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Lennard Zinn’s hopes for Campagnolo’s 11-speed electronic drivetrain

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Nov. 6, 2011
  • Updated Nov. 7, 2011 at 6:25 PM EDT

CATANIA, Italy (VN) — One of my hopes when heading to the press launch for Campagnolo’s 11-speed electronic drivetrain on the flanks of Mt. Etna in Sicily was that it would be offered with a system similar to the Shimano Di2 “sprint shifters.”

The systems I’ve seen at shows and on Movistar bikes look like the upshift lever for the right shifter is on the inboard side of the lever body, the same as the thumb shifter of standard Ergopower.

I race cyclocross on Campy Ergopower and have had many Ergopower-equipped bikes ever since it was first introduced at the eight-speed level. I think the biggest downside of Ergopower in racing is that when you are sprinting out of the saddle with your hands in the drops, it is hard to upshift. You have to crane your right wrist too far to comfortably and efficiently get your thumb up onto the thumb lever to drop the chain to a smaller cog.

Electronic shifting lets a racer shift from the ends of the aero bars as well as at the brake levers. Movistar had to use cable-actuated derailleurs on its time-trial bikes this year, though their riders were the only ones in the peloton using Campy electronic.

While you can get around this by sprinting on the tops of the brake hoods, it is unaerodynamic in a flat road sprint. And in cyclocross, you often have your hands in the drops for control on a sketchy descent or slippery corner. When you come out of said corner in ’cross, you may be in a very low gear yet entering a high-speed section on pavement or hard dirt and will need to repeatedly shift up through all of the gears on the cogset.

It sucks to do this with the Ergopower thumb lever when in the drops. To avoid it, I often tend to sacrifice control and opt for being on the hoods on sketchy descents and corners that I would normally negotiate in the drops.

But with electronic shifting, there is no reason not to add a shift button closer to the thumb. For cyclocross all I need is a single upshift button for the rear derailleur in the hook of the bar next to my right thumb; I wouldn’t need the downshift lever next to the left hand that the Di2 sprint shifter has.

Another hope I had is for Campy electronic aero bar shifters. The Movistar team this year used cable-actuated derailleurs on its time trial bikes, even though its riders were the only ones in the peloton on Campy electronic.

Electronic shifting can let a rider shift at the ends of the aero bars as well as at the brake levers, and changing gear is quicker with than when pulling or pushing a lever. This can make a huge difference coming into a sharp turn followed by a steep uphill, or accelerating out of repeated corners.

We’ve seen what the system looks like on the Movistar Pinarellos, but we don’t know many details. I would hope, first of all, that it has the tremendously powerful front shifting that sets Di2 apart from cable-actuated systems. I would also hope that it goes a long time on a charge, like Di2, and that charging is fast and convenient.

It would be cool if a seatpost battery option were offered, like the one Craig Calfee is doing aftermarket for Di2, especially if it could be charged without removing the seatpost.

Finally, for installation, here’s hoping that it uses the same holes in the frame for internal routing, in the same places and of the same shape, that Di2 does. And I also hope that the wiring is simple to hook up, easy to diagnose problems, watertight, modular, and easy to figure out and obtain the proper wire lengths.

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Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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