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Campagnolo recently refined its Super Record groupset. The company made a variety of modifications to the drivetrain that included an overhaul of the chainrings and front derailleur. The result is the RS edition that will be produced in limited numbers with exclusive badging. In this review, CTech Editor Matt Wikstrom takes a look at how the new groupset performs.
Campagnolo introduced Super Record in 1974. It was designed as the successor to Nuovo Record, but in the first instance, offered little in the way of performance improvements. Super Record was defined by a fresh finish instead — some black anodising — and the incorporation of exotic materials (titanium) to reduce the weight of the groupset (and justify an exorbitant asking price).
Super Record was refined a little over the coming years and a limited edition was produced to celebrate Campagnolo’s 50th anniversary in 1983. Super Record was widely appreciated for its robust design and beautiful aesthetic, however the groupset lacked an edge in performance, especially when compared to the advances being made by Shimano with indexed shifting. Super Record was eventually discontinued in 1988 as Campagnolo overhauled its Record groupset to become the company’s flagship.
Campagnolo resurrected Super Record in 2009 for the release of its first ever 11-speed groupsets. Super Record resumed its place as the company’s flagship, and just like the first era, the group featured several titanium upgrades and a hefty pricetag to match.
Two special editions of Super Record have been produced since its return to Campagnolo’s catalogue. In 2013, the company celebrated its 80th anniversary with a specially marked and boxed edition, followed by the RS edition earlier this year. While the latter was specially badged and produced in limited numbers, Super Record RS was also refined to improve the quality of shifting.
Before the ride
According to Campagnolo, Super Record RS features modifications throughout the drivetrain. The majority involve subtle changes in shape or angle, however the front chainrings were overhauled with new shifting ramps and profiles for the teeth. The front derailleur was also redesigned and the carbon cage was replaced by metal.
The other defining features of Super Record remain unchanged for the RS edition. Thus, every component is lighter than its Record equivalent thanks to extra engineering (e.g. the brake levers have three cutouts compared to two for Record) and the strategic use of titanium (e.g. a Super Record cassette has six titanium sprockets compared to three for Record). Super Record is further distinguished by the addition of ceramic bearings for the cranks. It is worth noting that Campagnolo does not make a Super Record chain so the groupset makes use of a Record chain.
Super Record cranks utilises Campagnolo’s unique Ultra Torque design that splits the bottom bracket axle in two. A bolt is used to fasten the two halves when the cranks are installed in the frame. The bottom bracket bearings are seated on each half of the axle, so by offering different sized cups, Campagnolo ensures that Ultra Torque cranks are compatible with the majority of bottom bracket standards (i.e. BSA, ITA, BB30, BBright, OSBB42, OSBB46, and BB86).
Super Record RS has unique silver badging with flashes of green, white and red in honour of the Italian flag. The styling is understated yet distinctive; I can’t help but think of classic race cars, wire wheels, and leather trim. As with previous editions of Super Record, there is plenty of carbon weave on show and very little bare aluminium.
As a limited edition, Super Record RS is destined to become a collector’s item, but unlike the 80th anniversary edition, buyers will not have to pay extra for it. Super Record RS currently retails around AU$2,800 with a choice of three crank lengths (170, 172.5, or 175mm) and three chainring combinations (50/34, 52/36, or 53/39).
For this review, I installed the RS groupset on Colnago’s C60 and added Bora Ultra 35 wheels. I didn’t have any problem installing the cranks in the C60’s ThreadFit bottom bracket since it was compatible with Campagnolo’s 86.5 x 41mm (BB86) cups. The rest of the installation was straightforward though I continue to find Campag’s mix of Allen and Torx heads a little maddening (e.g. the brake cable pinch bolt has an Allen head while the calliper mounting bolt and brake pads use a Torx head).
For the record, the weight of the final build was 6.76kg sans pedals and bottle cages.
After the ride
Some readers will already be familiar with my bias, but I will announce it for the rest to hear: I have a preference for Campagnolo and have been riding Campag for almost two decades. In that time, I’ve become well versed with the brand’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the quirks that inspire either fondness or frustration.
Super Record RS is a great groupset and it functions as well as can be expected for a brand’s flagship. The quality of the shifting is superb, as is the braking, and the rest of the transmission is smooth and precise. The group also continues to offer the same distinctive feel as Campagnolo’s previous offerings.
The prime motivation for re-visiting the design of Super Record was to deliver some of the performance benefits offered by electronic shifting to the mechanical groupset. When viewed from this perspective, Super Record RS falls short of its aspirations (“mechanical shifting perfection”) because upshifting still requires some effort.
In contrast, Shimano’s design for the mechanical Dura Ace 9000 groupset removed most of the effort associated with upshifting, and therefore trumps Campag’s latest effort. Interestingly, Campagnolo has redesigned Super Record (as well as Record and Chorus) for 2015, taking inspiration from Shimano’s innovations.
The refinements made to the front derailleur and chainrings for the RS edition have influenced the quality of the front shifting though. Yes, some effort is still required at the lever, but down in the transmission, the chain shifts on to the big ring with new immediacy. There is no hesitation and the chain does not rattle as it struggles to gain a foothold, because it rises quickly and precisely to the big ring, every time.
One of Campagnolo’s quirks is that the company’s groupsets typically need to be run-in before they start working at their best. For example, the chain is somewhat noisy out of the box, but after 500km it is silent. Similarly, the shifters start out a little stiff and require around 1,000km to hit their stride. I managed around 700km on the RS group, so there’s a chance the shifting will get lighter with more use.
Campagnolo’s brakes offer plenty of power but they have a progressive feel that may not satisfy riders accustomed to more immediate braking. I find braking is less tiring on long descents with Campag’s brakes because a light touch scrubs plenty of speed without any risk of locking up the wheels. And for those that have always wondered, the calipers do not have a quick release lever like Shimano and SRAM. Instead there is a button at the top of each brake lever that provides a release for the calipers.
I can see two downsides to owning this groupset: first, there will be the expense of maintaining a Super Record groupset (a new cassette retails for more than $300); and second, in the event of a crash and damage to the groupset, there’s no hope of obtaining a matching part (equivalent, yes, but lacking the special badging).
Final thoughts and summary
As mentioned above, Campagnolo recently announced an overhaul of its Super Record, Record and Chorus mechanical groupsets for 2015. The derailleurs and cranks have been re-designed with inspiration from Shimano while the refinements introduced with Super Record RS will be incorporated into all three groupsets. As a consequence, Super Record RS has essentially been superseded, though 2015 groupsets will only be available later in the year (at the earliest).
Cynics will dismiss the RS edition as a last ditch effort to run out old stock, but I think there is value in its unique styling. Moreover, Super Record RS is Campagnolo’s best performing mechanical groupset right now. Some will buy this groupset and keep it boxed with the hope of a healthy return in the years to come, and I expect they’ll be satisfied. But for those that choose to make use of it, I doubt there will be any disappointment or regret, just satisfaction and perhaps a measure of pride associated with owning a limited edition groupset.