While Shimano and SRAM have been garnering all of the attention with their respective Dura-Ace Di2 electronic and light-and-snappy Red groups, Campagnolo has quietly revamped its top-end Super Record 11 group for 2011 to make it the lightest and best-performing version yet - and this year's Cyclingnews Reader Poll winner in the "Best New Product" category.
Aesthetic changes are relatively minor and belie the major upgrades that are hidden within - the only obvious giveaway to casual onlookers is the new red-and-white logo - but a number of material changes brings the total claimed group weight to an industry-leading sub-1,900g. The rear derailleur now sports molded carbon fiber parallelogram knuckles and aluminum pulley and main mounting bolts, there's a lighter but tougher material in the Ergopower lever bodies, more aggressive machining in the Ultra-Torque bottom bracket cups and chainring bolts, and even optional titanium crankset spindle half shafts, which lop off 40g of mass by themselves.
It's not all about shedding grams, either, as Campagnolo has improved the shifting performance as well. In response to criticism that earlier 11-speed Ergopower levers had too light an action, Campagnolo has given this latest version a new set of internals that is notably snappier and more positive feeling. Consumers comfortable with doing a bit of disassembly themselves can even tune the shift detect action by adding or removing shim springs, too.
Other improvements include a more refined lever shape with fewer bulges than before, a stiffer front derailleur for faster shifts under power, a new brake pad holder that eases compound changes, and a dual-pivot rear caliper option for riders seeking more absolute stopping power.
What thankfully hasn't changed, though, is the group's keen Italian styling and whisper-quiet drivetrain, or even the price. In fact, US consumers will actually see a price decrease relative to the previous version.
In total, Campagnolo's new Super Record 11 group makes for a very compelling package and demonstrates yet again that the Italian company is not to be ignored or forgotten.
A close second place goes to Garmin's latest Edge 800 GPS computer with its keen color touch screen interface, tidy packaging, and intuitive operation. Combining some of the best attributes of the older Edge 705 and current Edge 500, the Edge 800 incorporates full turn-by-turn navigation capabilities, ANT+ compatibility with various third-party devices (including power meters), and customizable screens that can display up to ten pieces of data simultaneously.
While GPS-enabled computers are hardly new and still far from cheap, Garmin's close second-place finish - less than 200 votes behind - tells us loud and clear that route tracking via satellite is fast becoming a staple fixture in the marketplace. That last ride you did may have been your most "epic" ever but if you didn't have it recorded on GPS, did it really happen?
Third place goes to Cervélo's new R5 road chassis, built using many of the long-standing lessons learned on the older R3 range but with more exaggerated shaping and more refined material usage that yields an astonishing sub-700g claimed frame weight for the top-end variant.
Even with that paltry figure, Cervélo says the new R5 still manages to improve significantly on the old R3 overall performance with a tapered head tube, clever BBright multi-fit bottom bracket shell, and asymmetrical chain stays, seat tube, and down tube. Though the heady US$4,900 frameset price will put it out of reach of most consumers (or an even more astronomical US$9,800 for the made-in-USA R5ca version), the lion's share of the improvements can also be found in similarly revamped US$2,800 R3.
Cyclingnews Reader Poll results - Best new product
Campagnolo Super Record 11 group, 3082 (18.4%)
Garmin Edge 800 GPS computer, 2918 (17.4%)
Cervélo R5 road frameset, 2454 (14.6%)
Felt F1 road bike, 2225 (13.3%)
SRAM X0 group, 1795 (10.7%)
Cannondale CAAD10 road bike, 1284 (7.6%)
Specialized S-Works Epic Carbon 29er mountain bike, 1055 (6.3%)
Chris King bottom brackets, 788 (4.7%)
Shimano XTR M980 group, 752 (4.5%)
Avid Shorty Ultimate cantilever brakes, 434 (2.6%)