The Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO wheels are a beauty to behold, and when tested against an inexpensive set of hoops with a similar rim depth, they dramatically improved ride quality. Does the uplift warrant the price tag? No - if you're a racer after a gain in speed but don't have pockets this deep, you won't be at a grave disadvantage if you spend a third of the outlay. But if you're happy to pay a premium for a well-respected brand and an absolutely beautiful finish, you won't be disappointed, either.
Hidden spokes, can still be trued
No need for tubeless rim tape
Stiff when accelerating
By Michelle Arthurs-Brennan published
Campagnolo has been making its Bora Ultra wheels since 1994, so the 2021 iteration has almost three decades of development and refinement woven into its almost glass like carbon rim. However, its reputation comes at a cost, with a pair setting you back £2,800.
Does the wheelset feel three times better than a £1,000 set of hoops? Probably not, but if you’re a long term Campagnolo fan and want the glimmer of luxury reflected back to you in C-Lux finish rims on every ride, you’re probably going to buy these, anyway.
This test formed part of a five part group test, going up against the Vel 50 RSL, Zipp 303S, Hunt 50 Aero and FFWD RYOT 55 - so expect comparative reviews as they're published, and check out Cycling Weekly magazine on July 29 for the conclusions.
Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO: construction
This is the first year that Campagnolo has gone disc brake only in its Bora Ultra wheelset. The wheels have also been optimised for a tubeless set up, with a unique spoke technique that means you don’t need to use tape when setting these up with sealant. However, the brand has chosen to eschew the fashion towards hookless rims, citing the restriction this places on tyre choice as the motivation.
The 45mm rims are constructed from Campagnolo’s Hand Made Ultra Light Carbon, with a C-Lux finish, which does not require lacquer but glimmers under light with an extremely pleasing shine. The internal width is 19mm, Campagnolo said it found this relatively narrow tract faster when paired with a 25mm tyre than the more cavernous 21mm choice selected by a great many brands in recent years. Fitted with a Vittoria Corsa tyre in 27mm, our test rubber measured 28.5mm.
‘WTO’ stands for wind tunnel optimised, and Campagnolo does supply windtunnel test data with these wheels comparing well against the Swiss Side Hadron over a range of yaw angles, though a brand’s own windtunnel data always needs to be treated with a degree of caution as it will apply its own test conditions.
The spokes nipples are completely hidden, with the nipple seat embedded within the rim - hence there’s no need for tubeless rim tape. The spokes can still be trued, via a spoke tool that is supplied with each wheelset. Campagnolo did state that the nipple plates are a “nightmare to get inside the rim”, but this ‘Aero Mo-Mag’ style is a progression on the ‘Mo-Mag’ and we’ve not heard any repetitive horror stories of these failing, implying it’s a fairly tried and tested technique.
The spokes use Campagnolo’s asymmetric G3 spoke lacing, which the brand says is stiffer under load.
At the heart of the wheel is Campagnolo’s own Bora Ultra WTO hub, which uses own-brand Cult ceramic bearings. Ceramic bearings give up fewer lost watts to friction, with Campagnolo claiming a 40 per cent reduction over steel bearings. If you’re after marginal gains, ceramic bearings provide them, however, the general consensus is that a similar difference can be made by cleaning your chain and keeping your bike in good condition. Do both, and you're on to a winner, of course.
The hubs use a carbon body at the front, and aluminium body at the rear with a 36 tooth pawl ratchet driver body. The wheels come supplied as standard with Campagnolo’s N3W freehub body, though you can get them with a Shimano HG or SRAM XDR set up.
The hubs take a 100/142 thu axle, and come with a centrelock compatible splined AFS rotor interface. The weight of our 45mm set was 1435g. All sets were weighed at Cycling Weekly HQ, with rim tape and without valves, though, in this case, there is no rim tape.
Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO: the ride
We tested these wheels both on a Campagnolo specced Basso Diamante SV bike, within which, obviously, they felt amazing. However, for a direct comparison, we also tested them aboard a Kinesis 4S winter bike, swapping between a pair of £300 50mm carbon rims and the significantly more expensive Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO.
Both wheelsets were tested with a tubeless set up and 25mm tyres, opting for the same tyre pressure each time.
Straight from the front door, it was obvious that the Bora wheelset was stiffer, this will be down to the carbon used as well as the spoke pattern. Getting out of the saddle the lack of flex here was even starker. These are proper race wheels, with a low peripheral mass that leads you to attack every rise and carve every corner, hard. They are perhaps a little harsh for the likes of a 160+km sportive over rutted roads, but with a tubeless set-up and lowered pressure we found they coped well with a 100km club run across Surrey and Kent.
The hub isn’t especially noisy, giving off more of a faint hum, a bit like having a race TV helicopter hovering far overheard.
Out on the club run, despite riding a relatively heavy winter bike, fitted out with mudguards, we picked up a number of Strava PRs, which is always a good sign, it did feel easier to carry speed when compared with a lower spec rolling stock.
The Campagnolo Bora Ultra wheels absolutely elevated the performance of a fairly stodgy (but reliable!) winter hack, truly blindsiding our previously cynical tester with surprise at the degree of uplit.
However, in a time trial test, when swapped for an alternative 50mm pair of wheels, they didn’t actually make our tester any faster, clocking an almost identical time, albeit on a different evening.
The wheels do of course look rather incredible - it’s impossible to ignore the mirror shine and they were commented on pretty much every time they left the front door.
Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO: value and conclusions
The price of these is where these wheels struggle. At £2,800, they're a pricey option over the competition, and the weight saving between these and Hunt’s 1,494g Aero 50 (£879) isn’t huge, ditto the Zipp 303S (1544g, £985) and Vel's RSL 50 (1537g, £999).
Does the degree of difference between these, and a more reasonably priced £1,000 pair of carbon rims reflect in the ride - simply - are they three times better? No. But if you’re building an absolute dream machine, and money is no object, then these are a beauty to ride (and behold!)
- RRP: £2800
- Rim depth: 45mm
- Rim width: 19mm
- Weight: 1435g, without valves, and no rim tape required
Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.
When not typing or testing, Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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