Get Into All The Gears With Campagnolo’s M12 Groupset
Campagnolo is no stranger to innovation. Company founder, Tullio Campagnolo, is credited with inventing the quick-release wheel skewer in 1933. The company claims other firsts, as well, including cable-actuated derailleurs and, in 1992, combined brake/shift levers (called Ergopower). And in 2009, Campy launched the first 11-speed drivetrain, before Shimano and SRAM would do the same.
With the introduction of its new Movement 12 (M12) mechanical road group, Campagnolo has ushered in the first of what we think will soon be ubiquitous, 12-speed, road-specific drivetrains.
For now, M12 components will be available only in mechanical shifting form on the company’s top-end Record and Super Record component groups. Both rim- and disc-brake variants will be offered, and Campy assures us that EPS electronic versions and lower-priced groups will soon follow.
Updates on the Ergopower controls include a new, rounder shaping and adjustments. The rubber hood covers feature a honeycomb on the inside that adds comfort and creates a softer perch without adding bulk.
Disc-brake variants have separate reach- and pad-contact adjustment points.
In addition to the two blade positions found on previous rim-brake versions of the Ergopower levers—open (for removing wheels) and medium (for larger hands) – the updated model gets a third. A closed position brings the lever blades farther in toward the handlebar and is better for smaller hands.
Campagnolo also made refinements to the shape of the blades and shift paddles. The blades and downshift levers now have a slight outboard cant, and the curve at the bottom has been accentuated to provide better grip. The upshift paddle gets a slightly larger surface, a bit of a slant to better accommodate your thumb when your hands are in the drops, and a new shift trajectory that is angled rather than straight.
Disc brakes remain largely unchanged from the H11 groups Campy introduced in 2017. They retain the same hydraulic internals and choice of calipers (dependent on rotor size) and continue to use 140 and 160mm rotors with the AFS (Centerlock) mounting standard.
The shape of the rim brakes is more refined, and clearance has been increased to accept 28mm tyres. Bearings replace bushings in the pivots, and pad retention remains unchanged.
Available in two ranges only – 11-29t and 11-32t – both cassettes will fit existing Campy-compatible freehubs. Alloy spacers between the cogs ensure more even gaps than those created by the previous, plastic type. The last six cogs are machined in sets of three from single blocks of metal. All cogs get a new coating that Campagnolo claims improves shifting, wear, and longevity.
Both Record and Super Record carbon cranks retain the same four-arm style, chainring compatibility, and UltraTorque spindle and bottom brackets. Chainrings are available in three combinations – 50/34, 52/36, and 53/39 – with new finishes and updated shift points. Super Record crank spiders feature conjoined arms, which add support to the chainrings at the point of maximum torque.
Where H11 had specific cranks for both rim and disc drivetrains, M12 moves to one crankset per group that’s compatible with both rim (130mm) and disc (135/142mm) rear frame spacing.
Cranks in both groups get a smoother, more aerodynamic design with a shiny UD outer layer that’s as functional as it is good looking, as well as a moulded-in, UV-blocking layer to protect the carbon.
Super Record crankarms now use hollow construction bonded to a titanium spindle that spins on CULT (Ceramic Ultimate Level Technology) bearings. Record arms use solid construction attached to a steel spindle and steel USB (Ultra Smooth Bearings). The 145.5mm Q factor on both doesn’t change (from H11), but Campy did add a 165mm length to its collection of previous 170, 172.5, 175mm offerings.
The biggest revisions to the M12 Record and Super Record groups exist in the derailleurs, with both the front and rear mechanisms receiving full makeovers.
The front derailleurs get a longer shift arm and thinner cage plates. Actuation is more horizontal with a lighter feel, faster action, and more positive shifts. Cable routing can be run to either the front or rear of the shifting arm, which allows for extra clearance of the shift wire on bikes with larger tyres and short chainstays.
The rear derailleur, available in one cage length for all chainring and cassette choices, has been revamped from the ground up. The main body is longer, to add better chain wrap on the cassette in all gear selections. Pulleys have 12 teeth (up from 11 on the H11 groups). And a “B” tension spring in the upper knuckle was added to reduce movement (bouncing) over rough ground. The derailleur is also direct-mount compatible with a removable link that adapts it to both types of hangers.
So far, I’ve logged about 80 kilometres total on both groups.
The braking of both the rim and disc brakes remains among the best in the market. Modulation is fantastic with good overall power and excellent feel at the levers.
It was the shifting that was the most revealing. Both groups share the same shifting internals and still retain that nice “clunk” as each shift is completed. Tactile feel is excellent, and the days of vague gear changes on Ergopower seem to be gone. Chain retention on the cassettes was excellent – I experienced no missed shifts, jammed chains, or stuttering when shifting between single and multiple cogs.
It would be easy to dismiss 12-speed road drivetrains as unnecessary, were it not for the fantastic range of the cassettes – essentially a straight block from 11 to 17, then two or three cog jumps for the rest. Campy may be known for holding to its racing-first mentality and producing parts with sponsored teams in mind, but the generous range of gears that M12 offers might be enough to give anyone a taste of speed.