As it stands at the time of publishing this post; two of my most popular pages are my reviews on the Shimano WH-7850-c24-cl wheelset and the Shimano WH-6700 Tubeless wheelset. I am anticipating that this one will join their ranks rather quickly.
The RS-80 c24, much like the WH-6700 Ultegra Tubeless is a allegorical "shot-across-the-bow" at other major players in the road wheel market. With both of these wheels Shimano is basically saying: "We're doing this be cause we're Shimano and we can." Not that other providers cannot; just that they either don't have the guts or capital (or both) to pull it off without serious stress or anxiety. These wheels possess features of higher priced wheels at prices that you just don't find from the competition. In the case of the RS-80 c24, those features would be light-weight carbon-laminate rims at a price usually below $900. The rims are so light in fact that you cannot get much lighter without going to a full-carbon rim and sacrificing the superior braking of the aluminum brake track.
The RS-80 c24 can be thought of as the "Ultegra" version of the Dura Ace c24-cl. It uses the same rim but merely swaps in a lower grade hub to result in a significantly lower cost and slightly higher weight. Here's the cost/benefit analysis:
~Dura Ace (7900-c24-cl): 1395 grams
~RS-80 c24: 1516 grams
~ Difference: 121 grams (only 24 grams in front)
~Dura Ace: $1300
~RS-80 c24: $900
~ Difference: $400
All that for just a simple difference in hubs and spoke threading...
In my book; that's a pretty good trade-off. Not to knock the Dura Ace wheels, they're great and if you read the original review I gave them you'll remember that I raved about them and would love to have a set. Well, several years later and now I'm not just a father of 1 boy, but now 3 boys... well, let's just say that I'm now that guy who can't justify paying more for some things just because it says Dura Ace on it if the performance is close enough. And those 121 grams: I gained more weight from eating the ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich and crackers I had at lunch - if I really get serious then I'll lose 121 grams myself faster than you can say WH-7900-c24-cl AND I'll have more money in my pocket! So as far as I'm concerned - I finally got my wish and have the wheels I wanted.
Since this is a "first impressions" post, I'm going to refrain from reporting on ride characteristics and save that for a follow up article; so keep an eye out. Instead, I'll be reporting on what I found as I unpacked them and prepared to install them on the bike.
Because you don't really get a good look at the wheels until they're fully out of the box; the first thing that struck me is just how light they really are. I remember the WH-7850 wheels feeling ridiculously light for a conventional aluminum-rimmed clincher - the lightest I'd had my hands on at the time (and only 50 grams heavier than the Bontrager Race XXX Lite wheels I have also ridden) - and these are very similar. These are in fact the lightest wheels I have owned personally now and I am thrilled to get out and ride them!
The second thing that struck me was exactly how similar the wheels were to their older sibling. The small differences that I am aware of are just that: tiny (as evidenced by the rather minuscule difference in weight).
- The spoke nipples do not thread directly into the rim as in the 7850/7900 series but rather seat inside the rim wall in a more conventional fashion.
- The spokes are silver instead of black - just how much more difference there is would not be immediately apparent just by looking. They are otherwise nail-head semi-bladed spokes just like the 7850/7900.
- The hubs are - as mentioned before - a lower grade RS-80 branded hub (slotting somewhere at or slightly above 105 level but we are told they are not equivalent to Ultegra).
My one point of disappointment out of the box is the feel of the hub - feels just a bit tight. However my experience with Shimano hubs tells me this: I could adjust it now for a more "buttery" feel and find myself tightening the hub back up after 500 miles or so - or - I could leave it alone; let it settle; and then adjust to taste and then leave it alone until time to overhaul. I think I'll settle for the latter.
I'm happy to field questions about the wheels; so leave a comment and I'll follow up. Otherwise; stay tuned for a ride report. Honestly; it may be a while as my single-speed is getting more miles than the ol' trusty Waterford at the moment. It is winter in Oregon after all...