The Campagnolo Athena Carbon 11 Speed is the groupset that really fills Campagnolo? with pride. It has everything needed to amaze whoever tries it out. It's the 11-speed drivetrain that combines technology, performance features, versatility, operating pre
Strengths: Durable and functional, carbon chain set very solid, good shifting and excellent hood design.
Weaknesses: No ultra-shift and alloy levers very slippery when wet. Getting even catalogue parts can be a challenge sometimes.
I picked up the gruppo with a carbon chain set at a good discount. The carbon chain set was on special as wouldn't sell - surprising as it works just fine. I really like the click click shifting at the levers and pretty smooth back at the derailed end, its good. I forewent Chorus as wanted the durability of alloy parts. The smoothness of the BB is really good. I do find its a long trip down the 11 speed cassette, sometimes when in a real hurry reckon ultra shift would be appreciated. But the benefit of the 11 speed is you can have a wide range yet pull in tight to your max cadence/torque zone at the limit. A real bonus is the heavily rounded shifters allows for lots of positions, traditional on the hoods and levers, drops, holding on tight around the hoods behind the levers but from the top, or my fav, the boonen hold, gripping the stick up tops, resting your forearm on the bars pseudo tt style. After a year I don't think I would willingly go to another brand, the campag experience is addict-able just wish it was easier to get catalogue parts at reasonable prices, at the time of my build 52/36 chain sets were as scarce as hens proverbial.
This is the ultimate group from the price/quality perspective. I'm a die hard Campagnolo fan for years, and although I recognise many merits to Shimano and Sram, riding a Campagnolo is a different reality altogether.
The realiability of a Campagnolo group is outstanding when you have it properly mounted and tuned.
I don't care so much about weight, but I'd say that for the performance you get it's pretty decent.
Also 11s may sound a bit unnecessary, I'd agree if not for the fact that I have 11t-25t combination, with an almost linear ratio progression. Going downhill 53t/11t makes you fast as a bullet, and even on flats you easily reach the 50km/h mark.
On the other end, the 25t cog coupled with the 175mm crank length makes for an easier and faster climb up to 9% or 10% gradients. This possibility of specifically combining the transmission components added 5km/h to my average speed.
Shifting is crisp and secure. Some reviews I read before purchasing stated a somewhat noisy 11s cassette, I didn't notice this, except maybe for the outer and inner cogs, otherwise the noise is not worthy of reference. Fine tuning the gears is extremely easy, even more so than with the 9s group that I previously had. I just reassembled the the bike after winter maintenance, and it took under 3mins to get it going flawlessly and silently.
The chain assembly is really problematic without the proper tool. If you use the current 9s or 10s chain tool you have, you will mostly likely ruin the tool. I joined the chain with a quick link and resolved that issue. Also it is true that the narrower 11s chain is a lot stronger.
I really like the Powertorque system, even though removing the crank will only be possible with an expensive tool or at the the LBS. The crankset is moderately light, stiff and, especially, a very beautiful piece of machinery. With the right kind of pedals you're set for many thousands of kms.
Braking is very good regarding power and modulation, especially regarding modulation. Regarding breaking power it is more a question of a combination between brakes, shoes and rims. What I can say is for frightening stopping power you should upgrade from the stock shoes to something like Kool Stop. I use Kool Stop at the front and keep stock at the rear. That, with central pivot brake makes locking the rear wheel very difficult to happen if you keep your weight back. Of course, it can still happen if you go very hard on the lever.
Bottom line, I'd say the braking setup already saved me from crashing against the car stopping suddenly on a fast descent doing 70km/h, so it must be good (I still crapped in my shorts, though).
The levers are great. I really prefer Ergopower over Shimano and Sram style shifting. Both thumb and index finger levers are easily reachable. The clicking is very discrete and confident, you won't overshift or undershift by mistake. The brake lever is long, thus, powerful. Hoods are longer to place 3 fingers instead of 2, between levers and handlebar. Braking from the hoods has improved since previous versions. Overall, you feel you grab and control the levers more powerfully and securely without as much effort.
The cables are low friction and don't require lubricant. They work smoothly.
I cannot report on the wear. I only have 1000kms on this group, bought it right before winter started. From previous groups, I know Campagnolo has very long wear, depending on riding conditions and proper maintenance and setup. I still have Campagnolo Record hubs and crankset from the early 80's with a bit of wear but still going strong and working flawlessly.
I have yet to ride EPS systems, but something like the Athena makes me question what is the point.
Outstanding product, for €650 can't go wrong.
Similar Products Used: Other Campagnolo groups, Shimano groups
Bike Setup: Columbus steel frame, Athena 11s, Prolite wheels
a Recreational Rider
Date Reviewed: April 22, 2012
Strengths: Reasonably light and affordable, shifts effortlessly and accurately, very comfortable levers, low q-factor (cranks).
Weaknesses: As of 2011, only available with power shift (ultra shift only available from Chorus and upward).
I bought a "limited edition" group comprising 2012 Athena black brakes and derailleurs, with 2010 Athena carbon-coated ultra shift levers and ultra torque carbon crank (they didn't have any in my preferred length so I upgraded to Chorus for that). I looked at the online videos for installation tips, and bought all the correct tools, including the Campagnolo chain tool. Unlike Shimano you can't just slap this stuff together and "let the kinks work themselves out". The more you sweat the details (dead-square cable housing ends, follow the recommended torque settings, ensure all the cables are properly bedded in) the better it works.
I bought this group primarily to make over my gearing to a compact crank after years of hammering 53/39 up front. The 12 - 25 (chorus) cassette that came standard offers a wide yet closely spaced selection of gears with the smaller front chainrings, if I were still racing I might consider the 11-tooth cog. The ultra shift mechanism allows for 3 downshifts in one hard push, or closer shifts of one cog with a tap. This is sadly no longer built into the new post 2011 Athena shifters, although the range of upshifting options is still there. It's too bad that ultra shift has been phased out just when they came out with the polished alloy lever option, as I'd like to get that version of this group for rebuilding on a favourite old steel frame.
Very impressed with the solid (yet reasonably lightweight) build of the rear derailleur, which is a bit oversized compared to other road derailleurs I have used in the past. A few carbon bits (ie: Chorus, Record etc) down there shaves the grams but I can't see any real performance advantage. The oversize design allows it to handle up to a 12-29 rear cassette, there are roads steep enough where even the pros will need it.
As mentioned I can't really review the Athena crank having the Chorus version, but apart from the change in axle design they are basically the same, with a narrow q-factor and the same (very stiff) rings. The chain still seems shockingly narrow to me, but having assembled it with the correct tool it inspires more confidence. This is one smooth drivetrain.
Braking is as good as anything I ever raced with, and the new lever shape borrows the better aspects of Shimano's design. That little bit more finger contact on the lever, from on top of the hoods or down in the drops, adds an immediacy and reactivity to any force of braking pressure. I wasn't so sure about the mono-pivot rear brake, but it's as good as (or better than) any comparable brake I used to use, while less prone to grabbing the rear wheel. Even though I weigh an extra 20 kg (oh the shame) than I did back in my racing days!
That brings me to the bottom line, Athena is not the ultimate weight-weenies group (being no longer a lightweight myself...!), but it more than makes up for that in function. I had thought of the more affordable 10-speed option available in Centaur, but the interchangeability with Campagnolo's more exotic options also appeals. Athena is cheaper and lighter than Ultegra, more solidly constructed than the SRAM (Force) equivalent, and provides an outstanding gear selection. Some say 11 speed is fussy and prone to bad shifts, but so is any drivetrain if treated negligently. So far after a couple hundred km I've had no such complaint.
Bike Setup: EPX 303 Carbon frame, Campagnolo Zonda wheels (both 2005 and 2012 2way fit versions)
a Road Racer
Date Reviewed: June 14, 2011
Strengths: Looks fantastic, feels great. Smooth and quiet shifting. No additional "play" in shifters like other brands. Reasonably priced when compared to equivalent competitors. 11 speeds.
Weaknesses: Really, none so far.
My other bike has a triple Shimano 105 groupset with Ultegra rear derailleur, from about 2006. It has been very reliable but I wanted a change for my new bike. Enter Campy Athena, which seems to be about Ultegra level for price/quality.
What a nice groupset this is. I opted for the chrome look on levers and the crank and the groupset as a whole looks sharp.
Shifting is much more positive than my previous Shimano group. Shimano seems to sort of chunk into place, and doesn't like being shifted much under a lot of power. The Athena group shifts nicely into place with less noise and does it precicesly too. It is easier with this group to shift while out of the saddle.
I do also like the change in the shifting ergonomics (separate shifters compared to integrated brake shifters in Shimano). Shifting up/down is a non-issue when riding in the drops too (I thought the little button would be awkward to reach, but it isn't).
The general feel of the hoods is very nice and refined - I like the shape. The upshift in the rear is nice; the lever can be pulled towards the bars, meaning that the "sweep" can take whatever path you like, resulting in a very natural feel.
Braking is very positive too - at least on par with Ultegra.
Front derailleur shifts are beautiful, much more efficient, particularly going to the big ring.
Unfortunately this group does not allow you to downshift (to smaller cogs in the rear) multiple like the Chorus gruppo does. This would be a worthwhile upgrade.
Having 11 speeds is a joy. Seems like you can always find just the right gear for your cadence.
Some might worry about making the jump from one shifting system to another; I didn't have any issues at all, it took less than one ride to get used to the different feel.
Strengths: -cheap, and durable.
-Good fit on many styles of road bike.
-The aluminum levers wraped in carbon fiber are durable and don't get really cold while riding in the winter.
Weaknesses: Breaks could be better.
I bought Athena about a year and 3 months ago. I was one of the first people to get it in the United States and one of the first to rice it 10,000 miles plus. One thing is wrong with it, the threads on the front derailleur striped; where the derailleur mounts to the bike. I think that this is a manufacturing problem. This shouldn't happen to quality equipment.