I bought my very first set of aero wheels almost by accident. I was looking for a set of Powertap wheels a few years back, and I ended up getting a great deal on some Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL wheels in 2009 that had a rear Powertap wireless hub.
Although those Mavic wheels were very heavy, at around 1,900 grams, they were really fast! Especially when the speeds get faster. I realized at that point that aero wheels really do make a difference and became a big fan.
Fast forward a few years, and I was looking for a new set of road wheels. Specifically, I was looking for a clincher that was road tubeless compatible, because I wanted to use the wheels both on the road, and also for cyclocross and some gravel grinding. I ride tubeless for cyclocross already, but have been using lower end Mavic Kyserium wheels that required Stan’s tape to seal up. With road tubeless ready Dura Ace wheels, I would be able to go tubeless on the road, but also have a really light set of racing wheels for cyclocross that were easy to set up.
I bought my Dura Ace C24 WH-9000 wheels about a couple of months ago. I have primarily been riding them on the road, tubeless. I am using Specialized Roubaix Pro road tubeless tires on them, which have been great so far.
One important feature of the Dura Ace C24 wheels that helped me make a buying decision was the aluminum brake surface on them. Sure, full carbon clinchers have been around a long time now, and have supposedly been proven safe and reliable. But I still fear them. They don’t brake as well. They usually require special brake pads. And they can fail during long descents if you ride the brakes, because carbon tends to soften up when it gets too hot. I don’t live within hundreds of miles of a descent that long, but these are the kinds of things I worry about. Wheels are a critical safety issue, and I don’t want to worry about mine, ever.
Dura Ace WH 9000 C24 wheels are light, at a reported 1,395 grams. That’s not ultralight, like some climbing specific wheels. But it’s very light for aero wheels, and particularly those with a sturdy, aluminum braking surface. Compare, for example, to Zip 404 Firecrest aero wheels. Those wheels are deeper 58 mm wheels (which means more aerodynamic), but weigh 1525 grams. Mavic R-Sys clinchers with carbon spokes are a little bit lighter at 1,355 grams, for example. But they are not aero at all.
And speaking of aero, I would say that the biggest selling point for me with these wheels aside from the road tubeless compatibility was the extra wide rims. Zip, HED and ENVE have sort of overtaken Mavic with the new aero trend of making the wheel rim wider. I’m not going to go into all the details about it, but a slightly wider rim improves aerodynamics, and also gives you a really nice ride at the same time.
Shimano took this new advance in wheel aerodynamics and put their own twist on it. The front and back wheel have different widths! Where the front wheel is 23 mm wide — the same as the other brands that are doing wide aero rims — the rear rim is a millimeter wider, at 24 mm. That difference gives you increased lateral stability, increased comfort, and improved airflow. If you are running tubeless in particular, it gives you a very smooth ride because it is widening out your rear tire and giving you just a little bit better volume for additional comfort and traction.
UPDATE: As two different commenters pointed out, the C24 wheels have a 20.8mm width, front and rear, and do not have the varying widths that the C50 and C75 have.
The flanges on these wheels are the widest that Shimano has done yet with Dura Ace wheels. That additional width gives you increased torsional and lateral stability, according to Shimano. I don’t really understand what that means, but Competitive Cyclist compares it to standing with your feet close together, or your feet shoulder width apart — the wider stance is going to give you a lot better stability and strength.
Another great feature of these wheels is that they are both 10 and 11 speed compatible. They come with a spacer that goes behind the cassette if you are still running 10 speed. This is terrific for me, because I’m running 10 speed on all my bikes right now, but plan to move to Ultegra electronic 11 speed when Shimano finally launches it. (I’m too cheap for Dura Ace electronic.)
I don’t work on wheels myself, because I only have basic bike mechanic abilities. But Shimano evidently used a standard kind of cone bearing that can be easily serviced.
The wheels have 16 radial laced, bladed spokes in front, and 20 two-cross, bladed spokes in back. The freehub is made of titanium, which helps keep the weight so low on these wheels while still keeping them bulletproof.
The skewers that hold the wheels on the bike are outstanding. They have a great shape that’s easy on your hands, and they are also sturdy and rattle free. (I say that because I’ve gotten a few Mavic skewers that rattle in the last couple of years.)
My biggest criticism of these wheels is how plain they look. When you ride something like Zip 404s or Enve wheels, they look impressive. These Dura Ace wheels are completely unnoticeable, and look no different at a glance than a low end set of Mavic Ksyrium wheels, which were cutting edge and cool about 10 years ago.
But to me, looking cool isn’t as important as bulletproof reliability, light weight, road tubeless compatibility and modern, wide-rimmed aero design. These wheels met every one of my requirements, and I am very happy with my purchase.
I put these wheels on my cyclocross bike to complete the Dirty Kanza 200, and they performed flawlessly. I ran them tubeless, so I could ride using tire sealant. I finished with no flats, so it was a success. This confirmed my theory that the wheels would perform well for gravel grinding and cyclocross, as well as on the road. I look forward to using them during cyclocross season in the fall.
For the past 10 years at least, I have only ridden Mavic wheels. These Dura Ace wheels are my first non Mavic wheels in so long that I don’t even remember what I might have ridden other than Mavic before.
I am extremely happy with these wheels, and recommend them. For the price of around $1,200 online or up to $1,400, I think they are probably the very best aero wheels that you can buy for the money if you are looking at the best balance of weight, durability and aerodynamics.
Agree or disagree? Leave a comment!