Sunday, May 16, 2010
Shimano WH-6700 Road Tubeless Wheel Review
THE TUBELESS REVOLUTION CONTINUES
The single most-viewed page on this blog at this moment is my review of Shimano's WH-7850-C24-CL wheels. And, it's no surprise to me - they're amazing; revolutionary wheels (no pun intended).
Why do I mention this? You see, these wheelsets are related. The WH-7850-SL is the predecessor to the WH-7850-C24-CL and is Shimano's first tubeless road ready wheelset. It features a Scandium alloy rim with a sealed inner wall; making it air tight, stainless steel spokes and Dura Ace hubs. The WH-6700 is the latest in the family of Shimano's Road Tubeless compatible wheels (also including the WH-7850-C24-TL) and the most affordable truly tubeless-ready wheel available - without much of a penalty (at 1652 g published weight - it's a difference of 138 g from their lighter "big brother").
NUTS AND BOLTS
The WH-6700 shares the 7850-SL's rim extrusion - only substituting a more conventional aluminum alloy instead of marginally lighter scandium alloy, uses a similar spoke, and substitutes Ultegra-level hub internals (including a steel freehub instead of the 7850's titanium) for lower cost. As with any Road Tubeless (UST) rims, the 6700 will accept conventional clincher tires - so even if you haven't found a tubeless tire that excites you; you can use your favorite tube-type tire until one arrives. And, there's more every year. When you do find one you want to try you'll enjoy better comfort, adhesion, and cornering performance than before with reduced chance of pinch flatting. For the test, I used Hutchinson's new Atom tires and we'll be stocking Specialized's Turbo Tubeless in the store; likely expanding our offering with demand.
So, on to the riding: The day I tested these wheels was a little wet. Not raining - but sprinkling on and off with wet roads. Also, I was doing ride-along mechanical support for a Team In Training ride from our store (they're a great group, by the way and worth supporting if you get the chance). The pace was slower, but punctuated with opportunities to ride faster and with some intermediate hills and a couple of good descents. Nothing that would tear your legs off; but a good test none the less and a great chance to evaluate the extra adhesion of the tubeless system.
The wheels are certainly stiff enough. I am already accustomed to stiff wheels; riding high-tension wheels 100% of the time for my personal gear - and if I don't really notice a difference in a wheel, I'm pretty satisfied. (Contrast that with the Bontrager Race XXX Lite Carbon Clinchers I once rode and didn't review here; which I had to open my brake quick releases to keep them from rubbing while standing to climb.) I never once felt that the wheels were really winding-up while climbing. Not as rock-solid as a deep-section wheel; but good for low spoke-count, low profile wheels under a 190 lb. rider.
This stiffer than average wheel also feels just fine when you can ride your tires at 90 psi. I would probably feel just fine riding these wheels at 80 psi front and 85 rear - although I haven't had the chance to try it yet. The pavement quality varied over the course of the route from smooth, newly poured asphalt to chip-seal and the wheels never felt harsh as the tires seemed to be willing to soak up any imperfection relatively well. But at the same time, the tires never felt sluggish or slow due to the reduced pressure.
One of the descents was curvy - not terribly technical, but not "easy" - and I took it at about 85-90% of what I would normally have done (due to the wet conditions and unfamiliar tires) but the tires definitely had the remaining 10-15% in them. I'd like to go back and push them a little harder to see what they do; but they certainly did as well as my all-time favorite Continental GP 4000s. I have to assume that is due in part to the capability to run reduced pressure.
So I am a pretty big fan of these wheels - and we have a bunch of team guys riding them now too. The only down side we've discovered so far is the higher cost of a tubeless road tire (still up around $80 each) and therefore the penalty for cutting a tire - as one of our guys experienced after only 2 weeks (bummer).
EXCITING NEW DIRECTIONS
This platform also represents some exciting possibilities for cyclocross applications as well: bringing tubular-type low pressure and pinch flat resistance to the masses at a more clincher-like pricetag. Check out the guest post on tubeless cyclocross for more ideas. Our team guys who have the Shimano tubeless wheels are planning to do dual duty with them - road and 'cross - so we may have some great info to pass along come 'cross season. I'll hope to pass along an update then (on the 6700, WH-7850-SL and WH-7850-C24-TL, as these are all being ridden by team members).
What are your experiences? These are sure to be popular wheels...let's share. Leave a comment
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