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The Brilliant Campagnolo Potenza: A Long Term Review

Posted by Alder Martz on 19th Apr 2019

The Brilliant Campagnolo Potenza: A Long Term Review

One of our customers sent us his in-depth review of the Campagnolo Potenza groupset and we felt it was too informative and honest not to share. You can find the Potenza groupset for sale here


Potenza 11 Speed is pretty farking awesome, extremely durable, and it looks awesome, even after beating it through a Maine winter.  There's one caveat (sort of) and that's that you can only drop a single cog down the cassette at a time, as Campy dropped the position of the thumb button to mimic the fit of EPS and allow users with slightly smaller hands to be more comfortable shifting from a variety of positions. If you’re like me and initially dismissed Potenza as only good for a “retro style” build, you’re making a huge mistake, as its an exceptional groupset.



After 5000 miles over 15 months, through beautiful summer weather, rain, a Maine winter, snow, salt and grit covered roads, I feel I can finally weigh in on Campagnolo's highest-end alloy groupset. While 4th in the Campagnolo hierarchy (Super Record 12, Record 12, Chorus 11, Potenza 11 ... ) Campagnolo considers this to be its competitor to Shimano Ultegra. I'm fortunate enough to enjoy a number of bikes, some with much more exotic component including Super Record 12s, Super Record 11s, Chorus 11s and Shimano Ultegra R8070 (Di2 Hydraulic) ... And, interestingly enough, of all of these I actually get asked one question more than any other, whether it's online or in person, and that is "How do you like the Potenza?" So ... Here we go…





To be completely honest, initially, I only purchased the new Potenza for the look. I wanted the high polish silver for a bike I was building, and it's very shiny indeed. In a sea of modern, ubiquitous black carbon, it really stands out. Yes, there are a few plastic ( Campagnolo calls it technopolymer reinforced with carbon fibre - but it looks like plastic) pieces … but truth be told, I find that once on a bike those pieces fade away and all you see are beautiful parts.Lets start with the shift levers…

To me, this is a logical place to start because if you’ve spent any amount of time on a Campagnolo equipped bike previously, this is where they diverge. It's also why so many of us love Campagnolo. The ergonomics of the 11s shift levers carry over from its carbon clad siblings, and as always, they fit in the hand beautifully. The silicone covering is supple, cleans extremely easily, and has not gotten that hard-plasticy feel after a winters worth of use, which I find can happen with some hoods. The downside to this is they’re soft, so after 5000 miles the silicone hoods are definitely due for a replacement .(This is a nominal cost, and takes about a minute to complete, so to me it’s a non issue.) Unless its cold, I don’t ride with gloves, and these hoods are a great place for spending long periods of time. 



In an effort to appeal to a wider audience, and perhaps show up on more OEM builds (where Campagnolo falls behind Shimano) there are two major changes to Potenza from the rest of the family:

1) The downshift thumb lever has been dropped to allow easier shifting from the drops for people with smaller hands. If you’ve ridden EPS (Campagnolo's electronic shifting) this mimics the EPS button position.

2) In tandem with this; shift action has been made lighter. Some riders have complained that the force required to actuate the thumb downshift is too great … so for Potenza the action is a little lighter. I don’t see this as good or bad … just different. For some it may be a real benefit.

There’s really only one downside to these changes, and it's that you can no longer downshift (move down the cassette) multiple cogs at a time. Is this an issue? Yes and no. If I’ve spent a few days riding my Super Record 12 bike, and jump on a bike with Potenza, the first time I go to dump a bunch of gears in the rear at once, I basically mis-shift, because I end up with a single shift. That being said, once I’ve done it a single time on a ride, I don’t have the issue again. If you’re only riding Potenza, or coming from Shimano, you’ll never even notice this. 




The shifting is extremely positive and satisfying. Has there been any degradation in shifting over time? No. That being said, I'm a stickler for maintenance. I replace cables and housing before and after winter, and lubricate my housing during winter. I actually recently built up a second bike with Potenza after having such a great experience with it, and I feel no difference in shifting between the two with one at 5000mi and one brand spanking new.

The silver finish on the levers has held up perfectly, I don't think you could distinguish them from new, and the matte section of the aluminum provides lovely grip in the rain – something that is absent on all clear-coated carbon levers.

Cranks and Bottom Bracket:The cranks look bling-AF. If you disagree with me, you’re wrong and should spend some time thinking about your poor decision making. 




There are two versions of the Potenza cranks. Early cranks came as the now(or very soon to be) defunct Power Torque (PT) bottom bracket and spindle, while newer Potenza comes with the Ultra Torque (UT) standard that Campy has been using on its highest tiers of groups for quite some time. UT is awesome. MAKE SURE YOU BUY THE ULTRA TORQUE VERSION. - This really has more to do with long term maintenance as PT will become difficult to find replacement parts for, and bearing/crank extraction can be slightly more of a pain in the ass. UltraTorque uses a structurally impressive Hirth Joint (Hirth Link) design and bearings / bb are interchangeable with all of Campgnolo's higher end groups – so they’re easy to get, and of extremely high quality.

Since we’re on the subject of Bottom Brackets, lets just get it over with as they’re not exactly sexy to talk about, but for a bike that I beat through the winter, they’re important. The “basic” Campagnolo steel bb bearings are excellent.They’re extremely easy to service. They feel amazingly smooth. They will last you a VERY long time. And when they finally do need to be replaced, they are not expensive.

Beyond being ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL, the cranks are excellent. I tend to hover around 200lbs, so if something is excessively flexy, I tend to notice. These feel fantastic. The chainrings are very nice, and certainly facilitate very quick and smooth shifts. I will continue to run the original set of chainrings for another month or so, but I will be replacing them after the winter, as they’re definitely getting tired. As with the higher tier groups, the 4 bolt chainring design allows ring interchangeability between Compact (34/50), Semi Compact (36/52), and Standard (39/53) chainrings. If you’re only using these in dry conditions, they really could last a very long time.

Brakes:

These are a real gem and possibly one of the best kept secrets out there. BUY THESE BRAKES. They’re around $70 for the pair … and they’re sexy as hell. They also work perfectly.



They weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 14g more than the twice as expensive Chorus brakes. I have Chorus Skeletons on a bike, and I cannot tell the difference between the two.

There is only one downside to these brakes, and it’s the same as all Campy Skeleton Brakes: they are a BITCH to keep clean, due to all the curves and open space. But, the finish has held up beautifully, and they do clean up nicely.



Deraileurs:

Front and rear derailleurs have both held up extremely well and there's not a whole lot to report on them, which is honestly a good thing. They both just work. The finish on both has held up fantastically well despite A LOT of road salt and grit being thrown their way. If there’s been a degradation in spring tension, I haven’t noticed it. And neither one has developed any noticeable play.

The Potenza front derailleur does have a plastic (Im sure they call it something else) tab in the outer cage that’s designed to facilitate a quiet and smoother downshift. Campagnolo claims that its critical to functionality. On BOTH of my Potenza bikes, this has fallen out within 250 miles … more accurately it got caught on the chain, made a ton of racket, and then got torn out … but let's not split hairs. On both bikes, I have not bothered to replace it, and have had absolutely zero issues – front shifting is smooth, fast, and accurate. If I were building a bike for someone, I honestly might be tempted to remove it before installing the FD, so they don’t ever have to even worry about it. – If anyone removes this on my recommendation and their bike explodes into flames, Im sorry.



I can’t comment on the Potenza rear derailleur pulleys, because in a moment of complete and total vanity I decided to install some bling-bling Red Ceramic Speed pulleys. These have been ABSOLUTE MONEY and honestly for $269 they should be. I just checked the bearings the other day, and they are BUTTERY smooth! For some, there is a caveat to these pulleys and that is noise : They’re aluminum, so the metal on metal with the chain can be slightly noisier than a standard pulley. It doesn't bother me, but it is worth noting. The red finish still looks baller, with the only wear being a silver “belt” around the edge where the chain runs on them. I don’t know if they’ve saved me a single watt, and I honestly don’t care: absolutely zero winter issue, and they look cool.

Chain and Cassette:
I run a Shimano Ultegra (Pictured 6800 , but currently R8000 ) cassette, so I can't really comment on the chain or cassette that would come with a complete grouppo or bike. Why? Well, Shimano cassettes are just easy to get, less expensive, and frankly they just hold up well for me. I actually do this on all of my 11s bikes (Super Record included) and it works flawlessly. Smooth, quiet and durable. That’s not to say I’ve ever had an issue with a Campagnolo Cassette, or don’t think that they’re well constructed because they’re actually quite nice – but a R8000 cassette is $80 and a Chorus cassette is $185 …

Conclusion:
I bought the group for pure vanity, and after 5000 miles its far exceeded my expectations. Its been supremely durable. The finish has held up beautifully. And, most importantly its worked flawlessly in a wide range of conditions.

It's also available in black, but buy the Silver. I get more compliments on my bike built up with Potenza than I do on my Time built up with Super Record 12s. People love it. You’ll love it. It's not just another black (carbon) kit … and if it ever does get tarnished, you can polish it up.


I think it would be easy to overlook it as a retro-bike only option, but I think that’s a mistake. Shiny pieces can look quite lovely on a carbon bike.

You can find Taber on Instagram @tabernewton, where he posts bike and baby photos. Check out our Potenza listing here and if you have any questions, feel free to send us an email at cycling@glorycycles.com.