Resolutely chiming with the old adage that the best things are worth waiting for, Campagnolo have finally launched their Campagnolo H11 hydraulic disc brakes and invited us down to Gran Canaria for an opportunity to test them out. With expectations high to uncover the Italian brand’s efforts into their disc brake project, here’s everything you need to know:

When Gran Canaria got anchored by Italians – pizza followed by post-dinner partying.

The historic Italian groupset maker didn’t immediately surge into the disc brake market like others, and their absence has been fairly noticeable. Yet there was reasoning behind their late arrival, and it’s all to do with their aspiration of perfection central to their Campagnolo Disc Brake Project. Going beyond pure lab tests and data, the brand relied on Team Movistar to tick off thousands of test kilometers during training on their hydraulic Campagnolo H11 disc brakes.

26°C, blue skies and hairpins galore – the stage was set!

Project, what?

Campagnolo didn’t set out to create just disc brakes, and neither did it satisfy them to craft a rim brake wheel with a disc-compatible hub. Their aim encompassed entire groupsets, and their work will roll out with compatibility for their Potenza groupset right through to the Super Record EPS. The brand turned to Magura who have extensive know-how when it comes to disc brakes, with the aim retaining their own style and approach to ergonomics. And it seems like the synergy of German engineering and Italian aesthetics and sensibilities has come up trumps. The hoods are the only real visual change to Campy’s other products, as they’re 8 mm taller and slightly squarer, unlike other manufacturers who’ve taken more liberty with their designs.

The wheels have also been specially tuned to counter the asymmetrical stress,…
…the G3 spoking system now used at the front too.

Our test bike in Gran Canaria was fitted with the mechanical H11 version of the Super Record, which will be the first groupset available with the H11. Lightweight at 2,228 g, it’s set to retail at € 2,879, and will be available from the end of May. If you want a comparison, Shimano’s Dura-Ace R9050 Di2 Disc weighs 2,389 g. The top-of-the-range electronic shifting Super Record H11 EPS will drop in the summer for a figure of € 4,397 and will tip the scale at 2,355 g.

Dubbed the Ergopower H11, the all-carbon levers have an appeal that goes beyond just feeling good as they boast genuine practicality: both left and right levers across all of the groupsets rely on the same master cylinders, which makes the task of replacing parts much easier. You can also alter both lever reach and pad engagement with the AMS (adjustable modulation system) that’s got the options of Long or Short throw. These are the sort of tweaks in ride characteristics that’ll make disc brake-versed riders very happy.

The 8 mm-higher hoods grant another position on the bike without looming too large. Head down and flat out!
Aside from their new internal complexity, Campagnolo’s latest offerings are no less capable than the brand’s tried-and-tested componentry, so will be met with approval by staunch Campy fans.
For the H11 road discs, Campagnolo have designed the front caliper to only work with a 160 mm rotor, while the rear comes with two caliper options:
140 mm or 160 mm. According the Campagnolo, these are compatible with every flat-mount frame around without the need for an adaptor.
No feathering: the 22 mm brake pistons return to their starting point by magnets.
The screws are all in easy access so everyone’s (inner) mechanic can rest happy.

So what’s the deal with the Campagnolo H11 brakes while riding?

The forged aluminium two-caliper pistons are kind to the less deft tool-flexers among us. As Campagnolo have exclusively settled on no-adaptor direct mount rotors, there’s no option of retro-fitting another disc size: front 160 mm, rear 160 mm or 140 mm. Regardless of your groupset – Super Record, Record, Chorus, Potenza or the electronic Super Record EPS and Record EPS – the brake caliper remains unchanged. This basically grants the same (immense!) braking power to every single Campagnolo disc brake rider without discrimination.

Easing into the corners. The Campagnolo H11 braked with great modulation, predictability in its braking performance and the ability to not overheat.

According to Campagnolo, their H11 disc brakes are more powerful than their two main competitors. They claim: In wet conditions, the H11 perform a full 23 % and 26% better, and 4 % and 55 % in the dry.

Flat roads are a rarity in Gran Canaria,…
…but fortunately we needed those climbs in order to test the brakes on a downhill.

On Campa-branded Sarto bikes, we tested the Campagnolo H11 brakes in their brand new condition, and they performed immediately with satisfying power. In terms of braking, their performance was pretty immense without being too digital. With two days of test riding, the H11 remained resolutely silent, even while riding in the pack or burning up the tarmac on long 8km descents. Graced with bountiful sunshine, we can’t draw any conclusions to their wet-weather performance.

It didn’t take much force on the levers to brake safely and keep composure on the long downhills.
Unbroken sunshine and stunning views –…
…is Gran Canaria a step up from Mallorca?
Smashing sonic barriers as the impressive rocks flank the roadside.
Factor 30 sun cream was essential…
…for the sun-deprived Northern Europeans.

Our thoughts

Campagnolo have made us wait a very long time for these Italian flair-infused hydraulic disc brakes. Now that we’ve finally had chance to test them and are now impatiently awaiting their entrance on the market, these are a welcome addition to any party. The H11 demonstrate a really intelligent approach to the disc brake subject, with Campagnolo’s classic unwavering design aesthetic and overall great concept. Their engineers clearly haven’t been twiddling their thumbs: powerful, easy to modulate, ergonomic and with a nice touch of extravagance, the Campagnolo disc brake project can be ticked off as a success.

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The Campagnolo disc brake project defies this road sign.

Words: Benjamin Topf Photos: Pablo Moreno