As you can read on my other post, I’ve been anticipating this Campagnolo EKAR groupset for a long time. That post focuses more on the background and the road implications, here I will discuss gravel.
What’s important for gravel?
For me, the keys to a great gravel groupset are:
- Gear range (not too much range as the steps get too big, not too little as you’ll run out of gears going up or down, or both). For me, 380-440% range is generally a nice range, although of course there are situations where bigger or smaller than that makes sense.
- Step distribution (I don’t mind big steps at the climbing end of the cassette, if I need that smallest gear, I probably really need it. So that last step can be huge. but at the middle of the range, I want reasonable steps because there I am most likely to spend a lot of time in steady-state so I want to dial in my cadence).
- Braking (I want my bike to stop reliably, predictably and when I am not braking, I don’t want to hear my brakes).
- Comfort (brake hoods need to be comfortable as riders spend more and more time there. I have to say all groupset makers have made great strides there. The fit is personal, but for most people’s hands, there are no bad levers anymore, only good and great levers).
- Everything else
So gearing ranks number 1 & 2 for me because without it, we’re walking, not cycling. Also a fun activity, but why bring a bike for that?
Where Campagnolo EKAR shines
There are 3 cassette options and all 3 are great:
- 9-36T (9-10-11-12-13-14-16-18-20-23-27-31-36): 400% range is great, the only issue here is that the smallest chainring Campagnolo makes is a 38T right now. And 38×36 is a bit big as your smallest gear if the route gets really tough.So for now, this is mostly for road, for stronger gravel riders, for less extreme terrain or for riders who mix a lot of asphalt and off-road sections.
- 9-42T (9-10-11-12-13-14-16-18-21-25-30-36-42): This is a big 467% range, so bigger than what I would normally call ideal. But when you really look at it, the 13 cogs means you can increase the range and cover more extreme situations (you could say it’s a 12-speed 10-42 cassette plus an extra 9T cog).This becomes clear when you see how the steps are distributed: the first 6 cogs are the same as on the 9-36T). Only in the climbing range do the steps get bigger, so it is very functional. You only need a 38T chainring to get a great top gear (equal to 42×10 or 46×11) and 38×42 is a great climbing gear as well.
- 10-44T: 10-11-12-13-14-15-17-19-22-26-32-38-44: This is a more traditional cassette range in that it starts with the 10T, and the 44T gives you that tiny bit more climbing ability than most other cassettes topping out at 42T. Again the first 6 cogs are 1-step apart, so lots of options to dial in your gear.
But wait, there’s more!
This is not to say the rest of the Campagnolo EKAR group isn’t great. The brakes, the levers, the rear derailleur, it’s all beautiful. One thing that I also discussed in the other post is that the groupset is mechanical.
In general I don’t really care about electronic vs mechanical, especially not for the rear derailleur. Either way, you push something and the derailleur moves. If there is an argument to be made specifically for gravel, you might give a slight nod to mechanical because you have a bigger chance to fix something mechanical in the middle of nowhere than something electronic.
Exploro Race Campagnolo EKAR
We’re launching the first Exploro today, on the day of the official Campagnolo launch. It’s also the moment where the new red/white colors becomes official for the Exploro.
For the specs, we’ve decided to go with the 9-42T cassette on the Exploro RACE and the 38T chainring. In the end, that gives you the most versatility. Of course you can always change to a different ratio when you wear out this one. All cassettes work with one and the same rear derailleur.
Wheels come from Fulcrum (Campagnolo’s sister company) in the form of the Rapid Red 900 in 700c. The fact that their little red logo matches perfectly is coincidental). Both the 3T Discus LTD 45 | 40 (700c) and the 3T DiscusPlus i28 (650b) will be available for Campagnolo EKAR in the coming months (they require a special freehub body), you can already see the 45 | 40 in the action photos with a prototype freehub.
Small note, the standard handlebar spec on the Exploro Race EKAR will be the Superergo. That’s our most popular dropbar for its combination of race geometry and exceptional comfort in all riding positions. In some of the photos in this post you might see the Aeroflux, which is the Superergo’s aerodynamic cousin.
Full specs and prices here. Campagnolo EKAR supply will be limited for a while, so be sure to order or reserve on time. A 3 month lead-time is expected right now once first supplies are sold out.