Campagnolo unveil entry-level Centaur 11-speed groupset – first ride review
Entry-level Centaur groupset revamped, ensuring entire Campagnolo range is 11-speed
Campagnolo have re-introduced the Centaur groupset as an entry-level 11-speed setup – ensuring all of the Italian firm’s gruppos now run with 11 sprockets.
The ten-speed Centaur groupset was discontinued in 2015 but returns to the line-up for model year 2018 at the bottom of the Campagnolo range, in place of Veloce.
The new Centaur setup also benefits from trickle-down technology first seen on Campagnolo’s ‘Revolution 11+’ groupsets, introduced in 2015. Back then, Super Record, Record and Chorus were overhauled, with changes including a new four-arm chainset, and that design now makes its way down to Centaur, having also been introduced on the mid-range Potenza groupset last year.
Here are the key things you need to know about the new Centaur groupset before we dive into the detail – and offer our initial verdict having had the chance to ride Centaur at the launch in Gran Canaria.
Replaces Veloce as Campagnolo’s initial entry-level offering
Ensures all Campagnolo groupsets are now 11-speed
Key features: four-arm chainset, Ultra Torque axle, rear derailleur capable of accepting 32-tooth sprocket, new brake pad compound
Claimed weight: 2,484g
Two finishes: black and polished silver
Pricing and availability: black finish (RRP £539.33, May) silver finish (RRP £571.10, September)
Scirocco wheelset also updated with wider rim and offered in line with Centaur groupset
Turn it up to 11
Having first introduced an 11-speed groupset in 2008, when the high-end Super Record, Record and Chorus systems gained an extra sprocket, the re-imagining of Centaur means Campagnolo are the first of the ‘big three’ manufacturers to offer 11-speed groupsets from top to bottom.
“We’re taking that top-end performance – once only available in the top-end range – and making it available to a wider audience,” says Campagnolo’s Joshua Riddle.
With Centaur replacing Veloce in the Campagnolo line-up, the groupset manufacturer’s line-up has been simplified to five groupsets and the heirachy now reads, from top to bottom: Super Record, Record, Chorus, Potenza, Centaur.
“Centaur is very similar to Super Record in everything but the material used in its construction and consequently the weight,” adds Riddle. “Obviously you can see carbon fibre is used in one and aluminium the other, but otherwise there’s barely any difference.”
Let’s take a closer look at each of the components in Campagnolo’s new Centaur groupset.
Campagnolo’s high-end groupsets switched to a four-arm spider in 2015 and a similar design is now used throughout the range, starting with Centaur. Of course, it’s made from aluminium, rather than the carbon-fibre construction found further up the range, but Campagnolo say the design offers the same benefits.
That includes increased rigidity and reduced weight, while a universal bolt circle diameter means the same crank spider can be used with either the 52-36t or 50-34t chainrings offered with Centaur. There’s no 53-39t option, with Campagnolo’s thinking being that those riders opting for Centaur will benefit most from either a compact or semi-compact setup.
Interestingly, whereas the Potenza groupset introduced in 2016 uses a Power Torque axle design, Centaur uses the Ultra Torque axle design found on Campagnolo’s high-end gruppos.
Ultra Torque essentially divides the axle into two halves which mesh together in the middle of the bottom bracket. This is the first aluminium chainset from Campagnolo to use an Ultra Torque axle, claimed to increase stiffness and reduce weight, but Potenza will also adopt the design going forwards.
Centaur’s ErgoPower shifters use the same one lever, one action design as the rest of the Campagnolo range. If you’re not familiar, the left-hand shifter operates the front derailleur, with the lever shifting up and the hood-mounted button shifting down, while the right-hand shifter operates the rear derailleur, with the lever shifting up the cassette and the button moving the chain into an easier gear.
“We feel it’s a safe, intuitive and confusion-free system,” says Riddle. “It’s been a staple of the Campagnolo design for some time and we feel it’s the safest and most intuitive system available.”
The hoods share the same ergonomics as Potenza and use Campagnolo’s ‘Varicushion’ technology (which is essentially internal cushioning) to try and improve comfort. The surface of the hood is also textured to try and help moisture drain away. Otherwise, the shift levers and buttons are made from a plastic, while the brake levers are aluminium.
Like Potenza, Campagnolo have used an EPS-style downshift button for Centaur, placing it at a shallower angle to make it easier to access from the drops. However, that does mean you can only shift down one gear on the cassette at a time – there’s no multi-shift option, unlike Campagnolo’s high-end mechanical groupsets, where the downshift button is mounted at a right-angle to the hood.
Finally, as far as the shifters are concerned, there’s a trim setting for both the upshift and downshift. While Campagnolo don’t recommend extreme cross-chaining, you should be able to use any gear without significant chain rub.
Here’s another example of Campagnolo’s trickle-down technology. The front derailleur has a one-piece steel cage and uses the longer rod design first adopted on Campag’s Revolution 11+ groupsets, said to reduce lever throw, as well as the force required on an upshift.
In many ways, the rear derailleur is the star of the show here as it ensures the Campagnolo range is 11-speed from top to bottom.
While the Centaur rear derailleur doesn’t use Campagnolo’s Embrace technology, introduced on Potenza and said to improve power transfer and reduce wear by wrapping the chain around more cassette teeth, Campag say they have used a new trajectory angle, claimed to be more efficient and keep the chain closer to each rear cassette sprocket.
In line with the current trend for ‘easier’ gearing, Campagnolo have made sure the Centaur rear mech is compatible with all up to 32 cassette teeth. There’s only one version of the derailleur, too, rather than a specific long-cage design for riders who want to use a more generous cassette. “It allows Centaur to meet every cyclist’s needs with one single model,” says Riddle.
Other features include an upper pulley wheel which now has longer teeth, while the lower pulley wheel has chamfered teeth, said to decrease friction. Campagnolo have also placed the limit screws in the same position as the Super Record mech. “Getting to those limit screws is a lot easier than it was in earlier iterations,” says Riddle.
Weight: 230g (rear derailleur)
Cassette and chain
Campagnolo will offer the Centaur cassette in three options: 11-29t, 11,32t and 12-32t.
It has the same steel construction as the Potenza cassette, but with a slightly different finish to reduce cost. However, that ‘doesn’t affect reliability or performance in the slightest’, according to Riddle.
The chain, meanwhile, is also a new design, called Campagnolo11 and compatible with the entire groupset range, but made specifically for Centaur and Potenza.
Weight: Cassette (291g), chain (247g)
Finally, the brakes. They’re made from aluminium and use a dual pivot design, with Campagnolo keen to stress the brakes weigh in at nearly 50g less ‘than the competing version of the same level’. That’s Shimano 105.
The key here, however, is the new compound Campagnolo have used in the pads. “It’s more modular and more powerful,” according to Riddle, and will be introduced on all Campagnolo’s aluminium rim brakes.
And that’s a good thing, because our initial experience has been very good. Which brings us on to how the Campagnolo Centaur groupset performs.
Campagnolo Centaur – first ride review
How does it ride, then? I had the chance to try the new groupset on a hilly two-hour ride at the launch in Gran Canaria. That’s certainly not enough to deliver a definitive verdict but long enough to get to grips with the groupset and offer an initial impression.
In short, Campagnolo have replicated the look and feel of the upscale Potenza groupset, at an attractive price. Weight is the key difference, really, and even then you’re looking at a relatively minor difference, with Centaur coming in at a claimed 2,484g and Potenza, which occupies the next step on the Campagnolo ladder, weighing 2,303g. Obviously that weight will continue to drop as you move further up, through Chorus, Record and Super Record.
The most immediately impressive feature of the Centaur groupset is the braking performance. It’s in this area that entry or mid-level groupsets sometimes fall down but Campagnolo have nailed it here, thanks largely to the new pad compound. The test loop included plenty of climbing and, with it, no shortage of descending, and Centaur offers assured, controlled and powerful braking (we were riding in dry conditions). It’s very impressive for a rim brake setup at this price.
Campagnolo’s shifting setup, with the separate lever and thumb button, often polarises opinion and here you get the same solid shifting response we’ve come to expect from the Italian marque. It’s not as light as Shimano’s groupsets, but the pronounced click you get from Campagnolo’s design makes for extremely positive and accurate shifting – you know exactly what’s happening underneath you.
However, while Campagnolo have sought to reduce the lever throw on upshifts, it can still feel a little heavy and laboured when approaching the larger sprockets on the cassette, with the potential to miss the shift if you don’t get the lever far enough across. It’s something you begin to adapt to over time when switching from Shimano to Campagnolo and, that aside, you’re getting a shifting experience here that countless Campag riders will already know and love.
Ergonomics are spot on and I found a range of comfortable positions for my hands on Centaur’s sleek, contoured hoods, helped also by the beautifully curved brake levers. The EPS-style thumb shifters, also found on Potenza, are excellent, too, and make it significantly easier to change gears from the drops. Sure, it limits you to one change on downshifts, but that’s not a huge issue. In fact, when I switched to a bike with mechanical Super Record for the following day’s ride (on Campagnolo’s new hydraulic disc brakes), I really missed the EPS-style position of the thumb shifters.
As for the chainset, it’s extremely difficult to judge stiffness on a one-off ride on an unfamiliar bike (a carbon Sarto frame, if you were wondering), but everything felt solid and efficient on Gran Canaria’s long climbs. The bike was equipped with compact chainrings and an 11-32t cassette – a setup which offered a very generous spread of gears for those hilly roads. Adopting a single rear mech design capable of taking a wide-ranging cassette is a smart move by Campagnolo.
Centaur knocks nearly £200 off the price of Potenza but, in reality, you’re getting an extremely similar groupset. While Campagnolo initially pitched Potenza as a direct rival to Shimano Ultegra, we struggled with the comparison. However, in Centaur, Campagnolo look to have introduced a groupset which offers riders an affordable route into becoming a Campag owner, while delivering tried-and-tested performance.
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