CAMPAGNOLO BORA ULTRA WTO 45 – MORE THAN SKIN DEEP

Like most Campagnolo kit, it’s hard not to be taken by the stunning beauty and engineering precision of the Bora Ultra WTO 45 wheelset. The rich black rim finish, hourglass hub shell, recessed spoke nipples, and modest yet proud graphics draw you in.

As with anything as alluring as this wheelset, I was hopeful that its performance was just as beautiful and precise.

In some ways, it is.

Judging from how little effort is needed to get it up to speed, the Bora Ultra WTO 45 feels like a fast wheelset. It doesn’t hold that speed as easily as an aero wheelset or the fastest all-arounds do on a flat or rolling course. But, the lively and responsive feel of this Campy makes it feel quite fast when you accelerate from a stop or out of a corner.

The hubs, flanges, axles, and spokes are as beautiful as the rims

The Campagnolo hubs roll incredibly smoothly and the freehub is absolutely silent. I felt alone with my thoughts doing a soul ride or set of hard interval workouts on the Bora Ultra WTO 45. For me, that’s generally a good thing. However, if you prefer being accompanied by the sounds coming out of your freehub or drivetrain, you’ll not get that kind of collaboration from this wheelset.

Equally distinctive, and perhaps more importantly, climbing well is a true partnership with these Campags. They go up ramps and steeper pitches with relative ease.

At 1445 grams on my scale with valve stems in place, the Ultra version of the Bora WTO 45 actually weighs about 70 grams less than the non-Ultra model of the Bora WTO 33 we’ve reviewed. While it doesn’t weigh as little as a pure climbing wheelset, the Ultra 45’s feel as energetic going uphill as one that is.

Related: You can compare my review of the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 45 with other all-around wheelsets in this review of The Best Carbon Disc Wheelset.

In addition to its climbing ability, the Bora Ultra WTO 45 wheelset is quite responsive and tracks with great precision through corners. It’s a laterally stiff setup that accelerates well when called upon. My fellow tester and competitive racer Miles found them extremely stiff compared with the other wheels he’s ridden with “zero flex” sprinting on the flats or up a steep climb.

Our test period included several days when the wind was blowing 15mph/25kph. In those conditions, you have to work with even the most stable all-around wheels to keep things upright. Coming from the side at those wind speeds, the Bora Ultra WTO 45 gets pushed as well. The front wheel leans steadily away from the wind rather than with an erratic reaction. Counter steering in the direction of the wind got me through it.

But on milder days when the wind isn’t blowing that strong or steady, it slices through the winds and gusts quite well with no steering or stabilizing adjustment required.

While sufficiently comfortable for a race-oriented wheelset, especially with the 25mm Veloflex Corsa TLR tubeless cotton (puncture belt equipped) tires we used for this test, you can’t easily optimize them for both speed and comfort on all paved surfaces given their 19.0 mm inside, 26.3 mm outside rim dimensions.

The 25mm Veloflex and Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR I mounted to these wheels both measure sufficiently narrower than the rim width even at 80psi. That will give you ideal aero performance over the lifetime of the tires. The other 25mm tubeless tires and all the 28mm ones we installed on this wheelset are or will become wider than the rims and add aero drag (see measurements here).

With 25mm tires installed and at the pressure required for that width tire and your weight, Miles and I didn’t find these Campys to ride either plush or harsh. They were comfortable enough even on the 80-mile ride Miles took them on and not a noticeable benefit or drawback on the many 2-hour rides we each did.

If comfort is more important than speed or the road surface you ride is better with a wider tire inflated at lower pressure, you can certainly use 28mm tires on these wheels and perhaps make up for the added aero drag with reduced vibration loss rolling resistance depending on your speed and riding surface. But, be careful not to drop the pressure too low to avoid pinch flatting or rolling the tire in a hard cornering maneuver on these narrower wheels.

The hidden, recessed spoke nipples accessible from the outside of the rim are an “engineering detail” worth marveling about

I’ll admit to becoming somewhat spoiled riding tubeless, road disc wheels with 23mm to 25mm inside rim widths and/or outside 30mm+ ones that are well suited for 28mm wide tires. While there’s a good deal of science behind how wide wheels and wide tires can make you faster, I like to think of it as having my reduced aero drag and rolling resistance layer cake and comfort icing too.

US brands ENVE, Bontrager, and Zipp have been among the larger wheelmakers in this wider rim movement. The major EU brands Campagnolo and DT Swiss have stayed with narrower rims across their best-performing, mid-depth, and aero wheelsets. Likely tracking the introduction and acceptance of disc brake bikes in these regions, Campag and DT also continue to make most of their top wheelsets in both disc and rim brake models.

I’m old enough to remember that narrower wheels can go fast too. Riding the Bora Ultra WTO 45 indeed reminds me of that when it comes time to accelerate or head uphill. At US$3000/£2600/€3000 at Chain Reaction Cycles and Tredz (10% off w/code ITKTDZ10) or more depending on the freehub you use, I’m also reminded that it’s a beautiful, iconic Campagnolo brand wheelset that you’re paying for.

Without going deep into all the tech and spec details (performance is our jam at In The Know Cycling), know that you can get the non-Ultra version, aka the Bora WTO 45 for a good amount less. While it has essentially the same rim profile, it’s made with a different mix of carbon and resin, uses a different molding process that requires some post-molding filling and finishing, and uses alloy hub shells. It weighs about 100 grams more, most of that in the rims.

The Bora WTO 45 disc brake sells for about US$2500/£1700/€2250 depending on your freehub choice using these links to Competitive Cyclist, Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles, and Merlin.

And if you’re as loyal to your rim brake bike as many are to all things Campagnolo, the Bora WTO 45 rim brake model shares many of the same attributes (rim profile, hubset, finish) as the disc brake version and Campagnolo rim brake wheels have long been known for the excellent brake track performance. It’s available for about US$2100/£1675/€2030 at these links to Competitive Cyclist, Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, and Tredz (10% off w/code ITKTDZ10).

In The Know Cycling is ad-free, subscription-free, and reader-supported. If you want to help keep it rolling without any added cost to you, buy your gear and kit after clicking the store links on the site. When you do, we may earn an affiliate commission that will help me cover the expenses to create and publish our independent, comprehensive, and comparative reviews. Thank you, Steve. Learn more.

Follow us on instagram.com/itkcycling | twitter.com/ITKCycling | facebook.com/itkcycling

First published on June 20, 2022. The date of the most recent major update is shown at the top of the post.

4 comments

  • Muzzamel Mazidee

    Hey Steve, comparing the Ultra WTO 45, Enve 3.4 and 353 NSW, how would you rank these three and what are the major strength of each one?

    Is it a miss that Campy didn’t developed an internal width of at least 21mm for the Ultra WTO 45 and 60?

    • Muzzamel, Rather than attempt to summarize them here and leave out something that might be important to you in choosing between them, I’d suggest you read my reviews of the ENVE and Zipp wheels here along with the Campy. They each bring different strengths and weaknesses which may be more or less relevant to your personal goals, riding profile, and budget.

      If I were to name one major strength of each, the Zipp is insanely light for wheelset of that depth, the ENVE is incredibly versatile for different speeds and road surfaces, and the Campy is exceptionally stiff. But none of those may matter to you and they each have other strengths that may be more important or weaknesses that may be deal-breakers. You will see a comparative chart for the criteria I think matters most that includes the Campy in the all-around review I link to in the review above. I haven’t put one of those together for the ENVE and Zipp in the climbing review as I’m looking to add more wheelsets before doing so. But they are called out in the individual reviews.

      I don’t know what goes into Campy’s rationale behind its wheel design or try to judge its or anyone’s wheels based on product specs. I and my fellow testers can just judge wheelset performance and that’s the basis of our reviews. Wider rims can make a wheelset more versatile for gravel or rougher paved surfaces (but not always – example: the 303 S) but may not fit in some frames and can be heavier than narrower ones. Steve

      • Muzzamel Mazidee

        Much appreciated on your feedback Steve.

        Have gone through the individual review along the comparative ones (and chart) you’ve made points on.

        Appreciate the honest reviews that you and your fellow testers have done. Definitely a contributing factor to my purchasing decision to come.

        Cheers!

        • Muzzamel, You’re welcome. As you may have seen (because I’ve been posting about it a lot the last few weeks 🙂 ), I can make recommendations drawing on what I and my fellow testers have found testing these and other wheelsets that best fits your unique situation when you become a Leader member of Know’s Club. Steve

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.