Three years after being the first of the big drive train manufacturers to release a 12-speed groupset for the road with its Chorus, Record and Super Record offerings, Italian industry stalwarts Campagnolo are at it again. This time adding another cog and removing the front derailleur to release a 13-speed groupset that’s designed for use on endurance road and gravel bikes.
With a host of departures and similarities from its core road range, join us as we take you through what to know about the all-new 13-speed Campagnolo Ekar groupset.
Just as Campagnolo’s first quick-release lever can trace its origins to the Passo Croce D’Aune climb, the gravel-focused Ekar groupset was born on another climb local to today’s Campagnolo headquarters: Ekar.
With its asphalt giving way to tracks and trails, Ekar epitomises the special challenges of Italian gravel. But Mt Ekar’s influence goes beyond physicality; to Campagnolo, it represents the spirit of riding gravel, of adventure, and of freedom.
Thanks to a 9T sprocket, the gravel-specific 1x13 drivetrain is said to deliver a full range of gear ratios with smooth, natural gear progressions for the perfect cadence, whatever your speed, and whatever your style of gravel riding. With four chainring options – 38, 40, 42 and 44T – and a choice of three cassettes – 9-36T, 9-42T and 10-44T – Ekar is ready to suit a range of different riding styles and terrain.
The Sum of its Parts
With a wide range, close-ratio, Campagnolo says, Ekar is designed from the ground up to give you the very best performance, riding experience and reliability for gravel, all-road and endurance riding. The campy design team claims to have tested and pursued the route of a 1x system being the best for gravel, and engaged with the challenge of creating the best possible implementation – it says the light, efficient, precise 13-speed Ekar is the end result.
There is a full range of gearing with smooth, small steps for cadence progression, and a choice of gear ranges to suit the different demands and riding styles that exist within the gravel discipline – each with a wide range, and each with sensibly spaced progressions for smooth changes and no nasty cadence jumps.
Campagnolo says that it’s 1x system offers maximum efficiency, no wasted gearing overlaps, an overall lightweight system (under 2.4kg) and superior chain retention security. Its gears are designed to be gravel-specific with deliberate and natural-feeling progressive cadence control: 1-tooth steps for small sprockets and bigger steps for larger sprockets – for speeds to match every route.
While the Ekar derailleur shares a heritage with Super Record and other systems, the Italian outfits claim the all-new design has been created specifically for gravel.
The single rear derailleur design with mid-length cage is compatible with the varying sprocket sizes on all three cassette gearing options, from 9-36 to 10-44. The clutch mechanism is said to be permanently engaged for enhanced chain retention reliability and minimal operational noise and can be locked forward for easy wheel removal. Campy says that there is more than 70 individual carefully designed and engineered parts in the Ekar derailleur alone.
Cassette Options and a New Chain
The 13-speed Ekar groupset is available in three gearing variants, with two of the three cassette options featuring a 9-tooth cog. Each cassette is built on two blocks, split 4- and 9-sprockets for the configurations featuring a 9-tooth, and 3-/10-sprockets for the range starting with a 10-tooth. The cassettes themselves are manufactured from heat-treated carbon steel and benefit from a nickel-chrome-satin surface treatment which is said to reduce wear and friction.
The new cassettes sit on a new freehub driver body dubbed N3W. N3W features the same groove profiles as the classic Campagnolo body but is 4.4mm shorter and lighter. Looking to go 13-speed on your retro campy wheels? With the appropriate lockrings and adaptors, N3W is also compatible with all current and forthcoming Campagnolo 12-, 11- and 10-speed systems, with retro-fit kits.
Linking the groupset set tougher its Campagnolo’s all-new C13 chain. At just 4.9mm wide the C13 chain is 0.25mm narrower than the Campagnolo 12-speed chain but is claim to deliver exactly the same high performance and durability that Campagnolo chains are renowned for. The C13 chain makes use of steel inner links with a Nickel-Teflon surface treatment to withstand the higher rate of wear they are subject to.
Arguably the star of the show is the groupset crankset. Manufactured from unidirectional carbon fibre the also cranks feature a strong, durable 630-grade steel alloy crank axle. There are four ring size options: Adventure has 38 teeth; Pure Gravel is 40T, Fast Gravel is 42T, and eGravel 44T. The narrow-wide design provides efficient drive and maximum chain security. The aluminium rings claimed to be easily interchangeable, bolting directly to four spider arms with no requirement for crank disassembly.
Controls and Brakes
Rather than re-invent the wheel, Campagnolo has adapted it’s immensely popular ErgoPower controls for gravel use with a few minor modifications. The main change is a larger C-Shaped shift paddle which is said to be easier to reach when riding on the hoods compared to the regular road group.
The brakes take the same approach as the shifters, adapting Campagnolo’s already excellent callipers and rotors for offroad use. Available in 140 or 160mm diameters, the rotors when paired with the all-new organic compound pads are said to provide power, performance and durability regardless of the riding conditions.
Price and Availablity.
The Ekar groupset is scheduled to hit local shores as a standalone groupset and fitted as an OEM groupset to a host of new bikes in the coming months. Australian pricing for groupsets are yet to be announced at the time of publication, however, given an RRP of USD$1764, we should expect Ekar to undercut SRAM Force AXS, albeit slightly.
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