Mike Hawkins tests out the 'non series' Shimano wheelset, RS81 C35 and suggests it would make a great set of budget race wheels
Typically pitched as Ultegra-level, the RS81 is a ‘non-series’ wheel, meaning it’s of a similar quality but doesn’t carry the name.
The RS81 uses a carbon laminate rim, so, in theory, you get the best of both worlds: the durability of an aluminium brake track and, thanks to the laminated carbon, you also get the low weight and high strength benefits of carbon-fibre together with great looks and aerodynamics.
Bonding a carbon section onto an alloy rim could make for a challenging ride, yet, from our very first try with a Shimano carbon laminate wheelset, it was clear that the Japanese had managed to tune the ride to a sweetspot that offers both stiffness and a certain degree of comfort.
With a listed weight of 1,631g, they aren’t super-light but given their depth and price, they are in the same ballpark as other brands.
As we’ve already suggested, the ride is right up our street. The broadly spaced hub flanges give ample lateral stability while the steel spokes and construction offers a rigid yet subtly comfortable ride. Brake performance is always a high point with Shimano rims, and the RS81s are no different.
We did find a small fault, though, with a high point causing the pad to audibly knock with every revolution — something we’d expect to wear in, so no huge concern.
If you’re looking for a top-quality, every-ride wheel or a budget race option, then the RS81s are good but you might also want to look at its stablemate, the C24, for a slightly lighter option.