Shimano R550 Wheels
Weight: 1852g per pair
Dimensions: 700c clincher only
Material: Aluminium hub and rim with stainless steel aero spokes
Spoking: 16 front & 20 rear
Colours: Available in black or silver finish
Price: £130.00 a set (front and rear)
From: Ultimate Pursuits stores
Extract from Koga Miyata Road Winner Test:
Wheelsets are certainly here to stay. Mavic’s latest wheels are so popular now everyone wants a slice of the wheel pie. Shimano launched into the wheelset market about five years ago with an un-characteristic ‘futt’. The previous offerings from Shimano were, quite frankly, poor.
OK Shimano’s first wheels had good intentions: They placed all the weight in the hub and the spokes entered the side of the rim which apparently saved weight. Only it didn’t. These wheels weighed much more than their rivals and the side spoke elbows were worryingly close to the brake pads. Plus they decided to have hardly any spokes to support the already floppy rim. The result was a wheel that flapped around like a freshly caught fish in a boat and had all the riding qualities of a wheelbarrow.
This is the latest from Shimano and I am happy to report that it is a massive step on from the previous offerings. A huge gigantic leap in fact. Still not the lightest available but they out perform anything I have ridden at this price point (and some more expensive sets).
They only cost £130 per pair and really look the business. A set of handbuilt wheels could be built lighter but I doubt they could be much cheaper, so at last Shimano component users have a cheaper alternative to Mavic.
Unlike many wheelsets available these are aimed directly at the road market. Time trial and triathlon duties will not be their main bag. However in theory less spokes (and aero ones at that) create less turbulance, so they will have a place on windy days. The shallow section will mean that they remain stable under side winds too, so for starting out on tri-bars they will be a good option.
Elbow-less spokes will be a lot stronger than standard spokes and so Shimano have less of them to save weight. The rim has a less deep section (24mm) than most wheels and these rims are the best finished I’ve seen on a set of shimano wheels – ever. They have accurate and deep precision machined braking surfaces and allow a certain amount of radial give that’s unusual in the complete wheelset market. The rear spoking is exactly the same pattern as Mavic. Radial on the drive side and crossed on the other with a fin design hub to keep the spokes elbowless throughout. I can’t quite get my head around the physics of this, radial on the drive side just doesn’t make sense, it does work well though and I have to say there is a pleasant and positive kick from the rear tyre as you kick on the pedals. The fin design hub has to hold the secret to the added weight but it looks wonderful and like all Shimano hubs works superbly.
Inside the hubs you get a set of cone-adjustable Shimano bearings. These are now an industry standard bench mark hub, in terms of quality and the fact that they are very simple to adjust and maintain at home. A standard Shimano cassette body now has the capacity to take 10 speed as well as 8 and 9 so this wheel will match the new Ultegra 10 group as well as the 9 speed 105.
The hub at the front is reminiscent of the early Campagnolo designs and has a slot for each spoke nipple, which are adjustable at the hub with an oversize spoke key. The spokes are set at the rim and can be easily replaced, they are aero section and stronger than standard double butted spokes. The spokes have a wider footing at the hub too, so like the more expensive Campagnolo Neutron and Eurus wheels they have a very stable feel when out of the saddle. This is the area that has improved the Shimano wheels the most, previous wheels looked good but a shallow dish to the front wheel made it flop from side to side. Now they don’t budge.
Unlike the similarly priced, yet slightly wooden, Campagnolo Scirocco wheels the 550’s feel springy and responsive, and even after a few smashes into pot holes and some atrocious weather on a couple of long club runs they refused to buckle. The ride on these wheels also feels sharp when sprinting and climbing hard, after swapping them over from the Koga it even made a couple of average bikes feel an awful lot better.
It’s fair to say that Shimano struggled at first in this market. Mavic et al have had it their way for quite a while. But I’d expect to see more from Shimano wheels now that they are affordable and equally as functional. Weight wise I’d want something a little lighter for the new Ultegra 10 groupset but at this price they will definitely prove their worth – you won’t be disappointed.
Weight/price (approx.) comparisons per pair
- Mavic Ksyrium SSC SL – 1600g/£500
- Shimano Dura Ace WH-7800 – 1597g/£500
- Campagnolo Scirocco – 1845 g/£170
- Shimano R550 – 1852g/£130
More wheel weights at weight-weenies