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Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 60 wheelset review

16 Jun 2021
Verdict:

New Boras are indisputably WorldTour-quality, but conservative rim dimensions and prohibitive pricing limits their appeal to normal riders

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Light weight • Perceived aerodynamic efficiency • Superb build quality • Un-drilled rim bed • Good looks
Against 
Narrow width • High price

The Bora Ultra WTO wheels are the latest and greatest in the iconic Bora wheelset line. Campagnolo has been making wind-cheating wheelsets under the Bora name since 1994, and they have always been designed, tested and manufactured in Italy at the brand’s Vicenza HQ.

The Bora Ultra WTO arrive just two years after the first Bora wheels bearing the ‘WTO’ moniker – which stands for ‘Wind Tunnel Optimised’ – were released, but Campagnolo says it hasn’t just been back to the tunnel with these wheels, it has totally overhauled their construction.

While the rim dimensions on all three of the new Bora Ultra WTO wheelsets have been carried over, their rims’ composite material and fabrication method has changed, as has how the rim is attached to the hub, which has in turn also received some upgrades. You can read all about the updated design in the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO launch story down on page two.

Long story short, the changes have prompted Campagnolo to suggest the new wheels are lighter, faster and stiffer than their non-Ultra forebears. It is a familiar new-product narrative, but one that is largely justified in my opinion having had a decent chunk of time to use the new wheels.

 

First impressions count

Campagnolo says it used a new ‘HULC’ construction method to fabricate the Bora Ultra WTOs’ rims. Aside from producing a rim with a truly impeccable surface finish, the new construction method apparently makes the rims lighter – helping to save approximately 100g across each respective wheelset when compared to the equivalent depth in the wheels’ previous generation.

The Bora Ultra WTO wheels' comparatively light weight was immediately noticeable on the road. This 60mm deep wheelset weighs 1,530g, which was within 10g of a 45mm depth wheel they replaced in a bike I am familiar with. As a result, the wheels did not feel noticeably slower to accelerate or more sluggish when it came to climbing hills.

Buy the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 60 wheelset now from Condor

That suggests that in the Bora Ultra WTO, Campagnolo has incorporated the promise of extra aerodynamic efficiency while minimising the usual associated penalties of deeper rims.

 

Certainly speedy

The drag-reducing properties you’d expect of rims at this depth are certainly in evidence. They felt tenacious in their ability to hold high speeds. That is perhaps unsurprising considering the pedigree of the Bora’s wind-cheating rim profile, which Campagnolo has honed for over two decades.

Balanced against the wheels’ straight-line efficiency, their crosswind stability is about on-par for what you could hope for in a wheelset at this rim depth. That is, gusty conditions did tend to occasionally influence the bike’s handling but not ever in a particularly unpredictable, unsettling way.

In my experience rims at this depth tend to be affected by sidewinds regardless of any nuanced difference in rim shape, so in this department the Bora Ultra WTOs get the job done as well as anyone can expect.

 

Finer details

I’m inclined to believe the inclusion of Campagnolo’s CULT ceramic bearings did nothing to dispel the wheels’ feeling of overall speed. While I’ll admit this might just be the psychological consequence of knowing the wheels use them, I did get the feeling that the Bora Ultra WTOs spin smoothly and require very little persuasion to both get going and keep rolling.

Buy the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 60 wheelset now from Condor

The wheels’ solid build quality is likely a contributing factor as well. As it tends to do with all its products, at the Bora Ultra WTO’s launch Campagnolo made a point of explaining the new wheels are built to be a reliable product as well as a high performance one.

Even with the extended amount of time I was given to use the wheels, the true nature of their durability can only really be discovered over years of use rather than months. That said, I found no evidence to suggest their wheels’ build quality was any lower than Campagnolo says it is.

 

I wasn’t required to tinker with the wheels in any way. As much as a set of test wheels can be, they were set-and-forget. The rim stayed true and the bearings stayed silky despite a fair bit of use on broken, mucky springtime roads.

That there were no teething problems early in use bodes well for issues over the longer term proving unlikely too. Should any niggles arise, features like the wheels’ ‘Aero Mo-Mag’ nipple system mean any adjustments to nipples and spokes should be straight-forward, despite the nipples being hidden.

Find out more: chickencyclekit.co.uk

Looking to the future, sort of

An equally well-thought out feature is the undrilled rim bed, made possible by the ‘Aero Mo-Mag’ nipple system (the nipples are dropped into the valve holes and guided into place by magnet, meaning the rest of the rim channel can be shaped from uninterrupted carbon).

Together with some rim channel shaping, this allows Campagnolo to describe the rims as ‘two-way fit’, meaning they can be used tubeless just as well as with tubes.

Buy the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 60 wheelset now from Condor

The Bora Ultra WTOs' undrilled rim channel is a progressive move by Campagnolo in terms of tubeless technology. It seems to me that this solution to create an airtight rim bed is an unequivocally more advanced engineering solution than simply using tape to create the sealed channel.

 

Potentially because of this I found setting the Bora Ultra WTOs up tubeless to be a painless process. Multiple sets of tyres went up with minimal persuasion – often only requiring a little soapy water on the tyre beads and a shot with an Airshot canister at most – and became airtight with minimal levels of sealant (usually around 30ml, which is at the lower end of the recommended quantity for road tyres).

Tubeless is increasingly regarded as the future for road wheel and tyre systems, offering performance advantages beyond those offered by tubes and tubs.

Considering promising steps in the right direction, then, I am left a little disappointed that Campagnolo has not gone further to optimise the new wheels around the trend towards wider, tubeless tyres, such as using wider rim dimensions and even hookless rims.

Whether they are actually founded or not, there are still some safety/compatibility concerns surrounding hookless rims so it is understandable that Campagnolo hasn’t jumped that far ahead just yet, but I would have welcomed the incorporation of wider rim dimensions in the Bora Ultra WTO wheels.

 

I understand that Campagnolo says the Bora Ultra WTOs achieved best results in terms of weight and drag reduction by designing around 25mm tyres and a 26/19mm external/internal rim width, and that the remit of the wheels is to produce class-leading aerodynamic efficiency figures for WorldTour pro riders.

But I think that the very features that make the wheels so good at the top of the sport limit their use for everyday riders, who would be better served by a wheelset that places a more balanced emphasis on performance by better supporting wider tyres.

The potential gains in grip, comfort and puncture protection are likely to outweigh the almost imperceptible increases in drag and weight for anyone that doesn’t race frequently at a high level.

Buy the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 60 wheelset now from Condor

Not to mention such wheels would likely be significantly cheaper as well. Given the choice, I’d sooner opt for Campagnolo’s Shamal Carbon wheels, which use a 21mm internal width and cost less than half the price of the Bora Ultra WTO wheels.

Judged on race performance criteria alone though, Campagnolo’s latest wheelset undoubtedly offers the speed, weight, build quality and looks worthy of the iconic Bora name and is a justified successor to the top of Campagnolo’s race wheel tree.

Price: 
£2,818

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