To say Campagnolo is committed to electronic shifting groupsets would be an understatement. The Italian company recently announced it's latest groupset, Athena EPS, an electronic version of it's fourth tier groupset. Why the omission of the Chrous level group? Just seven months after unveiling their Record and Super Record groupsets, Campagnolo wanted to offer a groupset that would hit a much lower price point, for people who wouldn't mind taking on a little heavier groupset in exchange for a softer blow on the wallet. Also, it makes it more reasonable for OEMs looking to spec their bikes with an electronic groupset (think $5000 road bikes).
Athena houses the same electronic motors and "brain" as it's bigger brother Record and Super Record. What brings it down in pricing are the materials used around the motor and other finishing bits. Instead of Carbon, there's aluminum. Instead of Aluminum in some parts, there's steel. Even the battery is the same, though the wiring is different. When asked, why, Campagnolo again said it was a to save costs so they could offer the groupset for as low as they can.
We got to play with the shifting at DealerCamp last month, but finally got to throw our leg over one today at Interbike's Dirt Demo. Performance, flawless. Athena lives up to the high marks of Campagnolo's higher tier EPS groups. The shifting was smooth, quick, and even includes Multi-Shift. Multi-Shift allows you to hold down the shift key for 1.5 seconds and the rear derailluer will shift the entire cogset. A welcome feature, given that mechanical Athena wouldn't allow you more than 3 cogs at a time. We commend Campagnolo on not arbitrarily putting in restrictions on it's lower priced EPS group.
Another feature we found extremely helpful is Campagnolo's use of MultiDome technology to achieve the same tactile feel that we're used to with their mechanical offerings. A feature that might be overlooked, MultiDome stacks a series of domes underneath each lever to give the user feedback as the button is depressed. Not only letting the rider know the shift was registered, but retaining that classic shift feel.
Speaking of shifting, again, flawless. Since this was a short test ride, we tried as hard as we could to trip up the shifting, but Athena shifted perfectly and smoothly each time. At this level and pricepoint, we can start to see the future is in electronic groupsets just as clearly as the guys and gals at Campagnolo.