Shimano’s RS80 line of carbon wheel is part of its Road Sport category, and represents Shimano’s Ultegra componentry. The RS80 with the C24 profile can usually be found for around $800, and a set of RS80’s with the more aerodynamic C50 profile retails for $1,300 but can commonly be found for closer to $1,000. As for Shimano’s lineup. The RS80 fits neatly in between the base, entry-level aluminum RS30 and the Dura Ace lineup (WH 7850 and 7900 series) which cost about $500 – $700 more than the RS80.
The RS80 generally puts itself in a class with such wheels as the Mavic Ksyrium, another carbon fiber wheelset that weighs about the same as the Shimano. While Mavic has some very loyal users who insist it is the most durable wheel on the market with the smoothest hub, riders of the RS80 have the advantage of being able to get a wheel with very similar specs for less. True, the list prices between the Ksyrium and the RS80 are close to the same, but you will tend to find the Shimano line on sale more often, with savings sometimes being substantial. Mavics don’t often go on sale, and when they do our observation is that the savings are more modest, something that can also be said for the other major RS80 competitor, the Fulcrom 3.
Like most wheelsets in its class, the Shimano RS80 comes with an aluminum hub and steel freehub that can handle 8, 9, or 10 speeds. Being the innovator of today’s freehub technology, the Shimanos are always reliable and relatively durable. Any hub is subject to corrosion, the Shimano included, so even with this high quality hub you will want to protect your investment by cleaning it periodically. Also like most wheelsets in its class, you can expect stainless steel, bladed spokes on the RS80. The spokes on current models are silver, a look that compliments a lot of road bikes when the standard spoke color for this class seems to be black. The extra finish on black spokes, however, might be useful to riders who will often be in salt or other rough conditions. The overall output of this combo is a smooth ride, albeit a little rough on some surfaces. The ride isn’t quite as smooth as the Shimano Dura Ace WH 7850 or 7900, but that is likely due to the increased hub engineering and slightly better bearings on the DA. Given that the DA costs a bit more, riders will need to evaluate if a little extra smoothness in ride is worth the cost. A nice thing about both the 7900 and RS80 is that they don’t have a rider weight limit, so can accommodate Clydesdales as well as lighter riders.
We like the overall shape of the RS80s sections, and it seems to do a good job of giving riders a cross between an aerodynamic ride and a deeper profile for more grinding and hilly rides. You may not get the aero profile you would with a Zipp or Hed wheel, but for many riders that is a good thing. The result is a wheelset that may outperform more expensive wheels on hills and in cross winds.
Road tests validate the good performance in crosswinds and on hills, and depending on what you were riding previously, you should notice a nice aero pickup. The RS 80 isn’t going to give you a pillow-soft ride, nor are they intended do. Plenty of road energy will be telegraphed to your body, but that is to be expected for wheels of this class and composite. The wheels are responsive, and that is what most riders who spend this money on want. If you are doing ultra-long rides regularly and value a silky smooth ride, you may want to consider some other wheels such as Shimano’s own Dura Ace, although the RS80s have been known to do just fine on some very long rides. We think your computer will show you that your overall performance is right up there with other wheels, unless you are a 1,000-watt-output pro. What offsets any perceived roughness is the durability – we have seen several RS80 models with many miles on them, and they seem to hold up great over time.
As mentioned above, there are a few alternatives to the RS 80 that exist in the market, although the RS80 occupies a nice niche of all-around functionality with a price that is lower than some other options. Namely, key competition includes:
- Shimano’s own Dura-Ace 7850 or 7900 model. At about $1,300 and up, you’ll pay more for the DAs, but you will also get the coveted DA hub and a consensus smoother overall ride
- Mavic Ksyrium. You’ll start to get into the Ksyriums at about $1,o00, and those who have used Mavics rave about their ride and weight. Bike mechanics like them, as well, as the construction is simple and clean.
- Fulcrom 3. While you will find these wheels for $700 and up at some outlets, we’ve heard of enough durability concerns to be wary, especially for heavier riders. For those who have not had trouble with them, they report back that the wheels have great stiffness and quickness.
If you are looking for a good overall carbon wheel for the money, one that will be fast and versatile, and one that will prove to be durable over time, you should give the Shimano RS80 serious consideration. We think that comparing the Ksyrium and RS 80, and buying the one that has the componentry you want for the best price might be the way to go. Coupled with the fact that this wheelset can often be found for nice discounts (for example, through our partner, here), the RS80 might be the combo of performance and value you are looking for.