New Campagnolo Chorus 12-speed groupset embraces modernity
Campagnolo has just announced a redesign of its popular Chorus groupset, which, as expected, incorporates most of the functional advancements of its more premium Record and Super Record stablemates – including a move to a 12-speed cassette. However, it also includes a new wider-range 11-34T cassette size, plus a 48/32T chainring option that isn’t available anywhere else in the line, making this one the go-to for Campagnolo fans looking for an especially broad gearing range, or need to accommodate higher-volume tires with a bigger roll-out dimension.
12-speed trickle-down from Record and Super Record
In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, Campagnolo has brought its latest 12-speed designs down to the Chorus level, with both the front and rear derailleurs boasting the same revamped architecture as Record and Super Record, but a variety of material changes that increase weight, but decrease cost.
The rear derailleur now sports Campagnolo’s so-called Embrace geometry, which provides more chain wrap and more consistent sprocket-to-pulley dimensions across the cassette than before, as well as a single medium cage length that will work with every available Campagnolo 12-speed cassette. Both the upper and lower knuckles are molded from fiber-reinforced “technopolymer”, while the parallelogram links and derailleur cage are made from forged aluminum.
Up front, the new front derailleur uses the same two-piece outer link as Record and Super Record, which Campagnolo says reduces the amount of free stroke at the lever for more responsive shifter action. But instead of using an aluminum-and-carbon cage, the one on Chorus is formed from steel.
Controlling both of those derailleurs are redesigned Ergopower levers, which utilize the same subtly changed brake lever shape as Record and Super Record, as well as the same updated hoods. Lever reach on both the rim-brake and disc-brake versions is adjustable to suit both larger and smaller hands, and the thumb buttons have been slightly enlarged for easier shifts from the drops than before.
The brake levers themselves are made of aluminum here (they’re carbon fiber on Record and Super Record), but thankfully, Campagnolo hasn’t downgraded the Ultra-Shift internals, which still provide the best multi-shift capability on the market. In a single lever swing, users can downshift up to three gears, or upshift up to five gears.
There’s a new Chorus 12-speed chain, too, which supposedly offers the same durability and shift performance as the top-tier offering, but is somewhat more affordable thanks to a less elaborate surface finish.
Brakes are mostly carried over for both rim-brake and disc-brake variants. An updated rim-brake caliper now handles rims up to 28mm-wide (external width), and the hydraulic disc-brake version uses the same forged aluminum caliper bodies as Record and Super Record. Also making their way into Chorus are the updated pad compounds and additional steel pad spring that were announced for upper-tier groupsets earlier this year.
Chorus will see the same 160mm and 140mm disc diameter options as Record and Super Record, too, along with Center Lock-only splined interfaces. However, Chorus rotors will be made solely of steel, so they’ll be heavier, but should otherwise offer the same outstanding performance.
It’s all about the gearing
Campagnolo will offer the same 11-29T and 11-32T 12-speed cassettes as what’s currently available on Record and Super Record. As before, each of the largest two trios of sprockets are machined from a single block of steel, while the remaining sprockets are individual steel bits, separated by machined aluminum spacers.
However, now introduced here is a new 11-34T cluster, which obviously offers even more total range than before, and should find some appeal amongst mixed-surface riders. Even better, Campagnolo says that cassette will also work with Record and Super Record groupsets, with no changes required aside from possibly a new chain to accommodate the 34T sprocket.
Adding even more versatility is the new Chorus crankset. It retains the unidirectional carbon fiber arm construction and proven Ultra-Torque split-axle spindle design of its forebear (sorry, there still are no 30mm-diameter spindles), but is now available in a semi-compact 52/36T, compact 50/34T, and new sub-compact 48/32T chainring configuration. Available arm lengths include the usual 165, 170, 172.5, and 175mm choices.
That sub-compact option will be music to a lot of people’s ears, but it’s critical to note that it comes at a big compatibility cost. Whereas all other Campagnolo four-arm cranksets use the same 145/112mm bolt circle diameter for the mounting interface, Chorus arms switch to a smaller-diameter pattern to fit the new sub-compact chainrings — which also means that the new 48/32T chainrings won’t work with Super Record, Record, or Potenza.
One might naturally assume that these new gearing options are designed to help Chorus appeal to the gravel crowd, which would certainly make sense given that segment’s explosion in popularity. However, that doesn’t seem to be where Campagnolo is going here. For one, there’s no clutch in the rear derailleur to control chain movement on rough terrain. Second, there’s no single-chainring option for the drivetrain. And perhaps most importantly, the stated tire clearance for the front derailleur tops out at a modest 700x32mm, which suggests all of this is aimed more at the all-road crowd, or simply older road riders who need easier gears when heading uphill.
Pricing and availability are currently to be confirmed, as are Campagnolo’s plans for an EPS version of the Chorus groupset.
The unexpected outlier
Aside from perhaps the downsized BCD, nothing that Campagnolo has introduced with Chorus was unexpected. Nevertheless, that the Italian company from Vicenza has decided to modernize its gearing options with this new 48/32T sub-compact setup is still noteworthy given its hyper-keen historical focus on traditional road riding and racing — not to mention the fact that this now — rather unexpectedly, I might add — leaves Shimano as the only one of the major three component brands without some sort of sub-compact crankset option.
Is this a case of Shimano once again biding its time while it hyper-engineers something behind the scene? Or do Shimano’s engineers still have their blinders on, and don’t think anything needs to be done?
Either way, the core question remains: Hey, Shimano, what’s the holdup here?