Campagnolo, the Italian company known for their jewelry-like components flare for design, has entered the gravel bike market. They’ve done so with Campagnolo Ekar 13, a 1×13 mechanical groupset designed for gravel riding in mind. And while we at Contender are often skeptical about the efficacy of some gravel bike-specific parts, we’ve worked hard to have Ekar in stock and ready for your next dream build.
Below are six key points that you need to know about Campagnolo Ekar in building your next gravel bike. Stay tuned for an in-depth look at Ekar as well as a long term review down the road as we install this on gravel bikes and road bikes alike.
A 13-Speed Cassette
You read that right. And before people say that is too many gears, let us explain why they did it. The idea with 13 – one more than SRAM’s AXS 12-speed groupsets and two more than Shimano GRX – is a matter of maintaining range while still having reasonable ratio jumps.
As mentioned, there are three cassettes in total: a 9-36t, a 9-42t, and a 10-44t. The 9-36 is their “endurance” cassette, aimed more at road riders, and has a similar range to an 11-30t cassette and a compact crankset. The ”gravel race” cassette uses a 9-42t has a spread similar to a 2x drivetrain with an 11-34t cassette and subcompact 46/30t chainrings. There is also the “gravel adventure” cassette which utilizes a 10-44t ratio that falls in the middle in the total range.
Even the widest-range cassette falls short of SRAM Eagle and its 10-50t cassette, much less the newer 10-52t. With Ekar, the idea is that the smaller jumps in cadence are placed in the higher-speed gears of the cassette, where you’re more likely to feel cadence changes. Otherwise, the bigger jumps are where you’re already grinding at lower RPMs. For many, this could finally make a 1x drivetrain a viable alternative to a conventional 2x drivetrain.
We’ll break down what difference these cassette options make in the near future to confirm whether 13 really is an unlucky number.
Campagnolo’s Mouse Ear Sees an Update
Campagnolo’s basic shifting layout has been the same since the introduction of Campagnolo Ergopower in 1992: a paddle behind the brake lever for easier gears, and a thumb lever on the inside of the brake body for harder gears. This lever, often affectionately referred to as a ‘mouse ear,’ is the reason why so many like Campagnolo. This mouse ear, however, has a new C-shape that makes it easier to shift when your hands are in the drops.
Besides that, you’ll find that these levers largely share the classic Campagnolo shape, with strong ergonomics and lots of leverage on the brakes. Those who have only experienced SRAM or Shimano levers might require a bit of a mental adjustment, but those who have spent time on Campagnolo might find these small changes to be a revelation.
Campagnolo devotees may be disappointed to know that the updated C-shaped lever means that riders can only upshift one gear at a time, but Campagnolo claims that this one-gear upshift prevents misshifts over bumpy terrain.
A New Rear Derailleur
The last time Campagnolo made a derailleur with this much capacity, it was for their triple crankset offerings in the late ’90s and early ‘00s. Rather than adapting their traditional derailleur build to the needs of gravel, the Ekar rear derailleur uses a “2D parallelogram trajectory” that aims to keep the chain in place as opposed to it moving left or right over bumpy terrain. Further, this new derailleur design allows the top pulley wheel to track more closely along the cassette to improve shifting accuracy.
It’s design looks not unlike that a SRAM Eagle derailleur, just with a bit of Campagnolo flair. It also uses a mechanical clutch to prevent chain slap with a lock on the main pivot to make installing and removing the rear wheel a bit easier.
Outbrake the Competition?
Campagnolo developed their brakes in conjunction with the German company Magura. They were late to the hydraulic disc brake game, only first releasing components in 2017. But while some in the shop might prefer the feel of Shimano or SRAM, there is no denying that Campagnolo did a great job here.
There are a few changes to these brakes compared to what you’d find on Chorus, Record, and Super Record, however. The organic brake pads offer a revised compound for improved stopping power in the wet, while the rotors here use a steel carrier rather than aluminum so they are a touch heavier.
To date, Campagnolo is the only drivetrain maker that has kept their brake lever dimensions consistent in the hand, regardless of whether or not the brakes are mechanical or hydraulic. As measured, Ekar levers are the narrowest mechanical shifting levers out there today, and within a few mm of Shimano GRX Di2.
Campagnolo claims that Ekar is the lightest gravel groupset on the market at 2435g total with a 9-42t cassette. Want to go even lighter? Swapping for the 9-36t cassette drops the claimed groupset weight to just 2385g.
Below are groupset weights from each of Campagnolo, Shimano, and SRAM. Overall, Ekar with the most common 9-42t cassette is about 0.55 lbs lighter than the next-lightest groupset listed.
Shimano GRX Di2 1x
Shimano GRX 1x
SRAM Force AXS 1x
SRAM Force AXS Mullet with X01 cassette and X01 AXS derailleur
Campagnolo did a decent job of making sure that Ekar-equipped bikes were available at release late last year, but individual groupsets have been much more difficult to get a handle of. Fortunately, we have complete Campagnolo Ekar groupsets in stock and ready to build up to make your next gravel bike or road bike.
Wheels have also been hard to come by, but we have alloy wheelsets from Fulcrum as well as the beautiful Campagnolo Shamal carbon wheelset, all with the N3W freehub, ready to go.
Want to build up an Ekar-equipped bike for yourself? Visit us in store, check out our website, or send us an email any time to email@example.com.