Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Shimano WH-RS61 Tubeless wheelset & Schwalbe Ultremo ZX Tubeless Tyres

Shimano WH-RS61 Tubeless Wheelset

When I recently took the plunge into the dark side with my Planet X Pro Carbon road bike I knew It wouldn't be long before my terrible affliction "upgrade-itis" would strike. Their stock wheels are decent everyday wheels but as anybody who knows anything about cycling if you want to unleash your bike's true potential you need a good set of wheels and that's where my affliction struck first. I had been lusting some Planet X 50mm carbon clincher wheels until I came across the Shimano RS61 Tubeless wheelset from Merlin  . The retail for these wheels is £299 which is a good deal in itself but Merlin will let you have these wheels for £180 ! An incredible price and an unbelievable bargain and one the girlfriend and I both took advantage off . 
I'm a big tubeless convert & fan since first going tubeless with my Goldtec/Stans Alpha 340 single speed wheelset for my single speed Pompino Cross, and then with my Hope/Stans Crest 29" wheelset for the Lurcher, and then with a Hope/Stans Crest 26" build for my girlfriend Debs Inbred. I have had zero issues and zero puncture's in the 18 months since first going tubeless and just love the added control & speed you get with a tubeless system . I was eager to see if the WH-RS61 was as easy to get set up and running as my Stans wheelsets, and I'm pleased to say they were a doddle just like the Stans were with the tyres inflating with ease. There are loads of horror stories filling cycling forums all over the net from the early days of tubeless with exploding tyres, sealant all over the place and tyres coming of their rims, but these days with better rim technology and better offerings from tyre manufacturers you shouldn't really have any problems at all with getting your tyres inflated with just a standard track pump, and the tyres staying on their rims.

As I said before the wheelset is a true bargain as your getting top spec features for an entry level price. The RS stands for "Road Sports" which is Shimano's entry/mid level category but your getting a lot of the same features you get with higher priced wheels. In keeping with the latest research in aerodynamics you get wider profile rims, 21mm & 24mm front & rear respectively while also giving you a bigger contact patch when used with the ever more popular wider 23mm & 25mm tyres. The hubs feature angular contact ball bearings and extra wide flanges for stiffness and long life and like all Shimano hubs are the easy serviceable cup & cone variety. The spokes are stainless steel, bladed, double butted and radially laced for maximum stiffness and durability.

Shimano's aim with these wheels were to bring race day wheel performance to your everyday wheelset. I can't say what a real top end race day wheelset performs like but I can say that with these wheels fitted I was able to run much lower pressure's giving me a more stable,comfortable,confident,good control and therefore faster ride than with the stock Shimano wheels, which granted are only a stock wheelset but when sold separately retail for not much less than the WH-RS61 especially if you get them at a reduced price as I did. 

At the moment the only issue with road tubeless is the lack of tyre choice with only Hutchinson initially pushing the technology, but now as more tubeless wheelsets are coming on to the market most of the manufacturers have at least one tubeless tyre in there range and are really starting to push the technology, especially Schwalbe, which I'm really glad to say as they make my favourite tyres. I love the balance of lightweight & performance that Schwalbe manage to produce in there tyres. I have used all the different wheel sizes with  Rocket Rons & Racing Ralphs for cyclocross with the 700x35 TLR and  mtb with both 26"& 29"  wheel size's and 26" Nobby Nics for mtb too all tubeless ready, and as such in my opinion I think Schwalbe produce some of the best offroad tubeless tyres on the market. So when I needed a road tubeless tyre I knew I couldn't go far wrong in trying Schwalbe's road tubeless offering, the Ultremo ZX.

Schwalbe Ultremo ZX Tubeless

Ultremo ZX Tubeless
I'm no expert when it comes to road bike tyres with this being my first road bike so this won't be an in depth review about the different characteristics of tubular v clincher v tubeless, so I shall just say write a few words about how much they cost & where I bought them from and my initial impression against the tyre that was on the stock wheelset when I first bought the bike.

The tyres were bought from from Germany for just under £70 for the set including postage which is another great bargain as they retail for £120.They were delivered to me faster than most UK sellers and I would recommend them for their good service and competitive pricing. The box set comes with everything you need to set them up tubeless, with a 60mil bottle of Schwalbe Doc Blue sealant, 30mil for each tyre, which is licensed from Stans, and a bottle of Easy fit mounting solution that has a little sponge on the end for running round the rim to make inflating the tyres easier.

The tyres were quite a tight fit and take a bit more effort than a standard clincher to get on the rim but nothing a bit of patience and perseverance can't sort out. The tyre's went up easily with a few swift pumps of a track pump. With the standard Planet X Rage K Folding Kevlar Bead 23mm Clincher tyre fitted I was running 105&110 psi front & rear and to be fair it's a decent tyre which I think can hold it's own against the big boys and it really isn't fair to compare it to a tubeless but that's all I have had to compare it too. If anything in my opinion the difference between tubeless & none tubeless is more noticeable in a road tyre than a mtb tyre.
The extra cornering grip,comfort,confidence and control from being able to run 80&85 psi front & rear was for me a massive improvement and soon had me searching out anywhere I could find some cobbles, even riding the back alleys so I could experience a bit of what it's like to ride the Spring classics. Just riding on the flat with the standard clincher was a painful teeth chattering escapade but with tubeless the cobbles were a lot of fun and had me imagining I was trying to chase down the likes of Boonen & Cancellara, and all the time I didn't have to worry about punctures.

Until the weight of the tubeless wheelset can be made as light as a Tubular I dont think the Pro's will be using them on race day but for everybody else the Tubeless wheelset is the best upgrade you can make for your road bike and you wouldn't go far wrong if you decided to use this combination from Shimano & Schwalbe.