Campagnolo debuts Shamal DB wheelset with a freehub full of (13-speed?) secrets

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Wider, burlier, and ready for some on-trend riding, the new Shamal DB is Campagnolo’s first foray into the sort of variable-surface wheel and tire setups many riders have embraced. Inside its hub it holds secrets of wider gearing and, perhaps, 13 cogs.

The Shamal line dates back to 1992, when it was a deep-section aluminum offering much beloved by the racers of the day. Through the decades it was set aside, left behind by its fancy carbon brethren. Now, in a new, fashionable outfit, it’s back.

“It will be a fiery summer for the more demanding cyclists seeking to challenge the roads with these new Campagnolo wheels, as hot as the wind that gives them their name,” the press release says, summing these wheels up better than I ever could.

Campagnolo Shamal DB specs

The wheelset’s specs will be familiar to anyone who has followed wheel trends in recent years: Carbon rims with an internal width of 21mm, tubeless compatibility, front- and rear-specific rim depths, and a reasonable claimed weight of 1,585 grams.

Wider, hooked rims allow Campagnolo to approve the wheels for tire sizes ranging from 23mm all the way up to 65mm (that’s 2.5″ mountain bike tire, for anyone doing the math), though the company says the rims are optimized for 25, 28, and 30mm tires. There’s no list of approved tires for these wheels, and in fact Campagnolo promises that its 2-Way Fit system will provide “total compatibility” with both clincher and tubeless tires. Because Campagnolo rim beds don’t have any holes, no rim tape is required for tubeless setup.

The front rim is 35mm high and the rear is 40mm high. The lower front rim is designed to improve crosswind stability.

The hubs use cup-and-cone technology, which, in theory, means they should prove both more durable and easier to maintain than most modern hubs. Sometimes old school is a good thing.

The hubs are compatible with Campagnolo’s N3W freehub (more on that below), as well as Shimano HG and Sram XDR bodies.

Prices are set at €1,299 / £1,111 / US$1,475 (we’ve requested AUD but don’t have it yet) and the wheels should be available immediately. Campagnolo did note, however, that there’s a pandemic and so shipping may be delayed in certain areas.

Understandably, this rider is very excited about her Shamal’s cup and cone bearings.

A new freehub with a story to tell

Perhaps just as interesting as the wheels themselves is the new Campagnolo N3W freehub body. There are clues here that Campagnolo is soon to announce wider range cassettes and, possibly, cassettes with 13 gears.

First, the basics: the new freehub has the same shape and channels as Campagnolo’s current 11 and 12-speed freehubs, but is 4.4mm shorter.

Why shorten the freehub body? Well, a quick look at similarly compacted bodies from SRAM and Shimano provides not just a clue, but a smoking gun. Shimano’s Micro Spline body and SRAM’s XD and XDr bodies are all designed to mount a cassette featuring cogs smaller than 11 teeth, which is the minimum diameter than can fit over a traditional freehub. Running similar wide-range cassettes is almost certainly the purpose of N3W from Campagnolo. At the moment, Campagnolo makes no such cassette, but N3W makes it all but certain we’ll see one soon.

The screenshot below shows how the freehub works. A small adapter at the end of the freehub can be added for use with any 11-speed Campagnolo cassette, and then removed when the Campagnolo cassettes of the future, with fewer than 11 teeth, make an appearance.

Two little clues suggest not only a wider range cassette, but one with 13 gears. The number “3” in the name is one, though on its own that doesn’t mean much. The other is a line in the above chart that refers to “backward compatibility with 10, 11, and 12 speed cassettes.” That’s right, backward to 12. It could be a translation thing. Or it could be 13 speeds on the horizon.

To further speculate, because why not, the Shamal’s compatibility with Micro Spline could indicate that Shimano plans on expanding the use of that freehub beyond its mountain bike groupsets. The Shamal is not a mountain bike wheelset, even though it does apparently work with 65mm tires. Why else would it be compatible with Micro Spline?

Campagnolo isn’t exactly shy about N3W’s place in its future groupsets. The web page for the freehub just about hits you over the head with it: “N3W is our future,” the copy reads. “A single standard to manage all the Campagnolo cassettes… present, past, and… still to come!”

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