campagnolo record twelve-speed

campagnolo recrod twelve-speed

we are a discriminating lot, not always perfectly in tune with our immediate needs. we are terminally guilty of drooling over the very latest in nano carbon fibre frames, whether produced in-house by the manufacturer, or expertly constructed in the far east, along with the bulk of the world's bicycle frames. and should your affections lie not with the black stuff, but more closely align with real steel, lugged or otherwise, to be honest, the sentiments are the same, but simply of a different flavour.

yet the avowed aim of many, particularly the former carbon obsessed category, is a quest for speed, egged on by a desire to race at the highest level possible, or the desire to emulate those who have chosen bicycle racing as their true vocation. therefore, those with what i believe is referred to as a large disposable income, have no compunction in augmenting those nano-fibres with carbon-rimmed wheels that would scarcely trouble a set of digital scales, carbon-railed saddles and many another trinket that offers perhaps more bling than velocity.

the groupset seems almost an afterthought, on occasion.

campagnolo recrod twelve-speed

purchasers of complete bicycles usually have very little option over the level or brand of groupset affixed to the frame. in an increasingly competitive market, the whole package is subject to the nitpicking enforced by a strictured accounts department. many years ago, i was contacted by a visitor riding a brand new bicycle, sourced from a reputable brand. a matter of days old, the bottom bracket had failed and on dismantling the edifice, it was found to be a simple cup-and-cone masquerading as a more expensive cartridge version. i can but assume that the manufacturer had decided this was the very item that ought to cost pennies rather than pounds.

the days of the individual choosing both frame and components, after a long and considered period of procrastination, have all but gone. even the upper price brackets are populated by complete bicycles, few of which arrive festooned with the finest that vicenza has to offer. i am insufficiently well-acquainted with the intricacies of international commerce as related to bicycle manufacturing to fully understand why campagnolo have fared less well in this respect than their principal competition, but it effectively means that those who choose to fit italian could reasonably be described as true aficonados.

narcissistic or otherwise, i am inclined to describe myself in this fashion. thus, the opportunity to review a record twelve-speed groupset was a particularly welcome one.

campagnolo record twelve-speed

on release of an eleven-speed groupset some years ago, there were many accusations of simple one-upmanship; an attempt to take a lead in the world of the bicycle groupset, allegedly more numerical than technical. it also led to the almost inevitable spinal tap jibes to which i must also answer guilty as charged. however, though both eleven sprockets and now twelve were effectively the 'headlining acts' there's a lot more to it than that. the secret here, is one of subtlety; a seemingly minor alteration in the angle at which the brake levers sit relative to the bars is hardly the meat and potatoes of the caption writer.

undoubtedly, the question that we've all been asking ourselves, is whether there's a real need for twelve rear sprockets? many of us will easily recall the days of the archetypal 'ten speed racer', when the two front rings were invariably 52/42 and the freewheel featured a mere five sprockets. though an increase in race speeds over the intervening years has been explained in oh, so many ways, i do not recall anyone pointing the finger at more sprockets as an intrinsic part of the equation. but though we often erroneously refer to the number of sprockets as 'speeds', in truth that only becomes pertinent under the thigh muscles of a bona-fide sprinter. which neatly brings me back to my original query; do we really need twelve sprockets?

campagnolo record twelve-speed

'need' is somewhat of a subjective term; the real question ought surely to be 'will we enjoy a total of twelve sprockets?', to which my spoiler alert answer must be a resounding yes. aside from adding that twelfth gear in the same space occupied by the previous eleven, meaning no need to shop for a new set of wheels, the jump from one sprocket to the next has been minimised. there are two cassettes on offer: 11-29 and 11-32, of which i have the former, wedded to a 36/52 chainset upfront. in the days when eddy and the boys raced up and over everything on the 21 or 23 sprocket as part of a five or six-speed freewheel, the gap between each was actually smaller than has been the case with even campagnolo's eleven speed, wider ratio cassettes.

therefore, the most obvious result of riding twelve is both an actual and perceived smoothness. this is a feature also enhanced by the redesigned rear derailleur, now provided with larger jockey wheels and attached to the frame by means of a hanger. this allows the top jockey wheel to more closely follow the curve of the sprockets as it moves up and down the block (as us old-timers used to say). the chain has also been redesigned to accommodate thinner sprockets and chainrings, but which, thankfully, can still be joined by means of campagnolo's eleven-speed, proprietary chain tool.

campagnolo record twelve-speed

vicenza has also taken particular note of the trend towards wider tyres, allowing the pinch bolt on the front derailleur (now bereft of that carbon outer plate) to be fitted fore or aft, to prevent the cable snagging on more substantial rubber. this general increase in tyre size did, however, cause the only hiccup in an otherwise superb groupset. at point of assembly, my ritchey logic wore mavic tubeless 700 x 28c tyres, a size that initially proved too much for the record brake calipers. when correctly fitted in the fork dropouts, the tyre rubbed noticeably on the underside of the record dual-pivot caliper.

those tyres do have rather a high profile relative to other brands, so i swapped it for a similar-width compass tyre on a different wheel, which, unfortunately suffered in the same way. this was not a problem at all with the chorus calipers previously fitted to the ritchey. i have managed to fit the wheel slightly lower in the dropouts by clamping the skewer tightly, but considering the cost of the brakes alone (£230), this seems a tad unfortunate. i contacted campagnolo expert mechanic, graeme freestone king, to enquire if anyone else had reported similar problems. apparently, the version of chorus calipers i had used previously, offers between 2-3mm greater clearance than that provided by the record/super-record variant. though the caliper arms have been increased in length to accommodate wider tyres, it seems that the underside clearance has not been similarly increased.

oddly, clearance under the brake bridge at the rear is substantially greater. i daresay the placement of the bolt hole on the fork has as much of an influence, so your own mileage may vary. perhaps better to check before you purchase. the stopping power on offer, however, is very impressive; if like me, you prefer rim brakes to discs, i doubt you'll have any cause for complaint.

campagnolo record twelve-speed

apart from the latter glitch, the groupset has behaved impeccably. changing across all twelve sprockets is impressively smooth and precise, while changing several gears up or down at one throw in a hurry, is just ginger peachy. i have long been a fan of campagnolo's one lever for each function setup, of which this particular implementation is pretty much state-of-the-art. campagnolo produce only braze-on front derailleurs, so on bicycle frames such as the ritchey, which are devoid of the necessary brazing, there is need of acquiring a clamp-on version. vicenza's ever more precise technology means that the angle of the front derailleur is less forgiving than was once the case, but despite having been my own mechanic at time of fitting, everything continues to work exactly as designed.

the chainset has also been upgraded, particularly the right-side crank, which no longer sports a hole at the centre. rather obviously, the hirth-coupling bolt can only be inserted from the left. aside from crank length options, the record chainset can be purchased with 34/50, 36/52 or 39/53 chainrings, the middle option being currently regarded as the new compact, so that's the one i chose for the review.

i offer this as something of a brief overview of campagnolo's latest and greatest, one that will be augmented with an update or two as time goes by. i had thought of reverting to the chorus calipers in order to alleviate the front tyre clearance problem, but i've decided to persevere in the interest of science. meanwhile, latter tribulation excepted, it's probably the finest groupset i've had the pleasure of riding, even though i don't really need anything like twelve gears.

campagnolo record twelve-speed

friday 23 november 2018

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................