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Campagnolo Super Record 12-Speed groupset review

1 Oct 2018
Verdict:

Slick-performing groupset that sets the new standard

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Crisp gear changes and elegant good looks
Against 
Doesn’t provide a greater range than current 11-speed options

Campagnolo launches 12-speed groupset

The Italian brand beats its rivals to be first to 12 with a revamp of its entire Record and Super Record groupsets

Campagnolo has done it again. It was the first to produce a 10-speed groupset for the road in 2000, and the first to go 11-speed in 2008, and now it is the first to launch a 12-speed groupset.

Campagnolo Record and Super Record mechanical groupsets are both getting the 12-speed treatment, in both rim brake and disc brake versions, and electronic EPS is expected to join the 12 club at the end of the year.

The new 12-sprocket cassettes come in two size ranges: 11-29 or 11-32. This means that Campagnolo has not actually increased the range of its gearing by adding an extra sprocket, but has reduced the size of the jump between gears.

The first seven sprockets on the cassette increase by just one-tooth increments, and the thinking behind the additional sprocket is to make for smoother transitions between gears.

Despite the inclusion of another sprocket, the new 12-speed cassettes take up the same room as their 11-speed predecessors, meaning that they will fit on the same freehub bodies as before.That allows users to upgrade to 12-speed while still keeping their old wheels and frame. 

Campagnolo has achieved this by making the individual sprockets thinner and reducing the space between them.

The largest three sprockets have been machined from steel as a single piece (a ‘triplet’, as Campagnolo calls it), as have the next three sprockets, which helps with stiffness. After that, the sprockets are machined individually, with spacers made from aluminium to ensure perfect alignment. 

With thinner sprockets and smaller spaces, it follows that the chain has been made thinner as well. This proved to be one of the toughest challenges for Campagnolo’s engineers, as the chain had to be made thinner without affecting its durability or reliability.

When quizzed about how a thinner chain could remain as strong, Campagnolo could only hint at ‘new technologies’, but the company assures us that it has done the testing and that the new chain – indeed all the new parts – have maintained or improved their robustness and longevity.

More than just another sprocket

Campagnolo insists that the move to 12-speed was not the single intention of the new groupsets. It claims the goal was to improve the overall performance of its flagship groupsets, and that the extra sprocket was almost a side-effect of that ambition.

As such, every part of the new Record and Super Record groupsets has undergone change.

Starting at the front, the hoods and levers have been reshaped. Everything is slightly bigger to help improve grip and make for more positive gear shifts. The rubber hoods are slightly larger and have been shaped to fit the hands better, which will come as welcome news to those who found Campagnolo hoods to be on the insubstantial side.

On the disc brake version, called H12, the hoods are taller still, although they manage to restrict the difference to just 8mm compared to the height of the rim brake hoods, which is impressive considering all the hydraulic gubbins that needs to fit inside.

The method of shifting remains the same, with a lever behind the brake for the upshift and a button on the side for the downshift. On the new 12-speed version,both the lever and the button have been enlarged and reshaped to offer a better feel and make them easier to control.

As before, the ‘Ultra Shift’ mechanism allows the rider to shift up five gears or down three gears in a single motion. And the brake lever has also been reshaped with a bit of extra flare at the bottom, and its pivot point moved slightly to ensure the best mechanical efficiency when pulling on the lever.

For those with smaller hands, a cunning button can be pressed that draws the levers inwards so that less reach is required to grasp the brake levers. On the disc brake version, an allen key can be used to adjust the ‘throw’ of the brake lever to make the braking sharper or softer depending on the rider’s preference.

Now that the gear shifting has to cope with 12 sprockets, it goes without saying that the internals of the hoods and levers have had to be redesigned from scratch.

Smoothly does it

Moving on from the hoods, the cables and housing have been re-engineered to have less friction, and therefore claim to increase durability while offering smoother and easier shifting.

The front derailleur has also been redesigned to include an extra ‘rod’. So, where before there was a single lever that pulled the cage into position, now there is a more complex set-up with hinged joints that allows the cage to move more efficiently in a modified trajectory.

This is all with the intention of making chainring shifts smoother and more immediate, aided by a thinner chain cage and a cable bolt that can be repositioned depending on the size of tyres you are using.

At the back, the rear derailleur has also been redesigned. Made from ‘ultralight technopolymer’ combined with UD carbon fibre, the derailleur now includes what the company calls ‘3D Embrace’ technology (as compared to the old 2D Embrace). This helps to adjust the position of the upper jockey wheel to keep it as close to the sprocket as possible, ensuring that as much of the chain aspossible is engaged with the teeth of the sprocket.

This should ensure an efficient and smooth power delivery while also protecting the drivetrain from wear and tear. The jockey wheels have been made slightly larger than before, with 12 teeth compared to the previous 11, and have been reshaped for less friction.

The rear mech hanger system has been made more versatile to accommodate standard
hangers or direct mount set-ups. Despite all the changes, the new rear derailleur still weighs in at only 181g, which is a mere 3g heavier than the previous version.

Crank it up

One of the most visible changes to the new Record and Super Record groupsets is the crankset. The logo that adorns the cranks has been changed, and the look of the crankset is smoother and more ‘filled in’ than previously.

The aim is to improve stiffness and aerodynamics, and the Super Record version has an additional carbon fibre ‘brace’ at the places on the chainring where the highest torque is applied.

Other differences between Super Record and Record on the chainset include the use of CULT ceramic bearings on Super Record (USB ceramic bearings on Record), hollow carbon cranks and a titanium Ultra-Torque axle instead of steel.

The four-arm spider has been redesigned to now include eight bolts, so that each bolt position is perfectly located for each chainring. This, says Campagnolo, increases rigidity and improves component integrity – that is, they should last longer.

For the same purpose, the teeth of the inner ring have been made more symmetrical, which apparently improves friction in situations of extreme chain crossing, thereby reducing wear on the chainring teeth. It also helps that the chainring teeth have been hard anodised for improved longevity.

Chainset combinations being offered are 53/39, 52/36 and 50/34, and crank length options are 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm and 175mm.

Take a brake

Another visual change to the previous edition comes with the brakes. On the rim brake version, the calliper brakes have lost their ‘skeleton’ look and are now more filled in, again in the name of aerodynamics.

In line with trends, the clearance of the rim brakes has been increased to take up to 28mm tyres – possibly more depending on the brand – and are more compatible with wider rim widths.

Direct mount rim callipers are available, and for disc brake users the options are 160mm for the front brake and 160mm or 140mm for the rear. Beyond that, the disc brakes are pretty similar to the previous H11 model.

In terms of overall weight, Campagnolo claims the Super Record mechanical rim brake groupset totals 2,041g (depending on options), with Record coming it at a slightly chunkier 2,213g. This makes it a touch heavier overall than the previous 11-speed by 100g, give or take, but not such that you’d notice the weight of the extra sprocket.

Campagnolo is keen to stress that all the components of a groupset are safety components, and that it would never compromise functionality in the pursuit of weight savings. Its aim with the new 12-speed is to offer improved functionality all round with no drop in durability or reliability. 

As for price, an after market Record 12-speed rim brake groupset will set you back £1,750, going up to £2,856 for the Super Record disc brake set-up.

Cyclist was fortunate to be present at the launch of the new groupsets in Gran Canaria, so click on to the second page to read our first impressions of how both the Record and Super Record drivetrains performed, and whether that 12th sprocket really makes all the difference.

Price: 
Approx £2,600 (rim brake mechanical)

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