If you're looking for a top-quality, every-ride wheel or a budget race option, then the RS81s are good
Typically pitched as Ultegra-level, the RS81 is a ·non-series' wheel, meaning it's of a similar quality but doesn't carry the name. The RS81 uses a carbon laminate rim, so, in theory, you get the best of both worlds: the durability of an aluminium brake track and, thanks to the laminated carbon, you also get the low weight and high strength benefits of
carbon-fibre together with great looks and aerodynamics.
Bonding a carbon section onto an alloy rim could make for a challenging ride, yet, from our very first try with a Shimano carbon laminate wheelset, it was clear that the Japanese had managed to tune the ride to a sweetspot that offers both stiffness and a certain degree of comfort. With a listed weight of 1,631 g, they aren't super-light but given their depth and price, they are in the same ballpark as other brands.
As we've already suggested, the ride is right up our street. The broadly spaced hub flanges give ample lateral stability while the steel spokes and construction offers a rigid yet subtly comfortable ride. Brake performance is always a high point with Shimano rims, and the RS81 s a re no different. We did find a small fault, though, with a high
point causing the pad to audibly knock with every revolution - something we'd expect to wear in, so no huge concern.
If you're looking for a top-quality, every-ride wheel or a budget race option, then the RS81s are good but you might also want to look at its stablemate, the C24, for a slightly
"High quality wheels that are worth shopping around for"
Shimano has a reputation for building wheels that last, largely thanks to its use of cup and cone bearings, which, if looked after, seem to go on forever.
On first impressions, the 11-speed-compatible RS81 C35s look to continue this tradition, with their stiff and sturdy mid-depth carbon laminate rims and their cup-and-cone hubs featuring wide flanges to add strength.
The 35mm deep rims are 20.8mm wide. They combine an aluminium braking surface – for consistent braking – with a top section made from a carbon/aluminium laminate. The bladed spokes attach to slightly bulged areas of the rim, which are designed for extra strength.
While the carbon is there to reduce weight, at 1,706g the RS81s aren’t that light, and we didn’t find the wheels as snappy to accelerate as we originally expected, indicating that the rims are heavier than we’d presumed.
Having said that, we found that these mid-depth rims do hold their speed well, and in sidewinds they’re confident and resist buffeting. The rim construction also adds to the wheels’ impressive stiffness, as do the wide flanges of the hubs.
This is particularly noticeable on the front wheel, where the spokes originate as close to the fork as we’ve seen. Shimano’s OptBal (optimal balance and rigidity) spoking uses 16 radial spokes on the front and 21 rear straight-pull spokes (14 spokes laced three-cross crossed on the driveside, seven radial on non-driveside), for even spoke tension and long-term durability.
The hubs have Shimano’s ‘digital click bearing adjustment’, making preloading the bearings relatively simple. The aluminium shelled hub holds an oversized axle, and is sealed with labyrinth double contact sealing, which we have found effective even in very poor conditions.
The RS81 C35s are certainly decent wheels, especially if you’re looking for one set of wheels to do it all. They’re not super light, so lack a slight spring in their step, but once up to speed they hold it well, and we reckon they’re a set of wheels that should last for quite a while
"The RS81 C35s are certainly a decent wheel, especially if you're looking for one wheel to do it all"
Shimano has a reputation for building wheels that last, largely thanks to its use of cup and cone bearings, which, if looked after, seem to go on for ever. On first impressions, the 11-speedcompatible R581 C35s look to continue this tradition, with their stiff and sturdy mid-depth carbon laminate rims and their cup and cone hubs featuring wide flanges to add strength.
The 35mm deep rims are 20.Bmm wide. They combine an aluminium braking surface-for consistent braking -with a top section made from a carbon/aluminium laminate. The bladed spokes attach to slightly bulged areas of the rim, which are designed for extra strength. While the carbon is there to reduce weight, at 1706g the RS81s aren't that light and we didn't find the wheels as snappy to accelerate as we originally expected, indicating the rims are heavier than we'd presumed. Having said that, we found that these middepth rims do hold their speed well, and in
sidewinds they're confident and resist buffeting. The rim construction also adds to the wheel's impressive stiffness, as do the wide flanges of the
hubs. This is particularly noticeable on the front wheel, where the spokes originate as close to the fork as we've seen. Shimano's OptBal (optimal
balance and rigidity) spoking uses 16 radial spokes on the front and 21 rear straight pull spokes (14 spokes laced 3-cross crossed on the
driveside, seven radial on non-driveside), for even spoke tension and long-term durability.
The hubs have Shimano's 'digital click bearing adjustment', making preloading the bearings relatively simple. The aluminium shelled hub holds an oversized axle, and is sealed with labyrinth double contact sealing, which we have found effective even in very poor conditions.
The RS81 C35s are certainly a decent wheel, especially if you're looking for one wheel to do it all. They're not super light, so lack a slight spring in their step, but once up to speed they hold it well, and we reckon they're a set of wheels that should last for quite a while.
"The 35mm-deep rim has a good level of stiffness and, like previous carbon laminate wheels, manages to offer plenty of feel without drilling the rider over rough sections and poorly finished roads."
Residing in Shimano's range as a non-series wheel, the RS81 sits below the Dura-Ace version of the C35 carbon laminate. Mildly detuned,
frankly you'd struggle to tell the two apart with the stickers removed. The RS81 is around 170g heavier than the carbon version, but it's also around half the price. Out on the road, the difference is even harder to detect. The 35mm-deep rim has a good level of stiffness and, like previous carbon laminate wheels, manages to offer plenty of feel without drilling the rider over rough sections and poorly finished roads. Shimano's braking surface offers great retardation, although what is presumably the joint can be felt under heavy braking.
"Superb do-it-all wheelset for both training and racing"
As little brother to the Dura Ace C35s, which we've been using all year and rate very highly, we had high hopes for Shimano's new RS81 C35 wheels. These marry an aluminium rim with a carbon/alloy 35mm section to 11-speed alloy hubs. All this combines to weigh in at 1.664g. including the supplied rim tape - not bad considering the Dura Ace equivalents offer 200 fewer grams for over twice the price. Out riding, we weren't disappointed. They were perfectly responsive. while not being anywhere near harsh enough to get the fillings rattling, even over some unforgiving roads. In fact. they coped well with everything we threw at them: fast flats, longer climbs. short. sharp efforts and while there was nothing they absolutely excelled
at. there was nothing they did badly, either. That's the real selling point: they're a well-priced do-it-all set. which are absolutely perfect for training and
would be capable enough for racing if you want an all-rounder.
Verdict : Superb do-it-all wheelset for both training and racing
"Solid, good looking wheels from the Japanese giant"
Replacing the highly regarded RS80 wheels, the Shimano RS81s have been released to coincide with Shimano's foray into 11-speed transmissions; they still work with all existing 10-, 9- and 8-speed gearing as well.
The rims are alloy with a carbon fibre laminate overlaid to increase stiffness without adding much in the way of weight, and bring the depth up to the 35mm implied by the name. It also makes them look rather dashing.
While we are on the subject of weight the C35s measure 1700g on the road.cc scales, including rim tapes but not skewers. Not exactly lightweight but the RS range of wheels are built more for durability and day to day riding/racing rather than all out lightness. That weight though stacks up pretty well against the 1665g Zipp 30s tested recently for a similar depth rim and price bracket.
Like the Zipps the rims on the RS81s are pretty wide at 20.8mm. We've seen a lot wider rims recently for a couple of reasons, It improves the aerodynamics of the tyre and rim combination because it makes for a smoother transition between the two, and it also makes the rim laterally stiffer, and the wheel stronger.
Spoke numbers are minimal with just 16 up front and a slightly rare count of 21 at the rear laid out as 14 drive side and 7 on the non-drive. The spokes themselves are butted stainless steel straight pulls with a bladed mid-section so should be plenty strong enough for all kinds of riding over different terrain.
The hubs are cold forged with alloy axles for a bit of weight saving and the bearings are sealed and adjustable, always a pleasure to hear if you're going to be using them all year round in our rather temperate climate.
Out on the road they certainly feel solid with an underlying feeling of stiffness yet they aren't harsh, thanks to that small amount of carbon just taking the buzz out of the alloy. The machined surface gives consistent braking and there is no sign of any judder from where the rim has been welded.
The numbers on the scales don't reflect the feedback from the C35s as acceleration is brisk and once up to speed it is very easy to maintain no doubt thanks to the slight aero advantage of that 35mm rim.
Sprinting and climbing both require plenty of stiffness at the rim especially for the heavier rider and the RS81s don't disappoint here either. Really cranking the bike from side to side for that all important village sign sprint saw absolutely no brake block rub from rim flex and I tend to run my brakes close, a millimetre or so away from the rim.
The hills provide very little issues and while they don't climb like some of the superlight hoops weighing less than say 1500g they don't feel like you're dragging them up either. Coming down, the weight adds to their advantage as they roll through the rough surfaces rather than bounce over them giving a good sense of control.
Performance is impressive but that rrp of £599.99 is right on the limit. My initial thoughts over the first few test rides were how similar the RS81s are to Mavic's Ksyrium Elites with that solid secure feeling, a bit of extra weight and overbuilding for long term reliability. But the Ksyrium Elite S wheels are a 100g lighter on claimed weights and a hundred quid cheaper. Competition like that puts the RS81s on the back foot a little.
As we've gone from summer into autumn the RS81s have seen a lot of rain and grit and there has been no grumbling from the bearings at all; they still feel as smooth as day one. Braking seems to be pretty consistent in the wet too.
On the whole though I'm impressed with the RS81s. You can crash into a pothole, take them out in the rain and not worry too much about longevity. They also look smart in a non shouty kind of way with the simple graphics and glossy carbon fibre.
I found them for £475 online which moves them into a whole different ball park and at that price I'd happily pay for them.
Solid, good looking wheels from the Japanese giant but not worth the full retail price; shop around for a deal.
"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 offer greater reliability and ease of service. The hubs run with alloy axles to shave weight. Our experience of the Japanese manufacturer’s wheels both off and on the road would add gravitas to this argument. 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 well built.
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. Shimano claim rigidity, too, and say the wheel is suitable for sprinters and TT specialists. The hoop has been welded for strength and machined for braking consistency. The rim is 35mm deep and 20.8mm wide. The wheels are pitched as good all-round performers, indeed we can see them taking in some cyclocross action. 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. We believe Shimano intend the RS-81 as 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.