Campagnolo Record 12 disc adds incredible braking to their fabulous mechanical shifting
Words and Images: James Raison
Hot on the heels of using Campagnolo’s Record 12 rim brake groupset, I was thrown a TIME Scylon with Record 12 disc. I was excited to try it. I’ve owned multiple Campagnolo groupsets in recent years and I couldn’t wait to see how their first stab at road hydraulic disc brakes went.
I wrote a full review of Campagnolo Record 12 Rim Brake groupset very recently so I’ll avoid repeating too much information across both. I’ll focus more on what’s different for the disc brake version below.
Let’s do it.
ALL THE WAY TO 12
So, how has Campagnolo managed the transition to 12 speed? Very simply:
There’s no new freehub required for 12 speed. You can use 9-12 speed Campagnolo on the same freehub.
Chainring options are unchanged from the last generation; 53-39, 52-36, and 50-34.
No new bottom bracket standards have been created.
There’s only one rear derailleur option.
There’s only two cassette options: 11-29 and 11-32.
Campagnolo’s documentation makes repeated reference to how they miminised the ergonomic impact of the hydraulic reservoirs in their Ergopower hoods. They are, nonetheless, noticeably less comfortable than the rim brake version.
They’ve added 8 mm to their overall height and the upward kick reduces the top area to rest your palms on. That adds more pressure to your hands’ “perlicue” which is (apparently) the term for the squishy bit that connects your thumb and index finger where you grip the hoods. Campagnolo’s rim brake shifter ergonomics are the best on the market. Their disc brake offering is only on-par with Shimano’s mechanical hydro shifters. It’s a shame, but there’s many bits to be squeezed into that shifter and ergonomics have suffered. People with small hands will likely enjoy the ergonomics more than I did.
Lever ergonomics feel near-identical to the rim brake version. They’re sculpting makes them nicer to hold and ensures you’ve got plenty of leverage when you grab the brakes. My one gripe is the perpendicular thumb shifter. It’d be more comfortable to press if it were angled down - though I doubt that would be feasible given the required travel to sweep shift.
Campagnolo has rolled forward all of their shifting strengths and weaknesses from the 11 speed to the 12 speed generation.
Shift lever layout is the same; thumb shifter goes towards the harder gears and the lever behind the brake goes towards the easier gears. The brake lever is just a brake lever. It’s the familiar Campagnolo layout.
Campagnolo’s main strength, the rear derailleur shifting, is still incredibly fast and accurate. Individual shifts are blazing fast with single clicks of the thumb or lever. The sweep shifting will move 3 cogs either up or down with a full press of the thumb shifter or shove of the lever absurdly fast. Once the lever has sprung back to neutral you can give it further sweeps to move 3 more gears. You can chain multi-shifts together and fly through the whole cassette in seconds. It’s awesome. Simply the fastest shifting there is. Bar none. It shifts damn well under load too.
Front shifting is decent but still a beat behind Shimano. It shifts cleanly but it doesn’t feel like it’s gotten faster since the previous generation. I didn’t have any problems as such, rather it’s just fine whereas the rear shifting is spectacular.
Campagnolo’s H11 brakes are the best road disc brakes I’ve used.
Their development cycle was legendarily long and became a symbol among Campagnolo’s critics for how they were behind the rest of the market. The wait was worth it. Disc brakes haven’t completely taken over the consumer or performance markets as quickly as expected and the final product is good enough to justify the wait.
Campy Tech Lab collaborated with German disc brake specialists Magura to produce the H11 brakes. I’m very glad they did. Campagnolo didn’t have the MTB divisions to lean on that SRAM and Shimano does so that collab has proven invaluable.
On-road, the braking is outstanding. Grab some lever and you’ll feel short travel to get pads onto the disc and plenty of modulation to find the stopping power you want. It’s a vast improvement to the on-or-off braking of early generation road disc brakes. Hard braking gives you a, literally, surprising quantity of power. My experience riding plenty Shimano and SRAM road disc brakes didn’t adequately prepare me for how fast the Campy brakes slow you down. The only thing that’ll stop you faster is a solid object.
Over-heating was a non-issue with Campagnolo’s Rotor 03 clearing high temperatures effectively. There’s dozens of air gaps in the rotor, and an aluminium spider to dissipate heat quickly. I couldn’t provoke any fade, even when trying to heat them up with some hard braking. There’s a magnetic system built into the calipers to make sure the pad returns to idle position after heavy braking. It means there’s no rub once you’re off the brakes.
Noise levels were shockingly, and mercifully, low. Campagnolo has specced a metal plate between the pad and the caliper piston to dampen vibration during braking. Decelerating is done almost silently. The only time they made noise was low-speed braking where a small chirp would emit from the front brake. It only happened when pulling to a stop at traffic lights or slowing for a roundabout. They were amazingly quiet when braking from higher speeds with higher power. Shimano have done well to quieten their brakes in the newest generation, and I haven’t ridden anything newer than SRAM’s eTap HRD which was shockingly noisy so I can’t speak for AXS. Campy have made the quietest brakes I’ve tested to date, by a few decibels.
WHERE IT SITS IN THE MARKET
So, let’s talk about Campagnolo’s more accessible price point. Record 12 disc retails for around $2,800. Let’s put that in some rough market context. Record 12 disc is $500 or so more than Dura Ace R9120, $300 more than Ultegra R8070 Di2, and $1,000 less than 11 speed SRAM eTap HRD. Campagnolo has put together a fairly competitive price. There’s still a premium, but the price gap to the rest of the market has shrunk. R9120 is a few years old, and is due for a 12 speed update in 2020, so being within $500 is reasonable.
The newly release Chorus 12 is a fascinating prospect too. It brings the same brakes and rotors to a lower price. That makes the brilliance of Campagnolo 12 speed disc affordable to a bigger market.
Campagnolo’s Record 12 disc is an impressive groupset. The Record 12 speed rim brake set was a continuation of what’s come before but the Record 12 disc serves up some brilliance. It’s the best road disc brakes I’ve used and the best mechanical rear derailleur shifting. Ergonomics and front derailleur movement are less impressive but still good.
Finally it feels like Campagnolo have a groupset that can increase their market share after ceding ground to Shimano and SRAM. Record 12 disc is a damn good groupset.
Disclosure statement: This bike was lent for review by Campagnolo/TIME’s Australian distributor Bikesportz. It’s not a paid review and we don’t get any proceeds from sales.