Campagnolo goes 12-speed with Super Record and Record rim and disc groupsets

by James Huang


It was bound to happen sooner or later. Campagnolo is now the first major component company to add a 12-cog sprocket to its road drivetrains with its Super Record and Record mechanical groupsets, for rim-brake and disc-brake applications.

The story of the Campagnolo’s new releases is bigger than just another gear, though. Both the Super Record and Record groupsets are entirely new from tip to tail — cables and housing included — with more refined ergonomics, improved shifting performance, and redesigned rim brakes to keep the faithful up to speed.


Why 12-speed

Before we dive into the details on each new component, it’s worth discussing why Campagnolo has gone to 12-speed in the first place. Campagnolo’s decision isn’t just a matter of one-upping the competition, even though it may seem that way initially. There’s sound logic behind the move, and while the change will undoubtedly create a lot of headache, it makes sense overall.

Campagnolo first made the jump from 10-speed to 11-speed back in 2008. Compact cranksets with 50/34-tooth chainrings were becoming much more common already at that point, but the gearing ranges for the cassettes were still fairly narrow back then, often bottoming out with a 25 or 26-tooth sprocket. On an 11-25T or 11-26T cassette, 11 gears were generally found to offer sufficiently tight gaps in between to keep everyone happy.

https://cyclingtips.com/2017/11/understanding-bicycle-gear-ratios-why-they-matter/

These days, however, riders are increasingly using much wider ranges, and easier gearing overall. Compact cranks are practically the norm, and even sub-compact chainrings are becoming more common. Cassettes with 28T sprockets are standard even on high-end road racing bikes like Specialized’s latest S-Works Tarmac SL6, and 11-29T, 11-30T, and 11-32T cassettes are hardly rare finds on the road.

With that widening gap between the smallest and biggest sprocket, Campagnolo felt that the gaps in-between are now getting bigger than ideal, so the decision was made to add one in the middle.

“[With 12-speed], there are no more jumps in metric development, so the athlete can always find that sweet spot in gearing,” said Campagnolo press manager Joshua Riddle. “Now even us mortals will have the joy of perfect increments like the pros of yesteryear who rode 11-23T gearing.”

Campagnolo Super Record 12 and Record 12
Riders who are particularly finicky about their cadences, but still want a wide gearing range, will likely be tempted by Campagnolo’s new 12-speed format. Photo: Campagnolo.

Campagnolo will offer just two wide-range 12-speed cassette options with the new Super Record and Record groupsets — 11-29T and 11-32T. But despite the generous total range, there will be just single-tooth gaps across the first seven gears, and only moderately bigger (in terms of percentages, not tooth count) ones afterward.

People complained when we went from 8-speed to 9-speed, 9-speed to 10-speed, and 10-speed to 11-speed, and I’ve no doubt the same complaints will crop up once again here, if for no other reason than the fact that there will be virtually zero compatibility between new and old generations, aside from hubs and wheels. But each of those generational changes reflected evolutions in how riders were using their bikes, and we’ve all consistently been better off as a result.

Maybe this time will be different? Probably not, but you should read on, anyway.

Ergopower gets more ergonomic, cables get more slippery

Campagnolo has refined and redesigned its Ergopower shift levers several times since their inception in 1992, and while the H11 hydraulic disc-brake version finally incorporated a reach adjustment when it was launched last year, the mechanical version was still left with only two fitment options: long-reach and longer-reach.

That’s finally changed with this latest generation, which now incorporates a proper reach adjustment for both the brake and shift levers. Both levers will adjust in tandem, providing riders with small-to-medium-sized hands some long-awaited relief. A change in Campagnolo’s “double curve” lever adds a slight outward cant for an easier reach still.

Shift paddles have grown a bit for more ready access from various hand positions, and much of the free play in the main shift lever has been eliminated as well, meaning the lever now doesn’t move as much before starting to pull the shift cable. But sadly, the new Super Record and Record 12-speed Ergopower levers don’t gain the lowered thumb paddle position from the Potenza and electronic groups, which is much easier to reach from the drops.

Campagnolo has retained the best-in-industry multi-shift capability as before, though, with up to five downshifts or three upshifts per lever sweep. On the left-hand lever, there remain multiple index positions for manually trimming the front derailleur. Also carrying over is the Vari-Cushion hood cover design for a comfortable grip.

Accompanying the new rim-brake Ergopower levers are refreshed hydraulic disc-brake ones. These receive similar improvements, including the same revised brake lever blade shaping and enlarged shift paddles.

Shift lever effort is supposedly lower across the board, but not due to any change to the Ergopower internals. Rather, Campagnolo has introduced new cables and housing that “drastically reduce friction.”

Revamped front and rear derailleurs

Going along with the additional sprocket are all-new front and rear derailleurs, which are still predominantly constructed of molded fiber-reinforced composites.

The rear is certainly the more radically changed of the two, featuring a noticeably longer body, new parallelogram geometry, and a longer pulley cage with an upper pulley that’s now concentric with the cage pivot. Campagnolo dubs all of this as part of its 3-D Embrace Technology, which is designed to help the chain not only engage more cassette teeth for more efficient running (and reduced drivetrain wear), but also improve shift performance by maintaining more consistent gaps between the upper derailleur pulley and cassette sprocket.

Interestingly, Campagnolo has followed Shimano’s lead with the new derailleurs’ Direct Mount frame interface. A short aluminum link will allow fitment on standard hangers, but removing it, and pairing it with a dedicated Direct Mount hanger, will supposedly offer a stouter connection for better shift precision, along with faster wheel changes since it moves much of the hardware back and out of the way of the axle.

Campagnolo is also moving to larger 12-tooth pulleys this time around, with the upper pulley sporting taller and more squared-off teeth that more aggressively move the chain across the cassette, and more rounded-off teeth on the lower pulley for quieter running at various chain angles. In addition, those larger diameters will yield slight reductions in drivetrain friction.

Unlike with the current generation of mechanical rear derailleurs, the new Super Record and Record will come in a single 72.5mm cage length designed to work with both of the new cassette options. The inner pulley cage plate is now thinner than before, too, for better spoke clearance.

While the changes to the derailleur seem universally positive in terms of performance, the jury will likely be more split on the aesthetics. The new derailleurs look ganglier and more skeletal, and seem to have lost much of the elegance that punctuated older Campagnolo models.

Changes to the front derailleur are more subtle visually, but no less dramatic in terms of functional differences.

The cable arm is once again long and upright, which reduces how far you need to move the shift lever to make a shift. But Campagnolo has now separated the cable lever arm from the outer parallelogram plate; they’re no longer one forged aluminum piece as has always been the case, and the cable arm now pushes on a little tab about halfway down the outer derailleur body plate. Pivot points have been relocated and plate lengths have been changed, too, which Campagnolo says creates a more linear track for the derailleur cage.

“It is separated into several pieces to ensure a more efficient trajectory curve, which is more horizontal and less of a curve,” he said. “It also reduces the amount of force and throw required to effect a shift, so there is less hand movement and less force required by the rider’s hand.”

Crazy new cranks

If you already weren’t a fan of the throwing star-like four-arm cranksets that Campagnolo introduced in 2014, be prepared for another punch to the gut. The new Record and Super Record crankset feature a similar four-arm configuration, but with an even more radical aesthetic.

The driveside crankarm is now filled in over the spindle, where it was left open on the previous generation. Campagnolo says the new shape is “smoother” and “more aerodynamic” than before, and that may very well be, but the appearance will certainly take some getting used to. The Super Record crankset gets even more radical, with hollow carbon fiber construction and molded reinforcements bridging two opposite pairs of chainring spiders. As is the case with Shimano’s hollow outer chainring design, this stiffens up the chainring for better chain security when sprinting and more positive shift performance.

Carrying over is Campagnolo’s long-standing Ultra-Torque split-spindle design, with a toothed interface joining the two halves together in the middle. The existing bottom bracket cups carry over, and there remains no oversized spindle option.

The chainrings themselves have been redesigned, too, with new hard-anodized finishes for better durability, and more rounded tooth profiles on the inner chainring for quieter running at various chain angles.

As before, just one bolt circle pattern is used for all three 53/39T, 52/36T, and 50/34T chainring options, but Campagnolo says parts can’t be swapped between new and old groupset generations. Both Record and Super Record cranksets will be offered in 165, 170, 172.5, and 175mm arm lengths.

One last detail: Campagnolo previously prescribed different cranksets, with subtly different chainring spacing, depending on if you were running a disc-brake or rim-brake bike (since the rear hub spacing wasn’t the same). For the new 12-speed Super Record and Record, though, it’s all the same.

A radically different cassette, and a narrower chain to match

The new cassettes don’t just have an extra sprocket and wider gearing options than before; they’re also constructed in an entirely new way, at least for Campagnolo. The smallest six sprockets are individual steel plates, just like the previous generation, but whereas Campagnolo once used aluminum spiders and either steel or titanium rings to reduce weight, the largest six sprockets on the new 12-speed cassettes are now split into two triplets, with each being machined from a single block of steel. This keeps the weight in check, while also improving durability, at least as compared to the old Super Record’s titanium teeth.

Another improvement is a move to machined aluminum spacers in lieu of the plastic ones used before.

Now, at this point, many of you are likely wondering: Will you have to get new wheels if you switch to a 12-speed setup? While none of the rest of the drivetrain will have any level of compatibility with the current 11-speed stuff, the new 12-speed cassettes will fit on the same freehub bodies as before. Each individual sprocket is a bit thinner as a result, and they’re stacked slightly closer together as well.

That obviously means that the old 11-speed chain won’t work with the new 12-speed cassette, so Campagnolo has introduced a chain to match. The width is slightly narrower, and the links themselves are slightly thinner. Those differences decrease weight just a bit as a result, but despite the reduction in material, Campagnolo insists that the new chain is just as strong and long-lasting as the predecessor.

Sleeker stopping

Campagnolo introduced its new H11 hydraulic disc-brake components last year, and as already mentioned, there are now 12-speed Ergopower levers to match. Campagnolo isn’t ignoring rim-brake users, however, and there are new calipers for both center-mount and direct-mount fitments.

Both of the calipers sport a more angular and modern appearance, which Campagnolo says blends in better with today’s aero framesets. Dual-pivot configurations are used front and rear for extra stopping power — the old rear-only single-pivot option is gone — and Campagnolo’s long-running ball-bearing pivots continue on for smooth operation.

In addition, the center-mount version gets a small aluminum bridge joining the two pivot axles to help keep the mounting posts from splaying open under hard braking, which not only helps with power and modulation, but potentially protects frames and forks from long-term fatigue damage.

Naturally, wider rims and tires are accommodated as well. Officially, Campagnolo states that the new pivot geometry will handle tires up to 28c, although there may be enough wiggle room for a few extra millimeters.

Record vs. Super Record

As with the current-generation Super Record and Record groupsets, differences between the two are mostly subtle, and primarily related to aesthetics, materials, and bearings.

For example, whereas the Super Record groupset uses the company’s top-end CULT ceramic bearings throughout, Record instead uses the (slightly) lower-grade USB version. Super Record Ergopower levers get prominent cutouts in the carbon fiber lever blades; Record levers are smooth and solid. The Super Record front derailleur uses an aluminum inner cage and a carbon fiber outer one, but Record uses metal throughout.

The crankset is perhaps the only area where there are more significant differences.

Whereas the new Super Record crankset features bridges between opposing pairs of chainring spiders for additional stiffness, Record does without. And while Super Record is built with hollow carbon fiber arms and titanium Ultra-Torque half-shafts, Record gets solid-molded construction and steel spindles.

Otherwise, though, there should be virtually no performance differences discernible from the saddle.

Some new aero wheels, too

Campagnolo’s Bora range of aerodynamic carbon fiber road wheels have long been heralded for their superb build quality, smooth-running and durable hubs, low weight, and solid braking characteristics. However, Campagnolo now wants to push the Bora envelope in terms of aerodynamics, too.

As the names suggest, the new Bora WTO 60 and Bora WTO 77 rim-brake wheels are “wind tunnel optimized” to be the fastest wheels Campagnolo has ever created — and yes, of course, they’re also supposedly faster than key competitors, and at a wide range of wind angles. The profiles are rather unique, featuring wide cross-sections, but unusually flat sides and relatively sharply tapered trailing edges, almost like a rounded triangle tacked on to a rectangle.

Nevertheless, Campagnolo claims they’re so aerodynamically efficient that, at certain real-world wind conditions, they actually generate lift.

Interestingly, Campagnolo isn’t bothering to offer either of the new Bora wheels in a tubular version, saying that in-house testing showing that it was the slowest-rolling of the three common tire types. So instead, the Bora WTO 60 and Bora WTO 77 will only be offered in tubeless-compatible clinchers, with 19mm-wide internal widths optimized for 25-28c tires.

Other features include sleekly profiled hubs with adjustable USB ceramic bearings, straight-pull diamond-profile stainless steel spokes with external nipples for easier servicing, Campagnolo’s trademark Dynamic Balance counterweight system, and the latest version of its textured sidewall for consistent braking performance.

They’re impressively light, too. Claimed weight for the Bora WTO 77 front wheel (there’s no matching rear as it’s intended to be paired with a disc) is just 745g, while the Bora WTO 60 comes in at 1,540g for the pair (670g front, 880g rear).

Prices, weights, and availability

Retail prices are about what you would expect for Campagnolo’s top-tier groupsets. A complete disc-brake Super Record 12 groupset will cost US$3,600, while the rim-brake version is slightly cheaper at US$3,200. Comparatively speaking, Record 12 looks like a bargain, with the disc-brake groupset coming in at US$2,750 and the rim-brake edition costing US$2,175. International prices for all the new groupsets are still to be confirmed, along with pricing for the new Bora WTO wheels.

As for availability, Campagnolo says that rim-brake Super Record 12 groupsets should be arriving at brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers any day now, with the disc-brake versions following in May. Record 12 rim-brake groupsets will also be arriving in May, with disc-brake versions coming in June.

Official claimed weights are as follows:

Campagnolo Super Record 12 and Record 12 weights

What happens next

As exciting as new 12-speed Super Record and Record mechanical groupsets are, there are some glaring holes in the line, along with some very obvious clues on what’s coming next.

Campagnolo gave no details on 12-speed versions of Super Record EPS and Record EPS electronic groupsets, but confirmed that they would be announced soon. Further downstream, 12-speed is sure to make its way to Chorus EPS, Chorus, Potenza, and Centaur, but when exactly that will happen is anyone’s guess.

Looking outside of Vicenza, will Shimano and SRAM soon follow Campagnolo’s lead? Shimano only recently revamped its Dura-Ace, Ultegra, and 105 groupsets, so the earliest we might see a 12-speed version is probably two years from now. But given SRAM’s involvement in the Aqua Blue Sport program and its innovative 3T Strada team bike, it seems likely that the Chicago company will follow suit sooner than later. The question, though, is whether it’ll have one chainring or two.

Stay tuned.

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