Campagnolo road disc brake groupsets revealed

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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.

Ergopower adjustments galore

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.

Caliper details

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).

Body-friendly rotors and feature-rich pads

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.

Disc-specific cranks

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.

New disc-brake wheels to match

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.

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.

Minimal weight gains and relatively competitive prices

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

Initial impressions

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.

Fashionably late

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.

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