Campagnolo continues down the dirt road with new Levante carbon wheels
Following the red-hot release of the Ekar 1×13 mechanical gravel groupset in late 2020, Campagnolo is now delving further into the gravel world with a new dedicated wheelset called the Levante. Like Ekar, it’s a high-end offering and hardly cheap. Still, it has a number of characteristics – particularly aesthetic ones – that make it stand out from the crowd.
Given Levante’s premium price point, it’s no surprise that it’s built with a carbon fiber rim. In this case, Campagnolo has opted for a 25mm internal width, 30.6mm external width and 30mm depth that focus more on ride quality and overall feel than aerodynamic efficiency.
It’s tubeless compatible, of course, but Campagnolo has decided to buck the hookless trend and instead go with a “mini-hook” design. According to Campagnolo, this provides a smoother transition between rim and tire like a clipless rim, but with “more safety for riders when running high pressure and smaller tires”. The hook format also means the Levante is compatible with a much wider range of tires.
Speaking of tires, Campagnolo still takes a conservative approach to the sizes that are claimed to be compatible with the Levante rim. According to Campagnolo, the Levante is officially designed for tires between 38 and 76 mm wide.
As is usual 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 asymmetrical for more even spoke tension from side to side, 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 pattern, with twice as many spokes on one side of the wheel than the other, to accommodate the geometry differences and balance side-to-side spoke tension. With Levante, however, Campagnolo relies more on this asymmetrical spoke bed to get the job done. 24 butted straight-pull stainless steel spokes are used on each wheel at the front and rear, 12 spokes on each side and aluminum nipples that can be locked all round.
These spokes connect each Levante rim to an aluminum-bodied hub that features adjustable cup and cone bearings instead of the more common sealed cartridges.
Listed weight per set is 1,485g and retail price is US$1,900 / £1,350 / €1,575-1,584 (Australian prices are TBC). According to Campagnolo, the wheels should be available starting today, with a choice of Shimano/SRAM, SRAM XDR or Campagnolo N3W freewheel bodies.
The beauty inside – and on the surface
Judging by the numbers alone, the Levante bikes don’t necessarily stand out. They’re not particularly cheap, they’re not super light, they’re not unusually wide or aerodynamic. However, what helps set them apart are some of the other things you can see – and some of the things you can’t see.
Campagnolo forms the Levante carbon fiber rims using the same process as its Bora Ultra WTO road wheels. The surface finish, named C-Lux, is particularly smooth, and the visible unidirectional carbon layers visibly shimmer in the sunlight. Campagnolo says the rims require no post-processing, and each rim gets classy laser-etched logos instead of decals or paint, adding to the premium look.
The matching hubs also get laser-etched graphics, and while some 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 side loads than radial cartridges. Provided you take the time to adjust them properly, they’ll likely last a lot longer too.
Campagnolo doesn’t bother using ceramic bearing balls or cryogenically treated races like they do on their higher-end USB or CULT bearings – it’s just ordinary stainless steel here – but I’ll take a good adjustable cup anyway – and cone setup over commercial cartridges every day.
function over form
Campagnolo sent me a loaner set of Levantes—attached to an Ekar-equipped BMC URS—to check out, but not enough in advance to get a saddle time on them (or even snap my own pre-start-day pics). Unfortunately, I can’t even give you first impressions at the moment.
But I can at least say that they are terribly pretty.
stay tuned for more
Visit www.campagnolo.com for more information.