With the Ekar, Campagnolo present what they claim is the world’s lightest gravel groupset, promising reliable and long-lasting shifting performance – without electronics. How does the 1×13-speed groupset fare in real-world tests? We found out on the gravel slopes of South Tyrol!
If you were to take a seat on a bench beside a gravel path and observe the passing bikes, you’re likely to see electronic and wireless groupsets on most of the high-end models. With their new groupset, Campagnolo are going against this trend and rely on mechanical shifting instead, claiming that the 1×13 Ekar is the world’s lightest gravel groupset. The groupset also promises to offer long-lasting and reliable shifting performance. For the launch of the Ekar, you’ll find the groupset on bikes from 3T, Pinarello, Ridley, Specialized and Wilier. What’s it all about?
The first bikes with Ekar groupset
The components of the Campagnolo Ekar in detail
The Ergopower hoods rely on Campagnolo’s proprietary Vari Cushion technology, which is intended to provide an improved contact point, offering an ergonomic, comfortable and secure grip. The reach can be adjusted to allow even the shortest index fingers to comfortably reach the aluminium brake levers. You shift down with the right paddle, allowing you to shift only one gear at a time, whereas when you shift up into an easier gear with the left paddle, you can shift three gears at a time. You don’t have the option of actuating a dropper post with the left shifter.
The Campagnolo Ekar derailleur was designed from the ground up specifically for the 1×13 groupset and is equipped with a damper to keep the chain calm even on rough gravel surfaces. The new clutch mechanism can also be locked to make removing and installing the rear wheel easier. Campagnolo have made use of carbon and aluminium to achieve the optimal stiffness to weight ratio, whereas the bolts are made of steel to provide the necessary durability.
The new 13-speed cassette is available in three options and is exclusively compatible with Campagnolo’s new N3W freehub body. At the time of launch, DT Swiss, Newmen, Tune, Roval and GW are the only manufacturers that have suitable freehubs available. However, according to Campagnolo, other manufacturers should follow suit. The cassette with the finest gradation, the 9–36 t, should be of particular interest to endurance riders with its small gear steps. The 9–42 t variant is primarily aimed at gravel racers tackling steep gravel passes. Campagnolo call the 10-44 t option the Gravel Adventure cassette, which provides an extra-easy gear for getting up those steep climbs with all of your luggage. The six smallest sprockets of all three cassettes increase or decrease by just one tooth at a time.
Overview of the three Ekar cassettes
The two-piece Campagnolo crankset should provide the optimal power transfer. The crank arms are made of carbon and the axle is made of steel, providing the best possible compromise between stiffness and weight. The Q-factor is a narrow 145.5 mm, as is the norm in the road bike sector. The crank arms are available in several lengths including 165, 170, 172.5 and 175 mm, while the choice of chainrings is limited to 38, 40, 42 and 44 t. The chainring can be exchanged without having to remove the cranks.
The hydraulic Ekar brakes are based on the same system that you’ll find on Campagnolo’s high-end groupsets. They promise to perform reliably on any terrain and offer easy modulation. The organic DB130 brake pads should provide plenty of stopping power in dry and wet conditions and are claimed to last longer than Campagnolo’s previous pads. The matching Centerlock rotors are available in diameters of either 140 or 160 mm.
|Levers (Pair)||420 g||€ 686 (including brakes)|
|Derailleur||275 g||€ 247|
|Cassette||from 340 g||€ 265|
|Chain||242 g||€ 44|
|Crankset||615 g (172.5 mm/38T)||€ 347|
|BB||50 g||€ 33|
|Brakes||205 g||(Supplied with levers)|
|Brake rotors (2 x 140 mm)||246 g||€ 72|
|Total||2,393 g||€ 1,694|
Campagnolo’s Ekar groupset on test
Fittingly, we put the Italian brand’s new gravel groupset to the test on Italian soil in South Tyrol and we didn’t shy away from road stages or steep gravel climbs. Read on to find out how the Ekar fared.
The Campagnolo Ekar shifters
Compared to the shifters from the popular Japanese and US brands, the Italian representatives look unusual at first. However, the moment you lay your hands on them you’ll notice their excellent ergonomics! The hoods are relatively tall but they offer a very secure grip on the descents and rough terrain. The brake levers are very easy to reach both in the drops and on the hoods, and they’re easy to adjust too.
The shifter paddle on the right, which you use to shift into a harder gear, is easily accessible from any position. Shifting is crisp and defined. Unfortunately, in contrast to Campagnolo’s other groupsets, you can only shift down one gear at a time, so that getting to the hardest gear takes quite a while and robs you of energy. You’ll immediately notice that the fine gradation of the Ekar is clearly aimed at gravel racing and all-road riding. It’s less suitable for adventure riding and bikepacking.
The shifter paddle used to shift into an easier gear is a bit small. On rough terrain, it can be difficult to hit the paddle straight away. Compared to the right lever, you can shift three gears at a time. It works perfectly on the road and on flat terrain. However, as soon as you head off-road, the shifting starts feeling a little vague and slightly too undefined for quick shifting. You don’t get enough feedback about the number of gears you’ve shifted. Of course, it’s convenient being able to shift several gears at once. However, you have to twist your hand quite far to push the lever all the way.
The Campagnolo Ekar derailleur
The new Ekar derailleur makes a very solid impression with lots of attention to detail. For example, the cable adjustment screw is made of metal instead of plastic as is usually the case. The damping mechanism works great even on the roughest terrain. Neither roots nor larger rocks were able to unsettle the chain. There’s no way of switching off the damper on the Ekar derailleur. However, you can lock it in place to make it easier to remove and install the rear wheel. This works well, but it requires a little more finesse than on competitor models that also offer this function.
The Campagnolo Ekar cassette
The new Ekar cassette is available in three versions to cover the broadest possible range of uses. Their fine gradation is particularly useful for ambitious gravel racers and all-road riders. Riders who are used to the small gear jumps in the harder gears on traditional road bikes will appreciate the Italian brand’s new cassette. The 42 t and 44 t versions offer that added bit of range needed for steep climbs.
Unfortunately, the Ekar cassette isn’t compatible with existing freewheels. See above for a list of manufacturers that currently offer compatible freehubs. Shifting into a harder gear is always very precise and defined, even on rough terrain. There were no problems here during the test. In contrast, shifting to an easier gear under load and off-road feels a bit undefined; the guides on the cassette don’t offer enough support. It performed much better on the road and on flat terrain.
The Campagnolo Ekar crankset and chain
As in the past, the Italian brand rely on a two-piece shaft that is joined together in the middle of the bottom bracket. This keeps everything looking super neat and tidy! The Ekar bottom bracket is available for all common standards, whether threaded or press-fit, useful or just unnecessary: BSA, ITA, BB86, BB30, BB30A, BB386, PF30, BB RIGHT and also T47 are covered. The finish of the crank is beautiful and the workmanship is very high-quality, though the transition from the crank arm to the chainring looks a bit unfinished. There’s no denying the heritage of the new 1x crankset – if you’re familiar with Campagnolo, you immediately recognise who made these cranks.
You get removable crank arm protectors in case you ever hit them on a rock. The point of the elastic band on the inside must be an internal company secret. Unfortunately, the size of the chainring is limited due to the spacing of the bolts and you can’t go any smaller than 38 t. This is suitable for gravel racing and all-road riding, but it’s too big for adventure riding and bikepacking with heavy bags. You won’t get far unless you have an espresso before tackling every climb! The chainring uses the proven narrow-wide tooth design and no matter how rough the terrain, the chain didn’t fall off once. Campagnolo finally have a quick-link: the chain is optionally available with a C-Link or a classic rivet pin.
The Campagnolo Ekar brakes
The brakes are the highlight of the Ekar gravel groupset! They offer plenty of stopping power straight from the factory and they do so reliably – even without bedding them in. They’re very easy to modulate and the maximum braking power is impressive. The brakes definitely stand out most clearly from the competition! Campagnolo have also given thought to the brake rotors, making them 1.85 mm thick to avoid injuries. Unfortunately, the rotors are currently only available in 140 and 160 mm. We’d like to see them release a 180 mm version in the near future. Compared to the Campagnolo Super Record, which was developed in cooperation with MAGURA, all the credit goes to Campagnolo for the Ekar brakes.
Our conclusion on the Campagnolo Ekar Gravel groupset
The Campagnolo Ekar is the boutique groupset in the gravel cosmos with a unique charm that you don’t get with either of the big S brands. First and foremost, gravel racers and ambitious all-road riders will be happy about the small gear steps and the chance to set themselves apart from the crowd. The performance of the brakes is top class! However, bike packers and gravel riders in alpine terrain won’t have much fun with the large chainring. The value for money is poor compared to the competition where you get significantly more performance for less money.
- fine gradation of the cassette for ambitious gravel racers
- braking performance and modulation
- damping of the rear derailleur
- limited range of use due to the size of the chainrings
- (currently?) no options for a 180 mm brake rotor
- feels vague when shifting up several gears at once in rough terrain
You can find more information about the Campagnolo Ekar at campagnolo.com
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Words: Benjamin Topf, Philipp Schwab Photos: Valentin Rühl, Campagnolo