For years the bike manufacturers contacted the dealers and press via the bike shows (such as Eurobike and Interbike). The success of the bike show model has, ironically, led to its abandonment as the primary communication method for many companies.
They have become too big, too expensive and too busy to really get a brand’s message across effectively.
Enter the press camp. If a single company (or a few) invite journalists and dealers to their short and sweet function they can get a focussed message across, provide hands-on use opportunities and see genuine improvements in the knowledge and understanding of the invitees about the products.
Canary Islands With Campagnolo
Starting last year, Campagnolo held a press camp in the Canary Islands to show off the new Potenza ensemble and the new Shamal wheel. Building on that successful experience, they repeated the whole thing again this year, inviting even more journalists and adding in slots for larger distributors as well.
I was lucky enough to get the call up from Gary the Ed to go on Bicycling Australia’s behalf to the Canaries for 2017. Yes I spent 4 days on planes to spend 2 days with Campagnolo, but the great riding and fantastic weather, plus meeting a number of my colleagues in the bike writing business made enduring the travel worth it (I think…).
New Centaur 11 Speed
Campagnolo is pretty cagey with their press camps. They never tell anyone what they will be revealing before the actual session for that particular product. Amidst speculation that they just had to be showing off a production model of a road disc brake, I sat down to session one to see the new Centaur 11 ensemble. This one slots in below Potenza and is aimed directly at Shimano’s 105 ensemble to the point that they promised it will be priced identically in most markets.
Entry-Level Price Point
Centaur looks like a good choice for enthusiast riders and entry-level club racers on a budget who would like to tap into the Campagnolo mystique. In fact, that was the expressed hope for Centaur, that by equipping a €2000 (translation=$3500) bike with Campy gear; the rider would be more likely to stay in the family during future shopping trips for more expensive bikes.
Some highlights of the Centaur group include: mid or compact-gearing (34/50 and 38/52) on the same 4-arm crank design as the rest of Campagnolo’s 11-speed groups, a single rear derailleur to cover all possible cassette sizes (with 11-32 being the widest range option), one that I personally really appreciate – matte grey or polished silver finish options, and finally, Campagnolo stressed that Centaur is lighter than 105 – with most of the individual pieces being a bit lighter adding up to a decent weight savings overall.
Road Testing New Centaur
Immediately following our session we changed into Campagnolo cycling gear and jumped onto custom-painted Sarto carbon frames equipped with Centaur gear – we looked very pro with 16 guys on identical bikes in identical clothes. The 65 km ride that we took on this gear gave us opportunity to explore the low gearing of 34/32 – the hills in the Canary Islands are quite steep in places.
Half of the ride was up, the other half was down (there was virtually zero flat). On one optional descent we were supposed to head down the hill for 3 km before regrouping for the ride back up. I was having so much fun on this amazing, twisty descent that I continued down to the village at the bottom (7+ km down) and then had to make good time back up to not keep everyone waiting.
Campagnolo seemed particularly proud of the experience Centaur could provide, and I can vouch for the crisp shifting and wonderful braking of this kit. Even with the brakes wired the wrong way around (the UK and Aussies were left to swap their brains around) I was confident on the high-speed descents thanks to the good brakes.
Drumroll …. Campagnolo Disc Brakes
Day two began with another product session. This one was about the new disc brakes due on dealer shelves before the beginning of June. There are two levels. The H11 is meant to work with Super Record, Record and Chorus mechanical or Super Record and Record electronic (Chorus EPS loses out due to its having a different electrical system). H11 consists of new cranks (carbon with a slightly different offset to optimise chainline with discs) and chainrings (visually identical to Record rings but with a slight offset change) and Ergopower units (carbon lever visually similar to Record).
At a lower price point sits the Potenza disc option. New cranks, rings and mechanical Ergopower levers are visually identical to other Potenza parts because they are only meant to function with Potenza.
In addition there are rotors (sizes 140 and 160mm, centrelock style, with a nicely rounded outer edge that couldn’t possibly cut someone in an accident) and calipers (one front caliper for 160mm rotor and two rear calipers for either 140 or 160mm rotor – no adaptor of any description offered or required) common across the range.
Campagnolo put a lot of development time into making the brakes quiet. The pads have a few smart features. A bevel on the bottom of the pad helps ease the rotor into the correct position during wheel changes. A notch in one corner of the pad serves as a visual wear indicator – when the notch is gone it is time to replace the pads. Finally, there is a woven material on the back of the pad that quells the vibrations leading to squeal.
This material wraps around the backing plate where it will contact the rotor if the pad gets extremely thin. On the back of the pad it stops squeal but against the rotor it induces squeal; a squeal meant to get you to replace your pad promptly. Smart.
Campagnolo Disc-Equipped Dream Machine
For the second time, immediately following our introduction to the new pieces we rolled out on a ride. Again, we were on nice Sarto carbon bikes, this time fitted with mechanical Super Record H11 disc brakes. Undoubtedly, this is the most top-of-the-line bike I have ever ridden. We did about 60 km in the hills again, choosing different roads than the day before. For this ride, I threw the GoPro on the bars of the bike and have cut down a couple hours of riding to a short edit so you can see the fantastic roads we were riding on.
We looked even more pro the second day, again all wearing matching kit and on matching bikes, but these bikes were sporting expensive carbon wheels (Bora One 35) and Super Record derailleurs.
This was my best-ever disc brake road riding experience. Despite gradients up to 20%, I never felt like the brakes were challenged. The modulation was excellent (again the levers were the wrong way ‘round for me). I saw one of the journalists doing front wheel “stoppies” all the time, so he felt confident enough to play around.
Bora One & Shamal Wheels
After our ride, we were formally introduced to the new Campagnolo wheels. The Bora One 35 disc singles we rode were one of three new Bora wheels for discs – the others being the Bora One 50 single and the Bora One 35 in a carbon clincher.
The Shamal has also been given the disc makeover and this Shamal is very similar to the revised one introduced last year with obvious changes to make it disc ready.
Like the rotors, all the Campagnolo wheels use the centrelock interface. Much of the new gear is close to delivery and due for shipping in May, though EPS H11 Ergopower levers aren’t due until July.