Most people like to take it easy on new equipment. Break it in. Get a feel for it. It’s a wise move, because cables stretch. Derailleurs need adjusting. Pads need to bed in. For a new groupset, that can mean a long honeymoon before getting into the rough stuff. It’d be impossible to give an honest opinion of it after just one day – unless you go big. Really big. Like Milan-Sanremo big.
It seemed like an obvious choice. Because what better test could there be for shiny new kit than a granfondo tracking one of the sport’s most iconic—and gruelling—events? Just shy of 300km with a bunch of strangers in rotten conditions and at red-line speed. Real-world testing conditions don’t get a lot more authentic than that.
So, the Friday before the race a Pinarello Dogma was shod with some box-fresh Campagnolo Record and a pair of their Shamal Ultra wheels, and then on Saturday morning it was put on a train for Milan. No time for testing. Just a quick shake in the parking lot to make sure it was all bolted on, and a cursory glance at the quick releases. They said it would be bombproof, and I took them at their word. But more on that later.
First things first: The details. Revolution 11+ is the latest edition of the storied Italian brand’s mechanical 11-speed Super Record, Record and Chorus groupsets. The skeleton brakes stay the same—no need to mess with perfection—but everywhere else they’ve rung in the changes.
The front derailleur gets a big update, with a longer lever arm that requires less movement of the shift lever to switch from little to big chain ring. No trim adjustment is needed in the big ring, but a shorter downshift with an additional extra click for the biggest sprockets all-but-eliminates chain drops. Campagnolo’s shifting has always been excellent in this regard, but every little bit helps.
At the back, you might not notice much difference but using their new “Embrace Technology”, the rear derailleur keeps the chain connected to the cassette for longer, giving better transfer of power and making shifting even better than the previous generation’s already crisp transitions. They also claim that it increases the longevity of both chain and cassette—welcome news for the bank balance.
Up front on the levers, externally there’s not a huge difference other than a slight facelift and a shift to a harder, more textured rubber on the hoods that provides excellent grip even when wet. Inside, however, it’s all new. The internals have been redesigned to work with the new derailleurs, so it isn’t possible to combine the new group with previous models.
The first thing that (envious) onlookers will notice is definitely the crank. Campagnolo have retired their much-loved five-arm spider design in favor of a new four-arm construction, which is supposed to be more aerodynamic. For the average rider, however, of much more interest is the fact that you can now change chainring setups without changing the whole crank, thanks to the new standardized bolt pattern. Switching from standard (53-39), subcompact (52-36), and compact (50-34) chainrings is now a simple job for even the least mechanically minded, providing a welcome amount of versatility—especially when paired with the new 11-29 rear cassette.
Luddites everywhere will be heartened to know that all of these changes have come to the mechanical group first, and though they’ll almost certainly migrate to the electronic EPS range sooner or later, it’s nice to know that Campagnolo are still committed to improving the analogue experience for those of us who have no interest in jumping on the battery-powered band wagon.
So how does it perform? The short answer is brilliantly. On its first outing—that nine-hour slog in wet and cold conditions from Milan to the seaside—it was a marvel, offering razor-sharp shifting under pressure and the reliable, balanced braking performance for which the Italians have long been famous. It could be a personal thing, but for this hack’s money, Campagnolo’s brake modulation is still second to none, and the hood design makes both shifting and stopping an effortless affair whatever position you’re in. Ultra-Shift also remains the only mechanical system that allows multiple downshifts—an undeniable advantage over Shimano and SRAM.
Over the course of the following months, the group continued to impress on everything from Roman cobbles and Tuscan gravel to high mountain passes in the Dolomites and the Alps. There have been a couple of casual check-ups to make sure everything is spot on, but in truth there was no need. Even on a bike that regularly gets chucked in the back of cars, hung up on trains and dragged about in a bag, this is a “set it and forget it” group. Keep it clean and you’re extremely unlikely to run into problems.
Cons? We’d be clutching at straws. Campagnolo might not be able to match its rivals in terms of sales figures, but when it comes to performance and sexiness, the Italians still do it best. At around $2,200 for Record, frugal observers could point to the price, but a good group is a long-term asset—if it’s taken care of it could outlive us all. And in a world where people pay $300 for a pair of bib shorts, splashing out on the ultimate cycling bling for your bike looks like a sensible investment, especially when it performs as well as this.