Is Ekar right for you?

Gerard Vroomen - 12-Apr-2021
NOTE: Yesterday I wrote incorrectly that you need to buy a frameset AND a wheel kit when you purchase the Ekar drivetrain kit from us. In fact the wheel kit is optional, you can also choose to get your own wheels.

We're getting a lot of questions about whether people should consider Campagnolo Ekar for their OPEN bike build as we have just made some Ekar drivetrain kits available for sale. Here are my thoughts.

13-speed. The simplicity of a 1x drivetrain has many advantages for gravel, including less chance of chain drop and no muck clogging up the front derailleur. With 1x11, some felt the steps between gears were a little too big. With 1x12 from SRAM, that rarely gets mentioned anymore. With this 1x13, the issue is completely solved.

small steps. Of course 13-speed only works if the cassette ratios are chosen right. And I think Campagnolo has been near flawless in its choices here. First off, all cassettes start with six 1-tooth steps: So in the case of the 9-36T cassette, that means 9-10-11-12-13-14. Other cassette with that much range start with 10-12-14 or 11-13-15, so 2-tooth jumps from the get-go. This is a game changer!

3 cassette options. The 9-36T is great for road riders (whether on a road or gravel bike) and even for gravel riders if your terrain is not too extreme or if you are willing to focus on one end of the spectrum. The 9-42 and 10-44 give you a great range for a gravel bike on any terrain. Here are the full ranges:

9-36T:  9-10-11-12-13-14-16-18-20-23-27-31-36
9-42T:  9-10-11-12-13-14-16-18-21-25-30-36-42
10-44T:  10-11-12-13-14-15-17-19-22-26-32-38-44

2 wheelset bliss. The final part of what makes these cassettes great is their ability to work in a 1-bike-2-wheelsets scenario. Just put the 9-36T on your road wheels and the 9-42T or 10-44T on your gravel wheels. When you switch to the gravel wheels, you reduce your low gear by roughly 20% for the tougher terrain with the option to keep your top gear intact or adjust it as well.

wheel compatibility. To fit the 9T cog, your wheels need the new N3W freehub body. This sounds like a big hassle, but most manufacturers are starting to offer this freehub, and often it is retrofittable to old wheels.

ergonomics: The levers are very nice, with good grip on the hoods even on rough terrain. The thumb shifter takes a bit of getting used to for people not familiar with Campagnolo, but like any shifter it becomes second nature quickly.

mechanical: Some will see this as an advantage (durable, fixable when in trouble) while others pine for electronic shifting. To me, it's a non-issue, the way the shifter works is so far down my priorities on a 1x bike that it would never make me go one way or another.

brake calipers: Luckily Campagnolo has gone away from their proprietary concept for the calipers and they now fit flawlessly on all our frames. Even more importantly, they work very well.

crank: Technically it is a very good crank, stiff, light, with almost the right chainring options for every rider level. If I had my say, they would also make a 36T chainring but I am sure they will offer that soon, at least as a replacement part. The aesthetics seem to divide people. 

I started writing this blog wanting to do pros and cons, but there really aren't that many cons to Ekar. Depending on your viewpoint, the fact that it's mechanical and the looks of the cranks could be, but to others both are pros, not cons. In the end the only con may be that we don't have very many.

As mentioned in my last update, you can buy the Ekar drivetrain set (and optionally also a Fulcrum wheelset and tires compatible with Ekar) now in combination with any of our OPEN framesets. We've gotten a few more kits so they are up there now. We also have a remarkable number of framesets in stock in various colors and sizes as we just received a shipment.

To be clear, when you purchase the frame + drivetrain parts, these come unassembled. So once you get the remaining parts (cockpit and possibly your own choice of wheels), you can do the full assembly yourself if you're a skilled mechanic or have it done by a local mechanic. Of course if you're lucky enough to live close to an OPEN retailer, then the easiest option is to order via them and also work with them on the cockpit parts. Either way, don't wait too long to order here or from your OPEN retailer.

Comments & Questions

Power meter options for Ekar are very limited due to the chainring availability. Perhaps not as big of an issue now with the Garmin spd pedals, but a consideration.
Post #1 of 21. Posted by Erik on 12-Apr-2021 11:02:54 GMT in reply to blog [0<--23039]
As you say, Garmin now has an SPD pedal, SRM has an SPD pedal, Wahoo has a pedal (based on Speedplay so not great for serious dirt but probably more coming). I think in a few years, the majority of power measurement will be at the pedal. And there are also more and more manufacturers making Ekar-compatible rings including FSA.
Post #2 of 21. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 12-Apr-2021 11:08:26 GMT in reply to post #1 [23039<--23040]
While SRM has a pedal, I've not seen any actually available for sale in the past 3-4 months when I have looked. I ended up going with a 1x GRX di2 build on my Wide due to availability of a power meter and a DT hub. It appears the DT hub is available now. I'd been running a Favero/XPedo hack for a while, but it always made me nervous for rock strikes. I definitely could use the extra gears of EKar though.
Post #8 of 21. Posted by Erik on 12-Apr-2021 12:55:36 GMT in reply to post #2 [23040<--23046]
So when ordering the group & frameset, will it be built up already - or at least partially?
Post #3 of 21. Posted by Mathias on 12-Apr-2021 11:15:53 GMT in reply to blog [0<--23041]
hi Mathias, not in this case, as there is very little to install before you have all the parts. So best to leave everything protected in its own packaging.
Post #4 of 21. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 12-Apr-2021 11:18:24 GMT in reply to post #3 [23041<--23042]
Thanks Gerard. And, any idea where I could get the N3W freehub for Zipp 303s & DT Swiss GR1600 wheels?
They don't seem to be available just yet!
Post #6 of 21. Posted by Mathias on 12-Apr-2021 11:34:06 GMT in reply to post #4 [23042<--23044]
Hi Mathias, I don't know, luckily I'm only responsible for the 3T wheels and we have N3W options on some hubs and coming on others very soon, so I am sure Zipp and DT aren't far behind.
Post #11 of 21. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 12-Apr-2021 16:06:30 GMT in reply to post #6 [23044<--23049]
I think they can't go below 38T on the EKAR Chainring as the BCD isn't small enough.
Post #5 of 21. Posted by Dane on 12-Apr-2021 11:28:12 GMT in reply to blog [0<--23043]
Maybe, then they'll just have to make a new crank.
Post #12 of 21. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 12-Apr-2021 16:10:31 GMT in reply to post #5 [23043<--23050]
I first thought that the sprocket spreading of the Ekar cassettes is a bit odd. But after a ride on mostly flat gravel with my "Frankenstein" build of a Klein Adroit Pro (model year 2000) mountain bike that i fitted last autumn with a Shimano XTR 1x12 drivetrain (probably the only vintage MTB with 135 mm dropout width and Shimano Microspline on the planet), I did not really have the right gear between 26 and 28 km/h. I was constantly shifting between the 14 and 16 sprocket of the 10-45 cassette. When I look at the spectrum of that cassette in the gear calculator (, Campagnolo's choice all of a sudden makes a lot of sense. It is a lot better to have the small steps at the fast side of the cassette rather than the slow side, because that is the part of the spectrum that is more relevant to smooth and constant pedaling frequency. No one really pays a lot of attention to hit 90 rpm constantly on a steep climb. Therefore, it makes a lot more sense to have the large steps at the slow end of the cassette. Well done Campa!
Post #7 of 21. Posted by Urs on 12-Apr-2021 12:31:26 GMT in reply to blog [0<--23045]
I just spec’d out. BEAST handlebar for my new WIDE build, and I’m very close to making call on Ekar. Your post was reconfirming and I appreciate that!! Can you tell us anything about the wheelset on that bike with BEAST rims? I’d love to hear about that specific build, if possible. Looks like it would be one of the lightest WIDES I’ve seen!
Post #9 of 21. Posted by Sasha Freedman on 12-Apr-2021 13:16:49 GMT in reply to blog [0<--23047]
Hi Sasha, it's a customer's bike, I don't know much more than what you see on the photo. There are other Ekar bikes, also with Beast wheels actually, in the showcase so you can check there for more inspiration: Just select Campagnolo for the drivetrain to narrow it down.
Post #10 of 21. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 12-Apr-2021 14:14:07 GMT in reply to post #9 [23047<--23048]
Thats my bike and i love the Beast Wheelset so far: 7,61kg w/o Pedals. They’re 40mm; Weight is 1390gr and they hold up the speed. Love the WIDE.
Post #15 of 21. Posted by Pat on 13-Apr-2021 18:24:27 GMT in reply to post #10 [23048<--23069]
im looking for enve x open , anyone have any suggestion where i can get it??
Post #13 of 21. Posted by jhan on 12-Apr-2021 16:13:30 GMT in reply to blog [0<--23051]
Hi Jhan, those are long gone, sorry. It's always possible there is a retailer who still has one but I would say that's unlikely given how few there were.
Post #14 of 21. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 12-Apr-2021 16:16:06 GMT in reply to post #13 [23051<--23052]
Hi Gerard, as fellow Dutchman I would like to get your advice on the following if you have the time. I have decided that an Open UP would be the bike that covers for me three areas of usage (a) winter road bike (b) road bike in case I also want to take some sand tracks (zandpaden) in the route and (c) adventure light, take the bike a couple of days with light packaging and sleeping in B&B's / hotels. That means that the bike will mainly be used in the Netherlands (I live in Twente), occasionally to Limburg or Tecklenburg, but not be used in the Alps or Mont Ventoux. I am a reasonably fit 55+ who likes to keep a good tempo on the bike, on my race bike I try to beat my own PR on a 30km route once in a while. I wonder whether I should go for Campagnolo Ekar or are better off using a 2x12 group, whether Campa/SRAM/Shimano. Looking forward to your view.
Post #16 of 21. Posted by Gerrit on 20-Apr-2021 18:13:30 GMT in reply to blog [0<--23082]
I would go for EKAR, for the simplicity. You probably just need the 9-36T cassette, so you have a nice close-range setup. you can always consider getting an extra 10-44T cassette if you find yourself wanting to go into the steep hills. It's not really an extra cost (just an extra initial outlay) to do that as it will just make your other cassette wear slower.
Post #17 of 21. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 23-Apr-2021 08:22:27 GMT in reply to post #16 [23082<--23089]
Thx Gerard clear and makes sense. What front size would you recommend in that set up?
Post #18 of 21. Posted by Gerrit on 23-Apr-2021 09:51:59 GMT in reply to post #17 [23089<--23091]
Well, depends on how strong you are. Keep in mind that a gravel tire is already 5% bigger in circumference than an average road tire, and of course the tire profile also slows you down a bit (not much, but still). So a 40T chainring for a 40x9 gear is like a 48x11 in direct comparison, but more equivalent to the effort of running a 50x11 or 52x11 on a road bike.
Post #19 of 21. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 23-Apr-2021 10:34:32 GMT in reply to post #18 [23091<--23092]
I will probably ride mostly road profile tires 700Cx32 or 35mm like rene herse 700cx32 stampede and 700cx35 bon jon pass, no nobs.
So 40 seems right, or 38, agree?
Post #20 of 21. Posted by Gerrit on 25-Apr-2021 09:28:32 GMT in reply to post #19 [23092<--23099]
If 48x11 (or 52x12) is a gear you often use now (and I mean USE, not just HAVE AVAILABLE, on your bike), then yes, the 40T sounds good.
Post #21 of 21. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 25-Apr-2021 10:31:13 GMT in reply to post #20 [23099<--23100]