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.