So I bought some Campagnolo Record EPS. To cut a long story short, I should point out, as I feel obliged to justify the expense, that I got it significantly cheaper then the around £2800 asking price, having had it shipped from Colorado by the very pleasant guys at Planet Cyclery (http://www.planetcyclery.com/) which essentially meant that even with shipping and tax to the UK, it was still just under the £2000 mark, which given it’s selling for £3000 in places, is a pretty good deal, especially when compared with the Athena EPS groupset. You could even get it cheaper – I bought it through their website, but you can make a ‘best offer’ on their ebay page – http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/300747154579?_trksid=p5197.c0.m619 – and perhaps they’ll do it even cheaper. I should also point out that despite being a student I pretty much don’t spend any money, I don’t drink, which of course produces massive savings, don’t really get out much (essays to do, books to read…) so plough most pf my money into Cycling. Essentially I’m just getting that in before the usual bike snobbery ‘all right for some’ attitude creeps in. I could afford it. I bought it. Mildly political point done!
From the above picture, you can see the basic electronic components of the groupset, which consists of 6 main parts – the two ErgoPower levers, the interface unit, the power unit, and the front and rear derailleurs. You may note little rubber nodules on the wires – these are ports to seal the frame, as the group set is technically only for frames that feature internal cabling. However, any bike shop worth their money should know that some electrical tape can work wonders, as was seen on various Di2 equipped machines, and so despite my bike, a Cervelo R3, not featuring internal cabling, it will still be attached: it just might not look quite as neat as the internal cabling solution. Oh well, until I can afford my Cipollini Bond or Colnago C59, some messy wires will hardly be a setback given the whole system can work for half an hour when submerged under a meter of water.
The wires are interesting for another reason though – you don’t need a ‘wiring set’ like Di2, which requires an external or internal wiring kit to be purchased separately to fit the groupset, and if I wasn’t so hamfisted and useless at most things, the colour coded wires would make it reasonably simple to set up my self. As you can see, the little coloured tags show which wires go where, so that the two levers plug into the small interface unit, which is then connected to the power unit, which doubles as the computer. This is then plugged into the two derailleurs. It’s all very simple and of course completely removes the need for cable maintenance, ensuring that your expensive (!) new groupset should be both long lasting and perfect everytime.
The levers are obviously the parts you’ll be interacting with the most with EPS or indeed Di2, and they have gone under some very subtle redesigns for this purpose. I have the old Campag Centaur on my R3, which is the old Carbon plated version before they changed them round a year or so ago, and there are a few noticeable differences. Firstly, the body of the lever is perhaps slightly thicker at its base – presumably to give a better grip – and of course, the lever for changing to the smaller sprockets has been completely redesigned. I’ll come to that side of the lever on the next picture, but the lever behind the brake has also been subtly modified. It used to protrude behind the brake, but now only the part you press, which you barely have to push to activate an aggressive ‘click’, ie that famed Campag audible feeback, sits out of the lever. It’s also flatter and less sculpted then the old levers, perhaps because you don’t need to grab it so much to pull it across. My only concern is that, as you can see, I run white hoods on my bike, but the new EPS levers only seem to come in black at the moment. The horror!
A comparison with the Di2 levers is also worth doing. Whilst Campagnolo have the ‘three levers, three actions’, plan, which basically ensures that each lever, as in brake and the two gear changers, are separate in both place and functionality, Shimano has retained the current placing of their levers, which means both buttons for up and down shifting are next to one another. Despite increasing the size and texturing the buttons, this could still prove problematic in winter, with gloved hands and the like, whilst the Campag system eliminates any concern for this.
The opposite side of the levers is where the most obvious change is. Gone is the clunky jutting ‘trigger’ that used to be there, replaced by a smoother, curving sweep of a button that again gives a great ‘click’ noise and feel when you press it. It’s also supposedly easier to reach on the drops, and of course has a much smaller throw. Hidden just behind it is a nipple of sorts, a ‘mode’ button which is used in the set up and adjustment of the gears, if at all needed. I was initially concerned you might accidentally press it whilst riding, but some playing around and the fact it is a very, very solid button which requires some force to compress demonstrates this is extremely unlikely.
The most expensive part of all this is the part that is the most likely to get damaged, the rear derallieur, which comes with a recommended retail tag of (sit down) £527. As such, it is the only part that comes in a foam lined box, and the shear beauty of its flowing Italian lines and carbon fibre glisten, combined with the fear that you’ll be falling onto it at some point, really makes you want to leave it there. I’m especially worried – I’ve had experience with what happens when you crash quite hard with a Campagnolo rear mech, and will provide the picture of its utter destruction soon!
For obvious reasons, both mechs are bigger then their mechanical equivalents, given they both have a motor in them, but the entire groupset weighs a couple of hundred grams less then my old Centaur one, which given it has a whopping battery on the top of the usual parts, as well as motors etc, is a pretty impressive achievement. I’m already predicting a ‘retro’ move back to small and tidy mechanical group sets in 10 years mind, although that’s not to say that the electronic groups, with the exception or Ultegra Di2, are ugly – far from it.
Similarly, the front mech is noticeably larger then its predecessor, and is arguably the worst looking part of the whole ensemble, looking like a rather overbuilt tower. But its the job it does that is most important, and judging from reviews, the job it does it the main reason to buy electronic: it solves the hated issue of the clunky large chainring shift. Years have we endured the ‘ca-chick ca-chick ca-chick…’ of the chain as you push the levers the whole way across to try and force the gear to drop, and supposedly, the electronic groupsets power and precision make this a thing of the past. I’ll report back on that one!
So all that remains is to get it fitted and try and see if Italian electronics can finally break their duck. Once I’ve done so and the roads of Norther England are not too wet or salty to make all the beautiful new pieces all filthy (unlikely) I’ll get the cameras out again, perhaps with some video, and do a proper review with comparison to the mechanical groupset. In the mean time I’ll enjoy staring at it…