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Campagnolo’s new 11-speed Athena EPS puts electronic shifting within easy reach

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Jul. 17, 2012

VICENZA, Italy (VN) — Only seven months after the world first heard about EPS, Campagnolo’s release of an Athena 11-speed group with Electronic Power Shift is poised to bring top-shelf performance to customers who don’t mind a little extra bulk in their drivetrains if it means a few extra bucks in their wallets.

The entire Athena EPS group with aluminum Power Torque cranks weighs 2452 grams (using the Athena carbon Power Torque cranks cuts another 100 or so grams off its weight). Compare that to 2098 grams for Super Record EPS and 2184 grams for Record EPS. And there simply is no difference in performance.

Along with lots of other journalists, I recently went on a gorgeous, two-hour ride in the Berici hills above Vicenza on an 11-speed Athena EPS-equipped Pinarello Dogma. These narrow, traffic-free, curving roads with great pavement as well as great climbs and descents are a joy to ride and perfect for running a new group through its paces.

Athena EPS provides the same snappy, accurate shifting (with overshift and return over the gear as well as auto-trim with chain angle) and whirring sound of the 12,000-16,000-RPM servo motors as Record and Super Record EPS. It also offers the same great ergonomics and hassle-free function in the cold, even with thick gloves, as its predecessors. The feel of the shifters with the “MultiDome” layers of domed spring steel under the lever is also the same.

Athena 11-speed EPS even includes Multi-Shift, which lets a rider run through the entire cogset in either direction by holding down the appropriate shift button, and halt a multiple shift by releasing the shift button. It’s exactly the same as Record and Super Record EPS.

This is an even bigger upgrade for Athena than for Record and Super Record, as the Athena mechanical rear shifter can only upshift one cog at a time and downshift a maximum of three cogs at a go, as opposed to at least five up and three down with Record and Super Record mechanical.

A glitch and the 80 percent rule

One reason I have adhered to the “80 percent rule” at press camps is because the parts we’re riding on generally have not come from a fully functional assembly line. They are generally advanced versions assembled especially for us, and their production has not been fully systematized. This can cause problems, one of which showed up on our ride. While I and the other journalists bar one experienced flawless shifting, one Japanese journalist had his rear derailleur cage fall off!

On an EPS rear derailleur, the jockey-wheel cage and its mounting bolt and lower-knuckle-spring-tensioning screw are exactly the same as that of the equivalent model of mechanical derailleur. The bolt threads into a steel insert inside of the lower knuckle, and it has to be tightened to a specific torque (8N-m, in this case). The bolt on the derailleur of the journalist who drew the short straw simply unscrewed; nothing was broken.

I’ve never heard of this happening with any EPS rear derailleur, or with any Campagnolo mechanical rear derailleur, either, and they have used this design for a very long time. So, I think we have to simply chalk this up to it having been put together in a non-standard assembly process; the bolt simply was not tightened properly, allowing it to unscrew as the derailleur shifted back and forth and vibrated with the road surface.

Speaking of damage, as with other EPS rear derailleurs, if the Athena rear derailleur is hit in a crash, it protects itself by uncoupling the electronic motor from the mechanical shaft. To re-couple it, you can repeatedly press the upshift button without pedaling until it hooks up and will again allow shifting to the smallest cog, or you can stop and engage the two parts by pushing inward on the derailleur body with your hand until you hear it click back into place.

This uncoupling feature can be used to set the rear derailleur on any cog to ride back home when, for instance, the wire has been cut in a crash, or the battery has been completely discharged.

Time trial/triathlon

An Athena EPS aero-bar shifter is already available. It is actually the little aluminum lever I was riding in California in May. There will now be this lever, branded Athena, and one other, a Record EPS for time trials and triathlon with an even shorter carbon lever to offer the riders more advantageous positioning under UCI rules (the Athena levers are already 21 percent shorter than Campy mechanical bar-end shifters).

You need only push the lever 7-8 degrees to shift, and holding it there will shift through all 11 cogs in either direction. The base bar levers will be aluminum, with the same integrated shift buttons.

Adjustment of Athena EPS is the same as that of Record and Super Record EPS.

Other features

The wiring harness, EPS Interface (the little box mounted up by the stem), and the Power Unit containing the battery on Athena are not interchangeable with Record and Super Record EPS. Like those two groups, harnesses are available for internal routing only, not for external routing, which means no retrofitting on frames that aren’t intended for electronic shifting.

Battery life will be the same (one two three months between charges, depending on usage level). I tried inserting a shutoff magnet into its hole in the Athena Power Unit, and it indeed shuts the system down. It started right back up again without a hiccup when I pulled the magnet back out.

The front derailleur cage is steel, while the upper part is the same carbon composite as Record and Super Record EPS with an aluminum mounting bolt and nut. The rear derailleur has an aluminum outer plate and jockey-wheel cage with the same carbon composite upper part and motor as Record and Super Record EPS.

All EPS parts are made entirely in Italy. While assembly of the levers and derailleurs may move to Romania, where mechanical derailleurs, ErgoPower levers and cranksets are assembled, Campagnolo intends for the foreseeable future to keep tight control over its technology by keeping all electronic manufacturing at home.

Campagnolo has made some incredible technology and performance a lot more reachable. It’s a joy to ride on the new Athena 11-speed EPS drivetrain.

Editor’s note: Although bike manufacturers have received pricing, the retail price has not been set yet; it will be announced at the Eurobike show at the end of August. Campagnolo hopes to price it to compete with Ultegra Di2. Athena EPS groups will not be available for sale in the aftermarket until spring 2013.

 

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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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