Campagnolo’s flagship wheel family has been given a makeover, and in case you were wondering, yes it worked: Tadej Pogacar just won the Tour de France with a Campagnolo Bora WTO wheelset in his arsenal.
And any rider would be lucky to add a pair to theirs.
Bora has been in the Campagnolo stable since 1994, the original deep-section carbon wheel and arguably the first such wheel to win a Tour de France under Bjarne Riis in 1996. That is, if you believe the stickers – there is still some conjecture as to who made Riis’s rims and hubs… was it Lightweight? Ambrosio? Tune?
At any rate, Campagnolo definitely makes everything here, and things have changed dramatically.
WTO stands for Wind Tunnel Optimised, meaning Campagnolo went back to the drawing board, had its papers blown everywhere by a massive fan and finally decided a snub-nosed rim profile is fastest in real-world conditions.
Gone is the previous Bora Ultra generation’s Toblerone cross-section; in its place is a rim that’s 19mm wide internally (the previous generation is 17mm) and available in 33mm, 45mm and 60mm depths.
There’s also a 77mm-deep front wheel only, which is nearly £2,000 on its own and is billed as ‘the fastest front wheel on the market’. But I digress.
Crucially, all the new WTOs are tubeless, utilising Campagnolo’s 2-Way Fit system. As such there is no need for rim tape as the rim beds are aren’t drilled all the way through for spokes. Rather, spoke nipples are inserted through the valve hole and guided into place by a magnet.
I opted to test what Campagnolo reckons is the best wheel for all-round riding, the 45mm deep Bora WTO, and set them up with Schwalbe Pro One TLE 25mm tubeless tyres. I also plumped for the rim brake versions, because there is of course a disc brake version too.
The disc versions are heavier, 1,520g (claimed), whereas this rim brake version comes in at 1,496g. That’s heavier than the previous Bora Ultra 50 (1,435g yet deeper at 50mm), but that’s the case for a lot of manufacturers introducing tubeless, as the rim hooks/bead requires reinforcing.
On that note I’ve been riding around on the previous Bora Ultra 50s for a number of years and I have to say I adore them. I know there are faster wheels in terms of rim profile, but their super-stiff construction lends incredible acceleration, and their ceramic bearing hubs feel like they’d roll forever.
They even have extra carbon added opposite the valve hole to balance the whole wheel for smooth rolling.
I would have recommended the Bora Ultra 50s to anyone looking to pep up their bike, and I reckon Pogacar would agree. Along with his WTOs, the UAE Team Emirates rider rode Bora Ultras in certain stages this year, probably as the Bora Ultra 35 tubulars are still the lightest wheels Campy makes at a claimed 1,170g.
However, I can’t only recommend the older Boras any longer. Because the Bora WTOs are effectively the same wheel in almost every department – as stiff, as nimble and as punchy. Only now they are faster. And more comfortable. And lighter. Hang on a second, this sounds horribly familiar…
All round better
By way of comparison, I swapped the Bora 45 WTO wheels into a bike previously shod with the Bora Ultra 50s and soon found myself bagging a Strava PB most rides, even without trying.
In different areas too, from 13% climbs to kilometres of draggy flats. Not on a descent though, but ultimately I don’t think I will ever get descending PBs again on a rim brake wheel, no matter how fast it is in other areas. Disc brakes mean I can brake later and hence descend faster.
That said, the WTO’s ‘AC3’ brake track – a milled surface that’s a carry over from the Bora Ultras – provides excellent bite and modulation over other rim brake wheels.
Things can get squeaky in the wet, and it pays to keep the wheels properly clean so dirt and grease doesn’t gunk up the textured surface. But the reward is the Bora WTOs have superb braking, which is even passably assured in the wet.
But back to speed – I’m sure the new rim profile is more aero, but I still think (and I even bore myself saying it) increased speed in instances such as this is down to tubeless tyres and how they can be run at lower pressure.
On this test I was running pressure at 60psi front/65psi rear, and that produced markedly better comfort for the same bike (Bora Ultra 50, 80psi/85psi) and I reckon a smoother ride, hence those PBs.
But the WTOs are still heavier right? Yes, but it is marginal and unless you specifically want to run tubular tyres – and none of the Bora WTO range can – the difference in weight is slight enough that the negation of inner tubes in tubeless setups makes up for it.
To compare: my Bora Ultra 50 setup with Vittoria Corsa Control 25mm tyres and Vittoria latex tubes weighs 2,203g; the Bora WTO 45 with Schwalbe Pro One TLE 25mm tyres and recommended 30ml of sealant per wheel weigh 2,056g. Overall, lighter.
And one final thing – the accessories here are obvious but, like the wheels themselves, wonderfully detailed. The wheel bags are plush and sturdy enough to camp out in; along with Shimano’s stock levers, the Campy quick releases are the best (read: most sensible) on the market; you get Campagnolo carbon specific brake blocks, and all the spoke replacing magnet bits are included plus and a decent set of tyre levers, acknowledging tubeless tyres are sometimes stubborn.
I honestly thought it would be hard to make significant improvements over Campagnolo’s previous Bora Ultra wheels, and in some senses that’s still true.
The hubs are ostensibly the same, just the shell is a different shape; the spokes are laced the same way; the brake track is the same and overall weight is not far off. However, the tubeless tyre compatibility of the Bora WTO wheels has opened up new levels of performance. Probably the rim shape helps too, and if nothing else looks more modern.
But I genuinely think tubeless technology has made what was already one of the best wheelsets on the market that little bit better.
Oh, and price – the Campagnolo Bora WTO 45 wheelset is still expensive, but it’s actually nearly a grand cheaper than the Bora Ultra 50 (£2,815).
Better in every department, then. Nice work Campagnolo.
Source: Cycling – Cyclist