many of us have argued until we're red in the face over the provenance of the italian road bike. now that we're over midway through the second decade of the 21st century, there's every likelihood that those of us with definite views on the subject should probably accept matters as they are, shut our faces and get on with riding whichever bicycle(s) we are fortunate enough to own. yet, there's still a little voice inside me that wants my italian badged bicycle to made in italy (which, in the case of my colnago master, it is) and festooned with italian componentry, even if the latter might also be not of italian origin.
dismay would probably be a choice word to describe the advent of carbon fibre componentry, even though any disappointment has to contend with the inevitable drool factor engendered by the agglomeration of nano fibres around a hollow core. though the latter brings with it an incredible lightness of being, there is little truly to compare with polished alloy glinting in what little sun is left in the hebrides. it's something of a shame then that when alloy rears its welcome head by way of chainsets, crank arms and gear mechanisms, its potential polish can oft be hidden behind black or grey anodising.
such is the case with campagnolo's latest mid-range groupset, delightfully named potenza which vicenza point out is italian for strength or power, though it also happens to be a city and province a few miles south east of naples. emulating its more expensive and carbonated brethren, the potenza crankset features not only the new four-arm chainring spider, but the ability to be fitted with either compact or standard chainrings. if your athletic ministrations yield larger thigh muscles, tis but a simple matter to move from 50/34 to 53/39.
unlike chorus, record and super-record, there is not a millimetre of carbon to be seen anywhere about potenza's anodised blackness (some components can also be purchased in polished, naked alloy). though there is much exotica to be seen by way of carbon chainsets - and i cannot deny that just such an item was removed from the colnago master to make way for potenza - i have always had a hankering after alloy; carbon has never endeared itself to me as suitable chainset material.
the rear derailleur, with its torx bolt fitting bears a pleasing resemblance to that of chorus and record. it's a design that has served well further up the foodchain, but necessitated shifting the limit screws to the rear of the mech, a la shimano. though the threaded allen screws maintain a sleekness of purpose and form, it does now mean having to cast aside the screwdriver in favour of a particularly small allen wrench and despite the front mech still sporting two regular screws. but then campagnolo is probably italian for idiosyncracy.
this contention manifests itself in the previously mentioned need for a 14mm hex insert to fit and remove the left crank arm and the potentially annoying habit of fitting the right-hand crank bearings on the chainset rather than inside the frame bearing cup. and while i'm having a moan, can i ask vicenza if they would please consider building their excellent chains with super-links instead of that darned rivet? in all my years of fitting campag chains, i think i have only once managed a clean install without the guide pin breaking off before the rivet has even had a look at the chain link.
moaning aside, the potenza groupset has a flair that its competitors can but stand and admire, allied to the three-way ergopower levers. it seems undeniably sensible to have one lever for braking, one for changing up the block and another, ergonomically re-designed for shifting downwards. the hoods of the potenza levers offer three distinct regions under which campagnolo promise is their vari-cushion technology. at the time of writing, the potenza equipped colnago master has yet to leave the safety of the croft, but i look forward to experiencing this up-front comfort.
the brakes show little difference from the renowned skeleton editions that have graced campagnolo groupsets for more than just a few years. i can see no difference between the two calipers contianed in the shiny box; both appear to be the much-favoured dual-pivot. this is unlike the next step up to chorus where it's possible to choose between dual-pivot or single pivot for the rear where campagnolo contend less braking power is required. in point of fact, this strikes me as something that only the specialist would require. i'm sure dual pivot will be more than satisfactory for yours truly.
the potenza groupset is, allegedly, campagnolo's answer to shimano's ultegra groupset, by which measure one must assume that chorus meets dura-ace and both record and super record are in a class of their own. having ridden ultegra on a number of occasions, it will be of interest to gauge whether potenza has the measure of its rival. currently, however, campagnolo have apparently no plans to add an electronic version.
much as i hate the cliché, watch this space.
saturday 17 september 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................