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Guide to Campagnolo Ekar 13-speed groupsets for gravel bikes

Ekar was the first gravel groupset by Campagnolo — and claimed to be the lightest 1x groupset for gravel bikes. The focus of Ekar is performance gravel and racing.

Ekar was followed by a second gravel groupset from Campagnolo, Ekar GT, designed for adventure riding and exploring. 

Can Ekar measure up against Shimano GRX and SRAM XPLR? Here's everything you need to know about Campagnolo's technology.

 

Campagnolo Ekar Groupset at Condor

Originally slated for release in the summer of 2020, Campagnolo pushed back the launch of their all-new 13-speed gravel-specific mechanical groupset called Ekar (pronounced ECK-ar).

With 1x gearing only and cassettes that start with a tiny 9-tooth cog, Ekar aims to match the range of 2x drivetrains “without compromise”. The groupset weighs 2,385g, which is lighter than the mechanical groupsets offered by Shimano and SRAM. It sits as a direct competitor to Shimano GRX 800 mechanical and SRAM's Force 1 or Force 1 AXS groupsets.

Campagnolo Ear Cassette available at Condor

What is an Ekar?

Ekar is named after the Cima Ekar, a former ski resort, home to an observatory. The mountain, located not far from Campagnolo's Italian headquarters, is a gravel riding heaven.

What makes Ekar different?

Campagnolo are not the first to develop a 13-speed groupset. Rotor launched the 1x13 groupset in the spring of 2019. However, Rotor has a few niggles and isn't gravel specific.

It’s a bold step for a brand that has been road only for almost three decades, having previously only dabbled in mountain bike componentry, particularly because they are only providing a 1x13 drivetrain with no option to run a front derailleur.

Campagnolo Ekar - everything you need to know

Whereas some groupsets (notably the 1x 12-speed Shimano GRX RX820) require a different derailleur cage depending on the range of the cassette fitted, Ekar GT lets you fit the entire range of cassettes using the same derailleur, which also makes it easier to alter your gearing.

The chain is kept in check by an all-new clutched rear derailleur, while cassettes starting with a tiny 9-tooth sprocket supply the necessary range. The 13-speed cassette provides two additional gears over SRAM and Shimano's 1x groupsets.

Campagnolo says the Ekar chains are manufactured at the brand’s Vicenza facility, and are dipped in an ultrasound lubricant bath that coats every part of the chain completely. Their aim is to increase durability of the new ultra-thin chain so it can withstand off-road riding for longer.

Ekar GT 13-speed Groupset

Ekar GT uses components made from alloy rather than carbon, and offers a wider ratio cassette for more varied terrain. Using alloy makes Ekar GT cheaper than Ekar. Whilst both are 13-speed, Ekar GT has the option of a 10-48T cassette in addition to the 9-36T, 9-42T and 10-44T Ekar cassette ratios. The Ekar GT groupset has an alloy crankset rather than carbon. This introduction of metal instead of carbon means the groupset weighs 2,700g, which is about 400g heavier than Ekar. The design of the Ekar GT shifters is slightly different to Ekar to provide better grip, control, comfort and lever reach adjustment, making them a better fit for a range of hand sizes. They have a similar profile to the latest Super Record Wireless [link to groupset collection] shifters. but with a thumb shifter to change gear.

Ekar and Ekar GT share the same rotors — Campagnolo’s steel rotor for maximum strength under heavy and sustained braking.

The “GT” stands for Gran Turismo, the Italian for Grand Tour, and Campagnolo suggest this groupset is for long-distance riding and bike-packing, which is why it has a wider range of gears to make climbing easier when your bike is loaded up. However, it isn’t exclusively for touring, and if you want to spend less but ride a performance range of gears with Campagnolo’s proven gravel technology, Ekar GT is an ideal option.

 

What is the compatibility between Ekar, Ekar GT and other Campagnolo groupsets?

Ekar and Ekar GT share the same rotors, disc brake callipers, bottom bracket cups and chain. The Ekar GT rear derailleur, chainset and cassette can be used with the original Ekar. However, carbon Ekar components, such as the shifters and chainset, cannot be used with Ekar GT components. The carbon Ekar rear derailleur cannot be used with the wider Ekar GT 10-48T cassette.

Campagnolo Zonda GT and Levante gravel specific wheelsets are compatible along with any wheels with 'N3W' freehub. N3W hubs are also backwards compatible with existing 10-, 11- and 12-speed Campagnolo cassettes with the addition of an adaptor that effectively lengthens the freehub body, but in its native state it accepts Ekar's new 13-speed cassettes.

Ekar is hydraulic disc only — no V-brake option available. The brake callipers are flat mount only, too. There are no conversion kits available for framesets that are I.S. or Post mount. The internal lever widgets and gubbins are shared with the technology used in their road hydraulic levers.

Campagnolo Ekar chainset available now

There is a bottom bracket that is designed specifically for the carbon Ekar chainset, similar to existing Ultra-Torque units, but with ProTech, which Campagnolo describe as "a patented sealing ring and strong fibreglass-polyamide tube".

It’s designed to withstand the rigours of gravel riding in wet and muddy conditions, and will be available in "all threaded and press-fit standards", including BSA, ITA, BB86, BB30, BB30A, BB386, PF30, BBRight, and T47.

Campagnolo Ekar ergolevers

What we think?

As a long-standing Campagnolo retailer with Pro Shop status, we welcome their bold step off the tarmac and onto the dirt. Committing to a 1x drivetrain is also a move that may put some riders off, but Campagnolo offer three cassettes including a 10-44T ratio so every gradient is covered.

The technical details of the new Ekar groupset are impressive, particularly compared with SRAM, whose non-electronic groupsets are still 11-speed. The aesthetics and ergonomics are classically Campagnolo, and we are excited to test out the groupset on our Bivio adventure frames. More competition in the world of gravel can only be a good thing from a rider's perspective.

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