Shimano RS81 C35 wheelset - review

Versatile all-rounder likely to provide long service

Peter Lovell

The Shimano RS81 C35 aluminium carbon laminate clincher is a wheel that combines many talents in one package: able to get up to speed quickly, hold momentum, and owing to its 35mm rim depth, capable of holding firm in a cross wind.

If Shimano’s purpose is designing the RS81 C35 was to create a versatile all-rounder with a breadth of ability to encompass racing, commuting, and even a little ‘cross action, we’d say they’d hit the nail on the head.

Shimano RS81 C35 wheelset, spoke bed, pic: Timothy John, ©Factory Media
The Shimano RS81 C35 clincher proved to be a versatile all-rounder

Shimano’s mid-range all-rounder has been with us for a few weeks and after rides in a variety of conditions, we can offer our thoughts on its performance.

Rim

The rims are a carbon/aluminium laminate arrangement that is 35mm deep and 20.8mm wide. The aluminium brake track offers better heat dispersal than carbon, which was added here for its extra rigidity and some aero benefit. Shimano also offer a 24mm or 50mm rim depth for lighter weight or greater aero effect – a case of horses for courses, perhaps. The middle height of these rims made for wheels that offered a good blend of strength, aero performance and a reasonable weight for all round use.

Hub

Shimano have used cold forged aluminium hubs, radially laced at the front and on the non-drive side of the rear wheel, with the spokes crossed on the drive side for stiffness under load. Shimano have always shied away from cartridge bearings citing less resistance from a cup and cone arrangement. We have always liked their bearing set up due to it being able to be serviced easily at home with cone spanners, grease and simple ball bearings.

Shimano RS81 C35 wheelset, hub shell, pic: Timothy John, ©Factory Media
Shimano’s favouring of the cup and cone bearing system should make the RS81 C35 wheelset easily serviced

The flanges of the hubs are set up for straight pull spokes; this allows a higher tension with no risk of the spoke breaking at a J-bend as with traditional spokes. Shimano use their ubiquitous steel free hub body that although slightly heavier than an aluminium or titanium body will not mark easily under cassette loading. The freehub body is 10 or 11 speed Shimano/SRAM compatible.

Spokes

As mentioned previously the RS81’s are equipped with stainless steel, aero bladed straight pull spokes. They are arranged as 14 spokes crossed on the drive side and 7 radial laced on the non-drive side rear. The front wheel is laced with 16 spokes also in a radial fashion.

The RS81’s offer up a stiff feeling wheel set with out deflection or excess flex, by utilising stainless steel spokes though they retain a nicely damped comfortable ride quality. The wheels have not required truing or tensioning during our test period, we have no thought that they might either.

Conclusion

While not as sprightly as some of the featherweights on the market, the RS81s were brisk enough and able to hold their speed, and while the alloy brake track places it far from the vanguard of the latest composite offerings, the RS81 is a superior type of mid-range wheel likely to provide long service, if our previous experience of Shimano’s wheels is a guide.

Price: £629.99
Size: 700c; rim 35mm x 20.8mm
Colour: black
Website: Shimano
UK distributorMadison

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