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Shimano RS81 C50 carbon clincher wheelset reviewed

A great wheelset for triathletes looking for an option that works well for training and racing and won't break the bank.

— By Daniel Walker

Carbon lust, it’s a real thing. But for many of us who live in Canadian cities where the roads are cratered with potholes, do expensive carbon wheels make sense for our day-to-day training? Deep rims certainly affect your handling in cross-winds and if you only use them on race day there’s little chance you feel comfortable battling those forces. So there’s a dilemma we face as Canadian triathletes. And it’s in this space that the Shimano RS81 C50s can be a great tool to add to your arsenal.

Like anyone who has made the switch from an aluminum bike to a carbon bike, you’ll notice right away how hopping on a pair of carbon hoops changes your ride. The rough and crumbling roads become just that little bit more manageable and the regular road vibrations become even more dampened. This is great if you suffer from any sort of lower back issues.

At this price point, you’re not going to get the lightest wheelset on the market. But that’s ok because with the added weight does come increased durability. I don’t want wheels that I’m scared to ride on every time I hit the roads. With the RS81 C50s I have the confidence to go out and nail my training no matter what the conditions are. The alloy brake track is confidence boosting as well. It was great knowing I don’t have to worry about the braking performance in wet conditions or about getting new brake pads for the carbon rims.

But when it comes down to it picking wheels is all about how they ride. The wow factor with these doesn’t come with peppy accelerations but instead, you’ll be impressed with how well they stay at speed. In many of my group rides, I found myself feathering the brakes often because I overestimated how much I would slow down. Once you put the watts down on these wheels they reward you by keeping you at speed in a way you would expect from a much pricier wheel.

The Shimano RS81 C50s are a great option if you want one wheel to train and race on. Weight in at 836 grams for the front wheel and 1062 grams  for the rear, they won’t wow with with weight — but they certainly punch above their weight class when it comes performance. And you should have no worries about letting them out for a spin on Canada’s sometimes rough roads.