09 March 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Shimano XTR wheelset

I was very interested when I first read about Shimano’s new (for 2007) XTR wheelset. I liked the last pair of XTR’s I owned and like them, the WH-975 version are tubeless ready (really tubeless ready- by way of metal, not rubber). I am addicted to tubeless tires and wheels (must be something to do with the Southwest). Their light weight (for a tubeless wheelset) got me excited, and if they ended up being durable as well, they would be a slam-dunk. They are available in one color scheme: black, with red nipples. I think they are a very handsome set of wheels, and the black and red seems to enhance the looks of most any bike.

If your memory of Shimano wheels is of those with spokes that attach on side wall of the rim– those are gone. Shimano re-designed their XTR wheels for 2007, resulting in something more traditional looking. Shimano tends to bring some high-tech to the market with the release of any of their premium products, and these wheels are no different. Although not as radical looking as the previous generation of XTR wheel, the hi-tech in these wheels is the fact that they are the first wheels on the market to have scandium alloy rims. The hubs have quicker engagement than the old model- but not so much quicker that I couldn’t tell. Shimano claims a weight of 1525g for the pair– a substantial 187g lighter than the 2006. The titanium cassette body and reinforced nipple seats save weight while adding strength.

On the trail they roll very smoothly. The rolling weight that I took off my bike was particularly noticeable when accelerating and turning. They are stiff enough that I didn’t notice any flex and they actually feel smooth and forgiving. They seem to have a “quiet” quality that is hard to describe. Despite how superbly they work, I honestly don’t have strong feelings about them one way or the other. They do their job and come in within a few grams of their listed weight – I can’t ask anything more than that, but they don’t excite me like other wheels have.

If they have a stand-out quality other than the weight, it’s their durability and strength. I have put them through a fair bit of abuse and I haven’t had a single problem with them. Neither has my riding partner, who has been putting more miles on them than me (he weighs about 235lbs. with gear- more than me). This is very impressive for a light-weight XC wheelset.

Like all Shimano wheels, they are completely rebuildable, thanks in part to cup & cone bearings. While they are center-lock disc compatible (by no means a bad thing), they will take 6-bolt rotors with any number of readily available adapters. Quick releases are included and they retail for $975.00.



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