[Test] Campagnolo Ekar 1×13

[Test] Campagnolo Ekar 1×13

Piergiorgio Sbrissa, 24/09/2020
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Piergiorgio Sbrissa, 24/09/2020

Today, we present the new Campagnolo gravel group, Ekar 13. With this group Campagnolo not only enters the world of gravel with a specific product, but introduces many new features and thus makes waves. Among these innovations, first of all is the face that the group has 13 speeds.

That Campagnolo was about to launch them was already clear with the presentation of the N3W driver body we had already talked about here . Now with Ekar we move on to the facts on the ground. In addition to the dedicated body, which serves as the basis for the 13 speed sprocket set, Ekar also consists of a specific 13 speed chain, a single chainring crankset, specific shifters and new brakes entirely designed and manufactured by Campagnolo, not by third parties.

Let’s start with the essential data: the Ekar weighs 2385 g with the 9-36 cassette. The chain is 0.15mm thinner than the 12V, which is therefore not compatible. The chain will be available both with the classic pin and with false link, called C-Link. Great news for the Campagnolo world. The weight of the chain is 242 gr in both configurations. The price is 46eu for the C-Link and 44eu for the classic.

The cassettes available are: 9-35, 9-42 and 10-44 (for the spacing read on).

Here, we come to the individual parts. The rear derailleur is specific for gravel use, therefore it has a clutch system to keep the chain steady even on very rough terrain. The polymer pulleys have 12 teeth for the upper and 14 teeth for the lower. The front of the derailleur body is made of carbon-reinforced polyamide, 7075 and 6082 aluminum. The screws are made of stainless steel. Everything is oriented towards light weight, but taking into account the heavy use on off-road terrain, mud, water, sand, etc… therefore also a nod is given to durability. The weight is 275gr for a price of 247eu.

The cassette is made from 2 pieces, and is only compatible with the new N3W body. The scales available are three as mentioned. We tested the 9-42, which is called “Gravel Race”, with a scale of 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 21, 25, 30, 36, 42. So with a jump of 1 tooth for the first 6 sprockets. The cost of the cassette is 245eu for all configurations.

The weight we found was 396gr.

The carbon single chainring crankset is very beautiful.

The crankset is Ultra-Torque, with a 630 steel axle. The available chainrings are 38-40-42-44. The chainrings are easily interchangeable only by removing the screws on the 4 arms. There is no need to disassemble the crankset. There are four crank arm lengths available: 165, 170, 172.5 and 175mm. The weight of the crank is 615gr (170mm, 38T). The price is 347eu. At the ends of the cranks are mounted removable rubber boots to prevent them from being damaged in contact with stones, gravel, etc.
The Ekar crankset is mounted with the new Protech bottom bracket. This fitment is available in various standards and is based on a patented watertight outer ring. Together with the polymer sleeve, it is used to keep dirt, sand, mud, etc. inside the bearings and is specific for gravel use. Weight 50gr for 33eu of price.
The controls have the ergonomics and therefore the design of the road controls. The levers are made of carbon with the lower end lasered to improve the grip of the fingers on the brake.
The shape of the internal push-button for the downshift is new: made with an S-shaped design (called Lever 3 ) that allows you to easily reach it with the thumb even in low grip. The reach of the lever is adjustable.
There is no multiple downshift system with this button like on the road though. This was done by the Campagnolo engineers to prevent more sprockets from accidentally slipping on uneven ground. 420gr the pair, for a price of 382eu the right and 304 the left (including brake sheath and oil).
Finally the new brakes, which are obviously a hydraulic disc. The pads are organic. The weight is 110g for the front caliper and 95g for the rear.
The calipers work with steel rotors, both for the brake track and for the spider. The thickness of the braking surface is 1.85mm. They are available in 140 and 160mm sizes. The weight of the 160mm is 157gr. and the price is 36eu.

Test

We tested the Ekar mounted on a Specialized Diverge equipped with the new Campagnolo Shamal Carbon.The wheels were wrapped with 38mm Specialized Pathfinder tires.
The group worked perfectly throughout the test, which consisted of several laps on asphalt, light off-road and mountain trails. Shifting is very crisp and decisive, due to the clutch of the gearbox, but at the same time precise. No adjustments were ever needed throughout the test. The ergonomics of the levers are excellent that all users of Campagnolo road groups know.
The shape of the “lever 3”, or rather of the internal shift button, is a small revolution: although visually strange for those used to decades of Campagnolo groupsets, it is absolutely practical and valid. In low grip you do not need (any longer) a twisting of the thumb to go down from in gears. A novelty that we hope to see also present in the next road groups. As well as the chain with false link, something that was really missing in the Campagnolo world. In any case, really nothing to report on the shifting: excellent and never a problem.
The brakes are great. Although completely different from the road ones, they have the same feeling, not too aggressive and very good modulation. No fatigue problems even on steep trails. Ditto for the noises: no annoying whistling or “zin-zin” even when wet.
Cassette spread is also excellent. Having the first 6 sprockets with a 1-tooth jump (with 9-36 or 9-42 cassettes) makes the Ekar truly usable even on the road, without annoying gaps trying to find cadence and/or pace. Even from the middle of the cassette up, the climb seemed excellent to me uphill. With the last two sprockets really to be used as a “wild card” on cemented or steep dirt climbs.
The 13 speed and this type of range finally makes it possible to use a bike for “mixed” use as proposed by the Gravel bike category.
All future Campagnolo wheels will arrive as standard with the new N3W, which means that they will also have increased ratchets to withstand the greater torque given by the larger sprockets (such as 36 or 42). For now from the Campagnolo world, for Gravel use, the Fulcrum Rapid Red 900 and 300 and the Shamal Carbon that we have tested are offered. Wheels on which it is worth spending a few words, given that they are really excellent: very tough (they’ve taken considerable blows on rocks and stones) without ever having had any problems, for a weight of 1585gr, which makes wheels truly broadly usable in terms of terrain.
To conclude, the Campagnolo engineers also paid close attention to maintenance. The Ekar group requires two 2, 4 and 5mm Allen screws, the tool UT BB110 (for the crankset) and a Torx 25 wrench to be disassembled and adjusted.
Overall, therefore, a groupset made with the usual Campagnolo quality in mechanical and carbon engineering and with small, but important innovations that bode well for future 13V road groupsets.
At the moment the Ekar will first be mounted on Specialized, Pinarello, Ridley, Wilier and 3T bikes. While partners in the wheel sector that will release N3W compatible products are DtSwiss, Tune, Roval and Newmen.