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by James Huang
May 10, 2017
Photography by James Huang
TECH NEWS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BIKEEXCHANGE
Campagnolo today officially announced the much-anticipated addition of hydraulic disc brakes to its lineup of road bike components, all of which will begin arriving in stores around the end of May/early June. Developed in conjunction with — and, in part, manufactured by — German company Magura, Campagnolo’s new disc brakes will be offered beginning in June as an option on Super Record EPS and Record EPS electronic groupsets, as well as Super Record, Record, Chorus, and Potenza mechanical groupsets.
Much as Shimano did when it first introduced the R785 and R685 hydraulic levers and brakes four years ago, Campagnolo is taking a group-agnostic approach to its new disc offerings. Both disc-compatible EPS electronic groupsets will share the same carbon fiber Ergopower “H11” levers; Super Record, Record, and Chorus mechanical groupsets will share a second set of cable-actuated levers for mechanical drivetrains, also with carbon blades and paddles; while Potenza gets its own unique Ergopower “H0” levers with specific internals, aluminum brake lever blades, and carbon-reinforced shift paddles. Chorus EPS uses a different wiring setup than Super Record EPS and Record EPS, so there currently are no plans to add a disc option there.
All of Campagnolo’s disc groupsets will use the same calipers, rotors, and pads.
In a first for Campagnolo, all of the new disc-compatible Ergopower levers will feature slight outward cants for easier access from the drops, plus a full suite of ergonomic adjustments; current Ergopower levers only offer the option to move everything as a unit further away from the bar, not closer.
Brake lever reach can now be easily adjusted with just a single 2.5mm hex wrench, in infinitely small increments across quite a wide range — meaning riders with small hands are finally well accommodated. The shift paddle behind can also be adjusted, independent of the brake lever reach, using a 1.5mm key.
Campagnolo has incorporated a novel adjustment for lever travel, too. Commonly, changing the pad contact point adjustment is done by altering the hydraulic master cylinder’s internal geometry (thus changing how far the piston moves before building hydraulic pressure). Instead, Campagnolo takes a page from Magura’s latest mountain bike levers, using a two-position toggle that physically changes the mechanical advantage between the brake lever blade and piston shaft. This approach necessarily changes how much braking power is produced for a given amount of finger effort, too, but on the upside, it also makes for a simpler hydraulic design that, at least in theory, has fewer seals and moving parts that could potentially fail.
That hydraulic master cylinder required more space inside the lever body than what was previously available, so the new disc-compatible Ergopower controls had to grow a bit to accommodate. That said, Campagnolo has restricted the growth solely to the point up front, which, despite appearances, is only 8mm taller than before. There are no shape or girth changes otherwise, so your hands won’t notice anything different — and if anything, the extra height up front actually makes for a more secure hold when you’re stretched out over the hoods.
Quite impressively, Campagnolo has done all of this while also mostly maintaining the sleek aesthetics of the current Ergopower design, too.
Just as with the rim-brake family, Campagnolo’s flagship offering on the disc brake side will be the new Super Record EPS, but now with a “DB” or “H11” suffix to denote the disc compatibility. Of note, however, is the fact that Chorus, Record, and Super Record will share the same hydraulic lever; Record EPS and Super Record EPS will get their own shared lever for use with electronic derailleurs.
The difference in size between the disc-compatible and rim-brake Ergopower levers is somewhat deceiving. While the former looks substantially bigger at first glance, Campagnolo says there’s only an 8mm increase in height. More importantly, there have been no shape changes elsewhere to accommodate the hydraulic master cylinder, which means your hands won’t know the difference in most riding positions.
While Campagnolo hasn’t changed the shape of the hoods (at least for the main body), there are ergonomic differences elsewhere. New on all of the disc-specific Ergopower levers are outwardly canted brake lever blades for easier access while in the drops.
Finally, there is also a full suite of lever customization options on the new disc-specific levers (which, sadly, still aren’t incorporated into the rim-brake Ergopower levers). The hole in between the “H11” and “Campagnolo” badging provides access for a 2.5mm Allen wrench, which is used to adjust the brake lever reach closers or further away from the bars.
The shift lever reach can also be adjusted, independently of the brake lever.
Turning a 1.5mm Allen wrench adjusts the threaded stop at the top of shift lever blade.
Campagnolo has also incorporated an adjustment for lever throw. Shimano and SRAM go about this from a hydraulic standpoint, by adjusting how far the master cylinder piston moves before the system builds pressure. In contrast, Campagnolo’s setup physically changes the leverage ratio between the brake lever blade and the master cylinder piston. As a result, this not only alters the lever throw, but also how much stopping power is generated at the brake caliper for a given amount of finger effort.
Without an established mountain bike division from which to draw a wealth of seasoned hydraulic knowledge, Campagnolo turned to the folks at Magura, combing the Italian firm’s design and packaging expertise with the German company’s experience in hydraulic technology.
All things considered, the master cylinder is admirably compact, and both levers use the same master cylinder, which should make for easier sourcing of replacements should the need ever arise. Commonly used fittings are used at both ends of the hose, and the system uses mineral oil instead of more corrosive DOT fluid.
While SRAM is focusing its flagship efforts for road disc brakes on the electronic side, Campagnolo will offer disc compatibility for riders who prefer to use cables and housing, too. Notably, Shimano’s disc-compatible Dura-Ace groupset has drawn the most attention for its electronic Di2 variant, but there’s a mechanical version available there as well.
As with the EPS H11 Ergopower levers, the mechanical version also gets a slight outward cant on the brake levers for easier access from the drops.
Whereas the mechanical drivetrain version of the new Potenza disc-brake lever gets a dropped thumb paddle a la EPS, Chorus, Record, and Super Record carry on with the standard paddle location. On the upside, those three groupsets still allow for multiple upshifts with a single motion, while you only get one with Potenza.
The combination of 8mm of additional height on the lever body point and the slightly inward cant actually makes for a more secure hand position when stretched out across the top of the hoods.
As with the standard rim-brake Potenza Ergopower levers, the disc-specific version uses aluminum brake lever blades instead of carbon fiber ones. Potenza gets the same wealth of lever adjustability, though.
The dropped thumb paddle on Potenza is easier to reach from the drops than Campagnolo’s traditional thumb paddle location, but it still isn’t as easy to get to as Shimano Dual Control or SRAM DoubleTap.
Potenza may occupy a mid-range position in Campagnolo’s range, but the company has done a good job of giving it a premium look — and the newly available disc version should only increase its appeal.
Campagnolo has given the Chorus, Record, and Super Record-level levers the “H11” moniker; Potenza is badged as “H0”.
Campagnolo’s new hydraulic disc brake calipers will be made solely in the flat-mount mounting standard (at least for now), using two-piece bodies made of forged aluminum. All of the calipers also twin-piston layouts for drag-free operation; the pistons are made of phenolic resin, a material commonly used in mountain bike hydraulic disc brakes for their ability to keep heat from migrating from the pads into the hydraulic system.
While the calipers are mostly straightforward in terms of design and function, Campagnolo has taken a novel approach to the flat-mount versions. With few exceptions, all flat-mount road disc brake calipers require an additional adapter on the fork, which can be oriented to work with either 160mm- or 140mm-diameter rotors. Likewise, rear calipers can be bolted directly to the chainstay for 140mm setups, or with an additional adapter for 160mm ones.
Campagnolo’s flat-mount calipers, however, use no adapters whatsoever. The front brake — which is designed to work only with 160mm rotors — bolts directly to existing bosses on compatible forks. Out back, users will have to choose between two rotor size-specific caliper bodies.
According to Campagnolo, this true direct-mount attachment not only looks better than conventional flat-mount setups, but also requires fewer parts and creates a lighter, and more reliable, assembly. Notably, Campagnolo says its direct, flat-mount calipers will work with every frame and fork currently on the market (although there will inevitably be a handful of outliers).
Campagnolo’s new disc brake systems hold a few extra tricks up their sleeves, too. The same master cylinder is used in both the left-hand and right-hand levers — meaning easier sourcing of replacements when needed, and easier swapping for riders that prefer moto-style controls — and the bleed ports feature supplemental valves that prevent fluid from dripping everywhere during a service.
Not surprisingly given the association with Magura, Campagnolo hydraulic brakes use mineral oil, which is not only less corrosive and toxic than DOT fluid, but also doesn’t absorb atmospheric water vapor over time (thus requiring more regular service).
Interestingly, Campagnolo is skipping the flip-flop adapter normally used on flat-mount road disc brake calipers, instead going with rotor diameter-specific calipers and a simplified interface where the brake bolts right to the fork and chainstay. Big windows around the pads should let plenty of air circulate to help keep the system cool.
The two-piece forged aluminum caliper body was developed in conjunction with, and is manufactured by, the hydraulic experts at Magura. All of Campagnolo’s road disc groupsets will share the same calipers.
The truly direct-mount design requires Campagnolo to produce two different rear brake calipers (one for 140mm rotors; another for 160mm ones), but it results in a sleek appearance that flat mount was supposed to provide, but doesn’t quite deliver in its current form.
Even the bleed ports have been impressively well thought out. Campagnolo’s design uses a secondary valve that doesn’t allow fluid to flow until you want it to. In other words, you can attach the bleed adapter without making a giant mess (although you should still remove the pads any time you bleed a brake to prevent the pads from getting contaminated with fluid).
Campagnolo doesn’t use a rotating fitting on the caliper, which could possibly complicate some installations, depending on how the hose is routed on the fork leg and frame.
Naturally, Campagnolo has oriented its winged logo so that they’ll display properly when installed.
One neat trick is the thread-in fitting for the hydraulic hose, which lets you attach a standard derailleur cable that can be used to pull the hose through tricky internal routing paths. And yes, it should work on other brands of hydraulic hose, too.
Disc rotors have received plenty of attention recently, and not usually for good reasons. Campagnolo says it tested more than a dozen edge profiles on human-like biomedical gel before arriving at the final profile used in production, which is impressively dull and exceptionally well finished. There are no covers planned.
The rotors themselves are made with stainless steel brake tracks riveted to aluminum carriers to reduce weight. Rotors will be offered exclusively for Center Lock splined hub interfaces.
Campagnolo’s catalog of disc brake pads will be similarly limited, with but a single organic compound on tap, while both Shimano and SRAM offer both organic and sintered metallic options. According to Campagnolo, its internal brake testing showed sufficiently good wet-weather performance so as to eliminate the need for the second compound (although aftermarket options are sure to follow).
Campagnolo is prioritizing better heat management over low weight with the use of steel pad backing plates instead of aluminum ones, and attention has been paid to keeping things quiet by the use of a paper-thin, vibration-quelling pad attached to the back of the pad — an old trick borrowed from the automotive world.
Moreover, each pad features a built-in visual wear indicator. When the cut-down is flush with the rest of the pad surface, it’s time for a replacement set; a supplemental audible wear indicator kicks in later if the visual indicator is ignored. The lower edge of the pad is also chamfered to help guide the rotor into the caliper for faster wheel changes.
The new rotors uses stainless steel brake tracks that are riveted to aluminum carriers. Campagnolo will only offer 160mm setups up front, but both 140mm and 160mm out back.
The rotor edges are nicely finished with very blunt edges. Campagnolo says it tested more than a dozen different edge shapes on human-like biomedical gels to determine what profile would be least dangerous to riders.
At least for now, Campagnolo will offer only a single organic pad compound for use on its new disc brake systems, saying its excellent performance in wet conditions doesn’t warrant the addition of a sintered metallic option. A special material placed behind the steel backing plate is designed to quell vibration and noise. Conversely, the wraparound mounting tabs act as audible alerts when your pads are excessively worn, as you’ll hear them rubbing on the rotor.
Wear indicators are built into one corner of each pad. When that surface is flush with the rest of the brake pad, it’s time to replace them. The lower edge of the pad is chamfered to help guide the rotor into the caliper for faster wheel changes.
Rear road disc hubs are dimensionally identical to mountain bike hubs commonly used just a few years, and the additional width results in a cassette that’s positioned 2.5mm further outboard of a bike’s centerline than is found on a rim-brake bike. In the earlier days of road disc brakes, component manufacturers merely requested that bike companies increase the chainstay length so as to prevent chainring interference in the extreme cross-gears.
More recently, though, component brands are now building similarly offset disc-specific cranksets to match, and Campagnolo is following suit.
As with the Ergopower levers, disc-compatible groupsets will share group-agnostic cranksets instead of having one designated for each. Super Record, Record, and Chorus (in both mechanical and EPS flavors) will get the same molded carbon fiber “H11” model; rim-brake models will carry on with the current group-specific cranksets. Potenza, meanwhile, will get a single updated hollow-forged aluminum crankset with chainring positions that split the difference between rim-brake and disc-brake offsets. The current Power Torque axle configuration will also be upgraded to the Ultra Torque design used elsewhere in the range.
Disc-compatible rear road hubs use the same axle, rotor, and cassette locations as what mountain bikes commonly used just a couple of years ago. That pushes the cassette a few millimeters further outboard relative to a standard rim-brake road rear hub, however, so Campagnolo is also introducing disc-specific cranksets with slightly offset chainrings to maintain proper drivetrain alignment. Despite the chainrings being pushed away from the centerline of the bike, the pedal stance width, or Q-factor, remains unchanged at 145.5mm. The same “H11” carbon fiber model will be shared across disc-specific variants of Chorus, Record, and Super Record.
Whereas Chorus, Record, and Super Record get two distinct cranksets — one with standard chainring offsets for rim-brake hubs and another with offset rings for disc-brake hubs — Campagnolo will split the difference for Potenza. That group will soon be updated with a new crankset that not only gets new chainring spacing (which will work for both rim-brake and disc-brake hubs), but Campagnolo’s fancier Ultra-Torque spindle design in place of the simpler Power Torque setup currently in use on Potenza.
While all of Campagnolo’s new disc components are all new, they still work with the same front and rear derailleurs as before. Campagnolo also remains committed to offering a full collection of both electronic and mechanical drivetrains, with no plans to go all-electronic any time soon. That said, keen-eyed readers may notice a “H0” designation on the rear derailleur’s lower knuckle shown here, which suggests some sort of revision. Campagnolo declined to comment further for now.
The offset chainrings on the new disc-specific H11 cranksets require slightly different settings on the front derailleur limit screws, but that’s about all you’ll notice with the naked eye.
Seeing as how Campagnolo is as much a wheel company as it is a component one, it’s not at all surprising that the new disc groupsets are being accompanied by disc-specific wheelsets.
Topping the new disc-specific family is the Bora One DB, an aero carbon wheelset that will be offered in both 35mm (tubular and clincher) and 50mm depths (tubular only). While the rim’s external profile is similar to the current rim-brake Bora, the disc version boasts a specific lay-up and omits the brake track for a few grams of weight savings. All rims share a 24.2mm external width; the non-tubeless clinchers measure 17mm internally.
Spoke lacing patterns are modified from the rim-brake version, switching from a radial setup up front to Campagnolo’s trademark G3 triplet configuration (24-hole front and rear) to help cope with the twisting forces produced when disc brakes are applied. The G3 arrangement is carried over out back, albeit with an additional triplet over the rim-brake version. Interestingly, the rear wheel continues on with radial lacing on the non-driveside; Campagnolo says its in-house testing showed that as compared to the front, rear braking forces were sufficiently low that additional bracing wasn’t necessary.
Considering the company’s current product range, it was natural that Campagnolo would also introduce a more complete collection of disc-compatible wheels to go along with its new disc brake groupsets. The new Bora One 35 DB is quite impressive, with new disc-specific rims, updated spoke lacing patterns, and purpose-built hubs, all of which add up to claimed weights of just 1,297g for the tubulars and 1,509g for the clincher set — just 82-103g heavier than their rim-brake counterparts.
The rim-brake Bora One 35 rear wheel already used Campagnolo’s trademark G3 spoke lacing pattern. The new disc-brake version, however, gets beefed up a bit with eight triplets instead of seven.
For now, Campagnolo will offer the tubular version of Bora One DB in 35mm and 50mm depths, and the clincher in 35mm only. A 50mm clincher is possible, however, and a higher-end Bora Ultra version is likely as well.
The rims on both the tubular and clincher versions of the new Campagnolo Bora One 35 DB feature 24.2mm external widths. The clinchers have an internal width of 17mm — wider than what most would consider to be purely traditional (13-15mm), but still shy of the roughly 20mm widths on more progressive road wheelsets now on the market.
Campagnolo’s MoMag process requires wheel builders to first attach a section of magnetic steel to the aluminum nipple, feed it into the valve hole, and then guide it to its final location using a magnet. In this way, there are no additional holes required on the outer wall of the rim, which Campagnolo says produces a stronger rim while also providing more surface area when gluing tubulars.
The G3 asymmetrical lacing pattern uses twice as many spokes on one side than the other. This helps equalize the spoke tension in wheels where the flanges are equidistant from the hub’s centerline. In this case, it’s also used to reinforce the new Campagnolo Bora One 35 DB disc-specific front wheel from the torsional forces created when applying disc brakes.
The new Campagnolo Bora One 35 DB wheels use one-piece aluminum hub shells. At some point, a higher-end Bora Ultra version is likely, complete with a carbon fiber front hub body to help drop a few grams.
All of Campagnolo’s new disc-specific road wheels use Center Lock splined interfaces for the rotors, plus 12mm front and rear thru-axles with an option for quick-release end caps. Higher-end hubs, such as the ones used on this Bora One 35 DB, also get threaded collars for easy bearing preload adjustment.
Interestingly, Campagnolo has chosen to increase the spoke count overall on the new disc-specific Bora One 35 DB rear wheel relative to the rim-brake version, as opposed to introducing a crossed pattern on the non-driveside to counteract braking forces. According to Campagnolo, the braking forces on the rear wheel are sufficiently small as compared to the front that the radial non-driveside lacing is more than up to the task.
Both hubs feature forged aluminum construction, USB hybrid ceramic bearings with easily adjustable bearing preload, 12mm thru-axles (with an option for quick-release end caps), and aluminum freehub bodies for either Campagnolo or Shimano/SRAM cassettes.
Claimed weight is 1,215g for the Bora One 35 DB tubulars and 1,406g for the 35mm-deep clinchers; no claimed weight was provided for the 50mm tubulars.
Also new are the Shamal Ultra DB disc-specific aluminum tubeless clinchers, with differential 27/30mm front/rear section depths, 17mm internal widths, and machined rims that help reduce rotating mass while still leaving the spoke holes amply reinforced.
Campagnolo continues to expand its range of disc-compatible wheelsets, which now includes the new Shamal Ultra DB. Photo: Campagnolo.
Campagnolo’s G3 lacing pattern makes another appearance here, albeit with a lower 21-hole count at both ends since the straight-pull, bladed aluminum spokes used on the Shamal can each handle higher loads than the Bora One’s stainless steel ones. The MoMag process is also used here, which carries the added bonus of leaving the outer rim wall airtight for easier tubeless setup.
As on the Bora One DB, the Shamal Ultra DB hubs feature artfully machined spoke flanges, easily adjustable hybrid ceramic bearings (but in the higher-end CULT variety that Campagnolo reserves for its Ultra wheels), interchangeable aluminum freehub bodies, and standard 12mm thru-axle compatibility with the option for quick-release end caps.
As with all Ultra wheels, the Shamal Ultra DB also gets a carbon fiber center section for the front hub, which helps keep the total claimed weight down to an impressive 1,540g per pair.
Retail price for the Bora One tubulars is US$1,965 / €1,910 while the clinchers are slightly more at US$2,195 / €2,145. The Shamal Ultra DB is more appealing priced at US$1,375 / €1,310.
As is typically the case with Campagnolo’s “Ultra” wheelsets, the new Shamal Ultra DB features a carbon fiber center hub body. Photo: Campagnolo.
No in-depth discussion of disc-specific road groupsets would be complete without mentioning the associated weight penalties relative to their rim-brake counterparts, and to Campagnolo’s credit, the impact is surprisingly miniscule.
For a Super Record EPS DB groupset and Bora One 35 DB tubulars, for example, the penalty — all requisite components included — is a whopping 9g. For a Record DB mechanical groupset and Shamal Ultra DB climbers, the difference is just 78g. And for a Potenza DB disc groupset and Zonda DB wheels (which were introduced last year), you’d be tacking on an extra 200g. Taking into account the fact that many disc-specific road framesets are now lighter than their rim-brake counterparts, the weight argument against disc brakes starts to lose some of its bite.
Naturally, the new disc brake components cost more than the rim-brake versions, but as on the scale, the hit isn’t as bad as you might think — at least for higher-end groupsets where the cost of the shared disc brake components is only marginal as compared to the rim-brake hardware. Retail prices are as follows (Australian figures are TBC):
Super Record EPS DB: US$4,320 / €4,400
Super Record DB: US$2,610 / €2,880
Record EPS DB: US$3,835 / €4,060
Record DB: US$2,385 / €2,630
Chorus DB: US$2,130 / €2,345
Potenza DB: US$1,610 / €1,580
My experience on Campagnolo’s new disc components has so far only consisted of a single 80km-long ride on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. While the hilly route provided ample opportunity to sample the braking performance (and in the wet, too, thanks to some unseasonably rainy weather), note that the following account should very much be taken as first impressions; a proper long-term review will come after I receive test samples in a few weeks’ time.
With that said, it’s hard not to be impressed with what is effectively Campagnolo’s first commercially available effort in what is otherwise an already fairly mature field of competitors. Campagnolo boldly claims whopping 14-55% improvements over Shimano and SRAM in terms of stopping distances and braking force, depending on conditions.
My time with Campagnolo’s new disc brakes has thus far been limited to a single 80km ride, but there was plenty of braking required on the sinuous descents of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands to get an initial feel for how well they work.
While those sorts of figures are impossible to verify on unfamiliar roads without competing products on hand and proper instrumentation, I will say that the substantial gestation period for Campagnolo’s disc components seems to have been time well spent — and if nothing else, the partnership with Magura seems to have been a wise one as there certainly were no indications that Campagnolo was new to the hydraulic disc-brake game.
Lever feel is admirably light and fluid — roughly splitting the difference between Shimano and SRAM — and the pad engagement point is easily distinguished. Braking power is quite strong right off the bat (but without feeling unnecessarily grabby), and it builds predictably and linearly with increasing hand effort.
Roads like these, all day long…
Even better, the brakes were whisper-quiet, even when wet and after a fair bit of heat was already introduced into the system. Reasonable pad clearances — on par with what’s currently offered from Shimano or SRAM — kept annoying rotor rubbing at bay, too.
Long-time Campyphiles will be happy to hear that, as promised, Campagnolo hasn’t messed at all with how the new hydraulic Ergopower levers feel and fit in your hands — and if anything, the new customization potential makes them better than ever.
Campagnolo readily admits that it is (very) late to the road disc brake party — and I might even argue that it’s so late that some began to wonder that it was ever going to show up at all.
But show up it did, and patience appears to have served the prestigious Italian company well. Now it’s more a question of whether there’s anything left for Campagnolo to drink.
After a long wait, Campagnolo’s hydraulic road disc brakes are finally here — and they seem really, really good.
Campagnolo’s disc brakes have been a long time coming. But has it been worth the wait? Early impressions suggest yes, but we’ll soon know for sure as all of the new disc-specific products will begin arriving in stores around late May/early June.
Disc brakes have suffered an awfully rocky trial in the professional racing world, but it’s looking increasingly likely that bikes like this one will eventually become the norm.
Campagnolo is particularly excited about the addition of hydraulic disc brakes to the list of available options for its mid-range Potenza groupset. This not only provides yet another choice for disc-curious cyclists in search of a new bike, but also a third choice for product managers figuring out future component spec.