Campagnolo launch new Potenza groupset to take on Shimano Ultegra
Fourth-tier groupset 'to fight directly with Ultegra', according to Campagnolo
Campagnolo have launched a fourth-tier groupset aimed squarely at taking on Shimano Ultegra. Campagnolo Potenza borrows a host of features from the Italian firm’s upscale Super Record, Record and Chorus groupsets, but drops the price to less than £1,000, and also sees the introduction of a climb-friendly 11-32t cassette.
Campagnolo’s focus has traditionally been at the high end. It’s a company with its roots firmly in the pro peloton, from Italian greats Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi in the 1940s and 1950s, through Eddy Merckx’s reign in the 1960s and 1970s, Bernard Hinault Laurent Fignon, Greg LeMond and Stephen Roche in the 1980s, Miguel Indurain and Marco Pantani in the 1990s, and Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali up to the current day.
Also new from Campagnolo...
However, Campagnolo’s influence has waned over the past two decades as Shimano has tightened its grip on the market, while SRAM returned to the road world in 2006. Now, Campag see Potenza as a chance “to fight directly with Ultegra," according to Campagnolo’s global marketing and communication director Lorenzo Taxis. It’s the company’s hope that, with Potenza, you’ll see a Campagnolo groupset more widely specced on mid-to-high end complete bikes – an area where Shimano is utterly dominant.
Fourth member of Campagnolo Revolution 11+ groupset family
Campagnolo revamped its 11-speed Super Record, Record and Chorus groupsets for model year 2015. Campag’s ‘Revolution 11+’ groupsets featured a new, four-arm carbon fibre chainset, with updated front and rear derailleur designs in a bid to reduce lever throw at the front and offer smoother shifts at the rear.
Potenza, which will be available in both black and silver finishes, borrows technologies from those, thanks to the trickle-down effect. While carbon fibre features in various quantities in the Super Record, Record and Chorus gruppos, metal takes over for Potenza, raising the weight a little but also dropping the price.
“Potenza is pegged with Shimano Ultegra but with a little more soul," says Campagnolo’s press manager, Joshua Riddle. Regardless of soul, Campagnolo now believe Potenza is the best aluminium-based groupset on the market.
Here are the key headline claims from Campagnolo for the Campagnolo Potenza; then we’ll run through the tech on each component.
- All-new groupset, introduced to rival Shimano Ultegra
- Campagnolo’s top-end aluminium-based groupset
- Borrows key tech features from Super Record, Record and Chorus gruppos
- Medium cage derailleur option capable of accommodating 11-32t cassette
- Front derailleur remodelled to reduce lever throw and shifting effort
- Four-arm chainset increases stiffness
- Upgraded brake pads to increase stopping power
The chainset is at the heart of any groupset and Potenza borrows the four-arm design from further up the Campagnolo food chain, but aesthetically it bears little resemblance to the Super Record, Record or Chorus units by swapping carbon fibre for jet black aluminium. Potenza’s aluminium crank arm is also notably slimmer than that of Super Record, though Campagnolo say it offers similar performance in everything but weight.
Campagnolo say the four-arm design significantly increases stiffness over a five-arm unit, spreading the load wider across the chainset, and by ‘hugging’ and supporting the chainrings. The chainset is available in 53-39t, 52-36t and 50-34t chainring combinations, interchangeable on the same crankset. The aluminium cranks themselves are hollow forged and the axle has a solid steel construction. All in all, Riddle says the Potenza chainset is “quite a bit stiffer than anything we’ve offered in aluminium before".
The chainset uses the Power Torque design found on the more affordable Athena and Veloce groupsets, whereby the axle is fixed to the driveside crank in a single piece, and then couples with the non-driveside crank. However, Potenza does now use a new internal extractor to reportedly make maintenance easier.
The shifters take on Campagnolo's familiar ergonomics but the top of the hood has a new rounded shape and Campagnolo say this improves comfort and allows for more hand positions, as riders increasingly like to drape their hands over the hoods when tucked low, rather than necessarily reaching for the handlebar drops.
- Front derailleur - 94g
- Rear derailleur - 211g
- Shifters - 370g
- Chainset - 754g
- Chain - 235g
- Bottom bracket - 69g
- Cassette - 249g
- Total - 2,303g
The brake lever is made from aluminium, while both the upshift and downshift levers have a composite construction. The downshift lever itself has been moved slightly from its location on previous mechanical groupsets, and is now in the same lower position as Campagnolo's EPS electronic setups, placing the lever at an angle closer to the hood, where it's more easily accessible from the drops.
The hoods are made from a natural and hypoallergenic silicone material and have a Potenza-specific design to help moisture drain away. Campagnolo's 'Varicushion' technology within the hood aims to improve comfort by providing vibration absorption where it's needed.
The new EPS-style rear derailleur lever means you can only downshift one gear at a time, but Campagnolo's Power Shift mechanism means you can continue to shift up three gears in one sweep, like the Athena and Veloce gruppos - though the Ultra Shift mechanism on Chorus, Record and Super Record allows you to shift up to five gears in one go.
The internal mechanism has been updated for the front derailleur shifter. Both the upshift and downshift levers have three positions to fine tune chain line and reduce the chances of dropping the chain when moving from the big ring to the small ring. If, for instance, you're starting in the big ring and click the thumb shifter once, the chain will shift onto the small ring, for intended use on the lower (smaller) half of the cassette. Click it again and the front derailleur will shift inboard again, for use when you're engaging your lowest climbing gears.
If you use the larger paddle lever to shift from the small chainring to the big chainring, it works the other way around, first shifting the front derailleur further outboard but remaining on the small ring before a second click throws the chain onto the big ring. Whether you're shifting up or down, it can all be done easily in one movement. Campagnolo also say a larger index bushing also serves to reduce the effort required to upshift.
Finally, as far as the shifters are concerned, the clamping band has been placed in a new position to provide 'perfect alignment' with the majority of handlebars on the market.
Campagnolo say Potenza’s front derailleur offers “Super Record performance" as it shares the same structure as the flagship groupset, as well as Record and Chorus, though the derailleur body is made from aluminium and the derailleur cage from steel, to bring the price down. The derailleur has the same arm design as Campagnolo’s other Revolution 11+ groupsets, and Campag say this reduces lever throw and the force required to shift, and improve shifting between chainring under heavy load.
If you want to put some numbers on that – and even if you don’t, here they are – then Campagnolo reckon ‘upshift fluidity’ between the small chainring and big chainring is 52 per cent better than previous generation Campagnolo groupsets, and ten per cent better than “other medium-range groupsets".
Campagnolo call Potenza’s rear derailleur “the star of the show" and it’s where the new groupset trumps its more expensive siblings in the range as Campag has introduced a medium cage version of the mech, capable of accommodating a 11-32t cassette, and therefore increasing the spread of gears for climbing. A ‘normal’ short cage derailleur will continue to be available, with a maximum range of 11-29t.
- €904 (with 11-32t cassette)
- €852 (with 12-27t cassette)
- UK pricing yet to be announced
Whether you opt for short cage or medium cage, the rear derailleur uses the same ‘Embrace’ technology as Campagnolo’s other Revolution 11+ groupsets. Essentially, that keeps the chain and derailleur closer to the cassette, engaging more teeth and, Campagnolo say, ensuring better power transfer and less wear.
The upper body of Potenza’s rear derailleur is made from an ‘ultra-light technopolymer’ material, said to keep the weight low (the mech weighs 211g compared to 183g for Campagnolo Chorus’ carbon-fibre design), while maintaining long-term durability and reliability. That’s Campagnolo’s aim, anyway. The Potenza design also places the derailleur’s limit screws on the back of the mech’s upper body, in a move which Campag say makes them easier to reach.
With the launch of Potenza, Campagnolo have introduced a new range of cassettes for use across its 11-speed groupsets. Five options are available: 11-25t, 11-27t, 11-29t, 12-27t and, for Potenza’s medium cage rear derailleur, 11-32t. The cassettes are based on a new design with one triplet (combining three sprockets) and eight single sprockets.
Everything until now has been focussed on propelling the rider forward as efficiently as possible – for the money, anyway – but finally, let’s take a look at the brakes. The Potenza-branded brakes are based on Campagnolo’s ‘skeleton’ design, which aims to provide “sure-footed and safe braking power with no excess material". The brake compound has also been upgraded to reportedly improve braking performance in all conditions.
Weight and pricing
We've listed weights for each component in the fact box further up but the total claimed weight of 2,303g concedes 18g to Shimano Ultegra at 2,285g. European pricing has been set at €852 with a 12-27t cassette and €904 with an 11-32t cassette. UK pricing hasn't been decided yet.
That's Campagnolo Potenza for you, then. We also got the chance to ride it for ourselves in Gran Canaria, so watch out for a first ride report in the coming days.