Rid­ing Long with the Cam­pag­nolo H11 Disc-brake Sys­tem

An ex­tended test with the Ital­ian com­pany’s lat­est technology

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Philippe Trem­blay

An ex­tended test with the Ital­ian com­pany’s lat­est technology

While Cam­pag­nolo may have been the last of the big com­po­nent mak­ers to re­lease its hy­draulic disc brakes for road, the H11 sys­tem it de­liv­ered in 2017 has power and con­trol that are im­pres­sive for a first entry. The Vin­cenza, Italy-based com­pany has been at the fore­front of cy­cling tech­nolo­gies since Tul­lio Cam­pag­nolo patented the quick re­lease in 1933. The Ital­ian com­po­nent and wheel man­u­fac­turer was the first to in­tro­duce the mod­ern rear de­railleur, as well as 10- and 11-speed driv­e­trains, in 2000 and 2009. With disc brakes, how­ever, both sram and Shi­mano came out with ro­tors for road be­fore Campy. In 2016, Cam­pag­nolo re­vealed that its own disc-brake sys­tem was in the works, but not com­pletely ready for rid­ers like me. In the spring of 2017, the com­pany gave a full pre­sen­ta­tion of the H11. My first im­pres­sions were over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive. The de­sign, tech­ni­cal de­tails and func­tion­al­ity were spot on. Still, I wanted to spend more time with the com­po­nents to eval­u­ate the mer­its of Campy’s new­est brak­ing sys­tem.

The build

One of the first Cam­pag­nolo hy­draulic disc groupsets ar­rived at the Cana­dian Cy­cling­magazine of­fice in late sum­mer. The H11 brake levers, crankset and calipers, Su­per Record 11 de­railleurs and Bora One 35 DB clinch­ers were soon in­stalled on a No. 22 Aurora. In the fol­low­ing months, I du­ti­fully, or rather ea­gerly, put close to 3,000 km on the new brake sys­tem and driv­e­train.

Gain­ing and scrub­bing speed out on the road

Apart from per­haps your sad­dle and cleats, your hoods are the most im­por­tant con­tact points on your bike. The Er­gopower hood shape en­sured my hands were se­cure as I held the con­trols in a nat­u­ral po­si­tion over ev­ery

kilo­me­tre. The 8 mm of ex­tra height that had to be added to the hoods to ac­com­mo­date the hy­draulic com­po­nents didn’t com­pro­mise com­fort. The ex­tra space ac­tu­ally of­fered me dif­fer­ent hand po­si­tions on the long­est of my rides. The levers have three points of ad­justa­bil­ity to en­sure the po­si­tion and stroke suit your pref­er­ences.

The Pow­er­shift ac­tion and lever po­si­tion feel just right. Swing the shift lever to move the chain to as many as three cogs in­board. Push on the thumb shifter and you can go out­bound as many as five. It all hap­pens in seam­less move­ments. Yet, Cam­pag­nolo wants you to know its work­ing: with each shift, there’s a sat­is­fy­ing click that sig­nals the bike is do­ing pre­cisely what you’ve com­manded it to do. At first it may feel a lit­tle clunky, but that smoothes out in time. There is some truth to the say­ing that Cam­pag­nolo wears in while other groupsets wear out.

The car­bon brake lever isn’t only at­trac­tive, but finely tuned: the light­est of pres­sure will be­gin en­gag­ing the brakes. The mod­u­la­tion and pre­ci­sion was more than I ex­pected, which con­tin­ued to strike me whether I was com­ing to a stop in front of my favourite cof­fee shop or re­spond­ing to a sud­den change on the road. Rain or shine, the brakes were up to the task. The first time they got wet, they made a bit of noise, but af­ter­ward, they were mostly silent. On rare oc­ca­sions, af­ter par­tic­u­larly in­tense brak­ing, the pads stuck a lit­tle caus­ing some rub. They would soon re­turn to their orig­i­nal po­si­tions.

Cam­pag­nolo only of­fers an or­ganic-com­pound pad that I ap­pre­ci­ated ev­ery time I en­gaged the brakes. They pro­vided con­sis­tent and pre­dictable brak­ing on the front 160-mm-di­am­e­ter ro­tor and rear 140-mm ro­tor. The pads have worn a bit, but seem to have plenty of life left in them. If I were to ride in messier con­di­tions, I would have liked a wider se­lec­tion to choose from. Still, Cam­pag­nolo is con­fi­dent in what they are pro­vid­ing with its sin­gle op­tion.

The car­bon-arm H11 crank feels stiff un­der load. I rode a com­pact 50/34-tooth crankset paired with a 11-29 cas­sette. I had all the gears I needed, even on the steep­est climbs. The Su­per Record 11 de­railleurs are qual­ity. On the road, it’s ap­par­ent how re­fined they are. Fi­nally, the Bora One 35 DB clincher wheelset has the G3 spoke pat­tern on both the rear and front wheels. Each wheel’s light weight helps it to get up to speed quickly and bound up climbs. When I put power into the bike, the wheels felt stiff and re­spon­sive. On rough roads and de­scents, they in­spire con­fi­dence. I was never hes­i­tant to bomb along pot­hole-rid­dled roads or down gravel de­scents. They started and stayed true re­gard­less what I threw at them. The ce­ramic bear­ing hubs were smooth. Since there’s no brake track, the beau­ti­ful car­bon rims won’t wear out grad­u­ally.

Stand­ing the test of time

Af­ter nearly 3,000 km, the groupset con­tin­ues to run well. While it’s near the time to swap the chain, the shift­ing is clean, im­me­di­ate and crisp. The brak­ing has lost noth­ing. I wouldn’t be sur­prised to be able to double my dis­tance be­fore need­ing to bleed the sys­tem. There’s noth­ing that in­spires more con­fi­dence than con­sis­tent and con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance over so many kilo­me­tres. While you may choose Cam­pag­nolo for the es­thet­ics, per­for­mance, his­tory and tra­di­tion, the qual­ity is at the core of what makes Cam­pag­nolo so de­sir­able. Campy may have a late entry with its disc brakes, but now it’s lead­ing the way.

“In the fol­low­ing months, I du­ti­fully, or rather ea­gerly, put close to 3,000 km on the new brake sys­tem and driv­e­train.”

above Rear caliper and disc op­po­site Front caliper and disc

be­low H11 levers

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