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In what might be one of the biggest signs of confidence in the longevity of gravel as a category of riding, Campagnolo, the most traditional of component manufacturers that has remained staunchly planted in road groups, staying well away from mountain bike components, has released a gravel specific group. Called Ekar, it’s 1x-only, lightweight and squeezes a 13th cog into the cassette.
13 Speeds and Smaller Cogs
One of the most significant features on this 1x-only group is the expansion of the cassette to 13 gears. Campagnolo isn’t the first to squeeze this many gears into a cassette, but the Italians have done it in a more significant way by shrinking the smallest cog from 11 teeth to just nine. Just as SRAM going from 11 teeth to 10 for its AXS eTap groups opened up new gearing options, the smaller nine-tooth cog allows Campagnolo to offer a bigger gear with a smaller chainring up front, while also allowing for easier gears without needing to expand the wide-end of the cassette to the size of a frisbee. Additionally, more gears means smaller jumps in between gears on the low end for quicker, more precise shifting.
Campagnolo is launching Ekar with three cassette options: 9-36T, 9-42T and 10-44T. The 9-36T spacing is: 9-10-11-12-13-14-16-18-20-23-27-31-36. The 9-42T is 9-10-11-12-13-14-16-18-21-25-30-36-42. The 10-44T is 10-11-12-13-14-15-17-19-22-26-32-39-44. Each option is a two-piece block design and requires Campagnolo’s new N3W driver body standard, which luckily also is compatible with 11 and 12 speed Campagnolo cassettes when used with a spacer. Campagnolo already has three wheel models with the new freehub, including 650b options, and has other manufacturers on board like DT Swiss and Roval.
New Ergopower Gravel-Specific Levers
The new levers keep a familiar Campagnolo silhouette and ergonomics, but have a few key changes for gravel use. “Vari-Cushion” hoods provide padding and grip on off-road conditions, while laser-cut texture on the levers adds additional grip. Like other Campagnolo shifters, there are two shift levers, one behind the brake lever for shifting up the cassette (up to three gears at a time) and a thumb-controlled lever to the left of the brake lever for shifting back down. The Ekar shifters get a new “Lever 3” design that feature a larger thumb lever for easier control from the drops.
The Ekar hydraulic disc brake calipers share internals with Campagnolo’s road line of brake calipers. The Ekar disc rotors are made of 1.85mm-thick stainless tempered steel and are available in size 160mm (157 grams) or 140mm (123 grams). A road alloy version is also available for more weight savings.
As you might expect, this off-road specific derailleur features a clutch to keep chain-slap at bay. And conveniently the Ekar derailleur works with all three of the new cassette ranges, no need to choose a long-cage or short-cage version like with other groups. Built from carbon fiber-reinforced polyamide and anodized alloy, as well as high-grade polymer pulley wheels (12T upper and 14T lower), this derailleur is designed to be light and efficient while also strong enough for the rigors of gravel.
Crank, Chain & Bottom Bracket
The Ekar crank features a steel axle and carbon arms and has four chainring options: 38T, 40T, 42T and 44T—as well as four crankarm lengths: 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm and 175mm. An alternating narrow-wide tooth design helps keep the chain securely in place.
A wider cassette calls for a new narrower 13-speed chain. The C13 chain features a wide-narrow teeth design and is made from different grades of steel for added strength. For greater efficiency, the chain is also nickel-Teflon treated. It comes in both a traditional pin-secure option as well as a C-link master link option.
Campagnolo also made a special bottom bracket that better stands up to the water and grit frequently encountered off-road. The new design, called ProTech, features an external sealing ring and a fiberglass polyamide tube and is compatible with all threaded and pressfit standards.
Look for Campagnolo Ekar soon on 2021 model bikes.
Rear Derailleur: 275g; Cassette: 340g-410g; Crank: 615g (172.5mm, 38T); Chain: 242g; Bottom Bracket: 50g; Shifters: 420g; brake calipers: 110g front /95g rear; rotors: 157g (160mm)/ 123g (140mm)
Rear Derailleur: $256; Cassette: $274; Crank: $360; Chain: $46/$48 (Pin or Extra Link Version); Bottom Bracket: $33; Right Lever + Caliper: $395; Left Lever + Caliper: $316; Rotors: $41/each Total: $1,762-$1,764