Campagnolo Potenza 11, represents the Italian company taking direct aim at one of the most popular groupsets around; Shimano’s Ultegra. We equipped one of the Roadventure ride guide bikes with Potenza in the 2017 season and here are our thoughts on it.
Words and images by Max Burgess
I have to be honest from the start and tell you that I was a bit apprehensive about putting the Potenza groupset on one of our bikes. We had already built the first bike with Chorus and I had intended to build the second with the same. But, we decided to give Potenza a go.
For a few years, Shimano’s Ultegra has become the manufacturer’s defacto choice of OEM groupsets (groupsets supplied on prebuilt bikes). Campagnolo thought that they needed to try and win back some of this market. In Potenza they have a new offering available in black or silver that comes in at a similar weight and price to Ultegra.
Potenza sits fourth in Campagnolo’s product line up, behind Super Record, Record and Chorus. While the others have varying use of carbon, Potenza is all aluminium. Borrowing features from it’s higher-end siblings; such as the thumb shifting from the EPS shifters, it offers the same performance albeit with a weight penalty.
However, the feeling of Potenza is considerably different than it’s mechanical counterparts, especially the mechanical Chorus on the second Roadventure Genesis Volare bike.
Campagnolo Potenza Shifting
The first obvious difference is the thumb shifting. Borrowed from the EPS range, it is more comfortable to use. However, because of the shorter cable travel from it’s lowered position, it is only possible to drop down one sprocket at a time. This might be a problem for those who like changing multiple gears quickly (sprinters for example). It was never something that I had a problem with while riding the bike – moving up sprockets is unaffected and multiple shifts at once still possible.
The feeling of shifting with this groupset is notably different as well. Dare I say it feels much closer to Ultegra in this sense. Gear changes are quieter and snappy. When I ride a bike with Ultegra I often don’t even know I have changed gears (I find this a bit disconcerting) whereas with Campagnolo, normally you know when you have shifted! Potenza seems to sit somewhere in between the two.
There is a general shift in cycling (from the pro-peloton down) for easier gears and faster cadence. Along with the shrinking popularity of the compact chainset (50/34) and the rise of the mid-compact (52/36) comes the use of bigger cassettes. Campagnolo Potenza comes with an option for a long derailleur cage. This offers the ability to play nice with a ‘Campy-first’ 11-32 cassette.
The chainset uses the same four bolt chainrings as other groupsets in the Campagnolo line-up, meaning it is fairly straight forward to swap between different set ups.
A Good Feeling
I always used to be a Shimano type of rider. It wasn’t until I tried to chase a former pro rider down the Ghisallo on a borrowed Campagnolo-equipped Passoni (more about it here) that I realised how good it was. Admittedly much of the great feeling of their groupsets is down to the contact points; ie the shifters. The shape of the hoods is great. Furthermore, when in the drops, everything feels right and for me, better than a Shimano shifter.
Potenza is no different; the shape of the hoods is still the classic Campagnolo shape that feels just as good in your hands as Record or Super Record.
If your preference for shifting is the silent smoothness of Ultegra, over the clunking manly noises of Campagnolo; you might just like Potenza.
So, let’s get back to my apprehension of spec’ing our Roadventure bike with Campagnolo Potenza and not Chorus. Having ridden both bikes a number of times through the season, I can honestly say I am genuinely surprised with how good Potenza is. I would happily spec any of our future Roadventure bikes with that groupset!
What about Potenza against Ultegra? I have always thought the Ultegra groupset was a great benchmark set of components and I have never really engaged with the Campagnolo Vs Shimano debate. With Potenza, Campagnolo have created something that stands up to Ultegra in terms of performance, weight and price.
If you are trying to decide between the two, there is a simple bit of advice that might help. Like silent, efficient shifting? Go for Ultegra. If you want something a bit more exotic that feels good in the hands, choose Potenza.