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Affordable Italian Cycling Heritage: Campagnolo Centaur 11

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The name Campagnolo sits at the heart of European cycling culture. It’s a brand woven into the very DNA of that culture. With its Super Record and Record groups, Campagnolo is also a name synonymous with some of the most expensive parts money can buy–often reserved for the rarified worlds of Tesla-driving dentists. For many, the thought of owning a bike with an 11speed Campy group is relegated to being a bucket-list, retirement bike purchase. No longer is that strictly true. With the release of the new Centaur 11, the Italian company has created a group that’s affordable and worthy of its venerable name.

PELOTON

Centaur 11 is Campy’s entry-level group that is designed to compete with Shimano 105. That competition, however, stops at the comparable prices. True to tradition, Centaur 11 upholds the artistry cyclists have come to expect from the company. Shimano 105, while being a very respectable group, feels almost commodified when compared to the attention to detail lavished on Centaur. At 2493gr, this group weighs only 13g more than 105. With that added weight, though, it also has a substantial feel one might expect from more expensive products.

Starting with the Ergopower shifters, Centaur stays true to the rest of the Campagnolo family with the unique thumb shifters. Use the left thumb shifter to drop into the small ring and right shifter to add a gear. The shifter bodies are made of a glass-reinforced polymer that feels solid and comfortable on the hands. The brake levers themselves are made of aluminum and the shift levers are made of a carbon-reinforced polymer. Grabbing them with some force produces a near visceral happiness.

Campagnolo has clearly identified who will purchase this group. They believe that buyer is going to want a wide range of gear options. To that end, the Centaur group is available in 50/34 or 52/36 chainrings. It can also support 11-29t, 11-32t, and 12-32t cassettes. Such gearing options will put any local climb or hilly gran fondo within reach of the target customer. We tested Campagnolo Centaur 11 using a 50/34 and 11×29 set up on Deer Valley, Utah’s famed Guardsman Pass climb–a steady climb that gains around 2500’ over 10 miles. Through it all, the shifting remained precise, consistent, and never skipping a beat.

What goes up, of course, must come down. In this case, fast! The descent of Guardsman can be hair-raising, which means reliable brakes are critical. Centaur’s brakes are both incredibly powerful and modulate that power very well, creating the kind of trust you want on that kind of descent. We’ve used more expensive brakes that do not inspire the same confidence the Centaur brakes do. Riders seeking disc brakes will need to step up another level to the Campy’s Potenza line to take advantage of the H 11 components.

Available in black or silver – a very nice touch in this world of black on black carbon finishes – this sub $800 group is rock solid. Taken on its own merits, nothing about Centaur 11 looks or feels entry level. Even better, it performs solidly, with the legendary Campy ‘feel’ intact. Adding Centaur 11 to a nice frame and a solid wheel set, it is possible to build an affordable and worthwhile bike that will last a very long time with plenty of Italian cycling magic in its bones.

For more check out campagnolo.com