Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
It seems as though the tipping point has been reached. Road disc is not just an option, very shortly it will be the only option for a high-end bike, relegating rim brakes to the bike path. With Campagnolo launching its road disc brake components, H 11, every major component group manufacturer has an attractive disc braking option. For all those disc brake deniers out there, just remember, every argument being made against disc has already been made, over 10 years ago, when mountain bikes went disc. We don’t see any serious rim brake mountain bikes anymore, and we won’t see any serious rim braking road bikes in five years time.
Campagnolo H 11 disc brakes are not a new component group, rather they are a group of components that can turn almost any Campagnolo 11 speed group – Potenza, Chorus, Record, Super Record – into a hydraulic braking disc group. All these groups will share the same H 11 disc calipers, but with different Ergopower levers. Potenza gets its own levers, since it uses different shifting internals. Chorus, Record and Super Record will all share the same H 11 Ergopower levers, while the EPS electronic groups will share the same H 11 EPS levers. Campagnolo has even created an H 11 crank set with specific H 11 rings that give disc brake bikes, and the slightly different chain line, an optimized path. The cranks aren’t necessary if you’re hopping up your rim braking group, but might provide more efficient operation.
While Campagnolo is quick to point out that H 11 is purely Campagnolo design and creation, it did look to Magura to consult on hydraulic technology. Like SRAM and Shimano, Campy does have some mountain bike history to draw on, but that was back in 1989, long before hydraulic disc brakes took over the MTB world.
Davide Campagnolo, Tulio’s grandson, was intimately involved in the process and told us, “Campagnolo had no knowledge of disc brake design, so we did the project supported by the knowledge of Magura. There are internal parts that were co-developed with Magura – the piston, the hydraulics.”
The matte black, H 11 forged aluminum calipers are an understated affair, unlike the bling-factor we associate with high-end Campagnolo. We understood when we saw them on the bike, they almost disappear once mounted, leaving traditional road bike lines intact to the eye.
The understated look also telegraphs Campagnolo H 11 disc brake’s intentions, safety and durability are H 11’s watch words and when it comes to disc brakes, that means heat management. The 22mm piston is made of a very rigid Phenolic resin – the same stuff they make tough counter tops out of – that does not conduct heat. Campagnolo claims its organic pads are so heat resistant they can melt standard pad carriers, so Campy went with thick, steel pad carriers that also have damping material on back to further regulate heat, while reducing noise and vibration. They affix in place with magnets instead of clips. As a magnet won’t lose much strength over time, like a spring loaded clip will, it seemed a more durable option to Campagnolo.
Come along as we test Campagnolo H 11 in the Canary Islands.
Two other decisions show this commitment to durability. The center lock rotor’s braking surface is entirely steel – not a steel and alloy sandwich – which adds grams but ups the heat resistance. Campagnolo also decided to go exclusively flat mount, but did it without adapters. According to its survey of available bike frames, H 11 can go adapter free on any disc frame. While this saves weight, Campagnolo was more interested in removing the added leverage, eliminating the potential for movement and the extra bolts that come with adapters. In fact, Campagnolo found any caliper with an adapter could not pass its stringent safety tests.
Where Campagnolo has truly done a masterful job of design and engineering is at the new H 11 Ergopower levers. In feel and appearance they are almost identical to traditional Ergopower levers and stand in sharp contrast to the increased bulk of other hydro levers. The master cylinder adds just 8mm of height to the hood, while shifting input and feel are unchanged. The levers also offer customization with reach adjust and two distances for pad contact.
Initial testing of Campagnolo H 11 disc brakes on the climbing and descending paradise that is the Canary Islands yielded one indisputable fact: The 20 strong peloton of H 11 disc brakes was whisper quiet upon roll out as well as during and after heavy, extended braking, no ‘ting-ting’ sound, no screeching choir, just blissful silence. After descending that involved slowing from 60kph to 20kph for switchback after switchback on the world famous ‘Serenity’ descent, we see no reason to dispute Campagnolo’s claim that H 11 offers more power with less hand force than any competitor. What was more important is H 11 offers all that with impressive modulation from the first millisecond the pad contacts rotor. It is light and progressive, there is no bite, no shudder, just a positive contact letting you know you’re ready. Bring the power on and it ramps up with the smoothest, most predictable application of power we’ve experienced.
Availability: June 2017
H 11Pricing: Potenza DB – $1610, Chorus DB -$2135, Record Mech DB – $2385, Record EPS DB – $3835, Super Record DB – $2610, Super Record EPS DB – $4230,
Campagnolo also launched three new sets of disc specific road wheels, part of what it calls DB 360 – an effort to provide every needed component for a disc brake bike. There is the Bora One 35 available as a carbon clincher or tubular, the Bora One 50 tubular and an alloy Shamal Ultra tubeless compatible 2-Way Fit clincher. These use disc specific rims with no brake track as well utilizing Campagnolo’s G3 spoke pattern. G3 was initially designed just for the rear wheel to handle asymmetric drive loads. With new asymmetric braking loads at the front wheel thanks to disc brakes, Campagnolo found the G3 spoke pattern paid dividends on both front and back wheels.
Look for a detailed review of the new wheels soon.
Shamal DB clincher – $1375.00, 1540grams
Bora One 50 tubular – $1965.00, 1364grams
Bora One 35 tubular – $1965.00, 1297grams
Bora One 35 clincher – $2195.00,1509grams