Jim’s Tech Talk
The road technical development that dominated my inbox last week was Campagnolo’s new Super Record and Record 12-Speed groups – the first 12-speed components to hit the road market (available in May or June 2018). Having had a few days to think about it and knock it around with riding buddies, I still have more questions than answers about this development.
Let’s start by looking at some of the details and then I’ll pose a few thoughts and look forward to yours in the comments. First, I want to make clear for any Campagnolo fans tuning in, this is not a comprehensive review of the new groups because I haven’t seen them yet. Instead, this is intended as an overview and a commentary.
Campagnolo was very considerate with their new groups because they maintained the same spacing as on their 11-speed components. This means you won’t suffer the hassle of needing to replace your wheels or go to a frame with wider rear spacing.
To match 11-speed spacing Campy went to thinner all-steel cogs and aluminum spacers thereby narrowing the spacing between the cogs while making sure the cogs and spacers are still strong. Of course, the narrow spacing required developing a new 12-speed chain, too, which is narrower than their 11-speed. Campy claims it’s as durable as their 11-speed thanks to stouter pins.
For Now, Only Two Cassette Sizes
Interestingly, Campagnolo is only offering two cassette gearing options for 12-speed, an 11-29 and an 11-32. About this on their site, they say, “Only two options available as only two options are necessary.”
I’m not sure I agree, but elsewhere in the press about these new groups it’s stated that they’re possibly considering an 11-25 and/or 11-27 for pro teams who would use them on flatter races.
Looking at the available gearing ranges, on the 11-29 cassette, you get 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 26 and 29 tooth cogs, and the 11-32 has 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 22, 25, 28 and 32 tooth cogs. Notice that both have 1-tooth jumps for the first 7 shifts and then normal jumps to the lower gears.
If Campy does come out with 12-speed cassettes for flat courses, they should look something like 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25 and 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27. Which means even more shifts of only a 1-tooth jump.
What’s The Value Of 1-Tooth Jumps Between Cogs?
Imagine if your road bike had only two gears, one that made even the steepest hills easy and another that let you cruise along a flat road with a tailwind at 30mph. In other words, a very easy-to-pedal low gear and a relatively hard-to-pedal, high gear.
With this gearing arrangement, unless you always ride on flat roads with a tailwind, or up steep climbs, you will find yourself pedaling way too fast in the super easy gear and barely able to turn the pedals in the hard gear. In short, you need more gears.
As the number of gears on a drivetrain increases, you start to become a more efficient rider because you start to have more gears that feel ideal for the terrain.
And, the ultimate scenario is when you have 1-tooth jumps between gears – especially on the high end, because it means you will usually be able to find a gear that feels exactly right for the conditions. You’ll never have to struggle spinning like mad in too easy a gear, or straining just to move along in too hard a gear.
Note that, it’s not as important to have 1-tooth jumps between cogs in the larger/easier hill climbing cogs. That’s because hills increase pedaling difficulty more significantly than flat terrain and speeds are slower, so multiple-tooth jumps work fine.
Carbon Crankarms And A Unique Spider
2018 Super Record and Record 12-speed both boast carbon cranksets with the option of 50/34/ 52/36 or 53/39 chainrings. The Super Record sports hollow carbon construction while the Record is solid carbon.
The most interesting new feature is on the Super Record crank, which has a unique new spider that sort of resembles an aircraft style steering wheel (see photo).
The unique shape braces 2/3rds of the circumference of the large chainring ensuring maximum support at the points of greatest pedal pressure. In my opinion, it also makes the new Super Record look a little like Shimano’s Dura-Ace crank with their hollow chainrings.
Other details of the new groups include, availability with rim (standard or direct-mount with clearance for 32c tires), or disc brakes; redesigned derailleurs to handle the wider gear range; and extensive use of carbon to shave grams and keep Record and Super Record featherweight.
We haven’t yet received a press kit about the new groups so I can’t share all the details, but I can point you to their promotional page. It has a fun interactive interface and decent photos.
And, here’s the most comprehensive story I was able to find online:
It’s possible that the new groups will make an appearance at The Sea Otter Classic this week in Monterey, California, one of the most important events for manufacturers to show new products this time of year.
My Thoughts And Comments
Just like a lot of you, I bet, I always wonder if we really need more cogs? And I worry about having to upgrade all my bikes to the new standard or about my old bikes becoming obsolete. But, judging from the past when we went from 5 to 6 and 6 to 7 and 7 to 8, and so on, that never really happens.
Even if the supply of original replacement parts for that old 8-speed drivetrain dries up at retailers, the parts keep turning up for a long time other places, such as eBay.com. Sometimes other companies see the demand and step in the make replacements. So it’s not as big an issue as it seems. You can also stockpile replacement parts for awhile if you’re worried about parts becoming unavailable.
Another question that crossed my mind is why Campagnolo decided to introduce the first 12-speed road drivetrain in the first place? Were they trying to beat Shimano and SRAM to the punch? Were they aiming to take market share away from Sram’s red hot eTap wireless group? Was the goal to make Campy an even more exclusive brand – the one with the mostest?
Does Shimano or SRAM even care that Campy introduced 12-speed? SRAM already has 12-speed for mountain bikes. It won’t be hard for them to come out with a road group. And, I initially thought Shimano would quickly come out with a wireless group to compete with eTap, but they haven’t yet. Which makes me wonder if they’ll care at all that Campy now has 12-speed or just stand pat with Di2 and their highly regarded Dura-Ace and Ultegra mechanical groups?
Overall, for someone taking up road riding, it makes for an even more confusing choice when shopping for that new high-end ride. Yet, if you’re a dedicated Shimano or Sram fan you might not care a bit. Whereas Campagnolo tifosi will probably find a lot to like – unless they’re hooked on their electric Campy EPS groups.
I look forward to your comments about these new 12-speed groupos from Italy.
Ride total: 8,877
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Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.