If you follow my posts, you may know I like 1x drivetrains. The front derailleur is such a primitive tool - two plates pushing against a chain until it falls off the chainring - that I find it slightly offensive. Compare that to the intricacies of a rear derailleur.
Anyway, I know there is a place for 2x drivetrains too, I just think in the future that place will be smaller as more and more cogs are added. When I ask people if they'll switch to 1x11 they may say no, but when I ask if they would switch to 1x13, almost everybody says yes. At some point, enough is enough and going 2x13 simply isn't necessary (never mind all the overlapping gears)
Well, today is the day, Campagnolo is introducing a 1x13 groups; EKAR. I am very happy that this group exists, and from such an unexpected source. You see, five years ago at Eurobike, Campagnolo gave me a preview of their first disc brake groupset. At that time, I told the engineer they should focus on 1x as they could make a real impact there. I also suggested they make a cassette that starts with a 9T cog. This makes it easier to have a good gear range without having jumps that are too big in the middle of the cassette.
In the years since, I asked every now and then if there was progress but I sort of lost hope. I even made a 9-32T cassette for the road because I didn't think anything would ever happen. Until 18 months ago when I was shown this EKAR groupset. Not only was it 1x, not only did it have a 9T cog to start but it also had 13 cogs, making it infinitely better than the 11-speed cassette I had done.
Now that it's in production I can say, it's a very nice groupset. My main take-aways are:
- 1x is all about the cassette ratios and Campagnolo has got it right. They offer 3 options: 9-36T, 9-42T and 10-44T. I've been telling every drivetrain maker in the world that 380-440% range is the sweet spot for gravel (of course it depends on the strength of the rider and where they ride). So to have one cassette at 400% and another at 440% in this new EKAR group is a gift from heaven for me. And the 9-42 is even bigger than that, so great for extreme rides and thanks to the 13-speed, the steps are still reasonable.
- It's mechanical. I have nothing against electronic drivetrains, but I also have nothing against mechanical shifting. you push the lever, it shifts. What more can you wish for? And of course if you go into the wild, you have a better chance to MacGyver a mechanical derailleur than an electronic one.
- The parts are beautiful, as you would expect from Campagnolo. The rear derailleur, the carbon crank, all very nice.
If you fancy an EKAR build, the groupset is now available at retailers worldwide so just speak with your OPEN store to build up your WI.DE., U.P., U.P.P.E.R. or MIN.D. . There is one thing to note when ordering the EKAR brakes:
- For the front brake on a U-Turn or R-Turn fork, you need to order the (140mm) EKAR brake caliper without any adaptors plus the 160mm brake rotor. That together will work perfectly on the fork. The offset is already in the fork so no need for the adaptor.
- For the rear brake on an UP or UPPER, you need to order the (140mm) EKAR brake caliper plus the adaptor for the 160mm position plus the 160mm brake rotor. Alternatively you can put the (140mm) EKAR brake caliper on the frame without any adaptor and pair it with the 140mm brake rotor.
- For the rear brake on a MIND or the WIDE, you need to order the (140mm) EKAR brake caliper without any adaptors plus the 160mm brake rotor. The offset created by the adaptor is already built into these frames, so the 140mm caliper matches automatically with the 160mm rotor.
The photos in this post are the personal WI.DE. bike of Campagnolo engineer Nicolo Martinello.
With the arrival of EKAR, you now have several nice drivetrain options:
- If 1x12-speed is enough for you, SRAM Force/Eagle AXS gives you electronic shifting and massive gear ranges up to 520%.
- If you want the most speeds in 1x and/or mechanical shifting, Campagnolo EKAR is your group.
- 2x11 options come from Shimano with GRX, both mechanical and electronic.
- For 2x12, our favorite is the Force AXS electronic groupset (best value for money) with the Max 36T rear derailleur and 10-36T cassette (up front we prefer the 46/33T chainrings).