Shimano Dura-Ace C24 R9100 wheelset - review - Road Cycling UK

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Shimano Dura-Ace C24 R9100 wheelset – review

Shimano’s Dura-Ace C24 hoops impress, but are they the perfect lightweight alloy wheelset?

Shimano’s Dura-Ace C24 R9100 carbon/alloy clinchers are lightweight wheels with excellent all-weather braking, making them well-suited both to riders looking to upgrade or cyclists in search of premium training wheels. However, the rim is narrow by today’s standards and means the C24s aren’t quite as natural a fit with wide tyres as their more up-to-date competitors.

The C24s have been popular wheels in Shimano’s range for some time – anything with Dura-Ace in the name is a clear signpost towards pro-level componentry. However, while Shimano has a range of mid and deep-section hoops aimed at providing an aerodynamic race advantage, these are your traditional shallow-section wheels. It’s all about reliable performance.

Still, the C24s still cost a penny shy of a grand, which means they represent quite an investment and it’s important they pack plenty of punch in terms of performance, so let’s get stuck in.

The C24 wheels are part of Shimano’s flagship Dura-Ace R9100 collection (Pic: Ashley Quinlan/Factory Media)

Alloy-carbon hybrid construction

These C24s have always been a bit different in their construction and it’s difficult to pigeon-hole them as either carbon or alloy clinchers, as is the case with most wheels. You see, while the outer surface of the rim U-section is visibly a carbon laminate, the brake track is very clearly aluminium.

  • Specification

  • Price: £999.99
  • Weight: 1,389g (claimed)
  • Rim depth: 21mm front, 24mm rear
  • Rim width: 20.6mm external; 15mm internal
  • Website: Shimano
  • UK distributor: Madison

The idea behind this is to ensure the predictable rim braking performance you get from an aluminium track (in the wet and dry), while the carbon laminate is intended to reduce weight compared to a standard alloy construction.

Underneath the skin, you’ll find a 0.7mm alloy wall on the inside of the carbon laminate, there for added strength and rigidity, according to Shimano. Combined with the carbon laminate it results in a rim wall that’s around as thick as any chosen alloy clincher.

This construction has been shaped into rim depths that measure 21mm at the front and 24mm at the rear, along with a rim bed that measures 15mm internally and 20.8mm externally – markedly narrower than is commonly seen these days. Mavic’s latest Ksyrium Pro UST wheels have an internal width of 17mm, for example, while Hunt’s Race Aero Wide wheelset ups this once again to 19mm.

A narrower rim reduces potential tyre volume, necessitating higher pressures be run to maintain optimal rolling resistance and avoid pinch flats. It can also result in a wider tyre adopting a light bulb shape. That said, Shimano does claim you can run up to 28c rubber on the C24s and we also asked product manager Tim Gerrits for the thinking behind the relatively narrow rim.

– Buyer’s guide: should you buy lightweight or aero wheels? –

“Going wider means using more material, which can mean adding more weight, so if you’re looking for pure weight saving advantages from a lightweight clincher, the C24 in its current guise offers this,” Gerrits told us. “At the same time the C24 is our best value wheel at the entry level for Dura-Ace. Developments here would have changed the value proposition that this popular wheel offers.”

The C24 has a carbon-alloy construction, designed to combine light weight with reliability (Pic: Ashley Quinlan/Factory Media)

You can read about whether that pans out as intended below, but for now let’s just cover the other spec essentials. The hubs are unremarkable in that they’re aluminium, but feature a freehub body made of titanium. The hardness titanium provides should protect it from tiny grains of grit working their way in with water, which on an intentionally sturdy and reliable wheelset is more than likely to occur over the course of a whole season of riding. At the same time, Shimano has opted for cup-and-cone stainless steel bearings coupled with contact seals to help secure them against water ingress, while still remaining fully serviceable.

Bladed spokes are laced in a 16/20 format across the front and rear wheels, with the rear receiving a double-cross pattern for the extra support. Lateral stiffness (and therefore responsiveness) is also boosted by flanges that are spaced widely.

Shimano Dura-Ace C24 wheelset (Pic: Ashley Quinlan/Factory Media)
Shimano Dura-Ace C24 wheelset (Pic: Ashley Quinlan/Factory Media)

Light and responsive… but a little dated

First and foremost, the low weight of the wheelset means that the C24s are definitely no slouches going uphill. They particularly excel on steeper climbs, where the combination of a lightweight rim and the high levels of stiffness afforded by the wide-angled flange design means you can really put all your effort into the pedals and get an excellent feedback from the wheels.

There is a caveat to that, however. Thanks to the Dura-Ace moniker, these wheels come with an element of expectation but when measured against really high-spec shallow carbon or alloy clinchers (let’s say, Mavic’s Ksyrium Carbon SL C hoops, or the French brand’s top-end alloy R-Sys wheels we saw on a Rose X-Lite test bike recently), you do miss an element of ride excitement – that feeling the wheels are adding something really special to your outings.

“The C24s are definitely no slouches going uphill and particularly excel on steeper climbs”

Both of those Mavic wheelsets cost upwards of £500 more than the C24s, so it’s not an entirely fair comparison, but the point is while Shimano’s C24 wheels bear the Dura-Ace name, these particular hoops still sit a rung below the very best lightweight clinchers.

Fair enough, given the C24s are pitched as a high-spec wheelset that can be used in as diverse circumstances as a mountainous race (we’re told that if you look hard enough you’ll spot them under pros during high mountain stages at Grand Tours) or as a deluxe training wheel.

With such a shallow rim, crosswinds can blow all they want – if you’ve got a set of Shimano C24s on your bike, you’re going to have an easier job of overcoming them, even with the bladed spokes. However, on the stability note, what’s less impressive is the width of the rim – something already touched upon.

It means my 25mm Michelin Power All Season tyres blew out visibly narrower than they did when we tested them on a set of Mavic Ksyrium Pro SL hoops. As a result, the rolling patch on the road is longer and slimmer at my optimum pressure, and you don’t quite get the same surefooted ride quality.

“They might be quick, nimble and light, but the C24s don’t quite offer the same versatility as the wider-profiled competition”

Over billiard-smooth surfaces, these wheels are great, but on typical UK roads, where the tarmac is so often broken or pimply, or dirtied by the conditions of the season? They might be quick, nimble and light, but the C24s don’t quite offer the same versatility as the wider-profiled competition, unfortunately.

Otherwise, the hubs are excellent and roll smoothly, while the freehub sound is quiet and refined, too. The added benefit of being able to service the bearings is obvious and I’ve seen no degradation in the hub itself, which would indicate the seals inside are doing a good protective job in the muck of recent autumn and winter conditions. It’s early days, though, and spending a full season with them will help to really define the freehub robustness.

The 15mm-wide (internal) rim is tubeless-compatible (Pic: Ashley Quinlan/Factory Media)

Finally, thanks to the brake track being a standard alloy affair, there’s excellent performance across the board, with reliable power and modulation between my Dura-Ace R9100 calipers. One of the chief benefits of an alloy brake track is an assured level of performance in all conditions and the C24s are as close to a safe-as-houses option as it’s possible to get.

Conclusion

The reality is, if you’re after a set of alloy, sub-£1,000, high-performance wheels, Shimano’s Dura-Ace C24 hoops remain one of the most dependable options out there. You’ll likely find the C24s at a hefty discount, too, which also makes them competitive on price.

Quality, fully-serviceable hubs, lightweight rims and an alloy brake track are all points in their favour, along with the prestigious Dura-Ace name, but the narrow rim is a compromise which is starting to look a little out of date. The C24s are due an update.

However, while the C24s may not be the most advanced or outright exciting wheels in Shimano’s flagship Dura-Ace range, these are hoops which offer stiff, responsive and reliable performance, whether you want a luxury wheel for year-round riding or are on the lookout for an upgrade to breathe new life into your machine.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Responsive
  • Serviceable bearings
  • Reliable alloy rim braking

Cons

  • Narrow rim by modern standards
  • Can’t match the very best alloy wheels

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