The Verdict: Campagnolo’s Potenza Group vs Shimano Ultegra – Bike Magazine Australia

Campagnolo has made no secret that its new midrange Potenza group is intended to go shifter-to-shifter with Shimano’s Ultegra.

It’s a tall order: Ultegra 6800 is a stunning combination of price, weight, and performance that has made it the dominant drivetrain on bikes costing (most commonly) about $3,000 to $6,000. For Campy to unseat Ultegra as original spec on more mid-range bikes will require some behind-the-scenes business, but before that, Potenza has to match up against Ultegra in the stuff that matters to riders.

So, does it?

At retail, Potenza would cost you about $150 more than Ultegra. But bike manufacturers get volume discounts, so it’s possible that a bike built with Potenza could be the same price as the same bike built with Ultegra.

The Potenza group is about 80 grams heavier on my scale, mostly due to the crankset, which has a bottom bracket for a BSA threaded shell.

I’ve ridden Potenza about 1,600km so far, often back-to-back with Ultegra, which comes out just ahead in performance, but with a smaller gap than its slight advantages in price and weight. Of Campy’s mechanical groups, Potenza requires the lightest touch and is the smoothest shifting. I’m inclined to say it is Campagnolo’s best-shifting mechanical group, though it lacks some of the features of the brand’s higher end groups. Potenza upshifts only one gear per press, while Record upshifts up to five. And it lacks some of Campy’s endearing character, like the distinct, crisp mechanical feel and sounds.


Lever throws are shorter than Ultegra, and the clicks are sharper compared with Ultegra’s damped and buffered quality. Shifts feel faster, more robust, and only a little less smooth. Even Potenza’s front shifting—where Shimano is usually clearly ahead of the competition—is fast, polished, and nearly equal. Ultegra still has the smoothness and refinement that makes it the leader, but only just.

Shifts are announced with more noise than Ultegra, but less than typical for Campagnolo. Once in gear, Potenza turns with a hush, save for some noise from the chainrings at extreme chain angles. To be fair, Shimano and SRAM groups do the same.

Ergonomically, Potenza is a step up for Campagnolo. The hood covers—its best yet—have good grip and some cushion, which is helpful for riding without gloves. Newly shaped hood peaks are an improvement as well, making the additional hand position on top of the peaks more functional. Potenza’s thumb buttons drop lower than Campy’s other mechanical groups, mimicking the shape of its EPS electronic shifter buttons. They’re also easier to reach from the hoods and drops. A lightly textured strip on the front of the brake levers offers more grip than a shiny finish, especially when your hands are wet.

Campy has also introduced a new and improved brake-pad compound for aluminum rims: power is up, modulation is smoother, and the brakes feel livelier. But Shimano’s brake feels a little stiffer and modulates better where it is most crucial: near lockup.

I don’t think Potenza “beats” Ultegra. But it is very, very close to equal, and, in every way, a legitimate alternative for all riders.

Copyright © 2016 Rodale Inc.