Ten years ago, Cyclefit was over 70% Campagnolo. Now we are 70% Shimano, 25% SRAM and 5% Campagnolo. A total revolution in just one decade. Back then all of Cyclefit used Campagnolo, and inevitably so did the majority of our clients. Campag Record 10sp was the finest groupset on the market (in our opinion) and it was difficult to see how it could be improved, unless or until we went to belt or shaft-drive. The ergonomics of Campag Record was sublime and the shifting tapped cogs into place with the satisfying click of an expensive Swiss watch. We recommended it to everyone. I personally bought the last 10sp record groupset available in the UK.
2010 - Campag 11sp V's Shimano Di2 - The Fight Was On!
Around the same time that Campag introduced 11sp Super Record groupset, Shimano introduced their first Dura Ace Di2 10sp groupset– the fight was really on – electronic shifting versus an extra cog. In 2009 Jules and I were invited by Trek to ride the first iteration Di2 on their current year Madone. Jules liked it and I was underwhelmed. Jules appreciated the advanced engineering new world of possibilities. I thought it a solution to a problem that didn’t exist. I was also appalled (and still am) by the unnecessary close-finger shifting ergonomics, comprising minimal movement by two tiny buttons only a few millimetres apart. In long-finger winter gloves I kept mis-shifting. On a purely aesthetic level, I was unconvinced by the Di2 battery awkwardly zip-tied to any handy tube like an afterthought. It was in this context, that I thought nine years ago, Campagnolo had a fairly good chance of staying on the top step against the emergent Di2 Dura Ace. How wrong I was. The battle between first generation Di2 and 11sp Campagnolo in the end was a total mis-match, in part because some of the first iteration 11sp Super Record suffered from vague shifting and uneven calibration. I for one also thought the ergonomics and action lacked the finesse of the outgoing 10 speed Record. Campagnolo, for their part were slow to react to the issues, which left us, somewhat embarrassingly, replacing at least two 11 speed Super Record groupsets with Shimano Dura-Ace, for disgruntled clients.
The Googlisation of Shimano
Shimano’s dominance was, and arguably still is, unhealthy for consumers and the industry. At one point Shimano started to look like Google. We all marched to the beat of their drum. I do like many of their products but not all are perfect – we had to send a Seven frame back to Boston in the spring to be re-made, because the very delayed Shimano Dura-Ace R9100-P power meter - when it finally arrived, featured an intrusive 7mm sensor on the left-hand crank, that fouled the titanium chainstay. A £12,000 project all turning and shifting on a year-delayed, 7mm piece of plastic.
Here is my current shifting landscape:
- Serotta CDA – Campagnolo Record – 2x10sp
- Trek Emonda SLR – Shimano Dura Ace (mechanical) – 2x11
- Landrace – SRAM Force – 1x11
- Seven 622SLX – Shimano Dura Ace Di2 – 2x11
Full Hypocrisy Disclosure
I think that Dura Ace Di2 on the 622SLX is the best, not by much but the shifting is sweeter and more clinical than the Dura Ace mechanical on the Trek Emonda. The big benefit of Di2 for me is not in the shifting but the lack of cables, which means the action is binary and therefore uniform. It works, or it doesn’t. For that reason, we always recommend Di2 ride-by-wire on winter/cross/gravel bikes, where there is likely to be water/grit ingress. Di2 is definitely more stable and functional when conditions are worst.
The next best shifting is the Serotta and the 10sp Campag Record. Superb ergonomics, aesthetics and satisfyingly animated shifting mechanics – still brilliant ten years on (note to self – nostalgia may also be playing a part here). However the Campag brakes are noticeably less powerful than Dura Ace and feel dated in comparison.
Third best shifting - is the mechanical Dura Ace on the Trek Emonda SLR. But in this bikes defence, it has become my go-to bike of late. Witheringly competent everywhere. This actual bike was lent to a customer earlier in the year (his bike was held up in production). He took it to the Caucasus and rode around the roughest tracks in Georgia for two weeks. It took it all in its stride, he loved it, I love it, there is nothing not to love. Sure, the shifting feels like you are doing origami after Di2, but it is bombproof and predictable. Ride-by-wire shifting may be the future but if you haven’t tried it you will never miss it.
Last place goes to the 1x11 SRAM Force on my Landrace. Competent enough in abstract but a little cheap feeling in this company. To be fair it is a very competent and a fraction of the price of both Dura Ace and Record. I like 1x11 on gravel and mountain bikes but on a road bike I still prefer the close gearing that 2x11 offers.
- Shimano is the new Campag. And that hurts.
- If you don't try electronic shifting you will never miss it
- Why don't Shimano separate the up and down shift buttons?
- Shimano Di2 is a more compelling proposition for winter bikes where ride-by-wire is flawlessly reliable, even in deep mud
- Campag 10sp Record still feels sensational. Until you brake.