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So it seems that winter is here. Autumn appears to have consisted of a nice 3 hour ride with the company of Ben from Gore and PBK’s Nick on our “2 double espressos and a fishpie” ride  2 weeks ago (more from Nick on that later). Since then it’s been either blowing a gale, verging on snowing or a fine combination of both. I’ve missed the fabulous autumn colours which normally grace the Lakes at this time of year.

This weekend I’m planning on having a bike weekend with my race bike going away and the fully Crud Road Racer guarded PBK winter bike emerging to fulfil commuting and weekend cafe ride duties. One of the items I’ve used throughout the season, with the usual shop riders’ abuse and in all conditions are my (as I’m now realising) trusty Shimano RS80 wheels.

I began using these in Spring and haven’t touched them since (bad on my part, brilliant on their part). I chose these mainly due to them being unbeatable in terms of weight, quality of the rim/hub/spokes and numerous user reviews. PBK Dave has reviewed his RS80’s previously: Dave’s Product Review: Shimano RS80 Wheel Set. Many of you will know and have read about these wheels being very similar to the more expensive Dura-Ace CL 7850’s which I should just note is true. These wheels share the same rim and spokes. The difference arises at the hubs – the 7850’s use Dura-Ace hubs which are lighter and have different seals. Personally I’ve always said that if you can afford better and want it, buy it! If you don’t really care which hub you’re on save a few quid and give the RS80’s a go, the rim weight (the important weight) remains the same.

What they’ve put up with:

While I’m no heavyweight, my wheels do take a kicking from my slow leg speed and love of big gears (remember I’m still 4th cat and proud here!). Their first test came at a town criterium where they were noticeably easier to spin up to speed out of the 3 hairpin corners (yes it was a very painful race!).

Next up was the local weekly crit on a purpose built cycling track. Here they were their usual confident selves, to be honest they are so good all round they don’t often get considered/blamed for me blowing after 15 mins of racing!

The final and probably hardest outing for them was the 24 hour race we did, I clocked up 6 1/2 hours on a concrete runway which had unavoidable jarring and punishing joints between the concrete slabs. Get it wrong like I did at dusk and you actually do apologise to your bike and wheels for what you’ve just ridden through – although they seemed to forgive me!

Throw in a couple of 10’s, a never again uphill TT and the rigours of training on the Lake District’s roads and they have held up and remain remarkably true and rattle free.

So the proper review, from the top:

Ready to go out of the box?

Mine certainly were, rim tape was pre-fitted and I’ve used Continental, Vittoria and Vredestein tyres on them with no fitting issues or especially tight gaps. Luck has been following me so far this year and I haven’t had to fix a puncture on the side of the road but equipped with my trusty and essential Park tyre levers I have no worries about getting the tyre back off. P.S Don’t forget to fit the spacer your cassette comes with! I had a very embarrassing walk to the bike shop to undo my lockring after tightening it without a spacer and pretty much seizing the freehub! A lesson for you all there. That or buy a chain-whip of your own…

Positives:

A wheelset which is competitive in terms of weight, price and offers performance way above this. Before these I had some deep carbon clinchers which while making a nice noise were not drastically faster or quicker to spin up – and very expensive plus required recalibration of your brain for the difference in braking power.

  • The carbon laminate rim looks great and you retain the alloy braking surface for confident last minute dives.
  • I did have doubt about the process used to bond the carbon and alloy but I’ve no signs of de-lamination and we haven’t had any returned to PBK because of this, or anything else for that matter – I haven’t seen a single pair returned to us.
  • The red nipples look great (never thought I’d type that at work).
  • The lightness is noticed going uphill but also coming down they keep you rolling just as well as Fulcrum Racing’s and Mavics – a downside with very light wheels without an aero profile.
  • The hubs haven’t been touched by me and still run smooth and silently.
  • The spokes are in between bladed and not, let’s go with semi-bladed. No fancy paint finishes and SS butted so no problems with snapping.

Negatives:

Whether it’s my Thor like power I don’t know but these aren’t the stiffest of wheels. I like to run my brakes with only a couple of mm to spare but the rear requires the lever on a Shimano caliper to be at about half way – a good 4 or 5mm each side to prevent rubbing when climbing/sprinting. A good re-tensioning by a competent mechanic would reduce this somewhat if you really couldn’t bare it, but it isn’t too bad yet and there is no wheel which doesn’t ‘settle’ in after 1000’s of miles.

On the whole and while many of you will expect me to say this; I heartily recommend these to anyone in the market for an all round wheel (if you pardon the pun). If you’re looking at keeping speed up through winter or are just hitting race season this is your wheel. While we’d all love to train & race on deep section carbon rims replacement of these after a crash would be impossible for most people’s wallets – an alloy rim with useful carbon additions gives you the best of both worlds.

While we’re on wheel talk, if you’re seriously thinking about a new ‘set of hoops’, Shimano do offer some less expensive options.

Ultegra 6700 (Tubeless compatible):

With the same hubs as the RS80’s but a full alloy rim these are capable of taking clincher and tubeless tyres – one of the best all-round tubeless wheelsets we stock.

Tubeless tyres are still relatively rare on the road scene but are gaining popularity due to having tubular tyre qualities without the hassle of glueing and puncture worries.

We’re keen to see whether this technology takes off or not;

Let us know if you have tried them.

Shimano RS10 and RS20:

Price and durability sums these two wheelsets up best.

A 24mm rim offers some aero advantage and they have the usual Shimano standard hubs which seem to be among the best. Compatibility with all 8,9 and 10 speed Shimano makes them available to all and while not the lightest.

Check all these wheels out and more in the PBK wheel clearance:

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A hub of reviews, advice and news from the online road cycling experts at ProBikeKit.