See the results of our survey--will you buy an electronic gruppo?

March 20, 2003--New spy photos of the electronic gruppo!  
Click here for more photos

July 15, 2003--Electronic shifting has been sighted in the Tour de France!

October 18, 2004--New spy photos!
Click here!

It seems pretty official--Campagnolo will come out with an electronic Record gruppo in 2005.  We've been reporting on Campagnolo's efforts to come up with electronic shifting for some time (see Campy's Zap System and Campy's Zap, Part 2) but this is the first time whe know of that their top-secret efforts have seen the light of day.  (Note: We reported a rumor of an Italian team using the electronic gruppo in April 2002--a rumor which has apparently been confirmed . . . )

Shown below are photos and text from the Italian magazine Cicloturismo, sent to us by a friend in Italy.  An English translation is provided below.

According to Cicloturismo, this gruppo was tested in the under-23 version of the Giro d'Italia.  Reports are that it worked well, even in the rain.  That's the good news.  Bad news--it's rumored that it will be substantially more expensive than a standard Record gruppo.  (Campagnolo is reported to have spent almost $8-million developing electronic shifting through October 2000--the total may be higher now.)

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Translation of the Cicloturismo article (thank you to Claude Rogers for providing translation services!):

Secret electronic Campagnolo Gruppo

We have discovered a project that Campagnolo has been working on for years. It is a fully electronic transmission. A racer from Veneto named Sella took it to the Amateur Giro dItalia. It can be seen in stores in 2005, but the first tests have shown that the system already functions well.

Campagnolo are testing an electronic transmission system. The guests of Bicisport at the Amateur Giro dItalia noticed it. There was a Zalf Fior racer named Emanuele Sella, with a fractured finger. When you have a fractured finger, especially if it is the thumb, it is practically impossible to shift with Ergopower. Instead Sella (who, however, withdrew after a few stages) continued to pedal and shift without apparent difficulty. How on Earth? He was using the Campagnolo electric [transmission], becoming one of the secret testers of the company from Vicenza.

Only ten models

Seeing the innovation and certain that it was a prototype, we could have moved in two directions: publish the photos sending the explanation of the product at some future time, otherwise attempt to violate the technical casket of Campagnolo, going directly to the point. The second route was the more fruitful: appreciating fair play, the heads of the house of Vecenza have revealed (in part) the secrets of the new electronic gruppo. The system, in fact, is still far from marketing, but the fact that it arrived on the road to test means that the project is in any case at a good point [in its development] and that the reliability achieved is convincing.

We have now carried out ten prototypes, explains the commercial director Angelo Caccia, So that racers could tell us the perceptions that they had using them. In the next months we will make changes that will be substantial and, if all goes well, we will go in production in a couple of years.

12 years of study

Joseba Arizaga, who is responsible for communications in Campagnolo, guided us on the genesis of the product. The electric rear derailleur in itself wouldnt be a novelty. Mavic already arrived there for years: Why should Campagnolo be better and more reliable? I began to think of it 12 years ago, recalls Arizaga, Just when Mavic put the first version of the electronic gruppo on the market, but since we didnt have experience in the area and we didnt go to produce something that may not be actually reliable, we grabbed each other all the time that served. Therefore a department in Campagnolo was created for the development of electronic devices. The system is innovative because unlike the previous experience, it involves an internal transmission, front derailleur included. 

Top-secret Project

The engineers are prohibited to talk about it. It is top-secret, even the acronym of the project was internally sealed at Campagnolo. The system functions thanks to a battery, that in the actual version isn't aesthetically at the height of the product. It is a rechargeable battery, explains Simone Roncali, director of marketing, like those of the cell phone and it will stay near the water bottle. Its autonomy is variable and quantifiable in a few thousands of shifts, but the performance and the length varies according to the uptake, for which there will be a smaller consumption in the activation of the rear derailleur and definitely greater with the front derailleur.

The servant front derailleur

The rear derailleur has more or less the same geometry of a traditional rear derailleur. There is the parallelogram but there isn't the spring, but a small electric motor that moves the parallelogram at its will. What required more effort, continued Roncali was the front derailleur, because the same movement required more energy and it is less easy by indexing, I saw that the fork must move the chain then return back to the center. The difficulty isn't to build a gruppo that functions well: that there already is. Our objective is to industrialize it in a way that is reliable like the other gruppos and make one that can be maintained by all. One can't think that one must come back to Vicenza every time.

Super-soft controls

The commands for now have the same shape as the Ergopower, the more ergonomic deduction: if it changes, the change concerns the other gruppos as well. Certainly, with respect to the Record Ergopower controls, those of the electronic [gruppo] weigh less. In the actual version, clarifies Roncali, the weight is one of the less urgent objectives, even if the final goal was to have a gruppo that thinks like a Record. For this the body of the rear derailleur will be made of a composite, perhaps the same as the Ergopower commands.

Wireless, no thanks

Unlike Mavic, which had planned the functioning to radio impulses between the controls and the rear derailleur, Campagnolo decided to play it safe. "In this system," says Roncali, "the rear derailleur comes to move in part thanks to the impulse of the solenoid and for the rest from the energy derived from pedaling. Our transmission is based instead only on the little motor and on an entirely cabled system. We will also have weighed the wireless solution (without cables, ed.), but we have found that it absorbs more energy, weighs more and creates interference. I must go with our products all over the world, how do we know that they wont get interfered with by cell phones, remote controls, radio or television? I rode with my first wireless cyclocomputer, a Cateye, while I was at home in front of the television. It was not working there. Only later, reading the instructions, I saw that the television signal impedes its functioning. We are Campagnolo and on the instructions we write all, but could we go out with a product that offers the kind of inconvenience of this type?"

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