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First Look: Campagnolo Levante gravel wheels

The latest hoops from the Italian brand have a new (mini) hook

Campagnolo Levante Photo by: Chris Bayley

Campagnolo is continuing to build its gravel components lineup with the release of the Campagnolo Levante gravel wheels. These hoops by the Italian brand build on the 2020 release of the gravel-focused Ekar groupset. The Levante have rim depths of 30 mm. Their internal rim widths are 25 mm, optimized for holding tires 38 mm to 78 mm. The front wheel takes a 100 x 12 mm axle, while the rear takes a 142 x 12 mm. The company says the wheels weigh in at 1,485 g.

Campagnolo Levante
The co-ordinates of Mount Ekar are laser-etched into the rim of the Levante. Image: Chris Bayley

Where the Campagnolo Levante gravel wheels fit in the company’s lineup

Campy has road wheels well-covered with its Bora, Zonda and Scirocco sets. The past two years, Bora have been the star, the wheels seeing major upgrades. Before the launch of the Levante wheels, you’d see the Shamal Carbon Disc Brake wheels listed as the only gravel hoops by Campy. In a presentation preceding the Levante launch, Giacomo Sartore, Campagnolo product manager, indicated that the Shamal would be considered more of an all-road wheel going forward. I’ve bashed around gravel and even some trails on older models of this wheel. It’s shown me that while wheels such as the Bora Ultra WTO bring luxury speed to smooth surfaces, Campy can make durable hoops that are fast-rolling, too. So, with the launch of the Levante, I’m expecting some Bora bling, but with Shamal strength and confidence.

Campagnolo Levante
Nathan Haas takes on some chunky gravel with the Campagnolo Levante wheels on Mount Etna.

With the Campagnolo Levante wheels, there’s a (mini) hook

As the cycling industry gets further and further into tubeless systems, we’ve seen companies have to make a choice at the edge of their wheel rims. Do they keep the traditional hooks that were common on clincher setups? Or do they go hookless? The brands in the hooked camp, to simplify their stance, argue that the more traditional setup allows you to run a wider variety of tires and wider range of tire pressures. (Remember, some hookless wheels can only run approved tires. Too much air pressure can blow a tire off a hookless rim.) As for hookless, those folks argue on the side of better performance. Sure, you can’t run really high pressure, but you don’t need to. That’s old school. Also, the hookless arrangement makes for a better tire shape, which will perform better on the road. Finally, the rims can be lighter because you don’t have that extra material for the hooks.

Campagnolo Levante
Campagnolo Levante. Image: Chris Bayley

So where does Campagnolo stand on all this hooked/hookless stuff? Well, with the Levante wheels, right in the middle with its mini-hook.

“This mini-hook offers the benefit of a hooked wheel and the benefit of a hookless wheel,” says Sartore. “It gives the security of a hooked system—the tire retention and the resistance to blowout from too much pressure. The mini-hook also helps the tire stay in place when it’s bending throughout twists and turns. But on the other hand, since the hook is pretty small, you don’t have such a huge, lightbulb effect on the tire’s shape.” Sartore also adds that the rim is designed to keep the tire’s edges against the rim’s sides even in the event of pressure loss. The Levante wheels can run any tire you’d like to put on them.

Campagnolo Levante
Campagnolo Levante. Image: Chris Bayley

Looking closely at inner rim width

I used to think Campy was pretty conservative with its inner rim widths. In 2016, when I was at a launch of Campagnolo products, the new Shamal got an inner rim width of 17 mm, up from the previous 15 mm. That move just barely kept those hoops in line with the trend of widening rims. The latest Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 45 and 60 have inner rim widths of 19 mm. Yet, the current Shamal are a respectable 21 mm as are the Bora Ultra WTO 33.

How does the 25-mm inner rim width of the Levante compare with other gravel wheels? Shimano GRX are 21.6 mm. Hunt’s gravel wheels range from 21 to 25 mm. 3T’s Discus 45 | 40 are a whopping 29 mm. So, it seems the Levante’s dimension is on-point.

Borrowed Bora bling

The Levante wheels, like the Bora WTO, are made with Campy’s handmade ultralight carbon (H.U.L.C.) process. The carbon layup has been adapted for gravel riding, balancing strength, stiffness and weight.

Also like the Bora WTO, the Levante has the C-Lux (Campagnolo Luxury) finish. It’s pretty stunning no matter what wheelset it’s on. It’s functional, too. The finish is in the rim bed, which helps make for a smoother mounting of the tires.

Campagnolo Levante
The Campagnolo Levante have the shiny C-Lux finish. Image: Chris Bayley

Pragmatism for riding away from pavement

Beyond the bling are some no-nonsense features. The Levante wheels don’t have Campy’s signature G3 spoke pattern. Instead, they use a more traditional lacing pattern with straight-pull spokes. The bearings are cup-and-cone for top durability. Unlike some Campy wheels, the spoke nipples on the Levante aren’t hidden. All of these features make the wheels much easier to service compared with their high-end road counterparts.

Campagnolo Levante
The aluminum hub has adjustable cup-and-cone bearings. Image: Chris Bayley

Choose your freehub

The Levante are designed to complement Campy’s Ekar groupset. A signature feature of Ekar is the N3W freehub, which holds the 13-speed Ekar cassette. N3W also works with 12- and 11-speed cassettes. The Levante can come equipped with Shimano HG and SRAM XDR freehub bodies.

Campagnolo Levante
Campagnolo Levante rear wheel with Campy’s N3W freehub.

The Canadian price of the Campagnolo Levante gravel wheels

A pair of Campagnolo Levante gravel wheels costs $2,250.

Campagnolo Levante first impressions

Oh, the Levante are shiny. That’s not hard-hitting reviewing, I admit, but they are sharp-looking with their C-Lux finish. We’ll see how that goes after repeated runs through dust and mud. My test hoops are running 38c Vittoria Terreno Dry treads. The 25-mm inner rim widths give the tires a nice shape. Everything feels secure and planted in the corners. The stiffness of the wheels makes them spin up quite well.

Campagnolo Levante
Campagnolo Levante wheels on a BMC Urs running Campy’s Ekar group. Image: Chris Bayley

I really like the mix of flash (C-Lux finish, high-end carbon) with the practical (cup-and-cone, standard spoke lacing setup). While I will continue to test these wheels to get a deeper impression of them, I don’t imagine I’ll have them long enough to really find out how serviceable they are. Still, from the spec, I’d say Campy made some smart decisions when it designed the Levante. They are high-performance hoops that you won’t be afraid to take on big rides and even multi-day adventures. Actually, it’s not that you won’t be afraid; you’ll simply be itching to take them on really long spins.

Campagnolo Levante
Campagnolo Levante. Image: Chris Bayley
Campagnol Levante
Haas kicking up some dark soil on Mount Etna.