respectively, and a separate set of aluminium disc-compatible shifters to use with Campagnolo Potenza.

Got that? Here’s a summary of the key information from the launch before we run though everything in detail.

  • Three disc-compatible levers: H11 mechanical (for Super Record, Record and Chorus), H11 EPS (for Super Record EPS and Record EPS) and Potenza
  • Same master cylinder and caliper design used throughout
  • Campagnolo worked with Magura to develop master cylinder
  • Adjustable lever throw and lever position
  • Disc-specific H11 and Potenza chainsets
  • Rotors have rounded edge to ‘ensure maximum safety’
  • Availability: May (H11), June (Potenza) and July (H11 EPS)
  • Pricing: from £1,339.43 for complete Potenza disc groupset to £3,725.95 for complete Super Record EPS disc groupset

Ergopower shifters – ergonomics and adjustability

Ergonomics have been at the forefront of the design agenda during the ‘disc brake project’, according to Campagnolo.  “We have always been industry leaders in ergonomics and style,” says Riddle, who believes the brand’s popular ergonomics have been ‘maintained’ with Campag’s disc levers.

Campagnolo say the disc levers are ‘98% the same’ as the rim brake versions – they are 8mm taller (for both the EPS and mechanical shifters). “The additional height does not alter aerodynamics and instead offers an additional hand position,” according to Riddle. Imagine a pro rider on the front of the peloton, driving the bunch into the wind with their hands draped over the hoods and arms horizontal to the handlebar, and that’s what Campagnolo are talking about.

In the quest to offer comparable ergonomics, the hydraulic master cylinder represented the greatest challenge during development and Campagnolo worked with disc brake specialists Magura to arrive at the final design.

Significant R&D time was dedicated to developing a master cylinder small enough to satisfy Campagnolo’s demands and the same design is used across the range, whether you choose an EPS-compatible H11 lever or a Potenza lever. Campagnolo have opted to use mineral oil to operate the hydraulics, while the bleeding port is located on the top of the shifter.

Significant R&D time was dedicated to ergonomics (Pic: Campagnolo)

In order to help accommodate the master cylinder without adding too much height to the overall shifter, Campagnolo have reduced the length of the brake lever, though it still maintains Campag’s classic double curved design. The brake lever now also has a slight outward curve to try and make it easier to access from the drops.

Adjustability is key to the design, too. Campagnolo’s Adjustable Modulation System (AMS) means the brake lever can be placed in two positions – Long or Short – to adjust the amount of lever throw and, as a result, how quickly the brake pads engaged. AMS is adjusted via a 2.5mm Allen key on the side of the hood.

A second 2.5mm Allen key bolt, accessed via a small hole on the front of the brake lever, allows the rider to adjust the position of the brake lever in relation to the shifter paddle behind it, moving it either in or out.

The new levers are 8mm taller, but otherwise “98% the same” as the rim-brake alternatives (Pic: Campagnolo)

Otherwise, the three shifters offer the same functionality as their rim brake counterparts – including the ability to multi-shift (five downshifts and four upshifts with one stroke) with the two H11 designs. The Potenza shifter also maintains its EPS-style thumb shifter and, while it doesn’t allow for multi-shifts, the position of the button, at a shallow angle to the hood, makes it easier to access from the drops.

All things considered, Campagnolo say the adjustability and ergonomics offered by their disc brake shifters mean the ‘adaptation period should be the shortest of any groupset on the market’ when making the switch from rim brakes to discs.

Calipers – same design across the range

While Campagnolo will offer three disc-compatible shifters, pegged to different levels within the existing groupset hierarchy, the same caliper design is used throughout.

The calipers are made from forged aluminium and will be available in a 160mm format for the front, and either 160mm or 140mm for the rear. It’s a flat-mount design, compatible, Campagnolo say, with every flat-mount frame ‘with absolutely no need for adaptors’.

The same caliper is used across the entire range (Pic: Campagnolo)

Indeed, Campagnolo have sought to make the design adaptor-free in order to remove a part they believe adds a risk of movement within the overall caliper structure. As a result, they say their design offers increased rigidity and a cleaner aesthetic.

The calipers mount directly to the frame via two screws, with Campagnolo initially offering six length (19mm, 24mm, 29mm, 34mm, 39mm, 44mm), depending on the requirements of the frame. Campagnolo claim the direct mount design reduces weight, increases reliability and ensures all parts are visible for inspection.

Campag have also developed a ‘faucet’ design for the bleeding port, whereby a special insert is used to bleed the brakes, apparently eliminating the risk of the mineral oil contaminating ‘critical brake parts’.

The 22mm pistons are made from a phenolic resin, chosen for its thermal insulation qualities, while Campagnolo have used magnets to operate the pads, eliminating the need for mechanical springs and apparently ensuring the pads return faster and perform more consistently over time.

Particular attention has been paid to the brake pads, with Campagnolo developing a patented design which uses an organic resin compound. “It provides uniform and consistent braking performance despite varied temperature or climatic conditions,” says Riddle.

Campagnolo says the brake pad design should guide the disc rotor into place, simplifying wheel changes (Pic: Campagnolo)

The pad is mounted on a steel structure, used to ensure rigidity is maintained under stress, while Campagnolo have also learnt from motorsport technology and developed an anti-vibration and sound-proofing material placed on the back of the pad. “Our noise and vibration reducing technology makes for arguably some of the quietest and smoothest disc brakes available,” adds Riddle. Campagnolo also say it serves as further insulation against heat generated between the pad, piston and rotor.

On top of that, Campagnolo have incorporated a visible wear indicator into the design and, as the pad continues to wear, the metallic attachment will deliver an audible warning when the pad needs changing sharpish.

Finally as far as the brake pads are concerned, Campagnolo say they have designed the structure to guide the disc rotor into place – simplifying wheel changes and reducing the potential for brake rub.

Rotors – safety first

You don’t need us to tell you that disc brakes have had something of a tumultuous start to life in the pro peloton. The UCI’s initial trial was suspended after Movistar’s Fran Ventoso claimed he was cut by a disc brake rotor in a crash at Paris-Roubaix and, while that trial was restarted at the beginning of 2017, safety remains a key issue surrounding the adoption of disc brakes in races.

Campagnolo have responded by ensuring their rotors have a rounded edge. “We went to great lengths to ensure we have the safest possible system,” says Riddle, and apparently seven versions of the rotor were studied to arrive at a final design least likely to cut flesh.

The rounded rotor design is said to be the safest iteration possible (Pic: Campagnolo)

The rotors themselves are made from steel, which, while heavier than aluminium, was used for its ‘extreme resistance to heat’. The central carrier is made from aluminium, however, with a seven bolt design for 160mm rotors and six bolt for 140mm rotors. The rotors essentially use the Centrelock standard developed by Shimano, though Campagnolo call it ‘AFS’.

Campagnolo disc brake groupset (Pic: Campagnolo)
Campagnolo disc brake groupset (Pic: Campagnolo)
Campagnolo disc brake groupset (Pic: Campagnolo)

Chainset – hydraulic-optimised

Shifters, calipers and rotors – that’s all you need to make the switch to disc brakes, right?  Wrong. Campagnolo have also developed two chainsets to be used specifically within the hydraulic setup.

Campagnolo have tweaked the chainset design according to the different spacing and geometries typically seen on disc-specific bikes. It’s all in the name of chain line optimisation – moving the chain line slightly outboard without, Campagnolo say, altering the Q-Factor (which remains at 145.5mm).

Campagnolo have also developed two chainsets, for use exclusively with the disc brakes  (Pic: Campagnolo)

There are both Potenza (aluminium) and H11 (carbon fibre) versions of the chainset. While the latter is essentially a non-series unit, like the H11 shifters/levers, Campagnolo say it’s closest to the existing Super Record chainset for weight.

Of course, you certainly don’t need a HO (that’s Hydraulic-Optimised in Campagnolo terms) chainset to run Campagnolo disc brakes, but, in developing non-brake components to work in harmony with the rest of the setup, Campag say it’s just one way they have tried to differentiate their system from the competition.

Pricing, weights and availability

Finally, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Here are the prices, weights and availability for Campagnolo’s complete disc brake groupsets.

Campagnolo Super Record EPS db
Weight: 2,355gg
Price: £3,725.95
Available from: July

Campagnolo Super Record db
Price: £2,439.68
Weight: 2,228g
Available from: May

Campagnolo Record EPS db
Weight: 2,390g
Price: £3,443.26
Available from: July

Campagnolo Record db
Weight: 2,260g
Price: £2,231.11
Available from: May

Campagnolo Chorus db
Weight: 2,319g
Price: £1,985.81
Available from: May

Campagnolo Potenza db
Weight: 2,613g
Price: £1,339.43
Available from: June

Campagnolo H11 disc brakes – first ride review

It was always a matter of when, not if, but Campagnolo still kept us waiting for the launch of disc brake. You’ve already had all the technical details from the launch in Gran Canaria – now it’s time to offer my first impressions, based on using the H11 brakes with a Super Record mechanical groupset and 160mm rotors at both the front and rear.

The two-and-a-half hour ride took in nearly 1,500m of climbing – but, needless to say, it was the performance downhill I was most interested in.

However, the opening half of the ride, on undulating coastal and valley roads, gave me the chance to familiarise myself with the Ergopower controls. During the launch, Campagnolo were keen to stress how closely shifter ergonomics match their rim brake controls, and while the hood is visibly taller – eight millimetres, to be precise, and how much that increase offends your eyes will be down to you – the overall setup retains the sleek, compact profile we’ve come to know from Campagnolo.

Campagnolo disc brake groupset (Pic: Campagnolo)
Campagnolo disc brake groupset (Pic: Campagnolo)
Campagnolo disc brake groupset (Pic: Campagnolo)

Campagnolo are right to say the additional height of the levers offers the opportunity for an additional hand position. Wrap your hands around the hoods and you have a secure anchor from which to get low over the front of the bike, forearms flat against the handlebar.

I experienced no pad rub throughout the ride, which included a 5.3-mile climb with short stretches well into double figure gradients, and the subsequent descent, with a series of tight hairpins interspersed by fast straights, offered an ideal opportunity to put the brakes through their paces.

First impressions are positive. The brakes offer plenty of bite, with the pads engaging quickly with the lever in the ‘short’ position (remember, Campagnolo’s disc brakes offer two options when it comes to lever travel). There’s plenty of power immediately available on tap but the action remains light, so power builds consistently and is easily modulated.

While Campagnolo may have been late to the disc brake party, they’re sure to turn a few heads (Pic: Campagnolo)

Midway through the ride, I switched the lever throw to the ‘long’ setting. While it’s not dramatic, there is a discernible difference between the two options, with the latter feeling a little more natural to me as a result of the increased travel. It allows for a little more ‘feel’ as you begin to pull on the lever, feathering the brake with a single fingers to scrub off speed.

While Campagnolo have paid particular attention to noise and vibration reduction in development, with a bonded material on the back of each brake pad to try and keep everything running smoothly and quietly, I did experience a little squeal when putting the brakes under pressure towards the end of the descent. Nothing to be unduly concerned about at this point, but something to note ahead of a full test.

On that note, our ride took place in dry conditions, so we’ll have to wait and see how these perform in the wet and, of course, over a greater period of time. What can be said at this point, however, is that while Campagnolo may have been late to the disc brake party, they’re sure to turn a few heads.

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