Shimano Dura-Ace WH-7900-C50 Wheelset

Shimano 7900 C50 wheelset 300x225 Shimano Dura Ace WH 7900 C50 Wheelset

Shimano 7900 C50 wheelset

Shimano has had a tough time selling top-end race wheels. They’ve never seemed to have the charisma of Zipp or Reynolds, they’ve been pricier than Mavic,  heavier than just about every comparable wheel, and they’ve been more expensive.  The Dura-Ace name tag means a lot when you’re talking about brakes and drivetrains, but it couldn’t carry its reputation into Shimano’s line of wheelsets. For 2011 though, Shimano said a new era had come.

A deep section Dura-Ace?

The Shimano WH-7900-C50 wheelset is the top of the line Dura-Ace wheelset for 2011, but you won’t be able to get it in the US until at least February. There’s been a lot of hype, and these wheels have appeared on the bikes of some pretty famous riders, so we’d like to think that the Shimano wheels of old are now a thing of the past.

Sure enough, there are some nice features on the Shimano WH-7900-C50.  The deep 50mm rim looks fantastic and is definitely very aerodynamic, but unlike Mavic or Zipp there’s not a lot of innovation to be seen in either the surface or the shape. At least with the Shimano WH-7900-C50, you can really only opt for the all-carbon tubular version. You can avoid the carbon/aluminum mix of the clinchers in the C24 and C35 versions, which bring into question the integrity of the combination under heavy race stress. The iffy adjustable bearings have been fixed with a lever clamp that compresses the axle, and doesn’t upset the potential of the adjustable preload bearings (not that many riders messed around with that feature anyway).  And where some of Zipp’s new wheels are compatible with almost nothing, Shimano stays true to form with an easy to swap wheel that can take 8, 9 and 10 speed cassettes.

Better than the competitors?

The Shimano WH-7900-C50 wheelset looks good on a bike, but not so good on paper. At around 1400g for the tubular, these wheels are on a par with – or even lighter than - most deep section wheels, but you’d have to question if they can really compete with something like the Zipp 404s. Shimano has done nothing with the 50mm of rim surface, unlike Zipp with their dimpled surface or Mavic's super-aero curved rims. Spokes are bladed, but there’s nothing clever about lacing to maximize power transfer.

What you have with the Shimano WH-7900-C50 is a decent, but not awe-inspiring, set of deep section wheels. That would be fine of they were a bargain, but at a price likely to be around the $3000 mark, once again Shimano misses the point. There’s just not enough going on with these wheels to make most racers bypass manufacturers like Mavic, Reynolds, Easton, or Zipp. Sure, you have to cut weight, but these days you have to cut the price too.

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