Campagnolo heads further down the gravel path with new Levante carbon wheels
They're designed to go hand-in-hand with the company’s stellar Ekar mechanical 1x13 gravel-specific groupset.
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After the red-hot release of the Ekar mechanical 1×13 gravel groupset in late 2020, Campagnolo is now delving further into the gravel world with a new dedicated wheelset called Levante. Like Ekar, it’s a high-end offering, and it’s hardly inexpensive. But it nevertheless boasts a number of features — particularly aesthetic ones — that set it apart from the crowd.
Given Levante’s premium price point, it’s no surprise at all that it’s built with a carbon fiber rim. In this case, Campagnolo has gone with a 25 mm internal width, 30.6 mm external width, and 30 mm depth that focuses more on ride quality and overall feel than aerodynamic efficiency.
It’s tubeless-compatible, of course, but Campagnolo has opted to shy away from the hookless trend, instead going with a “mini hook” design. According to Campagnolo, this offers a smoother transition between the rim and tire like a hookless rim, but with “more safety for the riders when they are riding with high pressures and smaller tires.” The hooked format also means the Levante is compatible with a much broader range of tires.
Speaking of tires, Campagnolo is still taking a conservative approach in terms of what sizes it says are compatible with the Levante rim. According to Campagnolo, the Levante is officially designed for tires between 38 and 76 mm in width.
As is standard practice with Campagnolo, the outer rim wall is free of spoke holes, making it inherently airtight and eliminating the need for potentially problematic rim tape. The profile is also asymmetric for a more even spoke tension from one side to the other, and Campagnolo says the Levante passes the more stringent ASTM 2 test standard for wheels (ASTM 1 is more common for road wheels). Maximum rider weight is a generous 120 kg (265 lb).
Many of Campagnolo’s other wheels use a distinctive two-to-one spoke lacing pattern, with twice as many spokes on one side of the wheel than the other in order to help offset the geometry differences and balance the spoke tensions from side to side. With Levante, though, Campagnolo is relying more on that asymmetric spoke bed to do that job; 24 straight-pull butted stainless steel spokes are used per wheel front and rear, with 12 spokes per side, and locking aluminum nipples all around.
Those spokes connect each Levante rim to an aluminum-bodied hub, fitted with adjustable cup-and-cone bearings instead of the more common sealed cartridges.
Claimed weight per set is 1,485 g, and the retail price is US$1,900 / £1,350 / €1,575-1,584 (Australian pricing is TBC). According to Campagnolo, wheels should be available starting today, with your choice of Shimano/SRAM, SRAM XDR, or Campagnolo N3W freehub bodies.
The beauty within — and on the surface
Going purely by the numbers, the Levante wheels don’t necessarily stand out. They’re not particularly inexpensive, they’re not super light, they’re not unusually wide or aero. However, what seems to help set them apart are some of the other things you can see — and some of the things you can’t.
Campagnolo molds the Levante carbon fiber rims using the same process as its Bora Ultra WTO road wheels. Dubbed C-Lux, the surface finish is notably smooth, and the visible unidirectional carbon plies visibly shimmer in sunlight. Campagnolo says the rims require no post-molding finish work, and each rim gets classy laser-etched logos instead of decals or paint that further adds to the premium look.
The matching hubs also get laser-etched graphics, and while some might equate “cup-and-cone bearings” with “old-fashioned”, the old mechanic in me would argue that their angular contact layout is far more tolerant of lateral loads than radial cartridges. Assuming you take the time to adjust them properly, they’ll likely last a lot longer, too.
Campagnolo doesn’t bother using any ceramic bearing balls or cryogenically treated races like it does on its higher-end USB or CULT bearings — it’s just run-of-the-mill stainless steel here — but I’ll still take a good adjustable cup-and-cone setup over off-the-shelf cartridges any day.
Function over form
Campagnolo shipped over a loaner set of Levantes — attached to an Ekar-equipped BMC URS — for me to review, but not enough in advance for me to get any saddle time on it (or even shoot my own pictures before launch day). As such, I unfortunately don’t even have first impressions to share with you at the moment.
But I can at least say that they’re awfully pretty.
Stay tuned for more.
Additional information can be found at www.campagnolo.com.