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Campagnolo’s Shamal Ultra

Campagnolo, renowned for being big on style, big on function and comparatively big on price, has released the Shamal Ultra; an updated version of their classic deep section wheel launched in the early 90s and ridden by the likes of Spanish powerhouse Big Mig(uel) Indurain. Let’s take a look at the new model and how it stacks up.

In the wheel development space there’s been little news of great significance from any of the key players. General trends are towards tubeless and wider rims, carbon fibre and the development of disc brake specific wheels, with only incremental modifications across the entire market.

Campagnolo has released two versions of the Shamal Ultra: the basic clincher, and another rim with their ‘two way fit’ design which can be used as a regular clincher with tubes and tyres, or with tubeless tyres, and also with tubulars. There’s just 10 grams difference between the two so the choice becomes one more of application and price, than weight. We’re looking at the lighter, clincher version.

Campagnolo has followed the rest of the market into a world of wider rims. They’ve retained their Mega G3 spoke pattern on the rear wheel, and kept a radial design on the front. Rim depths and spoke counts differ with 16 spokes laced to a 26mm deep rim on the front and 21 spokes for the 30mm rear.

While they look similar from the outside, the clinchers and two way fit rims have significantly different inner rim profiles, negating the use of the clincher in a tubeless context. They don’t have the typical strong shoulder of a tubeless specific to hold a tubeless tyre in place, hard up against the bead hook once inflated. As such they may be prone to having air escape under cornering stresses if used without tubes. So, play it safe and run tubes in your Shamal clinchers, and if you want to go tubeless get the ‘two way fit’ version.

The new Shamals are 17mm internally between the bead hooks, up from just 15mm on the previous version. The wider profile means a more securely held tyre carcass on the rim. To get an understanding of the benefits of this, grab an inflated party balloon by the inflation tube or knot. When you shake the balloon it flops uncontrollably. Now try it while holding the balloon with a wider grip. The same concept applies with your tyre and the wider rim’s ‘grip’ mean a more stable tyre on the rim i.e. less squirm and therefore better handling and increased steering precision.

The wider rim also means a slightly larger contact patch on the road for more traction, a bigger ‘bag’ on the tyre which enables a lower tyre pressure without risk of pinch flats. The wider rim also results in a more vertical sidewall which also reduces the propensity for pinch flats.

Campagnolo is always at pains to emphasise their commitment to safety, (note their delayed entrance to the road disc market) and have designed the wheel to be light without compromising strength. The Ultras are wider but not at the expense of extra weight. Excess alloy has been milled out of the rims between spokes where possible resulting in a mass of just on 1495g for the pair, sans skewers or any tape.

The Ultra’s hubs feature a carbon fibre body for a bit of bling and to trim a few more grams, and they house Campag’s sealed ‘ultra-smooth bearings’. They’re also beneficiaries of some trickle down tech in the adjustable lock ring designed to simplify bearing preload setup.

We rode the new wheels briefly at the Gran Canaria launch and subsequently have been testing them back home for a longer period which has borne out first impressions. The wheels feel tight on the road while cornering, and stiff and spritely when climbing, with no evidence of brake rub—which is probably a good thing, as thanks to the alloy brake track and Campy’s new pad compound these wheels deliver exceptional braking performance. The bearings are very smooth and the freewheel is virtually silent, an attribute that I’m finding more appealing the longer I ride them.

Overall the Shamal Ultras are a stiff and light wheelset ready to race, and pricewise are a viable alternative to much of their carbon competition. Their handling is good and braking performance is exceptional, proving that old school alloy can still mix it with the new carbon kids on the block.

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