The Reality vs. My Hopes
Before I arrived in Italy I wrote about my hopes for Campagnolo electronic shifting. In several areas, Campy met my hopes:
Rear upshift ergonomics: I mentioned the location of the upshift button for the rear derailleur. It is in essentially the same position as the cable-release thumb lever on cable-actuated Ergopower, but it extends down lower, and it takes much less force and less time to actuate it.
It is a big improvement on standard Ergopower, and it’s better than upshifting a Di2 rear derailleur without the “sprint shift” buttons on the bar, but it still requires unwrapping the thumb from the hook of the bar and reaching up with it, which, for me at least, reduces my sprinting power for that instant.
The Di2 sprint shift button, on the other hand, can simply be set up on the inboard side of the hook of the bar, right next to the thumb when the hand is in the drop, so all it takes is a bump of the thumb to shift. SRAM DoubleTap offers similar performance to the Di2 sprint button: you can pull and hold the right lever against the bar when sprinting in the drops and simply use a slight inward movement of the finger to upshift, with little or no resultant drop in pedaling power.
Movistar’s Francesco Ventoso, who won some big races in sprints this year on prototype EPS, says that he sees no reason for the sprint shifters; he feels that he can shift it just fine when sprinting in the drops. While Ventoso has forgotten more about sprinting than I’ve ever known, I still believe that the sprint-shift button option is one that Campagnolo ought to offer, and I’ll bet he would prefer it.
Aero bar shifters: Another hope I had was for Campy electronic aero-bar shifters and base-bar aero brake levers with integrated shifters. That has not yet come to pass, but Campagnolo electronic engineer Flavio Cracco says he is working hard to supply teams with these by the time the Giro d’Italia rolls around next spring.
Front up-shifting: The EPS front shifting met my hopes; see what I wrote above “virtual hand sling.”
Battery life and recharging: I also had hoped for long mileage on a single battery charge, and quick and convenient recharging. Check. Ventoso told me that he and other Movistar riders only recharged their batteries five times over the entire 2011 season, and they ride a lot more than just about anybody who is actually going to pay for one of these groups.
Campagnolo says that the battery life is over three months for riders putting in 500km a month, and it’s one month or more for those riding 2,000 km a month.; Ventoso’s experience suggests that those numbers are conservative.
It is easy to check battery level — simply push and release one of the buttons on either lever adjacent the thumb switch; a light on the small interface unit that mounts on the stem or the brake cable will light up for a few seconds. The color code is similar to a traffic light; if it’s green, the battery is full, yellow indicates half charge, and red indicates the need for a charge.
Additionally, flashing green indicates a small drop from full, and flashing red indicates that the red light is coming soon.
The 12V Lithium ion battery can be recharged over 500 times without losing significant performance, and it only takes 1.5 hours to fully charge a completely discharged battery. Unlike Shimano Di2, the battery cannot be removed from the bike for recharging, but it’s easy enough to plug a cable into it and recharge it on the bike.
Since the DTI (Digital Tech Intelligence) “brain” of the system is housed in the battery pack (called the Power Unit), it is bigger and more complex than Shimano’s Di2 battery, so it lends itself less well to being hidden somewhere other than on the down tube. My hopes for a seatpost battery like Craig Calfee makes for Di2 is probably unlikely anytime soon for EPS.
Standard wiring: I had also hoped for universality of the routing of the wires in frames already set up for Di2 internal routing, and that is indeed the case. Campagnolo’s rubber sealing grommets fit into the same rounded-rectangular holes that Shimano specifies for its grommets, and the hole locations are the same.
Watertightness: I also had hoped for simple, watertight, modular wiring that could easily be fit to any bike, and that seems to have been realized as well. The derailleurs, wires, and connectors are completely waterproof, and Campagnolo’s lab tests demonstrate their capacity to be immersed in water for 30 minutes at a depth of one meter without any water entering.
Each of the electrical connections has two O-rings that seal it, and it requires no heat-shrink tubing over the connection, as Dura-Ace Di2 does. Each wire is color coded for the particular part (FD, RD, EP), and only one wiring length is available attached to the interface and power unit. Bigger bikes require extension wires with the same connectors.
Reliability: In general, I hoped for a reliable system, and Movistar’s experience last season indicates that there is little concern about that. The team’s bikes withstood the vibration of Paris-Roubaix and continued to work in the cold and rain both during races and after driving with bikes on the roof at highway speeds through miserable weather. Lastras says that despite warnings to the contrary, Movistar team mechanics blasted the electronic systems clean with their high-pressure sprayers the same way as they did cable-actuated bikes and never had a problem.
As I said Monday, the presence of two groups (Super Record EPS and Record EPS) rather than one, and the lower weight of both groups than Dura-Ace Di2, exceeded my hopes and expectations. So did the Multi-Shift of 11 cogs up or down in a single-button push, as well as multiple shifts up or down depending on length of time holding the button down. The feel of the button pushes also exceeded my expectations.