Introducing Campagnolo EPS

Earlier this week I received an invitation to attend the North American launch of the new Campagnolo EPS system. I doubt Campagnolo has introduced anything that has ever been as eagerly awaited as this group. And with good reason; we’ve known that the heralded component maker has been working on this for ages. The’ve had more than adequate time to build interest.

Now let me say that I first heard about Campagnolo working on electronic shifting back in 2002. By that time, apparently, the prototyping on this group was old news. What I found out during the presentation was that they’ve been working on electronic shifting since the days of the first 8-speed Ergo levers. How was that not more widely known? I’m sure some Campyfiles must have known, but I hadn’t heard a word about it in the ’90s.

So why did it take so incredibly long to bring the group to market? Campagnolo was limited by the electronics technology available at the time. They literally (and I do mean literally) had to wait for the technology to be developed that would allow them to implement a design that was small enough, light enough, robust enough and smart enough to get the job done.

Before I dive too deep, a note on the nomenclature: EPS stands for Electronic Power Shift. Nice and straightforward.

I had the chance to look at it up close and to ride a bike with it on a trainer. My overwhelming reaction to it is one of sophistication. Shimano’s Di2 has not been without its criticisms. The group is heavier than mechanical Dura-Ace and reports circulated the riders using the group at the cobbled classics experienced bump-induced shifting. EPS feels like shifting; there’s actual lever movement and in that I believe Campagnolo got the single most important element of electronic shifting right. You feel like you’re using bike components. Further, the Super Record and Record EPS groups are lighter than Di2. Record weighs in at 2098 grams Super Record tips the scale a bit less at only 1875g.

The touch is light and the speed of the shifts is noticeable, but it’s not blink-your-eye quick. And if you’re anything like me and completely in love with the shape of the current Ergo lever, you’ll appreciate that this is exactly the same as the mechanical levers, though the texture of the hoods is a bit different.

Battery life is impressive. Last year the Movistar team used the groups and we were told they charged the group’s power units only three times through the whole of the season. The case itself is pretty impressive. It’s ultrasonically welded shut to keep the elements out and the electronics are cushioned from road vibration to increase their life span and reduce the chance that impacts will damage a component.

One interesting detail we learned about the group is that while you can downshift three cogs at a time and upshift five cogs at a time with mechanical groups, you can cycle all 11 cogs in either direction with EPS. Cooler still, we were told it takes only 1.5 seconds to shift through all 11 cogs.

When Campagnolo North America’s Tom Kattus invoked the name Syncro during the presentation, I admit I nearly fell out of my chair. For those who don’t recall, Campagnolo’s first effort at indexed shifting required a slight overshift before the lever settled into position. To say it was wonky would be diplomatic. That idea has been revisited with EPS—the front derailleur does an overshift automatically on upshifts. The idea is that if you combine a 40 percent increase in torque with a slight overshift you’ll get perfect shifting every shift, but you’ll also get a speedier shift, too. It makes sense when you think about it. Move the chain over just that much more and it will catch that much sooner.

The EPS Interface mounts easily on the stem, making adjustment easier to do on the fly (should you actually need to make an adjustment while riding) as well as making it easier for you to monitor battery charge from the saddle. It’s unlikely that battery charge will be a big concern when you’re out on rides, but should you start a long ride with a relatively low battery level, you will know where you stand thanks to the LED light on the left of the unit. It features five levels (bright green, blinking green, yellow, red and blinking red with a buzzer)  that  correspond to relative battery level.

I’ve been critical in the past of how much carbon fiber Campagnolo uses in its groups. My feeling has been that in some cases while the carbon fiber makes the component lighter, it also makes it unnecessarily fragile. The derailleurs have been my two big criticisms. That said, I’m fascinated with the way carbon fiber has been used in the bodies of these derailleurs and I don’t suppose they’ve gotten any more fragile than they were. I look forward to learning more about their manufacturing. What I really can’t wait for is a chance to ride this stuff.

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11 comments

  1. Julius Kusuma

    The non-electronic Super Record, Record and Chorus use “Ultra-Shift” mechanism, while Athena and below use “Power-Shift” mechanism.

    But now for electronic we have Super Record and Record use “Electronic Power Shift”.

    Is this a naming snafu of their own making?

    More seriously though, I love the idea of EPS and I can’t wait to try one!!

  2. michael

    i`ve just sold a DA 7900 gruppo, a Kona Jake the Snake cross bike that was 10 years oldand had already been replaced, and a set of Mavic open pro`s that were no longer being ridden whatsovever.

    all to clear out space and budget room for Record EPS. Just waiting for aftermarket sets to become available.

    bring it for the love of god!

  3. randomactsofcycling

    My LBS is the first in Australia to have EPS. They are lucky to have a very special relationship with Pinarello, who sent it direct from Italy.
    Campagnolo continue to marry form and function in a way other component makers either cannot or choose not to. I have also ridden a Di2 bike and the tactile response at the levers and buttons on Campy is a winner.

  4. A Stray Velo

    I came across a setup of three bikes on trainers with EPS the other day and if I had to judge the group on looks alone it’s very clear to me that Campy has done a much better job with the aesthetics than Shimano.

    My favorite part is how the rear derailleur really isn’t much different than a regular derailleur. The FD is a bit bulky but not in a odd boxy way like Shimano has done. It just looks better and more thought out to me.

  5. Souleur

    looks like the bridge will be made by many

    a generational change will now redefine ‘old school’ vs ‘new school’

    Di2, EPS…et al vs old mechanical monkeys

    and it does appear like its time has arrived, for all

  6. michael

    I wouldn’t call it a generational change to electronic. in my case, the shiniest bike in my collection happened to have DA7900 on it, which I never warmed to. My blue collar bike has campy centaur on it and i have been saving up for this for well over 1 year now. I can`t afford off the cuff decisions ;)

    so now that it is being released, and that i have saved up the dosh to give it a go, well hello electronic!

  7. David Sandberg

    I do not want to come across as a technophobe, but I was just on one of my laptops that after 3 years has a dead battery. With technology moving as fast as it does, will we be facing the problem of having to replace whole new systems because we cannot find batteries in 5 years.

    You may go through systems faster than I do but I just converted from 8s record last year. I also have a room filled with 35mm cameras and I own an enlarger.

    Come to think of it maybe I am the wrong person to be speculating on the future. ;-)

  8. Hammerhed

    I live in a “major metropolitan area” of the US. Every bike shop around here that sells top shelf bikes and components has DA Di2 either on a few bikes or in the case or both. Nearly all of the sales reps and mechs have ridden and can comment competently about the gruppo. On the other hand, very few, maybe none, of those same shops have any bikes on the floor with Campy components–I don’t mean Campy electronic components, I mean ANY Campy components. That seems like it must be false, but of the ten major shops, only one carries Bianchi or Pinarello. My point is what happens when ya gotta talk ta someone ‘coz tha t’ing don’ shift! Ya kno’? Maybe I’m being too cautious: I know that problem is true with most fine rare things, where the price of ownership includes inconvenience.

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