Shimano’s wheels have, for many years, been solid performers – well-built, smooth-running and easy to maintain. What they haven’t been is particularly exciting. These Dura-Ace R9170 wheels are the Japanese company’s first full-carbon clinchers, which just goes to show how conservative its approach to wheel design is – Shimano’s rivals have been making equivalent wheels for years already.
So were they worth the wait? In short, yes. For a start they’re built around Shimano’s highly evolved D2 rim profile, which uses a blunted aero shape that’s 37mm deep and 24mm wide (externally).
Their internal width is a standard 17mm as Shimano has, perhaps conservatively, chosen to eschew the trend towards more wider rim beds, meaning these wheels are best suited to road tyres of more ‘standard’ dimensions – I ran them with Hutchinson’s 25mm tubeless Fusion 5 tyres.
These being top of the line Dura-Ace models means no expense has been spared on their construction. So aside from beautifully finished rims, you also get highly machined hubs holding straight-pull, aero-bladed spokes.
The rear wheel is laced using Shimano’s OptBal (optimum balance) pattern, which halves the number of spokes used on the non-drive side (eight opposed to 16) and arranges them radially. This allows Shimano to reduce the spoke length so that the greater spoke tension required to counter that of the driveside can be achieved without increasing spoke fatigue.
In wheel-builder speak, this is known as ‘triplet’ lacing and produces a pattern similar to that seen on Campagnolo and Fulcrum wheels that use a similar 2:1 system.
The front wheel doesn’t need such an intricate arrangement (even though it’s slightly offset to accommodate the rotor flange) and relies on a more traditional 24-spoke radial pattern.
The rear hub gets a bit of added bling in the form of a titanium freehub body, but while this helps bring the back wheel’s weight down to 870g, it’s not a remarkably light wheelset overall, weighing in at 1,610g (including tubeless valves).
All this tech is offset by Shimano’s dogged refusal to abandon traditional cup-and-cone bearings, although there is logic behind that decision. Cup-and-cone designs are easy to maintain, lube and adjust (no special tools are required to access and work on them, just a couple of spanners).
After extensive rides in all conditions I came away very impressed with these Dura-Ace wheels. They’re shallow enough to be almost impervious to crosswinds and, unlike some carbon wheels, don’t feel overly rigid.
Their freehub engagement is good, they roll smoothly with no creaks or squeaks, and they match Shimano’s legendary hub longevity to understated good looks.
If you’re looking for a set of wheels suited to slimmer road-racing tyres, and you’re more concerned with practicality than weight or aerodynamics, these would be a good choice.
Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 C-40 TL Disc Wheels specifications
Rims: Carbon clinchers
Spokes: OPTBAL spoke system
Spoke count: 24 / 24
Width external: 24mm
Width internal: 17mm
Weight tested: 1610g
Price: £1,666 / $1,967 / AU$2,999