These days it's unusual to see a carbon deep-section wheelset for less than £1,000, so we were excited to test Shimano’s new 50mm deep WH-RS80 Ultegra wheelset, which can be yours for just under £850.
Bladed straight-pull spokes are used for both front (16 spokes) and rear (20 spokes) wheels, and we found Shimano’s spoke magnet (sold separately for around £4) particularly good, clipping neatly onto the ﬂat spoke, so our computer was up and running in a matter of seconds.
Using the same rim as the Dura-Ace WH-7850 wheelset, the deep carbon section is used in conjunction with an aluminium tyre bed and braking surface to create a good all-round (no pun intended) rim. The aluminium braking surface gives better performance compared with its carbon counterparts, but comes with a weight penalty.
At 1875g (including skewers) for the pair, these wheels aren't especially light, but we felt this was outweighed by the pros. For the majority of our road rides we found the 50mm rim depth a good compromise between ultra-light narrow climbing wheels and the deeper sections favoured by time triallists.
It’s deep enough to provide an aerodynamic advantage at speed, but not so deep as to make climbing a chore (due to the extra rim weight) nor to severely affect the handling in crosswinds. This makes the WH-RS80s well suited to mass-start races, sportives or for giving you the extra edge when sprinting against your mates to the next signpost.
The wheels felt responsive and, while we'd hesitate to call them comfortable, they didn’t give the uncompromising ride you might expect from a wheelset of this type. They’re reasonably tough too: over rubbish road surfaces – potholed, muddy and covered in gravel – they never gave us any cause for concern.