Whether or not gravel is here to stay is no longer up for debate, at least according to the legacy Italian innovators at Campagnolo. While we’ve been covering emerging gravel tech for nearly a decade, Campagnolo bided their time to release Ekar, their first gravel drivetrain, in September 2020. The 1×13-speed mechanical groupset pushed the limits of what the gravel community expected from a high-end drivetrain with a multitude of chainring and cassette options paired with Campy’s iconic double curve shifters and classic shift logic. As impressed as we were with Ekar components, the only thing missing was a set of wheels stamped with the Campagnolo name to join the 13-speed drivetrain.
Campagnolo was in no hurry to develop a wheelset, as much of their early gravel strategizing was headed by Fulcrum (a part of the Campy family) during the engineering of the Rapid Red series which is a relatively rigid entry-level alloy wheel offering as well as the all-road-oriented Campagnolo Shamal wheelset. Given time to design a proper carbon gravel rim, Campagnolo engineers have at last provided a modern hoop to pair with their Ekar Drivetrain.
Now, the wait is over, meet Campagnolo’s Levante gravel wheelset.
Campagnolo has delivered a competitive carbon rim that proves they have been paying attention to the latest gravel tech trends. Firstly, the internal rim width is sufficient at 25mm and they’re tubeless-ready thanks to Campy’s 2-Way Fit (solid rim bed) technology. It’s the widest rim Campy offers and the first that is best paired with at least 38mm (or theoretically between 1.5-3.0-inch) tires to be appropriate for riding on a variety of rougher roads and gravel terrain. The solid rim bed design means no tubeless tape is needed for tubeless setup.
Campagnolo claims the wheelset weighs 1485 grams. They’re not the lightest and when compared to the prices offered by a competitor like Hunt, the $1900 Levantes seem a bit pricey but they’re on par with Zipp’s XPLR 101s, digging deeper, the specs reveal some premium design cues.
Like most of Campagnolo’s catalog, the Levante wheels have a distinct look that separates them from the assortment of mainstream components seen on group rides. A gloss finish Campy calls C-Lux technology coats the rim and its laser-etched graphics to give the Levantes a distinguishable aesthetic. Campy claims the C-Lux finish is so fine it does not require a lacquer which saves grams. All of the manufacturing is done in Campagnolo factories in Italy and Romania.
Unlike many modern gravel wheels, Campagnolo chose to include a reduced hooked in the rim. They called it a “Mini-Hook” and attributed the decision to use it to improve compatibility with the multitude of tubeless tire designs.
24 straight-pull spokes are laced between the asymmetric rim and the alloy hubs in a 2x pattern. Cup and cone bearings are used as well as external nipples. The cup and cone bearings can be seen across most of Campagnolo’s and Fulcrum’s wheels. They require a bit more maintenance and cleaning than sealed bearings but when set up properly can roll extremely smoothly. The external nipples allow for quick retensioning and the 2x pattern keeps things simple to work on.
Shimano HG and SRAM XDR freehubs are available for purchase as well as Campy’s N3W 13-speed freehub.
CAMPAGNOLO LEVANTE SPECS
Internal rim width: 25mm
Rim depth: 30mm
External rim width: 30.6mm
Recommended tire sizes: 38mm to 78mm
Colorway: C-Lux finish, laser-etched graphics on rim & hub
Asymmetric carbon rim
Mini-Hook rim design
Tubeless-ready, 2-Way Fit
Aluminum hub, cup & cone adjustable bearings
24 straight-pull spokes, double-butted
Aluminum external self lock nipples
We put the Levantes to the test over 15 miles of classic SoCal gravel fire roads. Winding, steep climbs and flowing, groomed descents covered a majority of the route. What stood out most was how smooth of a ride the Levantes created on the 35mm Vittoria Tirreno tires. We ran 40psi and measured the tires at nearly 36mm.
On the climbs, the mid-range weight of the Levantes was appreciated. Navigating around rocks and rain ruts at slow speed is more manageable than we’ve experienced with heavier wheels. We typically run 40mm tires over this route and were pleased with the overall low weight of the narrower tires without much of the expected compromise in terms of grip and compliance expected when running narrower tires. This may be attributed to the improved tire shape from the “Mini-hook” rim design.
On the descents, we felt in control thanks to the balanced compliance the Levantes provide. Brake rub was minimal and only noticeable after prolonged braking coming out of tight corners.
Since we’ve only had the chance to get a single ride before the official launch, look for a full review online and in an upcoming issue of Road Bike Action magazine. Plus, be on the lookout for us this weekend at Nova Eroica California as we continue to test the limits of the Levantes with some of the best gravel the Central California Coast has to offer.