Fresh from the production line at Shimano comes the RS81 C35 wheelset, an 11-speed compatible replacement for the RS80, and as the name suggests, equipped with a rim some 35mm deep.
The Japanese component giant bills this wheelset as a high performance racing wheel, but at 1660g, they appear to be more of an all-rounder than the lightweight exotica recently received at RCUK Towers from Airstreeem (1380g), Bontrager (1440g) and Spada (1260g).
These are a close relative of Shimano’s WH-9000 series Dura Ace laminate wheels (the rim profile is based on the top-tier offering), and as such share many of their sibling’s features.
Shimano have laced cold forged hubs with 21 stainless steel butted and aero profiled spokes at the rear and 16 at the front. The hubs are a cup and cone affair, which comes as no surprise as Shimano have long held the belief that this arrangement offers greater reliability and ease of service. The hubs run with alloy axles to shave weight. The freehub body is steel, which should prevent it from being easily marked; a problem with many of the alloy freehub bodies that cross our path. The skewers have chromoly axles with alloy fittings, and while they weigh 120g, they look robust.
Follow the spokes to the rim, and things become interesting, Shimano have laminated a carbon top section to an aluminium extrusion to make a composite rim that should offer good aero performance and reliability. The hoop has been welded for strength and machined for braking consistency. The rim profile is 20.8mm wide. Shimano claim rigidity, too, and say the wheel is suitable for sprinters and TT specialists; we can see them taking in some cyclocross action, too. Heavier riders should also give them a look.
This leads us onto weight. Shimano claim a weight of 1631 grams per pair but the RCUK scales had these at 1660g with lightweight plastic rim strips. The RS-81 has the look of a superior workhorse wheel: one that can be commuted upon all week and raced at the weekend. Shimano are known for their reliability and we suspect that these wheels might be found intact after a nuclear winter.
As ever, we will be piling on the miles to see how they hold up before offering a final opinion. Check back soon for a full review.
Size: 700c; rim 35mm x 20.8mm
UK distributor: Madison