Saturday, September 27, 2008

Equipment - Campy 11 Speed Overview

Campy's booth with the Campy 11 speed Super Record group. Wow.

At Interbike I attended the Campy/Fulcrum Tech Seminar. Although I figured I knew all about Campy, I wanted to hear the company line, especially with the new 11 speed stuff. People have asked a lot of good questions about the group, and I hadn't heard very compelling answers. When in doubt, go to the source.

The first question: Why 11 speed?

It came down to saving milliseconds in the shift. With racing becoming so competitive, evenly matched racers on semi-evenly matched bikes, Campy decided to revisit the idea of improving design to aid their racers' competitiveness. The focus fell on improving shifting, improving rider efficiency (power transmission and ergonomics), and reducing friction.

As an aside, Campy also wanted to improve small parts availability so your component groups would be fully serviceable.

Campy decided that to reduce shift time, they would put the cogs closer together. This, of course, required a narrower chain that would fit between the extremely friendly cogs. They developed such a chain by shaving down the outsides of the outer plates. Because this reduced the amount of material holding together a critical part of the bike, they spec'ed 20% stronger steel to keep the chain strength at proper levels.

Once they were done reducing the chain width by about 10% (5.9 mm to 5.4 mm), they ended up with, coincidentally, about a 10% spacer (5.4 mm) between the "narrow" 10 speed cassette and the spokes. It happened to be about the same width as an extra cog. Hey, they thought, we could just add another cog.

"Why?", the critics asked.

"Because racers always want an 18 tooth cog. The 10 speed gave them the 16T, but now they want the 18T. And we can do it."

And so it was. The 18T would let racers use a cruising gear currently unavailable in standard 10 speed set ups. With the 11th cog in the cassette, Campy could reduce their cassette selection. For 2009 Campy has four cassette sizes in 11 speed. Three are the normal 11-23, 11-25, and 12-25 ranges, all gaining the elusive 18T cog. They added a "wide range" 12-27 for good riddance, but dropped the 12-29. Compact cranks reduced demand for the big 29T, and by dropping that large cog they could also drop having to make a long cage rear derailleur.

You can see the largest three cogs are joined together, then the next three. After that they're separate cogs.

The cassette is now 70% stiffer side to side, 180% stiffer torsionally (i.e. when you pedal you twist the cassette torsionally). This gives the rider better responsiveness (kind of like how a stiff wheel responds better than a flexy flyer) and it also gets rid of some creaking. Apparently the creaking in my bike is from my cassette twisting torsionally.

Dag. And I've been relubing and regreasing everything I can on the thing.

Super Record gets six Ti cogs (both triple cog carriers), Record gets three (one triple cog carrier), and Chorus gets by with all steel ones. Unlike before, all cassettes now come with lockrings, aluminum or steel, depending on the line up.

The rear of the cassette, showing the intricate mesh of aluminum and titanium. I'm waiting for a creative use of the cassette mounting ring shape as a bio-hazard styled bike team logo.

If you look carefully at the above picture, these "non-rideable" prototypes have severely cracked large cogs - check out the center of the cog, where they bulge out from the cog carrier. I hurried back to the Campy booth after I saw these display-only prototypes.

I checked the cassettes on display in the show. No cracks. When a part says it's not for riding, it really, really isn't for riding.

So there are 11 cogs back on the rear wheel. How will you shift the chain from one cog to another? With the new tall Ergo shift levers. There are three "levels" of 11 speed levers, Chorus, Record, and the new Super Record. I put "levels" in quotes because, for all intents and purposes, they are basically the same. The internals for all of them are borrowed from the flat bar shifters, and the Super Record gets some titanium plates. Otherwise they're the same inside.

And, yes, parts are available for everything on the lever.

From this side the levers are pretty much all the same. The bars were taped well, by the way.

I didn't like the appearance of the grooves on the hoods, but Campy claims that the grooves work to wick away moisture from under the hand. I'll have to check it out on my own since my hands weren't sweaty enough while I was at the show. Yeah, I liked touching the group, but my palms didn't get that sweaty. Really.

Note how long the main lever is - it's substantially longer than the current Ergo lever. Note the dry hands too.

If you really, really want to put the new shape shifters on your otherwise "old" 10 speed Campy drivetrain bike (say, for example, a SystemSix running '08 Campy 10 speed), you can retrofit the Centaur 10s internals into the Chorus/Record/SR levers, but, honestly, you're better off either with the 2009 10s Centaur levers or just going to 11 speed.

Campy worked with pressure sensitive sensors on the levers, measuring where your hands press against the hoods. In those areas they put air pockets in the hoods, giving them a bit of spring, to lessen road shock.

You can see the grid which make up the air pockets under the hood. You can also see the smaller housing openings and the white sticker. More on both later.

They also made the body lever taller, allowing riders riding on the hoods to put three fingers under the lever, not two fingers, or two and a really squished third. This requires a taller lever and therefore a touch more cable housing. Campy cautions against cutting the housing too short when fitting these new levers on a bike - usually those warnings come after some lessons learned the hard way, so I paid attention to the words of caution.

Note three fingers between the lever and the "bar", with room to spare. I could squeeze three fingers there before but my pinky didn't like it too much.

Although I'm seriously against encouraging riders to ride on the hoods when running into potential "situations", the new levers also raise the brake lever pivot substantially. This, along with an aggressive inward curve on the lever, allows you to brake firmly from the hoods.

The "fourth" hand position.

The taller body gives another handhold on the levers, one familiar to Shimano users, that where you grab the top of the hoods, and only the tops. Apparently the pros liked this, and to be honest, so did I.

Eddy B would beg to differ since he recommends always having a finger hooked around something on the bars - a lever or the bars themselves. It takes one little bump, one careless error, and your hands could go flying off the bars. It's a minor detail in racing, but it's like wearing a seatbelt - you don't get into your car saying, "Boy, today I'm going to smash into something and test out my seatbelt." Likewise, you never place your hands on the bars and say, "Well, today I want to slide my hands off the bar in a moment of inattentiveness, flip over the bars, and lose a bunch of teeth. Yeah."

So, yeah, that new position is nice, but it's not for close quarters riding. More like cruising along next to the canals in Belgium or something like that.

Previously riders with smaller hands consistently complained about the reach to the Ergo brake levers. Campy addressed this by reducing the reach by 4%, and for those ham handed riders, an 8% reach boosting kit.

The levers also use much smaller cable housing openings - you must use the 11 speed cable housing, a narrower housing than the already narrow 10 speed housing. In addition you do not need to use a housing end - a brass ring sits inside the brifter at the base of the cable housing opening, negating the need for the end. This very tight fit reduces housing movement and therefore increasing shift precision and speed, going back to that goal of improving rider performance through groupset changes.

Finally, and I thought this was interesting, Campy clearly states NOT to put the levers on the straight part of the bar, i.e. the straight bit just above the hooks of the drops. They have a term for it, but as soon as the tech guy mentioned this, I thought of my own term.

No jacked levers.

Sweet. Then I thought, "Oh, this must be the 'Lance can't ride this lever" thing, because he puts the levers so far up I'd find it hard to ride.

The next thing is the front derailleur. Although it's not a sexy derailleur, hard to see even in bike photo shoots, it cannot be ignored. The front derailleur is the key to gaining the market's confidence. Everyone's rear derailleurs work extremely well - in fact, when shifting my current rear derailleur, I can't imagine rear derailleurs working magnitudes better than they do now. They shift at any time, under load, in whatever weather, with very little effort. The only significant improvement would be multiple shifter locations and perhaps a more stealthy shift (i.e. quieter).

The front derailleur is different.

They misbehave in many ways. Under load it is difficult to shift into the big ring, unless one finesses their pedal pressure. The chain can drop off on the inside, avoidable if using a chain "stop". The shifting is relatively slow, and it is virtually impossible to shift while in a 100% hard, standing effort.

With Shimano's Electronic front shifting system's incredible reliability, the only way that Campy can fight back is to have either an electronic or mechanical system that matches or exceeds Shimano's performance and reliability. In addition, since Shimano's electric front derailleur broadcasts its shifts with a mechanical "Whirrrr" (think of a robotic arm noise), a mechanical or electronic shifter that works silently would be a tactically superior shifter.

I didn't ride any new bikes at Interbike, nor have I examined Shimano's (or SRAM's) front derailleurs at length, but a side by side comparision would be very interesting.

At this point, I can only point out that Campy has done three things to address shifting the chain across the chainrings more effectively.

The first is the aforementioned shift lever body treatment with the super tight cable housing mount, reducing cable housing slop.

The second involved some tweaking of the front derailleur cage. They made the narrow bit narrower, decreasing shift time, along with redoing the pull geometry. In fact the front derailleur shifts 18% quicker than the current QuickShift, which is already pretty quick. The narrow shape makes this an 11 speed only derailleur only, but the cage is compatible with both compact and regular cranksets. In addition, the carbon cage is lined on the inside with metal, increasing cage life span. The Chorus cage gets an all metal cage, the two Records get the Carbons.

Incidentally, I saw that circlips held together the front derailleur - parts should be available here too, to tighten up a sloppy used derailleur.

The third change to improve front shifting is the set up on the chainrings. There are two things - the ring spacing and the ring shape.

The rings are spaced closer together, kind of like the rear cassette, so the chain has less distance to travel. Campy doesn't recommend using the 11 speed rings for a 10 speed drivetrain because the downshift to the small ring is so close that the wider 10s chain and 10s front derailleur will more frequently dump the chain into the bottom bracket. If you want to use the new cool rings, you'll need to upgrade to 11s. The 10s Centaur rings are not the same material, although they have the the extra ramps.

Chainrings, baby. You can see the bearings peaking out from the races.

That brings us to the cranks. I thought they were the same, because, well, they looked the same. And, yes, the crank arms are the same. The rings, though, differ substantially, and not just in spacing.

You'll notice the grey finish first - it's a hard annodization, something in racing harking back to the Mavic SSC rims. The coating significantly reduces wear by a factor of three, making a 3000 km 11 speed ring look like a 1000 km 10 speed ring. It also makes corrosion almost nonexistant (only the ramp pins corroded in long term salt water spray tests).

Note the pins and ramps everywhere.

The rings also have a lot of shift ramps, both in the down stroke as well as the top/bottom of the stroke. Instead of waiting half a revolution to shift, you can force it to shift almost anywhere on the ring. I'd guess that most experienced riders would still shift at the top and bottom just out of habit, but when you're twiddling along in the small ring and your riding buddy launches a surprise attack in the 53x13, you may find yourself desperately looking for the big ring - and the extra ramps and pins will help you get there quickly.

Finally, to address the tendency to cross-chain (use the big ring and big cog) when using a compact crank drivetrain, Campy designed their rings to be used in the cross-chain combination. Extra cutouts and tooth shapes allow the chain to make the severe angle to the big cog. Again, although it's not something you want to do on a regular basis, it's something that inevitably happens in heated situations, whether a race or a competitive group ride.

The bottom bracket remains the same, but Campy is introducing their CULT (Ceramic Ultimate Level Technology) bearing system for 2009. Ceramic bearings are fine, but the super hardened stainless races are new, and, for the next three years, an exclusive for Campy. They need little or no lube (no grease for sure) and they spin smoother than anything I've seen, at least when there are no seals on it. With no corroding materials in the bottom bracket, you can actually ride with no lube.

Although currently available OEM only on Super Record components, the bearings are available as service parts (of course), and since many of the bearings are interchangeable, they can therefore be retrofitted into compatible bottom brackets and hubs.

Now to go to the rear derailleur, the crown jewel of any component group. The carbon pulley cages added some bling to the 10s Record group, but Campy has gone to a whole new level with their 11s rear derailleur.

Massive bling.

The most noticeable thing is the oversized carbon outer plate, but there's more to the derailleur than just the bling. The (replaceable) wide outer plate, combined with massive (replaceable) brass pivots, makes the rear derailleur 150% stiffer. This stiffness makes the derailleur move more positively, making shifts quicker and more precise.

Big brass... pivots.

The pulleys are now 11 tooth oversize pulleys. No, they will not interchange with your new 11T on your cassette - the pulleys are full of holes and have their own CULT (ceramic) bearing system. In addition Campy has coated the pulleys with a rubbery coating which reduces vibration and chain bounce.

Big, hole-y pulleys with ceramic bearings.

Prototype, do not ride. That is so cool. Note titanium hardware.

In the above picture you can see the A screw to the left, between the pulley cages and the main derailleur body. This adjusts the pulley-cog distance (minimal is good) so that the derailleur shifts better. It exists on the current 10 speed rear derailleur and replaces the B screw that used to serve that function.

Let's get back to the chain that runs through the beautiful rear derailleur pulleys. That beautiful 10 speed chain tool I have won't work on the 11 speed chains. Instead, you'll need to use the new big boy on the block.

11 is the new 10.

The silver trim in the handles is new. The feel is the same, the function almost the same. Solid, extremely precise, feels like something that belongs in a bank safe mechanism. There's an extra piece on the chain tool specifically for the 11 speed chain.

The Anvil (sticking out to the right).

The piece doesn't have a name, but we'll call it the Anvil. With the super thin side plates on the chain, it's imperative that the special 11 speed connecting pin be properly inserted and secure. The chain tool takes care of inserting the pin in a square manner, but the secure part, that's the Anvil's job. Once the chain is installed, you put the anvil in place, and using the big turn handle, you mushroom the pin head. This permanently secures the pin in place. The only caveat? You can't push out a pin that you've put in.

Campy recommends replacing the chain every 2000 miles, and if you do that, the cassette should last 20,000 miles. The chain interval is pretty short, but it makes sense to keep a worn chain from prematurely wearing out the expensive cassette. The Campy chains are "pre-stretched" so they will not alter length significantly over the recommended life of the chain.

Finally, the white sticker on the brifter body from way back up the post.

Campy is determined to get rid of the grey marketers destroying the market value of Campy components. In order to help dissuade such parts, Campy is labeling every part out there. The white sticker on the Ergo lever is one such label. Without a proper label in the proper country, the part will have no warranty.

As the missus just said, it's like putting the VIN number on every piece of a car. You can track where it came from, where it belongs, and whether or not it should be in use here or not.

Now for some fun stuff.

Campy has a few food related items in its line up, some unintentionally. For example, the 15 mm crankbolt wrench was fondly called a "peanut butter" wrench for the alleged second use of the handle - apparently it was a perfect utensil for spreading that sticky stuff on bread. Now, who would use a greasy handle to spread peanut butter on bread is beyond me, but the story has its cute points. Maybe Tullio liked peanut butter, I don't know.

Campy also had a nut cracker. Although Tullio was probably a ball buster in races (his frustration with wing nuts famously led to the invention of the quick release), the nut cracker destroys with finesse - it's designed to break the shell, not the nut. This way you won't have to pick through the pieces to eat the nut, getting those inadvertent pieces of shell that threaten to undo all that expensive dental work you've had done. At least if you've had expensive dental work done like both the missus and I have. I'm sure the instigating factor in this tool's invention had something to do with Tullio hollering while holding his cheek, nursing a painful jaw, pieces of shell and nut in his mouth.

Finally, Campy has a corkscrew. They've had it forever, actually, because I remember them in the shop in the early 80s. Although it's sort of infamous for being a severely overpriced piece of machinery, Tullio made it for a reason. One day, looking forward to his glass of port a little too enthusiastically, he drove the corkscrew into the cork a bit crooked. Instead of a satisfying "Pop", he heard the sickening sound of cork breaking. With half a cork left in the bottle, he demanded that a better cork remover be made.

Presto, the Campy corkscrew.

And would you believe it, you can get small parts for it.

Finally, to close the Campy 11 speed review, a story from the show.

One IB day I strolled past the Campy booth, on a mission, when my peripheral vision yanked my head to the side. An older gent stood in conversation with a younger one, both of them standing in the corner of the booth. I stopped and looked.

Valentino Campagnolo.

Son of Tullio. Boss of Campy. Standing there, a couple feet away from me.

I looked around for something to sign. I wanted to tear down a piece of the booth but I figured that wouldn't go over too well. The Campy booth had catalogs and a dealer brochure. That would do. I grabbed a tech brochure, but the booth girl told me the bags had the larger Trade Catalog as well. I snagged a bag, dug in for the 2009 Trade Catalog (it's a good half inch thick, chock full of pictures and specs and stuff), and spun around.

He was still there.

Grabbing my trusty Sharpie, I walked up to Mister Valentino Campagnolo.

I wasn't sure if he spoke English. I think now that he does, but he acted like he didn't. Of course, since I didn't know if he spoke English, and I was too shell shocked to ask, all I could do was mime him signing the tech guide. I never said a word so maybe he thought I didn't speak either Italian or English.

Maybe I was some Shimano guy to him, I don't know.

His smiling aide stepped back, silently laughing.

Valentino, positively amused, looked at me in astonishment. I can imagine what he's thinking. "This guy takes one of my catalogs that costed me $10 to print and he wants me to sign it? The gall. And he doesn't even speak English. Or Italian. Or maybe he's mute."

So, after sizing me up, to reward my gall, he very carefully and deliberately opened the Trade Catalog. After flipping through a number of pages (he apparently flipped forward and back, because he signed the page immediately behind the cover), he stopped and carefully poised the Sharpie. Then, a quick dash, and the brochure had been gifted. Now it was an autographed Trade Catalog.


Properly stunned, I said the only Italian I could remember - it popped into my head just then.


A smile crinkled his bright eyes.

"Prego," he replied.

And he wasn't talking about the spaghetti sauce either.


Anonymous said...

Valentino Campagnolo's autograph?!?! That officially grants you godlike status. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

Nice writeup Aki!

Looks like you got to see and play with some really cool toys over the past few days. Good stuff.

-Young Rider.

Aki said...

Thanks both of you. I put up a filler post next (did it before the trip) but I'll have a bunch of different topics on IB coming up. Uploading pics on what feels like dial-up (broadband wireless) is tough - 10-15 minutes for each set of 5 pictures, timing out maybe one out of every four times. I even had to wait for Google to load (!). With normal DSL it feels like I've returned to the 21st century.

Mike said...

Definitely one of the most comprehensive overviews of the group. I liked that they didn't decide to go to 11 first but just stumbled upon it by improving shift times.

So are you buying any of it? I really want those centaur shifters for my 10 speed stuff.

Maybe christmas...

Anonymous said...

Great review - and I agree with hocam, it's good that 11s was incidental to performance, not just to be different.

The autograph story is one of your best.

I want a Campy corkscrew. Just in case you were wondering what to get me for Christmas.

Aki said...

hocam - For now I can't buy any of it. I'd have to sell a lot of stuff to convert to 11s - I essentially need to convert at least one bike and two (rear) wheels, but probably four bikes and about 5 rear wheels. That's a bit much for me to chew off.

However, the Centaur 11s brifter looks really appealing. That may hold me over for a bit. Again, though, it'll have to wait a bit.

SOC - that corkscrew is something like $400. haha. I don't know cost, but the Campy guy actually asked the crowd, "Well, what's so special about the corkscrew other than it costs like $360?"

We actually had one at the shop but I sold it to turn over the money tied up in it. At that time it was something like $90 or $100. I shoulda kept it.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day when I lived in India, I remember waiting 24 hours to download a 6mb song. If you got lucky it would take 10 hours.

Oh the good old days. Erm, Slow old days.

-Young Rider

Anonymous said... should go work for bicycling magazine or something!!!! what the hell, you should get paid to do this!

Aki said...

I wish!