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Shimano has typically been known for its outstanding groupsets which continue to raise the bar, but it’s the company’s wheel story that is its best kept secret. I’ve spent more than two months on the new Dura-Ace 9000 C50 carbon clinchers and I’ll be sad to give them back now that this review period is over. Here are my thoughts …
Late last year Shimano released their revamped Dura-Ace 9000 range which includes an overhaul of their groupsets and wheelsets. The new Di2 9070 has taken the spotlight with its electronic shifting, but Shimano’s wheelsets have seen a host of improvements as well.
Seven WorldTour teams are on Shimano wheels. Some people will say that this is only a commercial arrangement, but teams do get a great deal of say in which sponsors they work with. Riders not so much. See lots more on the Shimano YouTube channel.
When it comes to carbon wheelsets, my preference is either tubulars or clinchers with an aluminium braking surface. I’m not yet convinced about the reliability of full carbon clinchers and aluminium brakes are so much better than carbon – especially in the wet. And that’s without mentioning the cost of carbon specific brake pads. With my current level of dedication, carbon aluminium clinchers are my pick. The way tyres are made nowadays you can get a beautiful ride out of a set of clinchers without the hassle and expense of tubulars. There’s still nothing like the feel and performance of a nice set of tubulars, but let’s face it, they can be a pain in the backside.
The newly designed C50 clincher uses a 23mm wide center drilled alloy/carbon laminate rim which uses internal nipples. The weight is 1672 grams with an approximate retail price of $2100.
From the spec sheet:
• D2 Rim design optimises aerodynamics and stability
• OptBal Spoke system enhances wheel rigidity and durability.
• Extra wide hub flange maximises lateral rigidity.
• High strength, lightweight titanium freehub body
• Shimano angular contact bearings and oversize A7075 Alloy Axles
• 16 spokes front, 21 spokes rear
• Weight: 1672g ( w/o QR & rim tape) (F: 752g; R: 920g)
• ERP AUD $2,099
What’s new in the 9000 series wheelset?
• Internal spoke nipples
• Bladed spokes
• Improved aerodynamic rim shape
• 2:1 balanced spoke design on the rear wheel
• 10- and 11-speed compatible freehub
• Wider spoke flange on the hubs
Shimano sent me these wheels for review nearly 2 months ago and they won’t be pleased to know that I’ve put over 1,000km on them (unfortunately they no longer look new). They feel rock solid, roll beautifully, corner and accelerate nicely, are very stiff but not harsh, and don’t act like a sail in the crosswinds. And unlike many other deep-dish wheels out there, they hardly make a sound.
I wouldn’t put these in the high-performance category of Lightweights, MadFiber, or ENVE, but the most noticable quality I got from riding these wheels are their toughness and durability combined with good handling and aerodynamics. As I said earlier, I put more than 1,000km on these wheels and they still feel rock solid. It won’t be until around the 10,000km mark where I’d expect to see problems, but going on Shimano’s reputation, I wouldn’t expect to see anything other than normal maintenance issues.
I’ve spoken with a couple bikeshop mechanics to get their views on any re-occurring problems and maintenance issues with these wheels, and everything has come out clean. The notable thing about Dura-Ace hubs is that they don’t use sealed bearings (apparently because they roll better this way). The hubs are easy to maintain, the cups never come loose from the cones, and they’re a dream to work on. Dura-Ace hubs have always had an excellent reputation, and the only difference with these is that there’s a larger flange. It’s good to know they haven’t played with this formula.
The nice thing about these wheels is that they come with all the accessories you need to get up and running. Rim tape, valve extenders (with seals), valve stem stabiliser, truing keys, high quality skewers, and wheel bags. The only thing you need is a cassette, tubes and tyres and you’re rolling.
Other wheels in the same range as these Dura-Ace 9000 C50s include the Zipp 404 clincher (which is being discontinued and replaced with the Zipp 60), the HED Jet 6 FR, Mavic Cosmic Carbon, Easton EC70, and possibly others.
How do these Dura-Ace C50’s compare to these other wheelsets? Well, I’ve owned the Zipp 404s, Jet 6s and Mavic Carbons, and I can tell you that all are excellent wheelsets with their own advantages, but the one thing that Shimano has nailed with Dura-Ace is the hubs.