Campagnolo EPS Electronic Shifting Overview

By Jim Weaver, Service Manager
Fit Werx, Waitsfield, VT

As many of you know, Campagnolo recently formally introduced its electronic shifting system, dubbed EPS, to the market.  Campagnolo has been working on this electronic system for over 20 years, so there has been some anticipation regarding its final release.  Why so long?  Essentially, they had to wait for electronic control and battery technology to catch up to the idea.  Also, just as the EPS development team was finalizing a ten speed version, Campagnolo moved to 11 speed rear cassettes and they had to go back to the drawing boards in order to accommodate 11 speed rear cassettes.  They also wanted to thoroughly test the system before it was released and the Movistar ProTour team has been running the electronic system for two years now, giving the components a thorough workout at the highest level of racing.  Finally, in the spring of ’12, Campagnolo has officially released the EPS system.

When Shimano first introduced its Di2 system, there was no specific training offered, thus there was an increased risk of problems arising as a result of faulty installation.  Campagnolo is apparently minimizing any risk of problems arising by requiring that any shop that sells and services the EPS system have an employee attend a seminar to validate the warranty.  I recently attended an EPS training seminar in New York City and got a good, “hands-on” look at this new system.  Here are some of my thoughts…

The main concerns that people still have about electronic shift systems revolve around battery charge and overall battery life.  I know that I initially had my concerns about this issue when Shimano introduced Di2, but that system proved that battery life is not an issue.  Likewise, according to Campagnolo’s representative, the Movistar team needed to charge their batteries just three times during the entire 2011 racing season.  That included not just racing mileage, but training as well.  The battery also tells you the charge status, so it is unlikely you will get caught with a dead battery, unless of course you simply ignore the warning indicator indefinitely.  Charge time is just three hours and the Campagnolo EPS battery is built to have a life of 5,000 charge cycles.  In other words, you do not need to charge the battery very often and it will probably outlast all of us.  We can all stop being concerned about battery life with electronic shifting.

Another concern we hear about with electronic shifting systems is water.  Are the systems waterproof and what happens if water gets into the system?  Campagnolo thought that they had their systems water tight.  However, back in 2005, while testing with ther Movistar team, during a transition between stages of a race in Europe, while driving a 70 mph through a rain storm, water got into the systems of some Movistar bikes on the roof of a car and the system shut down.  Once it dried out, all was fine, but obviously they did not want the water getting in at all.  So, back to the drawing boards to make the system waterproof, not just water resistant.  The system is now IP67 certified, meaning that it is certified as being fully waterproof to 1 meter depth.  Although I did not see this demonstration live, I did see a video of testing of the system underwater.  They were running the entire system, completely submerged, shifting through all gears without a hitch.  Very amusing!  When properly assembled, there is no risk of water infiltration.

The third question we hear from clients concerns weight.  How much extra does the system weigh compared to a mechanical/cabled system?  The Record EPS system is 210 grams heavier than the cable-actuated Record system and the Super Record EPS system is 223 grams heavier than cable-actuated Super Record.  Both the Record and Super Record EPS system are lighter than a Dura Ace cable-actuated system.  So, there is only minimal weight penalty to the EPS, and this is only when compared to its conventional Campagnolo brethren.   So, if you are concerned about 210 grams you have the choice to cut out potato chips for a week or go with the traditional cable system.

The main question, of course, is how does the system work?  In a word, impressively.  They have very carefully thought out many potential problems, and come up with great solutions.  For example, if you ride Campy, or have seen Campy Ergo shifters, you know that the upshift and downshift are handled by separate levers.  This same shifting pattern is carried over to the EPS.  One of the few complaints voiced about Shimano’s Di2 system is that it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between the two separate levers (full fingered gloves don’t help…) as the levers are close together and work the same way.  There is no such potential issue with EPS.  In addition, Campagnolo went so far as to design the shifters so that they provide the same resistance and the same “clicking feel” and sound as the cable-actuated shifters on the current Record 11.  The thumb lever has also been redesigned so that it is easier to reach when in the drops and the design allows you to shift gears while you are braking.

Another example of attention to detail is how the system addresses the problem of an impact to the rear derailleur.  If the derailleur is damaged, it “disengages” to avoid damage to the derailleur or the derailleur hanger – a good thing.  To re-engage the derailleur, you simply grab the derailleur cage and pull it back to where it was before the impact and it resets.  This design feature also means that you can “disengage” the derailleur by hand and move it to easier gears manually if you totally ignored your battery recharge warning.

If you want to shift through multiple gears, you simply hold the shift lever.  It will sweep from the smallest rear cog to the largest in about 2 seconds, and from the largest cog to the smallest in 1.5 seconds.  With Shimano Di2, you can only shift one cog with each press of the shift lever, so to shift through multiple cogs, you must press the lever multiple times.

Like Shimano’s Di2 front derailleur, the EPS front derailleur shifts with great authority.  The EPS derailleur generates 52Nm of torque when shifting from the smallest to the large chainring, and 44 Nm going from the large chainring to the small chainring.  For those not experienced with a torque wrench, 52Nm is a lot of force!  Consequently, Campagnolo STRONGLY recommends that you use only Campagnolo chainrings with the EPS system as other chainrings may break from the force of the front derailleur.  The same applies to the chain.  Campagnolo warns that chains using a quick link are weaker at that link than a regular chain link, and that the force of the front derailleur repeatedly hitting that link may cause it to fail as well.  This much force means that the front derailleur shifts, RIGHT NOW, with almost no hesitation.

This all being said, the potential downside to all the force in the derailleur and the very stiff chainrings is that braze-on derailleur hanger equipped frames may experience hanger flex that could compromise shift quality.  We see this with conventional cable-actuated front derailleurs; the force from the EPS front derailleur would only exacerbate braze-on flex problems.  Thankfully, Campagnolo designed a separate device that can be used in conjunction with the front derailleur, designed to spread the forces across a wider area of the frame.  The result is less braze-on flex, and therefore improved shifting performance.  Very clever and another good example of Campagnolo’s attention to detail.

Is the EPS system perfect?  No.  Is it “better” than Shimano’s Di2?  No.  They each have their advantages and disadvantages.  Campagnolo has the advantage of coming to the market several years after Shimano and thus being able to address the few things that some folks said they wished Shimano’s system would do – more “mechanical” feeling levers for example.  This being said, the Shimano Di2 system still has some advantages over EPS.  For example, the mounting of the battery/controller is more obtrusive with the EPS system.  The Campagnolo battery/processor pack is larger than the Di2 battery pack and because the EPS battery is integral with the processor, and cannot be separated, at least according to Campagnolo.  It does not sound like the slick aftermarket seatpost mounted battery packs we’ve been using for Shimano will be available for Campagnolo systems anytime soon.   The EPS battery is also too large to mount on the left side chainstay (the other common place to mount Shimano’s battery), as it would interfere with the rear wheel or crank.  Shimano’s Di2 system offers additional shift buttons that can be mounted on the top of the handlebar, next to the stem and on the drops to allow shifting from alternate position, such as when climbing.  So, Shimano Di2 can offer some greater installation flexibility.  Shimano has shifters for triathlon or time trial aerobar extensions, plus shifters in the brake levers on aero base bars.  Initially, Dampagnolo had no such option.  However, I have heard from reilable sources that Campagnolo will be introducing an EPS TT system at the end of May, 2012.  So, Shimano will no longer have this advantage. 

Price?  Campagnolo says the Record EPS will be priced competitively with Dura Ace Di2.  Super Record will, of course, be more.  At present, there is no Chorus level EPS, so Campagnolo has nothing to compete directly with the Shimano Ultegra Di2 system.  Presumably we will see this technology trickle down Campagnolo’s line sometime in the next few years.

Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to actually ride any bikes equipped with the EPS system at the seminar as all they had were frames with the EPS system installed.  So, I will try to patiently await the opportunity to build up a bike with the EPS system that I can try on the road in real-world conditions…      Regardless, I like what I saw and I think the options for electronic shifting have just heated up.

Give us a ring or drop an email with questions or to order Campagnolo EPS.  We are now certified by Campagnolo for installation of this impressive system.




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