One major area in which Campagnolo outperforms that other company is wheels (ShimaNO doesn't make rims or wheels). Campy has for several years offered factory-built wheels based on a high-profile, aero rim (the Shamal, Vento, and similar wheels); for 1998, the line-up has expanded. In this edition of Tech Talk, our expert, Tim Laflin, examines the complete Campy wheelsets. (For our exclusive discussion of Campy's '98 rim lineup, check here.)


Climb-Dynamic Wheels
Electron | Proton

Fluid-Dynamic Wheels
Ghibli | Bora | Shamal | Vento | Zonda |Scirocco | Eurus

Your Webmaster's Proton Road Test

Special Purpose Wheels

One of the areas that Shimano has been missing in the market is the special purpose wheel. If you take a look at what is available you will find that there a a bunch of aftermarket companies making wheels for Shimano equipment. Mavic, Hed, Rigida, Spinergy and others are all focused on the Shimano market. Campy has the components that Shimano is lacking in that they actually make rims.

The special purpose wheel consists of 3 parts. The hub does not need to be special, but Campy makes a number of special hubs depending on how deep your pockets are. Shimano goes as far as offering a slotted hub to make special purpose wheels. The second part is the spokes. Campy actually makes special spokes for their wheels; Shimano leaves that to someone else. The third and very important part is the rim. Campy has the rim technology to deliver cutting edge rims that Shimano lacks. With all three components in place Campy can offer special purpose wheels that are exactly Campy-compatible and reliable.

Any company competing with Campagnolo has their work cut out. The Campy wheel is more than just a straight pull spoke and an off-the-shelf rim. The rim extrusion is similar to the standard production rims but a little heavier to account for the increased tension of the fewer number of spokes. The spokes are designed specifically for the hub to allow fewer spokes and a wider offset. You won't be pulling the radial spokes through the hub flange, nor will the spoke heads snap off as easy as a standard straight pull spoke.

This year Campy has addressed the Mavic Helium issue with the Climb-Dynamic wheels. As with last year, the Fluid-Dynamic wheels are still in the line. Almost all special purpose wheel sets are targeted to the racer. This almost goes without saying for all the special purpose Campy wheels. Riders usually have a set of heavy strong wheels for training, and a set of lighter race wheels. In fact, as you ride more miles a second set of wheels eases the burden of having to repair wheels the same day. If you are serious about training you can't take 3 or 4 days off waiting for a wheel to be repaired. By the same token you never go to a race with one set of wheels. I am always amazed to see riders come to state wide events with a single set of radial raced wheels and break a spoke in warm-up and have to borrow a wheel. A back wheel substitution can make shifting a real problem if you do not get an identical swap. At the very least you will need to adjust the brakes. So come race day or the club rides you can toss on the good wheels and, if you have a problem you have a spare. Don't spend all the time training for an event just to loose with broken equipment. If money is a problem get two conventional wheel sets instead of a special purpose wheel set.

Climb-Dynamic Wheels

This is a new wheel for Campy this year. It comes in two flavors the Electron and Proton. The Electron is high end version that uses the Record hub internals. The Proton is based off of the Chorus hub internals. Both wheels share the SWT rims with glass smooth braking surface.

Campagnolo has revised the rear wheel on Proton and Electron wheelsets! Check out our Rumors page for more . . .

Electron

The Electron is the lightest version of the Climb-Dynamic Wheels. It differs in only the hub to the Proton. The one advantage the Electron offers is a lighter 7000 series aluminum tubular rim that the Proton does not. If you want to run tubulars this is the only game in town from Campy on the Climb-Dynamic Wheels. The Electron has a choice of clincher and tubular. The clincher uses a slightly heavier 6000 series aluminum rim, but the majority of the extra weight come from the clincher rim design. Clincher always weigh more than tubular rims (for the same strength) due to the design to hold the clincher tire on the rim. The front and back wheels use special high tension spokes and more aerodynamic hubs. The Electron wheels use 24 spokes front and rear. The fronts are radially laced and the back is radial on the non-drive side and 1 cross on the drive side. (Campagnolo has revised the rear wheel on Proton and Electron wheelsets! Check out our Rumors page for more . . .) The tubular front is a light 681 grams and clincher is 733 grams. The rear is 905 grams for the tubular and 965 grams for the clincher. Compared to the Mavic Helium which is sort of the bench mark, the Campy front is 30 grams heavier and the back is 50 grams heavier. It is worth mention that the majority of weight savings in the Mavic wheel is in the hub which is not a big factor in the performance of the wheel. The big item to note here is the Campy wheels are significantly stiffer in the few spins I have taken. If you are a heavier rider, or a strong sprinter I think the Campy wheels are a better choice.

Proton

Here is the big question: What am I giving up to go with the Proton wheel vs. the Electron? The answer is not much. If you are going to run clinchers I can't see paying the money for the Electron. Just taking the first catalog of the desk, Excel is looking for $250 for the Electron front and $209 for the Proton front. So $40 bucks is not much. The problem comes in the back. The Electron back is $409 and the Proton is $299. For $160 more you can get a set of Electrons. The weight savings is 50 grams in the back for the Electron. The Proton rear is 1015 grams. The weight savings in the front is 12 grams. The Proton front is 745 grams. All the weigh savings of the Electron is in the hub which is the lowest rotating mass in the equation. It is impossible to tell which wheel you are riding from a feel standpoint. The Electron does not pass the $1 per gram test. It is, however at a hefty $2 per gram upgrade.

It is a tough call. In the gram world we live in I can't recommend the Electron clincher as a good value, but at about $2.5 per gram from a major player it is a sound value. My cutoff used to be $1 per gram and it may go up this year. It will come down to your wallet. As far as a tubular, the Electron makes the upgrade value of 174 grams for $160 dollars a definite green light. You will be hard pressed to find a special purpose wheel that is better than these. When a company has control of all the elements in a wheel, the result is this good.

Fluid-Dynamic Wheels

Campy has taken the Fluid-Dynamics to the edge and back. I can comfortably say that Campy has the aero wheel market covered. If you are shopping for a time trial wheel, this is the place to look. These wheels differ from the Climb-Dynamic wheels in that they are aero section wheel that are heavier over all, but more importantly heavier in the rim. The rim Climb rims are box sections that plow through the wind. The Fluid-Dynamics slice through the wind. The trade off is Fluid-Dynamics accelerate slower and suffer in cross wind drift compared to the Climb-Dynamics. It is a rare sight to see any rider in the peloton using an aero wheel for several reasons. It is not good to be on the outside spot of the gruppo and have the wind push the bike into the next rider. It is also not very useful to have heavy aero wheels in a large pack that is shielding you from the wind anyway. In order to cover breaks and react to changes in pace an easy to accelerate wheel is a must. Conversely, it is rare to see a rider in a profession race not use an aerodynamic wheel in a single rider event like a time trial, unless it is very hilly. Aero wheels work, but make sure your purpose matches the wheel. An aero wheel is great for a century ride to reduce effort. In a 100-mile race where the pace out of corners is hard and people is trying to break the pack, the aero wheel will take its toll and wear you down. Choose wisely.

Ghibli

This is the disc wheel line for Campy. While they are used in some road races, it is more common to find them in use on the track. The wheel is a a completely flat disc that is no wider than the rim. It comes in a variety of flavors that you can see on the official Campagnolo page. This wheel comes in tubular form only and is more expensive than most bike frames. The last ones I saw were in the $1,400 each price range. It is made in front and rear wheel models. The front track style comes in 700c or 26" and the rear comes in a 700c with a 120mm track spacing or in 700c with 130mm spacing and a 9 speed cassette body. I am not going to spend much verbiage on these, since most people will never buy them, but Campy does make a disc. I have never used a Ghibli and am not familiar enough with discs to compare them to other brands. If there is anybody who can add comment on these wheels, let me know I will add it to the write up.

Bora

This is the pinnacle of Campy's road racing aero wheels. The Bora and Shamal are very similar in design. The Bora is the most aerodynamic of the open wheels. The Bora has a 50mm deep aero (Shamal is only 41mm) section with aluminum brake surfaces embedded on the sides. This construction is the most ideal for an aero wheel. There are a few makers out there like Corima offing a full carbon wheel. The full carbon wheel is neat, but the braking surface degrades over time and is positively dangerous in a little bit of water. Aluminum is not great in the rain, but carbon quite a bit worse even with special brake pads. The older Bora wheel used to be all Carbon. If you look at Jan Ullrich's wheels in 97 tour you will see he is still riding the old Bora. The older version was nearly 250 grams lighter than this years Bora. The new construction of the Bora makes for a better, safer and heavier long term wheel. The rim section is 19mm wide to allow a narrow tire to still hide the rim. The Bora features are the HPW hub which hides all the spoke heads and the rim covers all the nipples. The deeper aero section is you are paying for. The internal hub pieces are from the Record hub so you get the Ti axles and sealed bearings. These wheels are so expensive that I have never actually built a bike with them. The 12 spoke front wheel is 830 grams and the 12 spoke rear is 1040 grams in a tubular rim which is all that is offered. Hey, if you have the money for these wheels, tubular tires are not expensive. I can't find a mail order price on them, but a rough guess would be around $1050. This wheel is just too expensive to justify the cost. It is no lighter than the Shamal, but costs around $200 more. You will need to be a very serious competitor to spend the extra money to get 9mm more aero depth for $200.

Shamal

This is the Campy's aero wheel that most fat wallet people buy. The new version is going for about $850 from Excel. This is wheel comes in both tubular and clincher. The price tag is hefty and orders have been slow. It is sort of a cost reduced Bora. The Shamal falls back to the 96 version with respect to 16 spokes in the rear. The Bora maintains 12 spokes front and rear, while the Shamal goes back to 16 for 98. The aero section rim is all aluminum and it is 41mm deep compared to the 50mm for the Bora, but is still 19mm wide like the Bora. The Shamal still uses a Record grade (HPW) hub. The Shamal 12 spoke front wheel is 800 grams in tubular and 825 grams in clincher. The Shamal 16 spoke rear wheel is 1050 grams in tubular and 1080 grams in clincher. The Shamal is on par weight wise with the Bora, but the Bora; with its deeper aero profile, wins the performance race. When the Shamal started out life it was about $150 less than today's version. The $850 is probably going to keep most people away.

Vento

This wheel is the first wheel that most serious riders will buy. You can get a set for about $625 from Excel. I am sorry to say it, but the Bora and Shamal have just gotten a little out of control in the price arena. Vento is not the best pick in the top performance for the buck from Campy. The Vento uses the same rim as the Shamal, but it has 4 more spokes up front. The Vento 16 spoke front wheel weight is 914 grams in clincher. The Vento 16 spoke rear is 1133 grams in clincher. The Vento is offered in 26 inch wheels also, with lower weights. You can check it out on the Campagnolo page. The front wheel picks up 99 grams from the Shamal and the rear is 83 grams heavier. The front weight is more a function of the extra spokes than the hubs. The rear weight is mostly the hub. The Vento gets a Chorus grade HPW hub that makes it heavier due to the steel axle and hardware, compared to the Shamal and Bora with Record Ti parts. The bottom line here is for some weight in the hub and a few more spokes, you get a wheel that almost matches the Shamal. The $225 extra bucks to get to the Shamal is a little above the gram per dollar mark. You save 182 grams. It is a decent upgrade and misses the $1 per gram good value mark. If you have the money or want to run tubulars move up to Shamals. Tubular Shamals pass the money and grams test over the Vento, but not as clearly over the Zonda. This year's improvements in the Zonda make it much more attractive than the Vento on a price and performance basis.

Zonda

Take one more step down and the Zonda is your wheel. For about $150 less than the Vento the Zonda offers a lot of performance. The hub is the same as the Vento and it has all the same features with respect to the hubs and spokes. The rim is slightly less aero with a 38mm deep aero section, but it is still 19mm wide. The 16 spoke front clincher is 857 grams and the 16 spoke rear is 1104 grams. While you are dropping 3mm in aero profile the Zonda is lighter than the Vento. It would most likely be a mistake in my opinion to move up to the Vento over the Zonda. The Zonda has nearly all the aero features like concealed nipples and spoke heads, and it comes on a Chorus hub like the Vento. I feel like the question here is Zonda or Shamal. The step to Shamal may be too big for most riders. You are looking at an almost 2 times price jump to move up to something better. My advice is to stop at Zonda and forget Shamal and Vento. If the Shamal was in the $500 to $600 range it might be a jump to make.

Scirocco

This wheel is fairly far down the food chain in the Campy line. This year it gets a strength improvement with the higher line straight pull spokes and reinforced drive side hub flange. The stronger rear drive side makes this a better wheel than you can build with stock components. The rest of the wheel design is fairly standard. The spokes have exposed nipples and the front hub is a standard hub flange, just like the non-drive side of the rear. The rim width is 19mm and the aero section is 34mm deep. The front and rear wheels each use 20 spokes. This is the last of the Campy wheels that I would consider to be advantageous to buy over a stock hub and rim combination. The only spokes on this wheel that are bladed are the drive side high tension spokes. The rest of the spokes are aero, but not to the degree of the more expensive wheels above, and are a standard looking bent head spokes. If you are still using 8 speeds this is the best wheel in the line that is still available in 8 and 9 speeds. The front clincher is 887 grams and the rear clincher is 1113 grams for 9 speeds and 1193 for 8 speeds. The hubs in this wheel set are of the Veloce/Athena hub design. The hubs are still easy to service and good for many miles. Excel is offering this wheel at about $410.

Eurus

This is the last aero wheel in the Campy line. Eurus is designed for the Mirage and Avanti equipment. It uses the sealed bearing hubs from these lower lines and comes in 8 speeds only, to match the Mirage and Avanti gruppos. There is noting really remarkable about this wheel set other than it is a good set of wheels for a low end bike. It uses a standard hub flange and standard spokes and an aero rim with 19mm of width and 30mm deep in the aero section. The non-drive side is radially laced, but the front uses a 1 cross pattern. The front wheels is 878 grams and the rear is 1151 grams with clincher rims. The Eurus will most likely run in the $320 area from a mail order company, for a set.

When writing this I happen to have the Excel catalog #36 sitting on my desk and a wholesale price list. The prices are all from Excel just for reference and will most likely change. For the wheels that Excel did not list I gave a rough stab at them knowing the wholesale price and the margin that Excel charged on the other wheels. Just in case you are wondering, I do not wish to give out wholesale prices and I guarantee Excel is not getting rich on a single order of wheels. Shop around and try to get a set of last years wheels or get a used set off the Campy Only page.

I would avoid the 12 spoke Shamals from 97 simply due to the fact that Campy is not making them in 98. The 16 spoke versions from 96 and 98 are a much sturdier rear wheel. If you get a set of 12 spoke wheels, get some spokes also. It would be a good idea to have an extra set of spokes for all the special purpose wheels, because the local shop can fix them, but they will not have the spokes in stock. One final note is that if you get a Zonda or above wheel there is a special tool is needed to true the wheels. It reaches down into the rim to tighten a 5.5mm nut/nipple. If you do not have access to this tool a Snap-On brand 5.5mm deep reach socket will do the job. Snap-On is the only socket I have found that will fit the rim hole and the nut, since the socket wall is thin enough.

We Road Test the Proton Wheelset

Your webmaster has been using a set of Proton wheels for about a year now, mostly in a number of hilly, ultramarathon events. Here are my impressions and experiences:

  • The wheels are very attractive and still very unusual in most pacelines. The HPW hubs are striking and unlike anything else on the road. Overall, I like the look of the wheels much more than any competing wheelset (like Mavic's "Helium" wheels). The Proton wheelset also doesn't come in a funky red color (like Heliums) that looks funny with most frames.
  • I like the "ride" of the wheels. The HPW hubs allow the spokes (24 on the Protons) to carry up to three times the tension of a traditionally spoked wheel. Campy's official specs call for up to 160 kilograms of tension in the rear wheel drive-side spokes. What this means on the road is that the wheels feel very quick and fast. The ride is a little more harsh than a standard wheel, but comfortable enough for my long distance events.
  • How durable are they? I've had mixed luck with my Protons--sorry to say, quite a dose of bad in with the good. I put about 500 miles on my first set of Protons, and they remained very true and straight--until a spoke let go on the rear wheel. I was 180 miles into a double century, slowly pedaling away from a rest stop, when one of the drive-side spokes on the rear wheel broke off at the hub. Because of the tension in the spokes, and because there are only 24 of them, losing one spoke throws the wheel way out of true, and I was forced to limp back to the rest stop, where they were able to true the wheel enough for me to finish the event. After the event, I sent the wheel back to Campagnolo USA, which fixed it for free and shipped it back to me within a week. The new wheel lasted for a few months, until a spoke let go in it, too. I shipped that one back to Campagnolo, and they replaced it with a newer version of the Proton rear, which now has a different spoke pattern and beefier spokes (Check out our Rumors page for more). That one had about 200 miles on it when it, too, lost a spoke--the first such spoke breakage that the folks at Campagnolo USA have seen in the revised Protons. I'm now on my third rear wheel and waiting to see how it holds up.
  • August 1999:  The double century season is over, and the rear wheel shipped to me in February is still holding up very nicely after several hundred training miles, four DC's, and the steep and sometimes rough Climb to Kaiser.  Campagnolo's latest effort, it seems, can be trusted. So, would I now recommend these wheels? If you're looking for a very light, attractive, and lively wheelset, my answer is a definite "Yes."  
  • Next Up--We'll be contacting Campagnolo to start a road test of the new Neutron wheelset.  Watch this site for results!

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