Since late March we’ve been racking up kilometers on some of Campagnolo’s fastest ever road wheels, the new mid-depth all-rounder Campy Bora Ultra WTO 45 disc brake wheelset. Incrementally improved across almost every performance characteristic thanks to several new technologies over the already solid Bora WTO family, these lighter, stiffer, faster new Bora Ultra WTO road wheels simply feel faster and more versatile than any other disc brake Campy wheel yet…
Review: Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO carbon road wheels
The new Bora Ultra WTO wheels are certainly not cheap, so anyone with constrained budget concerns should probably likely look elsewhere. But if you are planning a halo road bike build, these made-in-Europe carbon wheels would make a great addition to your Campy Record or even Super Record bike setup, and will likely make you faster along the way…
A couple of weeks back Campagnolo unveiled an all-new top end to their aero carbon road wheel line-up giving the Bora WTO family an Ultra upgrade. The new Campy Bora Ultra WTO family gets three rim depths – 30mm, 45mm & 60mm – to cover everyone from climbers to sprinters.
We opted for the mid-depth 45mm wheelset to balance light weight and aerodynamics for a balanced all-rounder setup. And while Campagnolo has long been one to plaster giant white & red logos all over their wheels, their disc brake Bora WTO family had already switched to a more muted ‘shadow graphics‘ look that suits a more modern aesthetic.
Campy Bora Ultra WTO 45 disc brake aero carbon wheels, in detail
Now with the new top-tier Ultra label Campy goes one step further. Over their raw carbon, these wheels feature subtle dark gray Bora WTO labels with just Ultra in sparkly copper and the small Campagnolo crest logo at the valve. They complement my stealthy chameleon green to raw carbon Festka One all-road bike perfectly, without obnoxious branding turning my every ride into a billboard. All the logos are still there, just no need to scream about it.
What’s new & why does it matter? Plus, actual weights
The new Ultra wheels are said to be lighter, stiffer, more aerodynamic, AND faster rolling. How you get all of those refinements with a wheelset that uses the same rim dimensions and lacing comes down to several incremental refinements.
Much of that weight savings comes from a more refined Handmade Ultra-Light Carbon (HULC) carbon layup with the same mix of UD & woven fibers. The new Bora Ultra WTO 45mm wheels have a claimed weight of 1425g, saving almost one hundred grams off the standard WTOs. Our test wheels actually came in two grams lighter than that at 1423g (769g rear, 654g front), making them a real hundred grams lighter than the first gen 45mm WTOs we weighed two years back.
Realistically, that’s only about a 7% weight savings, but it hard to argue with any lighter weight, when there’s improved performance characteristics at the same time.
Looking at how the wheels are built, they use the same straight-pull bladed aero stainless steel spokes, G3 grouped spoke arrangement, and 2:1 spoke lacing as before.
One key update is that the rear hub now uses Campagnolo’s new forward & backward compatible N3W freehub body. It’s actually a couple of grams heavier than the old version on account of its 2-part design but brings with it compatibility with every 10-13 speed Campagnolo cassette (and some as far back as 25-year-old 8sp). What that really means is you can fit these wheels to any 11sp Campy H11 disc brake bike, and current Movement 12sp disc brake bike, an Ekar 13 bike, or whatever Campagnolo is likely to introduce next.
Another big difference here is now the all-new carbon front disc brake hub. It’s not the first time Campy has created a carbon hub shell, but this is their most refined solution so far. Keeping the machined alloy at the disc side to handle the highest torsional forces, an hourglass carbon shell is bonded on that includes the driveside radial spoke bed and bearing seat molded in.
This carbon shell is said to contribute almost half of the real 62g weight savings we measured of the new Bora Ultra WTO 45 front wheel vs. the previous Bora WTO 45 front wheel.
And pressed inside both front & rear hubs are Campagnolo’s top-tier CULT, Ceramic Ultimate Level Technology ceramic bearings that spin inside specially-coated steel races with just a light oil needed for lubrication. The wheels spin with noticeably less friction.
While we haven’t had time to see how long they stand up in the wheels yet, those same CULT bearings have proven resistant to my (and our) year-round on & off-riding both in Super Record bottom brackets & derailleur pulleys, and Campy’s lower-spec USB ceramics have proven smooth in multiple wheels through years of our road & cyclocross abuse.
The big upgrade hidden inside the new wheels are the next generation Aero Mo-Mag internal aluminum nipples. You get improved aerodynamics without sacrificing external adjustability. Maybe even messier than with tubulars, no one riding road tubeless wants to have to pull a tire off to access an internal nipple if you need to true a wheel or replace a spoke.
Campagnolo also says that by bringing the nipples into the rim with a new molded-in seat, the rim is made stiffer, stronger & more durable over the long term without extra material needed. Out on the road, wheel stiffness when cornering feels high, but I can’t say I really could notice much difference compared to the already stiff Bora WTO wheels.
The end result is a smooth-looking rim shape, and no visible external nipples that would disturb airflow where the wheel is spinning the fastest. But they are still easily externally adjustable with the proprietary spoke wrench, which essentially looks like a hollow Torx bit with a slot that allows it to be slid over a spoke and into the recessed nipple.
Tech details & Actual dimensions
The C19 2-Way Fit hooked tubeless rim measures a real 19.4mm internal for us. And road tubeless setup goes as pain-free as you could ever hope for.
With their continuous carbon rim bed (no internal spoke holes thanks to Mo-Mag) and locking shoulders, it was as simple as popping in the included alloy tubeless valves, snapping tires into place, and airing them up with a floor pump.
Real outer width of the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 45 rim measured 26.2mm for me. The Pirelli P Zero Race TLR SL 26c tire on the front wheel came out at a real 24.7mm wide, while the 28c rear measured a real 27.8mm. That kept the front tire narrower than the rim for the best aero performance, while I got a bit more volume for improved grip & comfort in the back.
Riding Impressions: How do the Bora Ultra WTO 45 wheels feel on the road?
On paper lighter, stiffer, more aero, faster & even arguably better-looking… all of the performance upgrades come together into a new wheelset that just feels quick on the road. Early season form after a chaotic year of riding closer to home means I haven’t been out smashing Strava segments and setting tons of new KOMs.
But the longer road rides I’ve logged on these new wheels (and equally fast & supple seeming tires) have turned out incrementally higher average ride speeds than I was doing, without any perceived harder efforts.
The wheels simply spin fast & smooth. They don’t seem too adversely affected by riding on windy days. They get up to speed quickly, and hold their line perfectly through high-speed turns. And they shimmer nicely in the sun, without becoming overly flashy.
There’s no arguing that a 3150€ carbon wheelset is affordable, though. But they are made entirely in Europe (my test wheels apparently came out of the Italian factory, but higher numbers of the Ultras are also being produced on the same tooling in Romania, too.)
And based on past experience with Campagnolo wheel durability, I expect these Bora Ultra WTO 45 wheels to be spinning smoothly for many years to come.
My hardest decision now is that I probably want to swap out the Pirelli P Zero Race TLR SL 26/28 setup for the slightly wider, slightly tougher P Zero Race TLR 28/30 combination. It will be a slight decrease in aero performance.
But as spring has dried up the rougher back roads after a long winter, I think it’s time for some more tire volume and the freedom to head off onto the occasional hardpack dirt road, and more cobblestones…