The switch to an 11-speed version of the tough steel freehub was obviously necessary to keep the Ultegra wheelset compatible with its partner Ultegra groupset. Shimano hasn’t made the mechanism any faster-reacting, though, so it’s still slightly slow on the uptake and isn’t available in a Campagnolo version.
The mid-width asymmetric rim is tubeless-ready and light, with small raised anchor platforms for each straight-pull spoke. Oversized flanges on the front hub have kidney-shaped cutouts while the rear hub’s have distinct block spoke terminals. The thickset rear hub is also extended on the offside for a wide bearing stance, while Shimano quick release skewers are among the smoothest operating and most secure around.
The combined result is a surprisingly stiff and accurate ride despite there only being 16 front and 20 rear spokes, and previous generation Ultegra wheels have proved utterly bombproof in long-term use.
Shimano is a rare manufacturer still sticking with user-serviceable ‘cup and cone’ bearings rather than cartridge bearings. The preload adjustment of the precision ground bearing races is now tool-free, which makes adjustment easier too.
Ultimately, whether these wheels fulfil their potential to stay silky smooth for years depends on how well you learn the art of adjusting them – or at least knowing when they need taking to your local shop for a tweak. That means they’re not a wise choice for fans of totally fit-and-forget equipment.