Campagnolo has finally gone full gravel with their all-new 1x 13-speed Ekar gravel bike groupset. Building on a long history of racing since before paved roads were even a thing, the new wide-range mechanical Ekar gravel group reshapes some of the best modern Campy features with new gravel-specific tech thrown in. With that… Ekar 1×13 also claims to be the lightest gravel group available, it comes in cheaper than a Chorus 2×12 gruppo, and you can actually get ahold of it right now!
Campagnolo Ekar dedicated 1x 13-speed gravel bike groupset
Campagnolo reminds us that their component brand was “born before roads” in Italy – way back in 1933 – as they introduce their first dedicated gravel groupset. Named after Mt. Ekar a small mountain crisscrossed with gravel roads just north of Campy’s Vicenza, Italy HQ & factory – that’s where the new Ekar group was developed & tested, and where much of the new components are manufactured.
The “born before roads” tagline sounds like a bit of a jump, after so many decades focusing on road racing. But those early road races really were on Italian gravel, and it is truly a major step for Campagnolo to start producing groupsets again that aren’t destined for professional road racing (Super Record and rim brakes are still alive & well suited for that, after a Tour de France win earlier this week under Tadej Pogačar.)
But while racing heritage still carries over a bit into the all-new Ekar group, it’s more about accessible amateur gravel races, fast bikepacking, and just riding a bike over a wide mix of terrains. Campagnolo still wants their gravel group to go fast, but the focus in Ekar is supposedly more on durability, braking power & control, plus the ability to run wide gearing without having to worry about dropping the chain.
Campagnolo Ekar 1×13 gravel group – Tech details
To make all that work, Campy has pulled the best tech and features of their off-road capable road disc groups and given them a simplified 1x setup – with a clutched rear derailleur and another jump up to 13-speeds for smooth gear steps across a wide gearing range.
Going from 2×12 to 1×13 not only helps shed weight, it also makes the groupset more affordable. We’re still not talking about a budget groupset here. But Campagnolo consciously wanted to make Ekar more accessible to the younger crop of cyclists riding gravel (as opposed to the generally older crew of roadies who can afford Super Record EPS.) The result at 1700€ for a full EU-made groupset, Ekar is now the second cheapest complete group that Campagnolo makes, only more expensive than Centaur.
So what’s new in Ekar?
Besides the obviously new Ekar graphics (that might take you a while to learn to read), the carbon crankset is an obvious place to start talking what’s new. It’s the first single chainring crank that Campagnolo has ever made outside of Pista track cranks, featuring relatively small for roadie-heritage rings of 38T for ‘adventure, 40T for ‘pure gravel’, 42T for ‘fast gravel’, and 44T for ‘e-gravel’ – with narrow wide shaping and tall teeth.
I personally think that companies over estimate gravel gearing for the majority of riders who tend to rider loaded bikes and up stupidly steep off-road tracks on their bikes, so most of us will probably prefer to stick with the 38T option.
Once we get past the rings (which are of course a Campy-proprietary BCD… ugh!), the two piece UD carbon cranks look a lot like other recent angular carbon Campagnolo cranks. They use a standard 630 steel Ultra-Torque spindle with the Hirth-joint in the middle that requires a long 10mm hex for install & removal.
Bearings are still pressed directly onto each half axle, although with new & improved gravel seals.
The $360 / 347€ Ekar carbon cranks have Campy narrow 145.5mm Q-factor, and are available in 165, 170, 172.5 & 175mm lengths. They also include injection molded crank arm guards to protect against rock strikes, held on by rubber O-rings (and easily removable.)
Beyond a 1x crankset, what makes Ekar unique is probably 13-speeds out back. Sure, Rotor has already taken us to 13sp, but only with their own hubs. Campagnolo 1×13 does require a special free hub body, but it is backwards-compatible with other Campy groups. And it is already available from 5 other notable wheel makers – not counting compatibility with many of Campagnolo & Fulcrum’s existing wheel offerings.
So what does 13-speed mean for Campagnolo Ekar?
Campy’s idea with jumping to 13 (and leaving the perfect number 12 behind!) essentially amounts to matching 2x range without the complexity and extra weight of a double, but also without sacrificing smooth gear steps in the middle of the cassette where you spend most of the time riding.
To get that mega range, Ekar goes down to a 9-tooth cog in two of three cassette options. There is some obvious loss of efficiency & pedal smoothness there. But Campy thinks that for gravel riding, when you shift down all the way… it’s a matter of not spinning out on the descents, so the compromise makes sense.
Three gearing combinations are available: Endurance 9-36T (400%), Gravel Race 9-42T (467%) & Gravel Adventure 10-44T (440%). Gear spacing remains tight & relatively constant in the middle ranges of gearing for smooth cadence steps, then shift jumps get bigger as you are looking for bailout gears to get up steep climbs.
Each of the $274 / 265€ cassettes are machined from two blocks of steel for light weight & durability, with the upper 9 cogs sitting on an aluminum carrier. The cassettes require the new N3W Campagnolo freehub body to fit those smaller cogs behind a lockring, but the 13-speeds fit within the same width as Campy 12, so there’s no change to hub spacing or wheel dish.
The N3W driver body is Campagnolo’s new freehub standard. Essentially it is a new open standard that chops off the outer ~.5cm of the regular current Campy freehub. Using a bolt on extension, you can use the N3W body with any 11, 12 or 13sp Campy cassette, but now the new smaller 9 & 10 tooth cogs can fit.
Campagnolo opened up the N3W spec earlier this summer, and there are already N3W-ready freehubs available in DT Swiss, GW, Newmen, Roval & Tune hubs, with more expected in the near future. The latest Campagnolo Shamal Carbon wheels were the first to include N3W standard, but Campy says all new mixed-surface appropriate Campagnolo & Fulcrum wheels from now on will get the new freehub, while pretty much every current wheel from both brands can be retrofitted.
What about that clutched Ekar 1x derailleur?
Probably the most tech-heavy component in the new Ekar group is the new rear derailleur – if only for its first inclusion of a Campagnolo clutch. Campy doesn’t reveal much about what tech is going inside, but we can say that it does a solid job of maintaining chain tension (and preventing dropped chains) over quite rough terrain. And it is not adjustable.
The $256 / 247€ Ekar 13-speed mechanical derailleur uses a “2D parallelogram trajectory” as it moves close to ensure smooth shifts over the wide-ranging cassettes. Just one cage length with 12T upper & 14T lower composite pulleys, works for all three cassette options. The Ekar derailleur features carbon-reinforced composite P & B knuckles, with a mix of 7075 & 6082 alloy for the parallelogram links, clutch & pulley cages. Stainless bolts hold everything together, and a clutch/return spring catch lets you lock the derailleur in a vertical position for easier wheel removal.
Up front/top, Ekar Ergopower levers manage shifting & braking needs. For the most part you get the same proven Campagnolo ergonomics here, with comfortable Vari-Cushion rubber hoods and alloy brake levers with laser-etched graphics/texture.
Ekar uses classic Campy One-Lever-One-Action controls with the lever behind the brake sweeping to shift up the cassette with Ultra-Shift – up to three easier gears at a time.
The Campy thumb release lever to shift into smaller, harder cogs is even longer than usual, and actually is easier to use from the tops, hoods & drops. But you can only shift to one harder gear at a time, requiring multiple individual clicks once you crest the top of a climb.
You do still get brake/shift lever reach adjust (great for riders with smaller hands). But there is no brake leverage/modulation adjust like on the premium road disc groups. Ergopower levers are sold separately – $395 / 382€ for the Right-hand setup including lever, hose, caliper & oil, or $316 / 304€ for the brake-only Left-hand assembly.
Inside the Ekar Ergopowers are a slightly tweaked master cylinder (that will likely replace the other road disc versions in the future) using the same proven Magura hydraulic system design concept. The newly re-optimized hydraulics share the same basic design, but are now entirely developed in-house by Campagnolo’s engineers. And we’ve heard that these will essentially set the stage for the next generation on the road, as well.
Ekar flat mount brake calipers are functionally the same as other Campy road discs (a good thing!), but now have their own uniquely angular caliper shaping and share the same caliper for both front & rear, 140mm & 160mm brakes. What that means is the calipers are a bit lighter, but each will now require an adapter plate and extra set of bolts for more universal fit.
Ekar rotors also look quite similar to Campy road discs in 160mm & 140mm versions. But the $41 / 36€ gravel group rotors actually use a slightly heavier & more durable steel AFS/centerlock carrier to secure the 1.85mm thick stainless brake track – and withstand heavier braking. Ekar will work with the alloy carrier rotors too though, so you can always shed a few extra grams here.
Ekar also gets a new $46 / 44€ C13 chain that is ever-so-slightly thinner to work with the tighter spacing. More than just thinner pins & rollers, the side plates had to be optimized for the tighter spacing & narrow-wide rings, as well.
The biggest news though is a Campagnolo 13-speed chain that includes a reusable quick link, or in Campy speak… a C-link. For some reason Campagnolo will still offer a one-time-use pinned version (which will require a new chain too… ugh), and actually charges $2 / 2€ extra for the C-Link option.
I can’t imagine why anyone would knowingly pick the pinned version any more…
Last up in the new components, a new series of bottom brackets. Developed special for gravel to keep mud, sand, grit & water out, the new $33 / 33€ ProTech BBs seal an additional composite plastic tube between otherwise standard cups to protect the sealed stainless bearings that get pressed onto the cranks spindles themselves. Available for BSA, ITA & T47 threaded or BB86, BB30, BB30A, BB386, PF30 & BB RIGHT pressfit, there’s surely one for your gravel bike.
So how much will Ekar 1×13 cost? And how much does it really weigh?
Complete groupset pricing will vary a bit depending on the ultimate configuration that you choose, but Campagnolo says a full Ekar group will cost you around 1700€. Pit that against the most recent gravel-capable, sub-compact Chorus 2×12 Disc at 1830€, and Ekar already starts to look like a good deal for a Campy build.
Then, compare the lightest claimed Ekar groupset configuration weight of 2385g (with a 9-36T cassette) to the lightest setup from Shimano, SRAM, or Rotor and we come away rather impressed, even a bit surprised actually.
Directly comparing a bunch of different gravel groups on weight is always a little tough (or an exercise in futility) as things like chainring & cassette size vary, as do what bottom bracket or even crank length is figured in.
But suffice it to say, Ekar 1×13 with a 400% range cassette is lighter than pretty much every gravel group on the market today without sacrificing on gearing. Compare it to GRX 1×11 at 2728g (11-42T), SRAM Force AXS 1×12 at 2627g (10-33T), SRAM Force 1×11 at 2471g (10-42T), or even Rotor 1×13 at 2430g with Aldhu cranks (10-36T) – and you’ll shave some grams off your current gravel setup.
And the Ekar 467% build doesn’t add many extra grams either.
When can you actually get a new Campy Ekar 1×13 group?
Campagnolo may have not been the first to the road disc, or now to the gravel bike party but they are killing it on actual availability. This long-rumored gravel groupset is available now.
As in, the complete new groups are already sitting in-stock in a number of bike shops around the world. Messy COVID-impacted logistics does mean there a some places where you will still have to wait a little bit for the mail to arrive. But it shouldn’t be long even there.
And as for complete bikes, Campagnolo has partnered with several of the best gravel bike makers in the world. And premium carbon gravel bikes fitted with the new Campy Ekar group as OEM are already built up and ready to ship this week from the likes of 3T, Pinarello, Ridley, Specialized, and Wilier.
Looks like it is time to give Campagnolo Ekar a try on your gravel roads…
And that’s exactly what we’ve been up to the last month or so. I’ve been riding (and secretly racing) the new gravel group for several weeks, and will share my first impressions soon. Suffice it to say, Ekar delivers the excellent Campagnolo braking & ergonomics I’ve come to love off-road, paired with simple and reliable shift performance.
Follow along our complete in-depth Campy Ekar coverage here, including how much the new components really weight, and what the quickest way to get on the new group swill be. Then, keep an eye out for our first riding impressions of the new groupset, coming soon!