Real life bike and gear tests
3 posts • Page 1 of 1
Campagnolo Athena Carbon 11 speed groupset
Where bought and price
Ribble cycles UK, approximately AU$900 for the carbon version incl. shipping
How it is used
Athena is the entry level 11 speed groupset in Campagnolo's road race range.
I have just recently bought the Cinelli Xperience frameset (see here for the thread http://www.bicycles.net.au/forums/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=22449) and was looking for a groupset to fit it. I was looking at around the $1000 mark and the three I looked at were Shimano Ultegra 6700, Campagnolo Athena carbon and SRAM Rival. Rival was the cheapest at about $800 and Athena and Ultegra were very similar. The overall weight of these groupsets was very close, approximately 2200g or thereabouts. The reason I chose Campagnolo was because I loved the shifters and the ability to downshift up to five gears in one stroke, my other main bike has friction shifters and I love the ability to just dump a whole bunch of gears. It uses a Chorus chain and cassette and the cranks and brakes are very similar to the Chorus versions. I opted for the carbon version which, compared to the alloy version saves about 250g or so.
Installation of the groupset was relatively painless however I needed the shop to install the 11sp chain for me as it requires a special $200 tool to do it - this is because once the joining pin is pushed through it needs to be deformed at one end to stop it going loose, the campagnolo literature says you can only join it twice. There are now aftermarket tools which can do the peening part but I wasn't able to get one of these in time and taking this to the shop wasn't too much of a hassle.
The only other issue I had was installation of the gear cabling into the ergopower shifters, in the literature that comes with the box it says to use a metal cable ended side to go into the shifter, however it doesn't fit. This really was my fault because it notes on the box that updated instructions are on the website. The new 11sp ergopower shifters do not require a cap over the gear cable outers and have a brass washer that the cable outer end sits up against. The ergopower shifters themselves were a little difficult to get on, partly because I have little prior experience with Campag gear and the tightening bolt is somewhat difficult to access unless you have a short T25 wrench. One last nice touch that I noticed is that the Campagnolo cable outer stops have O-ring seals on them, this looks like it would definitely prevent any ingress of dirt or moisture.
The ultra torque cranks are beautiful, the carbon finish is quite amazing to say the least. The joining method is interesting, each crank arm has a half axle with a hirth joint, a bolt secures the two hollow axle halves together. During riding I found them nice and stiff but very lightweight, I didn't notice any flex at all from the cranks - the bearings are external sealed cartridge units which spin very smoothly. Out of the box the shifters felt a bit stiff, I've put about 400km on it now and am now starting to feel them loosen up a bit. One thing I noticed that whilst upshifting it would tend to overshift a bit, catch on 2 cogs up then come down one. I'm not sure if this is just a campy thing or that I'm not used to the light feel of the shifters compared to shimano, it has tended to go away as the shifters have broken in. The upshift lever is a lot lighter than shimano and the thumb button takes a little time to get used to - I tend to use the first joint of my thumb when I'm on the hoods and the tip of my thumb to shift when in the drops. To begin with though, the thumb shifter was quite difficult to push accurately, however this has gone away with breaking them in and now shifts are very precise. The shifting is very good otherwise, I love the ability to drop 5 gears in one swoop, it makes double shifting a breeze.
The reach to the levers is a shorter than Shimano, the curve of the levers and the position makes it feel very different. I think now after a few hundred K's that I prefer the campy lever ergonomics. There is simply much more braking leverage from the hoods, enough to do a mono at slower speeds. The lever blades themselves are alloy/carbon, quite stiff and beautifully made. The tops of the hoods is again very different to the older Shimano hoods (the 6700 Ultegra and 7900 Dura ace are similar now) in that there is a nice flat transition from the bar ramps to the hoods. The cushioning of the hoods is really comfortable, it's what Campagnolo calls "vari-cushion" and it's quite noticeable, the amount of give on each part of the hood varies according to where the hands fall. The hidden gear and brake cables give it a nice clean appearance as well and don't get in the beam path of handlebar mounted lights like the older Shimano ones do.
The cassette itself is a work of art , the finish is beautiful and the top six cogs are on two CNC machined alloy spiders in triplets. I have the 11-25 11sp cassette, basically it is one tooth increments until the lowest 4 or so cogs. The cassette is particularly useful as it gives the same spread as a 12-25 10sp cassette but with the extra 11t cog which comes in useful as I have the compact version of the cranks. The derailleurs are quite classic looking as they avoid the carbon look of the Chorus and Record groupsets with a polished alloy finish. The joints are very smooth and feature nice details like a little rubber pad on the front derailleur cage to prevent the crank being scratched if the clearance is too small between the two. One thing I noticed though is that the rear derailleur is quite high profile and sticks out quite a bit from the rear axle, I have accidentally scratched it whilst leaning it against a wall. This is unlike the current crop of Shimano/SRAM derailleurs which have recessed type design.
The Athena brakes are differentiated front and back which I really like, it is much easier to modulate the rear as it is a single pivot design whilst the dual pivot front has plenty of power. Braking acutation is a lot lighter than Shimano as there isn't the weight of the shifting system on top of the levers and it relies more on the caliper for the springs. The feel is quite firm once the pads have been bedded in. The design of the brake levers allows a lot of stopping power from the hoods, probably about 90% or so of leverage you could get from the drops or thereabouts.
+ Very comfortable hoods and great ergonomics
+ Lightweight and beautifully finished with nice details
+ Shifting is fantastic once broken in
- Chain installation requires an expensive tool
- The upshifting is a little tricky during break-in
- Rear derailleur is prone to getting scratched
- Replacement Chorus cassettes are somewhat expensive compared to Shimano or SRAM
The wheelset is a 2010 Campanolo Zonda 2-way fit wheelset which I will cover in another review.
I am certainly glad I went with the Athena groupset as I am in love with the levers, they feel really natural and fall to the hands perfectly. The groupset itself works brilliantly, smooth and fast shifting and great braking. Highly recommended.
Value for money
3 posts • Page 1 of 1
Who is online
Users browsing this forum: No registered users