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by Josh Flexman on April 14, 2012
Taking a ride on Bill Keller's custom Cyfac Absolu EPS the first notable experience is the actual tactile feeling inside the shift levers. It's not just like pushing a button on your TV; the Campy EPS has the feel and sound of real shift. During the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to build bikes with all three of the available Electronic shifting gruppos: Ultegra Di2, installed on my new Ridley Noah; Dura Ace Di2, installed on an Independent Fabrication TI factory lightweight; and most recently, Campagnolo's new flagship, EPS Record, on Keller's custom Cyfac Absolu.
I have come to love Shimano's electric set up, and whether you are dealing with the Ultegra or Dura Ace versions, it is a pleasure to install and operate. Shimano has taken their tried and true product, and improved it drastically. Up until the Campy EPS Record it was hard to imagine how a modern, 10-sp or 11-speed drivetrain could realistically be better.
Before I dive into the sea of boxes and packing materials, one of my favorite parts of a new bike build is taking a moment to notice the complete gruppo as it comes from the factory. It is interesting to note how each company packages their product; the size and shape of the box, the labeling and designs used, and the colors and images on the outside. These things all say something about the product inside. Staring at the the glossy black boxes on my bench I feel an anticipation akin to Christmas morning. I read the words RECORD 11EPS; this build I am an elf and Bill Keller is the awestruck kid, and Campy Dan is Santa Clause.
Bill is a long-time Campagnolo user. His previous 10 speed has lasted a decade, and he has come to love and appreciate the things that make a Campy bike special. Like all of us, he knew in theory what was coming for him. But the reality was, none of us really knew how this bike was going to turn out. The combination of a fully custom bike, with the installation of one of the first EPS groups in the country, made for a nervous shop, myself in particular.
Cyfac, the custom and production frame manufacturer from France, did an excellent job following the fairly ridged guidelines from Campy concerning frame dimensions and internal wiring. The installation was fluid, and in no more time that it takes to build a cabled bike, I had the derailleurs and shifters connected and working. The initial set up is what Campy calls "Zero Settings". This is a process where you actually tell the system to "learn" the reference position of the chain on the sprockets and chain rings. In other words, this system is constantly communicating with its different components throughout the ride. There are hundreds of different positions each derailleur can be in at any given time. This allows for gear combinations that would not be optimal on a mechanical system.
One of the most impressive things about the Shimano system is the power of the front derailleur. I was particularly impressed to see that the EPS system really embraced the value of solid, reliable shifts. The EPS front derailleur produces in the neighborhood of 50 nm of force -- a good thing to be aware of, because when you press the button, the thing will shift through. It is enough to really yank the crank arm down.
A highlight for me is you have the option to cycle though the entire cassette by holding the lever down as well. Meanwhile, every shift you make, is being calculated by the Digital Tech Intelligence brain/battery. The front derailleur always knows where to go. Shifts are instant, but the overshift feature, and trim feature come just after, perhaps to eliminate preemptive corrections.
The whole system is so refined and finished. Each piece looks like it might be the only one in the world. There is something about the gruppo that is unquantifiable. I can answer the question "why is electronic shifting better?" all day long. I can talk about the benefits of no cables, no housing, precise shifts, blah, blah. But when you ask what is so special about the Campy set up? Well just come take a look at Keller's bike, that's a question we think you won't need to ask again.