Is Ekar right for you?

Gerard Vroomen 12. Apr ’21 General
We get a lot of questions from people considering Campagnolo Ekar for their OPEN bike build (or considering the complete WI.DE.U.P. and U.P.P.E.R. bikes we offer in our webstore). Is it right for them, what is important to consider, etc. Here are my thoughts.

13-speed. The simplicity of a 1x drivetrain has many advantages for gravel, including less chance of chain drop and no muck clogging up the front derailleur. With 1x11, some felt the steps between gears were a little too big. With 1x12 from SRAM, that rarely gets mentioned anymore. With this 1x13, the issue is completely solved.

small steps. Of course 13-speed only works if the cassette ratios are chosen right. And I think Campagnolo has been near flawless in its choices here. First off, all cassettes start with six 1-tooth steps: So in the case of the 9-36T cassette, that means 9-10-11-12-13-14. Other cassette with that much range start with 10-12-14 or 11-13-15, so 2-tooth jumps from the get-go. This is a game changer!

3 cassette options. The 9-36T is great for road riders (whether on a road or gravel bike) and even for gravel riders if your terrain is not too extreme or if you are willing to focus on one end of the spectrum. The 9-42 and 10-44 give you a great range for a gravel bike on any terrain. Here are the full ranges:

9-36T:       9-10-11-12-13-14-16-18-20-23-27-31-36
9-42T:       9-10-11-12-13-14-16-18-21-25-30-36-42
10-44T:   10-11-12-13-14-15-17-19-22-26-32-38-44

2 wheelset bliss. The final part of what makes these cassettes great is their ability to work in a 1-bike-2-wheelsets scenario. Just put the 9-36T on your road wheels and the 9-42T or 10-44T on your gravel wheels. When you switch to the gravel wheels, you reduce your low gear by roughly 20% for the tougher terrain with the option to keep your top gear intact or adjust it as well.

wheel compatibility. To fit the 9T cog, your wheels need the new N3W freehub body. This sounds like a big hassle, but most manufacturers are starting to offer this freehub, and often it is retrofittable to old wheels.

ergonomics: The levers are very nice, with good grip on the hoods even on rough terrain. The thumb shifter takes a bit of getting used to for people not familiar with Campagnolo, but like any shifter it becomes second nature quickly.

mechanical: Some will see this as an advantage (durable, fixable when in trouble) while others pine for electronic shifting. To me, it's a non-issue, the way the shifter works is so far down my priorities on a 1x bike that it would never make me go one way or another.

brake calipers: Luckily Campagnolo has gone away from their proprietary concept for the calipers and they now fit flawlessly on all our frames. Even more importantly, they work very well. We list exactly what adaptors (if any) and bolt lengths you need for each frame model in our extended spec lists for the UP/UPPER, WIDE and MIND.

crank: Technically it is a very good crank, stiff, light, with almost the right chainring options for every rider level. If I had my say, they would also make a 36T chainring but I am sure they will offer that soon, at least as a replacement part. The aesthetics seem to divide people. 

I started writing this blog wanting to do pros and cons, but there really aren't that many cons to Ekar. Depending on your viewpoint, the fact that it's mechanical and the looks of the cranks could be, but to others both are pros, not cons. In the end the only con may be that we don't have very many.

We now have Ekar available on 3 bikes with a great spec of Enve cockpit and HED Emporia Pro wheels (700c or 650b) or ENVE AG25 (700c):
  1. U.P. in various colors or RTP (ready-to-paint)
  2. U.P.P.E.R. in matte black or RTP
  3. WI.DE. in various colors or RTP
If you have any questions, let me know.