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Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

Deciding which electronic groupset to run on your bike is definitely a luxurious, first-world dilemma to find yourself in. For anyone lucky enough to be in that position we have previously spent some time on SRAM’s eTap wireless offering and the latest version of Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2 and shared our thoughts on both, but Campagnolo’s EPS was the missing piece of the big brand electronic trifecta.

Luckily for us, Campagnolo was keen to know what we thought and sent us a complete Record EPS group to test.

Having not run or worked on their kit for a while previous to this review, I had forgotten how pleasing to the eye Campagnolo kit is in the flesh. This is, without a doubt, the classiest groupset I’ve unwrapped in a while – and I can only imagine how exciting it must feel if it were Super Record parts I was lucky enough to be peeling out of those iconic black boxes.

Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

Despite a wealth of previous experience with electronic groupsets, rumors of EPS being fussy made me nervous about installing this. Those fears were unfounded, though, and the wiring was easy to install even despite not having the magnetic wire puller that Campag recommend using – no doubt helped by the ease of access into the comparatively cavernous carbon tubes of my Parlee frame. It is clear to see that the magnetic puller would be essential on a frame with less easy access, particularly on skinnier carbon tubes or those of a steel or titanium frame.

For 2015, Campagnolo made some updates to their mechanical groupsets – one of which was a new ‘love-it-or-loathe-it’ four-arm chainset. That same chainset is carried across the whole Campag range, meaning it was supplied to me for this review. I’ll admit I was previously in the ‘loathe it’ camp, but I think the fatter tubes of my bike meant it was better suited, and that has helped me get more comfortable with the design.

More recently, Campagnolo has also launched the third version of the EPS battery and DTI unit for the Record and Super Record level groupsets. This V3 update is a very welcome change — it de-clutters the bike and disguises the battery (the first version of which was often referred to as a toaster or a Fiat 500) whilst also making charging significantly easier; essentially bringing it much more into line with Di2.

Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

Unfortunately, the DTI unit is hard to disguise for a clean build, though, meaning it will always need to be hung off of the stem or a computer mount with visible wires exiting the unit. This clean build approach is appealing to many, so Di2 and eTap definitely have the edge here.

Setting up EPS was far easier than I expected. Whether that was by sheer fluke or genuine ease isn’t entirely clear, but it was a refreshing surprise. Equally reassuring was how easy the system seems to be with regard to fine-tuning; both with wheelset changes resulting in a need to make minor adjustments for cassette realignment and with fine-tuning on the move in one instance where I hadn’t quite nailed the setup.

On the road, and aside from a brief period of familiarisation after being on Di2 for a couple of months previous to this review, EPS was faultless. The system remained in perfect tune for the whole review period, as should be expected; and the battery life offered no cause for alarm.

Shifts are quick and crisp regardless of the setting you have indicated in the MyCampy app (even the slowest setting is at least on par with the notoriously slow shift of eTap), and the multi-shift up or down the cassette is easily on par with the latest Di2. The brake levers are shaped to give you excellent power regardless of the position of your fingers on the brake lever blade. This makes for rock solid braking from the hoods or the drops; and is reassuring if you have to reach for them in a hurry.

Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

Alongside the new V3 setup, Campagnolo also introduced the MyCampy app. This enables firmware updates and customisation options via your smartphone through a Bluetooth connection to the EPS system. The app connection is slow initially, but the app does warn you that this may be the case, and the connection is much quicker for subsequent connections. On getting into the app, I found it to be much more intuitive than Shimano’s eTube equivalent, with the functionality, features and adjustment options being much clearer and more obvious than the Shimano app.

The MyCampy app has some interesting features, including a virtual garage where you can keep an eye on the distances your kit has covered; and functionality that enables you to see where you shifted on any recorded ride. Some of this could be quite useful for anyone wanting to keep track of the exact mileage covered by a particular cassette or set of wheels for example. For many, seeing where you shifted and what gear you were running will be nothing more than pure interest, but for anyone racing or training and scrutinizing their workouts this extra detail could be more useful.

Making adjustments to the shift button setup was very easy in the app; however, it is only possible to change the buttons to preset arrangements. There is no scope for specifying which button does what – one example being that the system allows you to change the shift setup so that you can do all of the shifting with only one hand, but doing so limits you to using the very small ‘mode’ button to shift the front mech. This highlights that Campagnolo recognize the front shifter only needs one button to shift (the shift only ever needs to go the opposite way to where it currently is), but it’s a shame that it doesn’t allow you to change which button to use.

Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

Another function you can setup in the app is ShiftAssist. When you shift the front mech the system will shift the rear mech up or down by 1, 2 or 3 gears (you determine how many in the app) to match your cadence and replicate what you might do if you were to do this manually. I found this to be very slow in use, though – it was much quicker to carry out the same shifts manually rather than waiting for the system to catch up and do it for you. Consequently, I left it turned off for most of the review period. In fact, I felt it was so slow that if you wait for the system to activate the shifts for you it could result in lost momentum for a sharp climb (it is worth noting that I felt the Di2 equivalent – Synchro Shift – was also too slow).

For those running a compatible bike computer, you can also use the Bluetooth connection to display gear info and battery levels. On my Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT, the workout summary pages also show the gear shifts, meaning you don’t necessarily have to dive back into the MyCampy app to find that information and compare it to your workout. None of this information is essential, but it is all nice to have – and I have become quite accustomed to seeing the visual display of my gear ratio on the screen of my Wahoo as it means I don’t need to glance down to check what gear I’m in.

Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

At the time of writing, MyCampy 2.0 had just been announced at Eurobike 2017. This new version of the app heralds a host of updates including better connectivity and improvements to the analytics of the ‘MySessions’ feature which enables you to see detailed information regarding your use of the EPS system. The Campy World update explains more.

Going back to those 4-arm cranks mentioned previously, I still question the new design – especially when the older design looked so classy (particularly in the 130BCD version); but the benefits in terms of changing chainrings across the full spread of tooth counts without having to worry about the BCD of the cranks is clear. It is also worth noting that the supplied PressFit30 BB adaptors from Campagnolo fitted my frame perfectly and, when installed as per their instructions (using acetone to thoroughly clean the BB shell and cups), never exhibited even the slightest hint of a creak.

Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

Of particular note are the Campagnolo brakes. These work wonderfully despite the deceptively skinny levers (having come straight off of Shimano levers, these felt really skinny for the first few rides) and calipers that are much less bulky than those considered to be ‘market leaders’ in terms of power (Dura-Ace).

My brakes are always setup almost identically as I use a pad setting tool and usually aim for the same length of outer for cable routing wherever possible – I felt no noticeable loss of power compared to the Dura-Ace R9100 calipers I was running before; and I would even argue that the modulation and feel is slightly better.

Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

The ergonomics of the Campag levers are generally very good. However, they could be challenging with regard to the position of the thumb button for those who have big hands. My hands aren’t huge (I wear size L gloves, for reference) but I look like I’m waving every time I reach my thumb back to the thumb button when riding on the hoods. That said, the position of this button when riding in the drops is nigh-on perfect.

Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

In terms of fit and position, I found the Campag levers to be almost identical to Shimano in that for the same relative position on the bars, the levers feel very slightly lower and longer than the SRAM levers. As with Shimano, this isn’t a drastic difference, but it could be worth noting if you are coming to Campagnolo from SRAM and are sensitive to changes in your fit and setup.

One last point on the levers is the button feel and feedback. When EPS first arrived on the scene, the button click highlighted how badly lacking in tactility the Shimano Di2 buttons were. Despite updates to Di2, the Campag button feel is still much better than Shimano’s offering on account of the slight movement of the buttons to accompany the click. However, this is now marginally bettered – in my opinion at least – by the more solid ‘mouse button click’ of eTap.

Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review

Perhaps my only bug-bear of the whole EPS system and Record groupset as a whole was that the connectors are mid-wire, rather than being external connections at convenient junctions – i.e. the battery and DTI both have long fixed wires coming out of them and meet in the middle, compared to Di2 where the wires plug into the junction boxes and battery. The impact of this is that the connectors sit inside the tubes of your frame, which can result in them rattling (if you suffer from this, it might be worth noting that I was able to resolve the issue by adding a cable tie either side of the connector pointing in different directions to each other – this helps to damp the movement of the connector inside the frame).

Now that the V3 EPS makes installation and charging so much easier than on previous iterations, die-hard Campagnolo fans can make the switch to an electronic setup without feeling any level of inferiority over Di2 or eTap users (note that the Chrous level EPS still uses the V2 setup). For those with no affiliation to a particular brand, a switch to EPS would make you stand out from the Shimano & SRAM crowd and give your pride and joy an extra level of class.

The quality of the Record groupset tells me there is no real need, per se, for the Super Record kit over this. Regardless, the extra titanium and black anodized finishing touches and that scarlet red ’Super Record 11’ badge do make a subtle yet remarkably impactful aesthetic difference. That and the slight weight saving might be enough to tip some people over if their pockets are deep enough.

One thing I do know is that it will be a sad day when I have to pack this up and return it to Vicenza…

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Digital Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record EPS Review