Ekar is the first gravel groupset by Campagnolo — and claimed to be the lightest 1x.
Can it measure up against Shimano and SRAM? Here's everything you need to know about the new technology.
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.
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, it 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.
The chain is pushed around and 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.
What about compatibility?
Campagnolo launched new wheelsets this year featuring the new 'N3W' freehub. It was all part of their master plan. N3W is 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 rim 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.
There is a new 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.
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.