Joining VeloClub not only supports the work we do, there are some fantastic benefits:
by Matt Wikstrom
June 10, 2014
Campagnolo’s original Record EPS electronic groupset offered precise and reliable shifting but the external battery was heavy and unsightly. The company recently updated Record EPS with a new internal battery, rendering EPS V2.0, and in this review CTech editor Matt Wikstrom takes a closer look at the installation and performance of the revised groupset.
Campagnolo needs no introduction. The brand is almost as old as road cycling and has a long history of innovation. It all began when Tullio Campagnolo, a gifted inventor, had the idea for a quick release hub while racing in the cold in 1926. He was leading the race but a puncture cost him the victory when he couldn’t remove his back wheel. He patented the design in 1930 and established his company in 1933.
By the 1950s, Campagnolo was manufacturing cable-operated derailleurs and cranksets in addition to hubs. From the 1960s onwards, the company’s catalogue quickly grew to include complete groupsets and a variety of tools. At the same time, Campagnolo componentry was becoming widely used by pro racers and the brand dominated the peloton until the 1990s. Eddy Merckx never used another brand, and every victorious Tour de France ride by Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain was achieved with Campagnolo.
Throughout its history, Campagnolo has remained devoted to Italian manufacturing and is proud of its innovations. In recent years, the company has pioneered the introduction of nine-, 10-, and 11-speed transmissions.
Shimano may have trumped Campagnolo with the introduction of its electronic groupset in 2009, however the Italian manufacturer had been working on its own version since 1992 and kept delaying its release until it was thoroughly satisfied with its performance.
The EPS (Electronic Power Shift) system was unveiled at the end of 2011 in conjunction with a Record-level groupset, followed by a lower-priced Athena level groupset in 2012. EPS V2.0 was recently released for both groupsets and is distinguished by the introduction of a slender internal battery that can be fitted within the seattube or downtube of the bike.
For this review, Campagnolo supplied a Record EPS V2.0 groupset and a Shamal Ultra 2-Way Fit wheelset. A Wilier Zero.7 frameset (size XL, 57cm top tube) came courtesy of the local distributor, De Grandi Cycle and Sport, along with a Ritchey carbon seatpost and Deda Zero 100 alloy bars and stem. The final build weighed in at 6.90kg with a Fizik Alliante saddle and Schwalbe Ultremo tubeless tyres, sans pedals and bottle cages.
The original EPS battery contained the system’s brain and diagnostics; the new battery retains the brain and gets an upgraded shift algorithm, but the diagnostics centre has been relocated to the handlebar junction box where its various indicator lights can be seen (and heard since the system buzzes with some errors).
The charging port for the battery was also re-specified so that it was small enough for threading through the frame. As a consequence, Record EPS owners hoping to upgrade to V2.0 will need to buy the new battery, charger, and a DTI (Digitial Tech Intelligence) interface unit.
The new battery weighs around 130g (127g for the battery reviewed) and measures 27mm at its widest, which should suit most frames with round seattubes (aero seattubes may be too narrow). The battery is secured to the bottle cage mounts using two-sided bolts: one side is narrow enough to pass through each mount to thread directly into the battery, while the other serves as the cage mount (nuts are provided to attach the cage).
For the Zero.7 frameset, there was plenty of room to slide the battery into the seat tube using Campagnolo’s purpose built tool, which looks like a short pool cue. The rivets for the front derailleur braze-on mount interfered a little though, pushing the battery off-centre. A bit of hand-eye co-ordination was required to thread the bolts into the battery, and once tightened, ensure there was no opportunity for it to rattle or fall into the bottom bracket.
The battery can be mounted in the downtube if there is sufficient room to feed it through the head tube. Campagnolo has a second tool for this job that comprises cables for threading the battery into the downtube. Alternatively, there are various mounts for attaching the V2.0 battery externally including compatibility for Di2 battery mounts.
If the battery is installed internally, then it’s crucial to sort out a port for the charging lead. The charging lead can be extended and threaded through the frame. For the Zero.7, I was able to take advantage of a hole in the underside of the downtube (originally designed for the leads from the EPS V1.0 battery) to position the charging port. In the absence of a suitable hole, the battery can be installed upside down in the seat tube so that the charging cable can be pulled out once the seatpost is removed.
The new battery promises a life of around 1,500km for each full charge, which is a little less than the original battery. Frequent use of the front derailleur will drain the battery quicker, so the frequency of charging will depend upon how the system is used. I charged the battery once for this review, and after a couple weeks of riding, there was still over 50% remaining.
There is a third tool to help installation that comprises a couple of cables with strong magnets for threading the leads through the frame. This tool proved invaluable for threading the rear derailleur lead through the chainstay and the main lead through the downtube. The ease of this threading process ultimately depends on the size of the openings throughout the frame, and in this regard, the Zero.7 was an easy frame for fitting Record EPS.
Experienced EPS users may be wondering about the magnetic key, which is used to turn the system off. The new battery can still be deactivated with a magnetic key that is inserted into the end of the battery, but when the battery is mounted internally, a magnetic band is used instead. The band is simply wrapped around the seat- or downtube. A sticker is supplied with the battery that can be applied to the frame to ensure the band is positioned correctly to deactivate the battery.
Once all the connections were made, I bundled the excess length for each lead and secured them with a zip-tie before tucking it all into the seattube. This last step was aided by the generous proportions of the BB386 shell, which afforded plenty of room for my fingers.
I had to add a few zip-ties to the lead connection at the top of the downtube to keep it suspended so it wouldn’t knock in the frame. Some builders choose to attach the DTI interface unit to a cable; in this instance I opted for a couple of zip-ties around the stem. Ideally, I’d like to hide it altogether but the diagnostic lights need to be visible for setting up the system and checking on battery charge (see below for more information).
Programming the system is relatively simple, but it is an iterative process. The system requires that the rear derailleur be centred under the second and tenth cogs and, from there, the rest of the shifts are automatically set. One pass was enough to get the system working and then I spent some time fine-tuning it to my satisfaction. Setting the front derailleur requires less effort — all that is required is to set the starting position and the system takes care of the rest.
The DTI interface unit guides programming of the system, with coloured lights indicating when the system is ready to program, and when the setting have been saved. The DTI unit also provides on-board diagnostics for the system. Pressing the mode button on either lever once provides feedback on the level of battery charge (solid green = 60-100%; flashing green = 40-60%; solid yellow = 20-40%; solid red= 6-20%; flashing red = 0-6%), and if any part of the system fails, a coloured flashing light identifies the troublesome component (white = battery; yellow = front derailleur; green = rear derailleur; purple = right shifter; blue = left shifter).
The rest of the build was straightforward. Campagnolo’s Ultra-Torque crank arms bolt together at the centre of the bottom bracket axle and the bearings are mounted directly on each half of the axle. This arrangement affords Ultra-Torque cranks perhaps the greatest bottom bracket compatibility of any crank design, since Campagnolo offers cups for most bottom bracket formats.
The design doesn’t allow any pre-load adjustment for the bearings though, so if the bottom bracket shell is outside its precise specifications, then the cranks will suffer from binding or excessive play. In this instance, the bottom bracket of the Zero.7 was perfect.
Where once Campagnolo used a high polish to finish its Record groupset, the latest version continues the trend for carbon weave and gloss black established earlier this century. At present, Campagnolo does not offer users any opportunity to upgrade EPS programming, customise shift button function, or add accessory shifters. However, the system is pre-programmed for continuous rear shifting in either direction for as long as the shift button is held.
The complete Record EPS V2.0 groupset has a recommended retail of around $3,800, which includes the EPS system, crankset, chain, cassette, brake calipers, and charger. Current Record EPS owners can expect to pay around $950 for the new battery, charger and DTI interface unit. The installation tools will cost extra.
For more information, visit Campagnolo including the company’s collection of technical documents and more details on their technologies. Fans may also enjoy Campagnolo’s Facebook page.
I’ve been riding Campagnolo since 1996, so I didn’t need much time to become accustomed to the Record EPS V2.0 group. The whole group performed flawlessly from the outset, and while Campagnolo promises V2.0 benefits from further debugging of the system, in practical terms, I could not detect any difference in performance over EPS V1.0.
The shift buttons continue to shine thanks to their tactile responsiveness. The buttons clearly announce when they’ve been pressed and I never missed a shift. Indeed, operating the buttons approximates the mechanical groupset. What they lack is the effort associated with manual shifting, making the groupset more efficient and more reliable. I still miss the sense of engaging with the group when punching the buttons, but overall, there’s no denying that the motors and battery make the groupset easier to use.
The shifting offered by the front derailleur is exquisite and the greatest argument to convert to an electronic transmission. The response is immediate, regardless of the amount of force on the pedals. Compared to Di2, which has pre-programmed trimming, EPS responds to chain-rub, so trimming is delayed, but it is still automatic. I may miss that sense of engaging with the transmission, but I’m grateful the electronics does away with the chore of trimming the front derailleur.
Braking was light and effective. The dual-pivot calipers offer plenty of effortless power when required. As a long time Campy-user, I’m well accustomed to the slow power curve of the brakes. Compared to other brands, there is more lever travel before the brakes start to bite, which may frustrate those hoping for more immediate braking. Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference, but the responsiveness of Campagnolo brakes really shines on long, technical descents, where modulation is key, rather than immediate power.
The transmission components worked smoothly and quietly, and buyers can expect a long service interval for the chain and cassette. Record parts are notoriously expensive, so this group is not suited to thrifty shoppers. Moreover, there are few aftermarket alternatives, so once you start using Campy, expect to keep on using Campy (and paying for it).
There was a time where I experimented with aftermarket options (e.g. cassettes and chainrings), but I’ve always been disappointed. In short, nobody is able to do Campy parts nearly as well as Campagnolo.
Wilier’s Zero.7 proved to be a fine match for the Record EPS groupset. It is the lightest frame in Wilier’s catalogue and is designed for racing. There’s plenty of stiffness on offer (producing some chatter on rough surfaces) and its low weight and near perfect handling made it a wonderful frame to showcase the Record EPS v2.0 groupset.
Campagnolo’s Record EPS V2.0 is a great groupset that offers superb shifting and braking. The transmission is smooth and quiet and the electronics ensure flawless and efficient shifting, regardless of the conditions. I still have a preference for the sense of engagement that is offered by a mechanical groupset, but there is no denying the effectiveness of the powered group.
So how does Record EPS compare with Shimano’s Dura Ace Di2? Both groupsets work exceptionally well, and in practical terms, there is little to distinguish the two. Where they differ is in their aesthetics and the execution of their functions, providing each with a distinctive look and feel.
Shimano’s group costs less and can be expanded with accessory shifters (i.e. sprint and satellite shifters); users are also able to customise shift button function via a PC interface. In contrast, Campagnolo employs carbon throughout the Record groupset, there’s a small saving in weight for the total group, and EPS provides on-board diagnostics for troubleshooting system errors.
Ultimately, the appeal of the Record EPS V2.0 groupset will be determined by individual needs, preferences, and resources. When I bought my first Campagnolo groupset in 1996, I worried over the extra expense for the Record group, but a friend dismissed this with some simple advice: “The expense will soon be forgotten, but your appreciation for Record’s performance will be ongoing.” Indeed, that groupset served me well for 10 years until my appreciation for its performance was undermined by the shrinking availability of parts.