Campagnolo debuts new Bora Ultra WTO flagship aero road racing wheels
Who said road racing is dead? Campagnolo’s new range-topping Bora Ultra WTO family is made for pure road riding and racing. Not gravel. Not all-road. Not adventure or bikepacking. And that’s more than ok. But they’re also supposedly more aerodynamic, lighter, and more responsive than the current Bora WTO family, and wear a premium finish that coincides with their premium pricing.
(Very) subtle shape changes
Each of the new Bora Ultra WTO wheelsets is loosely based on an existing Bora Ultra, sharing the same three available depths — 33, 45, and 60 mm — and Campagnolo’s G3 longstanding triplet spoke lacing pattern. The shallowest Bora Ultra WTO 33 grows slightly in internal width from 19 to 21 mm, and external width from 26.1 to 27.4 mm, but the 45 mm and 60 mm models stick with a 19 mm inner width and an external width just over 26 mm.
Don’t be fooled by the 33 mm version’s subtle bump, though; all three are aerodynamically optimized for 25 mm tires.
Speaking of tires, Campagnolo is decidedly on-trend in that all of the Bora Ultra WTO models are designed exclusively for disc brakes and clincher tires (either tubeless or tube-type), the latter featuring the company’s latest 2-Way Fit design with its solid outer rim wall. No rim tape is required since the rim bed is inherently airtight, and Campagnolo says the new wheels are fully compliant with the latest ETRTO guidelines on tubeless tire compatibility.
On the surface, none of this sounds particularly groundbreaking. However, as is often the case with Campagnolo wheels, the differences are more hidden beneath the surface, and require a bit of extra digging.
Externally internal — or internally external?
Campagnolo product manager Nicolò Martinello is refreshingly open in his opinion that aero road wheels are highly evolved these days and probably aren’t going to get much more aerodynamically efficient through changes in shape alone. While Campagnolo says the Bora Ultra WTO wheels are, indeed, faster than the Bora WTO equivalents — and competitive with other leaders in the category — the advantages are found not in any drastic changes in rim cross-section, but rather the novel nipple design.
Campagnolo’s 2-Way Fit rim design is possible because of the way its wheels are built. Instead of holes that go all the way through the rim, Campagnolo wheel builders thread a short bit of steel to each oversized aluminum nipple, which allows them to feed each one through the valve hole and then gently guide it with a magnet to each spoke hole — a system that Campagnolo calls MoMag. Those oversized aluminum nipples aren’t exactly all that aero, however, so Campagnolo has figured out how to hide them inside the rim while still making them externally accessible so you can true the wheel without removing the tire.
The new Aero MoMag system features new “polymer” plates that are co-molded into each rim. These plates have specific angles for proper spoke alignment, and also serve as both an electrical insulator between the carbon rim and aluminum nipple, and a reinforcing eyelet for the molded-in holes. During assembly, each nipple also apparently snaps into place on each of those eyelets so that the spoke can be threaded on without worry that the nipple will go rogue inside the rim somewhere.
Although the Aero MoMag nipples are externally accessible, a proprietary tool is still required to actually perform the service.
On the hook for lighter and prettier rims, gorgeous new hubs
Despite the added internal complexity, Campagnolo has managed to shave some weight out of the carbon fiber rims by using a fancier material and a more refined molding technique. While it’s always nice to drop a few grams, what’s arguably more striking is the new “C-Lux” finish, which supposedly requires no post-mold sanding to achieve its impressively sleek surface. Further adding to the premium look are elegant copper metallic and black-on-black logos in place of a more in-your-face branding treatment.
It’s perhaps worth mentioning here that other carbon wheel brands have also been stepping up their finish game in recent years, with new hookless formats allowing the use of metal mold inserts that result in more consistent surfaces (along with lower weights and reduced production costs). Campagnolo is sticking with hooked rims for broader tire compatibility, though, which historically has required some sort of semi-rigid mold insert and often some post-mold machining, too. Campagnolo is tight-lipped on the exact process being used here, but it supposedly combines the benefits of that all-metal tooling while still offering the security of a hooked rim.
All of this is spinning on brand-new hubs that are built with a positively lovely shape and similarly high-polish finish, with the front sporting a hybrid aluminum-and-carbon fiber shell and the rear utilizing an all-aluminum body to better handle drive torque. Campagnolo’s CULT (Ceramic Ultimate Level Technology) hybrid ceramic bearings are used throughout, with cryogenically treated steel races and adjustable preload that the company claims produces “5 1/2 times less friction than their standard sealed steel counterparts.”
That obviously sounds pretty over-the-top, but the bigger benefit to end-consumers will likely be those bearings’ proven track record of long-term durability.
Out back, the rear hub utilizes Campagnolo’s latest N3W freehub body design, which is compatible with the company’s 11-, 12-, and 13-speed drivetrains. Shimano HG and SRAM XDR bodies are also offered.
Claimed weights for the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 33, 45, and 60 wheels are 1,385 g, 1,425 g, and 1,530 g per pair, representing modest decreases of 10-95 g, depending on depth. However, all of the new wheels also boast hefty price premiums of almost 50% over the standard Bora WTO models, with a retail price of US$3,585 / AU$4,665 / £2,810 / €3,150 per set (which is still less expensive than Zipp’s latest 353 NSW).
Are the new wheels worth it? Campagnolo wheels may have an outstanding track record for long-term durability, but going straight by the numbers, the answer is no, of course not. These might be marginally better than the standard WTO models in terms of performance, but certainly not by enough for most people to justify the additional cost in terms of value.
That said, I dare say that Campagnolo knows its target customers well, and while the lustrous finish and lovely shape will surely draw people in, it’ll undoubtedly be buyers with more of an appreciation for “the finer things” that’ll find appeal here.
A loaner set has just arrived for a proper test, so I guess we’ll find out how much appreciation I have for that sort of thing soon enough. Stay tuned.
For more information, visit www.campagnolo.com.