This One Goes to 12

This One Goes to 12

Posted by Alder Martz on 12th Apr 2018

For some, it is the natural progression of things. For others, it’s too much. But whichever side of the debate you land on, it’s undeniable that in 2008 Campagnolo ignited the same debate by making the leap from 10 speed to the now ubiquitous 11. Perhaps the initial hate/love reaction is normal, but Campagnolo has a logical reason beyond simply one-upping their competition.

It’s the same argument that was used for going from 10 to 11 speed, when 25-11T cassettes were commonplace. Their reasoning is that 12 speed will better accommodate the gaps on wide range cassettes like an 11-28T, which are becoming increasingly more common. “Now even us mortals will have the joy of perfect increments like the pros of yesteryear who rose 11-23T gearing,” explained Campagnolo’s press manager.

Only the future can know if 12 speed drivetrains will become the new norm, but if history repeats itself, it’s simply a matter of time before everyone is scoffing at 13 speed!

Shifters

Campagnolo has retained their best-in-industry multi shift capabilities, with up to five downshifts or three upshifts per lever push. But the things that have changed are larger shift paddles, new cables and housing that drastically reduce friction, and the introduction of reach adjustment for riders with smaller hands.

Brakes

Campagnolo introduced disc brakes last year and they have remained unchanged with the introduction of the new groupsets. The rim brakes, however, both center and direct mount, have received an upgrade in the form of a more modern, pointed appearance. According to Campagnolo, this was done to help blend in with today’s popular look of aero frames. In keeping with the theme of modernization, the new brakes can officially accommodate 28c tires, although there might be room for more.

The center mount brakes have received an aluminum bridge joining two pivots. This is to help with stopping power and modulation but also might protect frames and forks from long-term wear.

Crankset

The new crankset is the most striking, as well as the most polarizing component in Campagnolo's 12 speed groupset. Campagnolo has deviated from their previous shape to something they claim is more aerodynamic and ‘smoother’. The cranks themselves are hollow carbon fiber with molded reinforcements. Like Shimano, a stiffer, hollow, outer chainring increases shift performance as well as chain security under heavy torque.

The chainrings have also been restructured with anodized finishes for durability and more rounded teeth on the little ring for a quieter drivertrain.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Campagnolo’s Ultra-Torque split spindle design. The same bottom bracket cups also remain unchanged with no oversized spindle option. The BCD pattern is the same for all the chainring options (53/39, 52/36, 50/34) but Campagnolo has said that parts between the groupset generations are not compatible.

Derailleurs

Out of the two, the rear derailleur has undergone the most revison. It now sports new geometry, with a longer body and pulley cage. This was all done as part of Campagnolo’s 3-D Embrace Technology, which is meant to engage more cassette teeth for better efficiency, more accurate shifting, and reduced wear on the drivetrain.

Campagnolo has also followed in Shimano’s footsteps by using a Direct Mount fame interface. Direct Mount hangers offer a stiffer connection, better shifting, and faster wheel changes. An aluminum link allows the derailleur to fit standard hangers where Direct Mount is unavailable. 

The rear derailleur pulleys have also gotten a makeover. They larger with 12 teeth in the name of reduced friction. The upper pulley’s teeth are taller and squared off to promote keeping the chain against the cassette, while the lower pulley has more rounded off teeth in order to keep the drivetrain quieter.

The front derailleur has been redesigned to move the cage in a more linear track. New pivot points and plate lengths work together to ensure efficient movement, meaning less effort from the rider to switch between front chainrings. 

Chain and Cassette

One new adjustment to the cassette is another sprocket…obviously. But Campagnolo has also changed the cassette’s construction. The six largest sprockets are now split into two sets of three, both machined from a single block of steel. This increases the durability of the cassette without sacrificing weight. And those plastic spacers? Swapped out in favor of machined aluminum ones.

The 12 speed cassette will fit on 11 speed freehub bodies which means you don’t have to upgrade your wheels. On the flip side, this means each sprocket is stacked closer together and is thinner than the previous generation.

This created the need for a slimmer chain. Campagnolo’s 12 speed chain is narrower, lighter, and the chain links are thinner, but Campy claims that the new chain is just as strong and long lasting as its precursor.

Record or Super Record

Similar to previous generations, the differences between Record and Super Record are small. These differences are mainly connected to aesthetics and other smaller details, like the three cutouts in the front of the Super Record brake levers. 

Super Record groupsets use Campy’s top end ceramic bearings where Record uses their lower grade USB version. The Super Record front derailleur has an aluminum inner cage and carbon outer one, while Record just uses metal, etc.

One instance where this does not hold true however, is in the crank. The Super Record cranks are hollow while Record’s are solid. Super Record uses titanium for their Ultra-Torque spindles and Record’s are steel. The Super Record cranks also have bridges between opposing pairs of chainring spiders for even more stiffness and Record doesn’t.

Wheels

Campagnolo’s new Bora wheelsets, the WTO 60 and WTO 77, are currently being offered in rim brake only. And yes, WTO stands for Wind Tunnel Optimized. Their dedication to being aero is more than just nominal. They are supposedly faster than many other wheel brands, and at a number of angles. In fact, Campagnolo claims they are so aerodynamic that in certain real world conditions, they can generate lift!

In a surprise move for an Italian company, Campagnolo is not offering the new wheelsets in a tubular setup, claiming it was the slowest rolling between clincher, tubeless clincher, and tubular. The WTO’s have 19mm internal widths which is optimized for larger tires and an astonishingly low weight of 1,540g for the WTO 60 wheelset and 745g for the WTO 77 front wheel. There is no rear WTO 70 as it is meant to be used solely in conjunction with a rear disc.

Price and Availability

The Super Record Rim brake groupset will be available later this month followed by the disc brake version of Super Record in May. May will also see the release of the rim brake version of Record folllowed by the disc brake Record groupset in June.

Prices are as follows

Super Record Mechanical Rim - $3,195

Super Record Mechanical Disc - $3,600

Record Mechanical Rim - $2,175

Record Mechanical Disc - $2,750

Campagnolo hasn't given any details for a 12 speed EPS groupset yet, but said it will be announced soon. Perhaps this could pave the way for a 12 speed Chorus, Potenza, etc. And how will Shimano and Sram respond? As with innovations in any sector, its the consumer who benefits. 

Rejoice cycling lovers, the clock strikes 12 and the party is just getting started!