Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 8

Pros:

  • Auto trim front mech
  • Set up free

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Heavier compared to mechanical groupsets

Product:

Campagnolo ?Athena EPS

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£2,004.99

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Let’s cut to the chase. The Campagnolo Athena Electronic Power Shift (EPS) system works really well. The buttons and levers embedded in the brake hoods are ergonomically well positioned. The shape and feel of the ‘down’ button, usually activated by your thumb, is sloping and snug.



The feel from the lever lacks the reassuring clunk that the Campag Ergopower is rightly celebrated for, but you still feel a ‘click’ even though there are no cables being activated in EPS.



The shifting is quick and precise: under load, out of the saddle, on the down-stroke of the pedal, up steep hills and even wearing winter gloves the number of fluffed changes was insignificant (ie the same as with any other similar system).



None of this should be a shock, since the electronics and ‘brain’ of the system is essentially the same as that used by the more expensive Super Record and Record EPS systems introduced in November 2011. The technology is the same, only the materials used in parts manufacture has been downgraded, mostly from carbon to aluminium.



It’s also worth noting that the wiring looms of the systems are different, so there’s no mix ‘n’ match option for the cost-conscious consumer.

Staying trimmed

When the system is correctly set up, when the battery is charged and after bedding in has taken place, then the shifting is slick and efficient.



The best thing about the Athena EPS system – and the one thing that a mechanical system can’t do – is self-trim on the front mech. Rather than having to fiddle around with the three-way setting on a mechanical system front mech trim, the EPS takes care of it all, adjusting the position to avoid chain rub in every gear combination.



Anyone familiar with the existing Campagnolo Ergo levers will adapt very quickly to EPS. It takes very little getting used to. Which is a good thing, right? Of course it is! Except the same is true in reverse.



You quickly get used to a well set-up non-EPS system. You can switch more or less thoughtlessly from electronic shifting to a good ol’ fashioned mechanically activated drivetrain. And when this thought strikes you, you start to ask yourself what the point actually is. If EPS feels like mechanical shifting but with slightly less effort and a lot more technology and cost, well, what’s the point?



Ironically for a system that is said to need little adjustment after initial set-up, there does appear to be a ‘bedding in’ period. Considering that there’s no cable to stretch with EPS, after a few rides, the rear mech slipped out of perfect alignment and chattered a little.



The front mech decided to throw the chain over the top on the upshift and unship the chain between chainrings on the downshift. Whether it was simply springs, bushings and lubricants ‘stretching’ or some other voodoo is impossible to know, but the system was easy to re-calibrate using a system of lights and buttons that could, if you were smart enough, be done on the fly – but a lot less of a faff doing it off the bike. Essentially, you can align the set-up in 0.25mm increments using buttons housed in the lever hoods to get everything spot-on.



As for fears of battery failure leaving you in 53×12 on an Alpine sportive; that can’t happen – the system shuts down and automatically drops onto the inner ring. Disregard the ‘battery low’ flashing warning lights and audible warning bleep at your peril. But, apart from the default shift onto the inner ring, you can also pop the spring on the rear mech and select the sprocket you want to ride home on.



From flat to full, a battery will recharge in four hours, but you’ll need to be able to move your bike close to a socket because removing the battery unit isn’t straightforward.

Keep it covered

Once the battery has been topped up, remember to replace the protective power port grommet – it shelters both the battery and motherboard, so leaving it open to the elements isn’t the wisest move.



Campagnolo does claim the battery is waterproof to a depth of one metre – an important consideration in the British climate – but we suspect the water protective plug is there for a reason, so suggest it’s not worth gambling with leaving it off and then riding in the rain.



With recent mechanical shifting improvements, the electronic shifting v old-fashioned cables debate is somewhat back on the table for the first time since digitalisation. However, as with all electronic shifting, if you are not mechanically minded or have a workshop to fettle from, then the tool-free set-up of Athena EPS is a definite advantage.



Plus there’s an intangible psychological benefit to having the latest and greatest technology bolted onto your bike.

Verdict

That bit is, of course, harder to measure – unlike the initial financial outlay, which tipping over the £2k mark isn’t a cheap one, especially when you factor in a possible new frame with electronic-compatible drillings

Full Specification

Supplier:
www.chickencycles.co.uk

  • Mark

    Hi Graeme

    Any reason why I might have difficulty shifting smoothly (long delays) on the 3 or 4 smaller cogs but the larger ones work perfectly? I’ve been through all of the micro adjusting and set up procedure and can’t get a fix. Its as if the smaller cogs are physically further apart than the larger ones(!) but I’ve tried it on two separate campy 11 cassettes and same thing. Many thanks.

  • Graeme

    Couple of technical errors in there chaps –

    First, the elecronic set-up doesn’t drift. If something else changes, then that may influence the shifting, though. Normally shift errors are caused by rear hanger flex (some are made of cheese, after all) and if the rear derailleur set-up is changed to accommodate, that can also influence the way the front derailleur works as they dialogue with each other.

    Front derailleur hangers can flex, too – hence there are stabilisers offered by both Shimano and Campag to work around that problem.

    The rubber charging port cover is there to keep the charging port clean. It’s electrically isolated from the battery until the charger is inserted.

    It’s mostly worth noting though, that an electronic system like EPS isn’t just a lower-effort way of changing gear – you can do lots of things with it that you can’t do with springs and tensioned wires.

    It always changes the same way, for one – it doesn’t depend on leverage to translate hand strength to force at the chain, and consequently, delivers a correct amount of force to make the required change every time.

    You can, as you point out, re-tune on the fly and still get all the sprockets, except possibly the lowest gear as that is mechanically as well as electronically limited – which means that in a race, where a wheel change may give you a cassette in a different place relative to the dropout to your own wheel – or even if you own two wheels from different manufacturers, a quick on-the-fly adjustment allows you to shift with absolute confidence.

    Under-load shifting works in a way that is close to impossible to mimic with a mechanical system – so small ring to big ring on the biggest sprocket under power – no problem, it’ll do it.

    I should stress that everything I have said above is just as applicable to Di2 … so though I look after technical training for Campagnolo, I am not totally partisan :-)