Advertisement

Sign up for our newsletter

Advertisement

Campagnolo's new Levante gravel wheels are hooked but hookless-adjacent

Pete Muir
29 Apr 2022

Lightweight and practical gravel wheels match Ekar groupset and come with new Mini-Hook rim design

Gravel fans rejoice because the Campagnolo Levante gravel wheelset has arrived to complement the Italian company's gravel-specific, 13-speed Ekar groupset.

This is Campagnolo's first all-gravel wheel. Until now, if you looked under 'gravel' on the Campagnolo website, you would be presented with the Shamal wheel, but that has been repositioned as an 'all-road' wheel. The Levante – named, like all Campagnolo wheels, after a wind – is aimed purely and squarely at the gravel scene.

On the performance side, the emphasis has been placed on light weight and assured handling, but Campagnolo has also paid a lot of attention to practical aspects such as durability and serviceability for those times when you're stuck out in the wilds.

Perhaps the most interesting new development is the creation of the Mini-Hook rim, which lies somewhere between hooked and hookless rims and purports to offer the benefits of both – but more on that later.

Construction and weight

The Levante wheels are made using what Campagnolo refers to as HULC: handmade ultra-light carbon. It's the same material and method as used on the company's top-end Bora Ultra WTO wheels, and aims to offer a combination of light weight, strength and stiffness.

One benefit of the construction method is that the wheel comes out of the mould already smooth and shiny, meaning no need for additional lacquer and thus a saving of a few grams. The rim is then finished off with laser-etched lettering – no stickers here – to match the colour and style of the Ekar gravel groupset.

The HULC carbon rim also requires no rim tape as the internal channel is smooth and free from spoke holes, meaning another weight saving.

At present the Levante comes in one rim depth – 30mm – and only in 700c (no 650b). In all, the wheelset weighs 1,485g, which compares favourably with similar top-end gravel-specific wheelsets from the likes of Hunt, Bontrager and DT Swiss.

Tyre fitting and the Mini-Hook

The internal width of the Levante rim is 25mm (30.6mm external), which Campagnolo says makes the wheels compatible with tyres from 38mm to 78mm. The company also claims that the Levante is a match for any brand of tyre, thanks to its new Mini-Hook standard.

As the name suggests, Mini-Hook is like the hooks on a standard hooked rim, but smaller. This, says Campagnolo, makes it perform more like a hookless rim, with the consequent benefits of weight saving and improved tyre profile.

To explain, most wheel rims are hooked – the outer edge of the rim is a thin wall with a hook that holds the bead of the tyre in place, preventing the tyre from dislodging under pressure or heavy impacts.

The benefit is one of safety, but a downside is that a hooked rim can contribute to a 'lightbulb' profile for a tyre, which decreases the amount of rubber in contact with the ground and can result in a 'squirm' effect at low pressures.

A number of brands have now started promoting hookless rims, where the rim walls are flat and the tyre is held in place by the pressure of the bead against the wall. The benefits include less material used in rim construction, so lighter weights, and greater ease of manufacture, and hence potentially lower prices.

Hookless also allows the tyre to form more of an 'arch' shape, which can improve contact with the ground, giving better grip and stability and potentially allowing lower tyre pressures for more comfort and further improved grip.

Of course, the risk is that tyres can more easily come free from hookless rims if the tolerances aren't perfect, and manufacturers of hookless wheels usually publish a list of compatible tyre brands that have been tested to ensure safety.

With Mini-Hook, Campagnolo believes it has developed a system that is the best of both worlds – the beneficial tyre profile of hookless, with the safety of hooked. The company adds that the Levante wheels are fully ETRTO compliant for clincher and tubeless safety standards.



Durability and serviceability

Campagnolo may be the last brand you'd think of when discussing subjects such as practicality and ease of maintenance, but with the Levante wheels these issues are very much to the fore.

The company is only too aware that gravel riders need products that will endure a fair amount of rough and tumble, and that can be easily repaired or replaced when a long way from an authorised dealer.

As such, the rims are designed to be asymmetric – shaped to account for the differing forces on either side of the wheel – in order to be stronger and more durable.

The wheel hubs are alloy and constructed in a traditional cup and cone method with stainless steel bearings for reliability and relatively easy servicing. And the spokes are straight-pull, in a regular spoke pattern (24 front and back), meaning you’ve a decent chance of finding a replacement if you break one while riding far from home.

Similarly, Campagnolo has opted for regular external nipples, so that spoke replacement and tensioning can be done simply and using a bog-standard spoke tool, with no need to fork out for a special Campagnolo-specific tool (cheers all round).

The N3W freehub is unsurprisingly designed to go with the 13-speed Ekar cassette, but will also accept 12-speed and 11-speed Campagnolo cassettes. For non-completists, there will be wheelsets available with Shimano HD and Sram XDR freehub bodies – but those groupsets just aren’t going to match as nicely.

Campagnolo Levante wheelset price and availability

The Campagnolo Levante wheelset is available now and costs £1,349.99 (with N3W freehub). This puts them at the expensive end of the carbon gravel wheel market, but not up there with the most expensive.

Find out more at campagnolo.com.

Campagnolo Levante spec:

  • Construction: HULC UD carbon fibre, asymmetric, 2-way fit
  • Weight: 1,485g (claimed)
  • Rim depth: 30mm
  • Internal rim width: 25mm
  • External rim width: 30.6mm
  • Tyre compatibility: 38mm-78mm
  • Hub: Aluminium cup and cone, adjustable bearings
  • Spokes: 24 each wheel – 12+12 double butted, external nipples

Read more about: