Sunday, May 16, 2010

Shimano WH-6700 Road Tubeless Wheel Review


THE TUBELESS REVOLUTION CONTINUES

The single most-viewed page on this blog at this moment is my review of Shimano's WH-7850-C24-CL wheels. And, it's no surprise to me - they're amazing; revolutionary wheels (no pun intended).

Why do I mention this? You see, these wheelsets are related. The WH-7850-SL is the predecessor to the WH-7850-C24-CL and is Shimano's first tubeless road ready wheelset. It features a Scandium alloy rim with a sealed inner wall; making it air tight, stainless steel spokes and Dura Ace hubs. The WH-6700 is the latest in the family of Shimano's Road Tubeless compatible wheels (also including the WH-7850-C24-TL) and the most affordable truly tubeless-ready wheel available - without much of a penalty (at 1652 g published weight - it's a difference of 138 g from their lighter "big brother").


NUTS AND BOLTS
The WH-6700 shares the 7850-SL's rim extrusion - only substituting a more conventional aluminum alloy instead of marginally lighter scandium alloy, uses a similar spoke, and substitutes Ultegra-level hub internals (including a steel freehub instead of the 7850's titanium) for lower cost. As with any Road Tubeless (UST) rims, the 6700 will accept conventional clincher tires - so even if you haven't found a tubeless tire that excites you; you can use your favorite tube-type tire until one arrives. And, there's more every year. When you do find one you want to try you'll enjoy better comfort, adhesion, and cornering performance than before with reduced chance of pinch flatting. For the test, I used Hutchinson's new Atom tires and we'll be stocking Specialized's Turbo Tubeless in the store; likely expanding our offering with demand.

THE RIDE
So, on to the riding: The day I tested these wheels was a little wet. Not raining - but sprinkling on and off with wet roads. Also, I was doing ride-along mechanical support for a Team In Training ride from our store (they're a great group, by the way and worth supporting if you get the chance). The pace was slower, but punctuated with opportunities to ride faster and with some intermediate hills and a couple of good descents. Nothing that would tear your legs off; but a good test none the less and a great chance to evaluate the extra adhesion of the tubeless system.

The wheels are certainly stiff enough. I am already accustomed to stiff wheels; riding high-tension wheels 100% of the time for my personal gear - and if I don't really notice a difference in a wheel, I'm pretty satisfied. (Contrast that with the Bontrager Race XXX Lite Carbon Clinchers I once rode and didn't review here; which I had to open my brake quick releases to keep them from rubbing while standing to climb.) I never once felt that the wheels were really winding-up while climbing. Not as rock-solid as a deep-section wheel; but good for low spoke-count, low profile wheels under a 190 lb. rider.

This stiffer than average wheel also feels just fine when you can ride your tires at 90 psi. I would probably feel just fine riding these wheels at 80 psi front and 85 rear - although I haven't had the chance to try it yet. The pavement quality varied over the course of the route from smooth, newly poured asphalt to chip-seal and the wheels never felt harsh as the tires seemed to be willing to soak up any imperfection relatively well. But at the same time, the tires never felt sluggish or slow due to the reduced pressure.

One of the descents was curvy - not terribly technical, but not "easy" - and I took it at about 85-90% of what I would normally have done (due to the wet conditions and unfamiliar tires) but the tires definitely had the remaining 10-15% in them. I'd like to go back and push them a little harder to see what they do; but they certainly did as well as my all-time favorite Continental GP 4000s. I have to assume that is due in part to the capability to run reduced pressure.

So I am a pretty big fan of these wheels - and we have a bunch of team guys riding them now too. The only down side we've discovered so far is the higher cost of a tubeless road tire (still up around $80 each) and therefore the penalty for cutting a tire - as one of our guys experienced after only 2 weeks (bummer).

EXCITING NEW DIRECTIONS
This platform also represents some exciting possibilities for cyclocross applications as well: bringing tubular-type low pressure and pinch flat resistance to the masses at a more clincher-like pricetag. Check out the guest post on tubeless cyclocross for more ideas. Our team guys who have the Shimano tubeless wheels are planning to do dual duty with them - road and 'cross - so we may have some great info to pass along come 'cross season. I'll hope to pass along an update then (on the 6700, WH-7850-SL and WH-7850-C24-TL, as these are all being ridden by team members).


What are your experiences? These are sure to be popular wheels...let's share. Leave a comment

39 comments:

  1. I've heard that the Hutchison road tubeless tires are difficult to impossible to install. How was your experience?

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  2. We also have heard mixed reviews on the ease of mounting the tires (which - to put it in context; is not that different from mountain tubeless tires...)

    The trick with tubeless is to get as much air going into the tire as quickly as possible in order to pop the bead into the hook of the rim. At the shop, we have a pretty big air compressor; which makes life easier for sure. At home; a floor pump is not going to do the job very well.

    With MTB tubeless; my advice has been to use a Genuine Innovations "Big Air" cartridge. Standard CO2 does not have the back pressure to release air into the tire fast enough to pop the bead. Road tires are much lower volume of course and I am starting to recommend using 16 gram CO2 (somewhat experimentally...) to see what kind of luck we have with that as a solution.

    The other tricks are to be sure you have some sealant in the tire and around the bead (we're using Hutchinson's "Pro Air" for road and Stan's No Tubes for MTB at the shop); or soapy water to reduce friction between the tire and rim and slpw the escape of air which will make the bead pop better.

    Honestly, the are proving that your most valuable asset is patience and perseverance.

    Long answer - but I hope that helps. Thanks for the question; John.

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  3. So it sounds like I should just be patient and careful when fitting the tire onto the rim (use soapy solution or sealant, and careful with the bead!) and then use CO2 to inflate.

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  4. If you don't have access to a pretty big compressor; that's an o.k. way to go about it. The trick is to get as much air into the tire as quickly as possible.

    We have gotten the Specialized S-Works Turbo Tubeless mounted without sealant on Dura Ace 7850-SL wheels, but it took some time and effort.

    Good Luck.

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  5. Another trick I had forgotten about until I was reminded by a team member is to first install the tire with an inner tube inside to get one side of the bead seated. You'll have to unhook one side of the tire to remove the tube; but it's significantly easier to get the tire to seal completely if you're only having to seat one portion of one side of the tire. Hope all of this helps...

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  6. What is your preferred tire for this setup? I need tires for my new DA 7850 SL wheels, don't know whether to go with Fusion 3, Atom, or Specialized S-Works Turbo. I'm 145lbs. and ride fairly decent roads. Also what about sealant, I don't use sealant in my clincher tires, so why use sealant in my tubeless tires? I'll use soapy water to help seat the bead.

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  7. Anthony-

    I have only ever ridden the Hutchinson Atom on these wheels; so it is hard to comment objectively on preferred tire setup. I was satisfied with the Atom tires, and I'm really curious to ride the Specialized Turbo Tubeless - but I would have to put more miles on both of them before I'd really want to say that one is my preference over the others.

    Our team guys are mostly riding the Specialized tire and are pretty happy with them, for what it's worth.

    On sealant: it's a little different in a tubeless setup than on a conventional clincher. While a good tubeless tire will seat and hold air acceptably for many without it; the sealant only helps it do it's job. Better pressure retention, easier seating, and a mild amount of small puncture resistance are all benefits. We're currently using the Hutchinson sealant with good results on road and mountain wheels. As I've said before; the Stan's sealant is also very good.

    Good Luck.

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  8. you wrote "Not as rock-solid as a deep-section wheel; but good for low spoke-count, low profile wheels under a 190 lb. rider."
    Would these be suitable for a 200 lb. century rider (not a racer)?

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  9. ps3:

    Lately, I think that the best way to answer that question is this: A really smooth rider can ride just about any wheel they want on road or off because they know how to be easy on their gear. Conversely; some riders have bad luck with almost anything and reserve themselves to the burliest stuff because they're afraid they'll break it.

    So - the short answer is: if you're a smooth rider and have good luck with your gear; then absolutely. If you feel like you're plagued with broken spokes; I'd recommend sticking with a good pair of well-built 32 spoke wheels on a DT Swiss RR1.1 or 1.2 with your choice of good hubs.

    The low-pressure capability that tubeless offers certainly could shelter the wheels a little and lend to some durability not available at higher pressures. I think this is yet to be definitively proven though.

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  10. Just wondering about how much of a difference there is between the 6700 and the 7850 in durability. I have a scandium 7801 front rim that's corroded. Looking at getting a new set of wheels for training. Will the Ultegra's be a better option than the DA for training?

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  11. Is it possible to use normal tires with the rims? I just got a pair of MIchelin Pro 3's and on a whim tried to use them with my new 6700 rims. The front one inflated no problem, but I've been having trouble with the rear. That said, I'm using a floor pump and no sealant or soapy water. Maybe it was blind luck with the front one...

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  12. To the above two questions:

    As for durability - from what I know about the 7850; I would not expect it to be any less durable than the 6700 - and the 6700 is a set I would expect to be able to ride pretty hard. Where you may enjoy using the 6700's for day-to-day riding and training is in the fact that *should* something happen - it has happened to a less expensive (to repair or replace) wheel than your 7850's

    As for tires - any clincher tire will work when you use tubes. I would only recommend proper tubeless tires for use without tubes. With innertubes I would expect zero issues with Michelin Pro 3's. You don't say whether you're trying to run them tubeless or otherwise. What are you attempting?

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  13. Sorry about that. I was trying to use them tubeless, but my experiment isn't going so well. Overnight the front tire lost its air, so I think I'm going to stick the tubes back in and ride them like this till I get some tubeless tires. Which brings me to my next question. How many different models of tubeless tires are there? I see you mentioned Hutchinson and Specialized. Are there others?

    Thanks very much for your help!

    Dave in NB

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  14. Dave-

    Hutchinson was the first with road tubeless and worked very closely with Shimano on the standards for the system. I am currently at Interbike seeing the new stuff and Maxxis is showing a road tubeless tire in addition to the Specialized Turbo Tubeless that I mentioned earlier.

    I know this to be the case with the Specialized and can only assume with Maxxis (although I suspect that I am correct) Hutchinson is the company with the technology and manufacturing capacity - so they are making them and re-badging them for the other brands. My Specialized sales rep claims that their tire possesses their proprietary dual-compound rubber...but I'm not 100% convinced.

    So, the short answer is this (why does it always take me so long to get to the short answer?): Hutchinson has the most selection, but other brands are arrving on the scene with tires which appear to be coming from Hutchinson's factories. Choice is still limited, but improving.

    My experience on the Hutchinson Atom was good and our Team Sunset Cycles guys are liking the Specialized tire.

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  15. Personally, when I see comments that people are having difficulty mounting their tubeless tires I have to think that they don't know what they are doing. 1st, mount the tire except the last several inches opposite the valve. Pour 2 ounces of sealant into the tire. Carefully turn the wheel over and finish mounting the tire. 2nd, use very soapy water and work around the entire bead both sides of tire. Now pump up and your good to go. I have never had to use a compressor. One of the mistakes people make is not making sure that the nut securing the valve core needs to be loosened enough so that it can be pushed into the rim to seat the bead to the rim. Tighten and then check again after inflating. In a solid year of riding both road and cyclocross I have had 2 flats on the road that self fixed because of the sealant. To this day I am baffled as to why poeple have not jumped on the bandwagon with road tubeless. I have never flatted on a race or club ride and am now annoyed every time someone has to stop to fix a flat.

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  16. I run Stan's on my MTB and just purchased the DA setup...he has a very comprehensive video and I would guess that installation would be similar:

    http://www.notubes.com/support_movies.php

    I took them out a little this am, but am looking to ride them more and more...

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  17. @Anonymous - not sure what tires you're using, but mounting the tire is not that simple. First, shimano says not to use tire irons (plastic or otherwise) because they can damage the tire bead. So, getting the tires on using only your thumbs is very difficult. Videos I've seen on YouTube suggest mounting the bead area at the valve core last. Wiggling the tire back and forth around the rim so that the bead sits in the middle section of the rim will help you get it on, but it will still be tough. Pour the 2oz of sealant in before mounting the last few inches, spin the tire to spread the sealant, and then mount the last few inches of tire around the valve core.

    Btw, do not use Stan's sealant. It dries up and the next time you remove your tire you'll be in for quite a cleanup job as it has corroded the rim surface. Some of it can't even be removed creating air retention issues. Supposedly Hutchinson's sealant doesn't dry up and doesn't have this issue. Shimano suggests using no sealant at all.

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  18. Here's an update that may be useful to some:

    I was mounting a Hutchinson Fusion 2 Tubeless on a Campy Eurus 2-way fit tubeless on Friday. I'd say forget about getting the tire bead wet or soapy - get some sealant or soapy water on the rim hook and spoke bed. This will reduce the friction between the rim and the tire helping the bead seat in the hook much easier. Worked pretty smoothly, actually. Give it a shot.

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  19. I want to run normal clinchers with tubes on these. I read somewhere about an offset valve stem on the wheel. can you explain this?

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  20. Anonymous-

    The rear rim is an asymmetric, offset rim. The spoke bed is moved off center toward the non-drive side allowing a greater angle for the drive side spokes from the hub flange to the rim. This is why the valve hole "appears" to be offset - however - it is in fact on the center-line of the rim. No problems at all: we have set these up both ways with no issue. Go for it!

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  21. Somebody posted that you should loosen the valve nut and push the stem up into the tire - that is a GREAT trick to mount the tires by hand. Before trying that I had a horrible time mounting the Hutchinson Intensive tires on the Ultegra rims (even with levers), because the rubber block that seals the valve inside of the tire would get in the way. Now I'd say it's almost easy.

    If only I could get the tire OFF without levers. Anyone know how to do that?

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  22. I put Stan's in my tubeless tires, but as soon as I attach the pump head to an already-inflated tire with sealant in it, a bunch of the sealant sprays out of the valve stem. Is this supposed to happen? I feel like after a couple top-offs of air, I won't have any sealant left in the tire.

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  23. Do you happen to know the difference between the Hutchinson Protect'Air and Protect'Air Max?

    Dave in NB

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  24. Try making sure the stem is at top before attaching pump. Let a little air out first, then put on pump.
    Air max is supposed to last longer before drying out.

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  25. I have the Shimano's WH-7850-C24-CL whees. They are brilliant to ride on. Tubeless works. However, someone please tell me the trick or magic required to fit Hutchinson tires easily. The force ( and patience ) required to lever in the last section - or to lever out - is seriously big. Twice have had to fit Atoms and twice roadside patience was sorely tested. Back to Ksyriums /GP4000 for long rides :-(

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  26. I inflated my Hutchison tubeless on my Ultegra wheels using a standard floor pump. The two things I had to learn were: 1) soap the rims--I used a soft brush and scrubbed around the rims, then wiggled the tire to start getting it seated; 2) make sure the valve is seated: I couldn't inflate the tire until I had loosened the value nut, pushed the valve a centimeter or so in, made sure the the tire was seated as well as I could with my fingers, and then tightened up the valve nut tight.

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  27. I have the WH-7850-C24-TL wheelset for almost a year and enjoy riding on tubeless configuration. My question is, have you had to adjust the cones?

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  28. SDTRI619: Since I recommend frequent overhaul/servicing of hubs - the answer is yes. But on the wheels that I've done it to it is more because we were maintaining the wheel rather than addressing a hub that was out of adjustment. The shimano hub is so affordable to overhaul that I recommend it annually depending on conditions and frequency of riding.

    Are you experiencing something with your hubs?

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  29. I ride WH-7850-TL and use specialized pro tires and STans sealant. Rides great, no flat or leaks for more than 9 months. The STANS dries up in 2-3 months and I reapply Stans. The old stans sticks to rims and VERY difficult to remove before applying new stans. Hard to rub off and I haven't found a solvent. Any ideas?? Thanks.

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  30. Could you tell me what the space between the "hooks" is? I'm considering buying these wheels and want to run Tufo's on them. But Tufo suggests the space between hooks needs to be 13-15mm.

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  31. @Sander-
    The hook is the part of the rim that the tire bead "hooks" into in order to secure it to the rim. The bead is pushed into the hook by air pressure inside the tire (whether tubed or tubeless).

    As for the dimensions; I don't have them in front of me at the moment - but this is a 22mm wide rim (brake track to brake track) so your hook-to-hook dimension is no less than 17mm and probably in the neighborhood of almost 19mm. No problem for the Tufo.

    Good luck and enjoy.

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  32. Any chance of a comparison of tubeless tires. Specialized S-Works Turbo Tubeless vs. Hutchinson Atom vs Hutchinson Fusion 3?

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  33. Mixed experience with installation. I didn't use sealant. One tire was not bad. The other was pretty tough. Used a lever on both. I can see why they discourage the lever use, because with all of the stain, I slightly gouged a tire. It's been holding air though, so I think everything is alright.

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    Replies
    1. "strain" not "stain"

      Delete
  34. Hi, just a quick question. These wheels are often compared to the RS80-24. In your opinion, which one is better.. ignoring for a bit that these are tubeless ready.. (im not going to run tubeless anytime soon) the main difference is the hubs vs the lighter rims correct?

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    Replies
    1. Good question.

      You pretty much hit the nail on the head. Technically, while the hub is what Shimano would refer to as a non-series component (i.e. not 105, Ultegra, or Dura Ace); it is in essence "105-equivalent". Therefore it could be considered a step down in quality from the Ultegra series hub on the 6700 TL. With proper bearing adjustment and appropriate cleaning and overhauling for the conditions you ride in; I honestly don't think you would notice a difference.

      As for rims; I like that they are both a wider profile rim as I am finding that I really like the rounder tire profile this allows. I perceive - perhaps only in my imagination - that the carbon-hybrid rim of the RS80-c24 benefits from the carbon fiber layer with mildly more comfortable ride quality.

      The lighter-weight c24 rim does result in what I would consider a noticeable difference in acceleration.

      Given the opportunity to choose either: unless I was set on running tubeless (which I personally am not at the moment) I would choose the c24. It is practically the Dura Ace c24 with a lesser hub, but hundreds of dollars less. Can't go wrong.

      Thanks for commenting - makes the blog better for the readers.

      Delete
    2. I should also add: I have a "first impressions" post regarding the RS80 c24 up if you have not found it already:

      http://www.roadragecycling.com/2012/12/shimano-rs-80-c24-first-impressions.html

      There is a full review coming (read: long overdue...)

      Delete
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