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Campagnolo Chorus 12-speed groupset review

27 Jul 2021

Page 1 of 2Campagnolo Chorus 12-speed groupset review

Verdict:

The assured clunk of a Campagnolo shift instils confidence and suits the workhorse bike the components have been built on

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Shift feel • Shift performance • Great looks
Against 
Distinctive shift feel might not suit some riders • Pricier than its main rival

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Shimano was the groupset most people would get with any new bike purchase – whether through their own choice or that of the shop selling them the bike – while Campagnolo was the connoisseur’s choice. Now, due to stock problems experienced by much of the cycling industry, including Shimano, anecdotally at least Campagnolo parts are in good supply.

The implication of this could be that a wider range of riders will now get the chance to use Campagnolo groupsets, something I see as a positive.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Shimano, especially Di2, but there is something particularly satisfying about the assured clunk of a gear shift on a Campagnolo groupset. Not to mention how good most components from the Italian brand look when they are attached to a bike.

 

Sing the chorus

Someone once told me, ‘I like Campag because you know when you’ve changed gear,’ As a Shimano-only cyclist at the time I didn’t really get what they meant, but after a few months on the Campagnolo Chorus 12-speed groupset I now get their point.

That clunk could be misinterpreted as a delayed shift, but when set up properly the Chorus 12-speed groupset moves the chain between sprockets on demand and with an assured, strong change of gear.

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My perception is assisted by the bike (different to that photographed here) I’ve got the groupset on: an aluminium-framed winter warrior with mudguards and rear rack that I’m just as likely to use for 3km errands as 150km A-to-B rides, loaded up with panniers.

A bombproof bike with something of an industrial feel to the gearing: the combination just works for me and the pairing makes me appreciate each constituent part all the more.

While Shimano’s shifting might be described using terms like featherlight or quietly smooth, Campagnolo brings an assured shifting feel and often an audible clunk.

 

Italian looks

Industrial it might feel, but beautiful is how it looks – as anyone would and should expect from Campagnolo.

The carbon crank arms catch the sun on a bright day, while the front and rear derailleurs would make any artisan craftsperson pleased with their day’s work.

Black-on-black with subtle branding, this groupset will look as modern in a decade as it does now. This is something the silver-black previous version of Shimano Dura-Ace cannot claim.

 

How many gears does a rider need?

Going from 11 to 12-speed cassettes, Campagnolo cleverly trimmed down the width of its components to allow older bikes and wheels to be retro-fitted with the new parts rather than requiring a new setup with greater width allowance.

I’ve been riding a compact 50-34 chainset with an 11-29 cassette. However, for those looking to take on particularly hilly touring rides there’s the possibility to go even smaller – a 11-34 cassette paired with a sub-compact 32-48 chainset.

For a racier setup, there’s the option of a semi-compact 36-52 chainset but, interestingly, Campagnolo has not seen the need to go any bigger than that at this price point in its product range.

Whatever your gearing combination, the jump between individual gears is reduced thanks to the presence of the extra 12th sprocket. It should mean that riders have more refined control over cadence via increased gear selection.

In practice I found it was more of a feature I missed once it wasn’t there more than noticed when it was. That is to say, when returning to an 11-speed bike I became aware of the jumps between gears more than I was aware of a smoother change when riding 12-speed.

As the effect of the extra sprocket is subtle, an equally justifiable move would be to create more range by switching to Chorus's aforementioned 11-34 wide-range option. That would provide similar gear jumps to 11-speed but over a bigger spread of gears.

For my money that would be a price worth paying if, like me, the rider was using the Chorus groupset on a bike that is often laden with luggage and slogging up long ascents.

 

Thumbs up for shifting

A significant difference between Campagnolo and its big Japanese rival is shifting technique. Campagnolo employs thumb shifters – up through the sprockets on the right, down to small chainring on the left.

These have improved in recent years and can now just about be used from the drops for out of the saddle sprint efforts.

Under less intense riding conditions, clipping along holding the shifter hoods, the thumb shifts and opposite finger paddles behind the brake levers are where you need them to be and satisfying tactile.

 

Value for money

The closest offering from Shimano, in terms of performance, is somewhere around Ultegra mechanical. This option is currently available from Wiggle for £769.99 – down from its list price of £1,099.99.

For anyone keeping an eye on their bike budget, that compares favourably with the price on the same website of £1,161.99 for the Campagnolo Chorus 12-speed groupset – and goes some way to explaining the overwhelming popularity of parts from Japan over those from Italy.

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Campagnolo’s quality is beyond question and it’s been a pleasure to use, what's more it holds its own alongside Shinano Ultegra and paying that bit extra for the cachet, appearance and distinctive function of the groupset may be enough to tempt those less governed by price.

 

Conclusion

The Campagnolo Chorus 12-speed groupset looks great and works even better. Used on a workhorse bike its assured shifting instils the confidence needed for long-range touring trips as well as suiting quick errand rides in the local area.

Campagnolo might not have the market presence of its main rival but that isn’t due to a lack of quality. If they’ve got the money, more people should give Campagnolo a go – but then maybe a wider market might steal some of its niche appeal.

Price: 
£1,161.99

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Page 1 of 2Campagnolo Chorus 12-speed groupset review