Grand illusion: Campagnolo teases disc brakes

Campagnolo's long-awaited disc brakes are still in the testing phase, but it's likely we'll see them in use at WorldTour races in 2016.

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GRAN CANARIA, Spain — Campagnolo’s product release in Gran Canaria was like a great magic trick. First, the set-up: Campagnolo released its new Potenza group, which is poised to compete with Shimano’s Ultegra group. Then came the turn: the release of the Shamal Ultra race wheels, along with a hands-on trial of the new My Campy app. And finally, the prestige, the great “ta-da” moment we were expecting: the unveiling of Campagnolo’s very first road disc brake.

And like all great magic tricks, it was an illusion. Campagnolo will not be releasing its new disc brakes this year; you will, however, see them on the bikes of three WorldTour teams. It’s all part of the R&D process Campagnolo’s marketing and communication director, Lorenzo Taxis, touts as its assurance that each product, while not the first on the market, is to be the best. “Prior to EPS’s introduction, Campy used a whole season with Movistar using Campy Tech Lab components,” he said, likening the disc brake testing to other major advancements in Campy’s recent history. “Disc brakes are safety components. It is not our primary objective to reach the market as the first company. It is our objective to reach the market with the best product, safeguarding the consumer.”

He continued, “That doesn’t mean we are not ready. We have heard much speculation about Campagnolo brakes. Of course, we don’t like to present something until we are 100 percent sure. It has to be correct.”

So while no one but the pros will be riding the brakes, we do know a bit more about them after a visual inspection and a few pumps of the brake lever. Hardly a thorough test, but here’s what we know.

The brakes

They’ve been in the works for almost two years, according to Campagnolo’s press manager, Joshua Riddle. Rumors have abounded that Campagnolo is working with Formula to develop these brakes, but Campy’s spokespeople would neither confirm nor deny any details about the development of the brakes or the function of them, so the rumors will remain rumors for now.

The caliper is a two-piston design with two-piece body construction; that means there’s a piston on either side of the rotor that actuates when the rider presses the brake. It will be available as both a flat mount and standard mount design. The bleed fitting is accessed by removing a small threaded screw, and the hose attaches to the caliper with a threaded fitting reminiscent of the ones used on Shimano disc brakes. There’s likely some sort of olive or crush washer inside to help seal the connection, though we did not get to dissect the brake to verify.

Both a mechanical and an EPS version will be available. The master cylinder appears to be integrated into the brake lever, which features a brake hood that’s clearly taller and wider than the Super Record mechanical and EPS hoods. The lever blade itself appears to be the same or at least very similar to Campy’s ErgoPower levers found on mechanical and EPS groups. The shift paddle behind the brake lever on the EPS version is hollowed out, perhaps for weight savings. The mechanical version’s paddle is not similarly hollowed out.

The lever feel is quite smooth and solid at the end of its stroke; it felt a lot like a DOT fluid system, with very little yield when the brake lever was fully activated.

The brakes are about 90 percent refined, according to Taxis. No word on when they will be released for sale to the public.

The wheels

While the new disc-compatible wheel was only marked with Campy Tech Lab graphics (the moniker Campagnolo uses on components in a test phase, potentially never to be sold), there were marked similarities between this new wheel and the Bora 50 wheels already in Campagnolo’s lineup. The rim in particular seemed to be almost identical, though of course there was no brake track, since the disc brakes won’t use one. The rim tapers away from the tire more than a flat brake track would.

The rear wheel features Campagnolo’s G3 spoke pattern — nothing unusual there. But the front wheel also features this pattern, presumably to ensure adequate strength against disc braking forces. The hub flange is also taller on the non-drive side for added strength, and the version we saw featured a six-bolt disc pattern. The wheels we saw were available in both thru-axle and quick release. No word on whether the caps can be replaced to convert from one to the other.

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