Shimano's RX31 wheelset is perfect for those bikes that see a hard life whether that be slogging along on the commute in all weathers, a bit of light touring or even some gravel or cyclocross abuse. It's great to see this latest version come with hubs for 12mm thru axles too.
With a road bike thru axle standard seemingly starting to settle down on 12mm front and rear Shimano have obviously felt it's the right time to release their wheel range to accept the large diameter axle.
Thru axles replace the quick release that's been used on road bikes for decades with a hollow tube, 12mm in diameter in this case, which passes through a hole in the fork leg (in place of the dropouts) then through the hub before screwing directly into the other fork leg.
The larger axle and secure fixing stiffens the whole fork and wheel assembly against steering flex, and makes it impossible for the wheel to be ejected by braking forces, which can happen with standard vertical dropouts. Wheel alignment is also much more precise avoiding rotor rub every time.
The build here is pretty much the same as the quick release model we originally reviewed back in September 2014. There's a 24mm disc-specific rim attached to a Center Lock disc hub with 24 straight-bladed spokes in a two-cross pattern. The bearings are well-sealed angular contact loose balls like all Shimano wheels, although you don't get the tool-free adjustment of the pricier options.
Those original wheels have been in constant use since that date under plenty of riders doing different things. Dave's original 9/10 for durability certainly hasn't needed to be put under any scrutiny and things aren't any different with this thru axle version. They've seen a fair old bit of abuse with gravel tracks and muddy singletrack giving the bearing seals plenty of work to do keeping out water, dust and grit. The bearings are still running smooth and quiet.
The same goes for the rest of the wheels' build quality. Tension has remained high and even across those bladed spokes plus trueness seems the same although that isn't a major issue when running discs.
The rims are 17mm wide internally (24mm external) which means that Shimano recommend a tyre width of 25 to 28mm for a smooth transition between wheel and tyre. Tyres were easy to fit; I tried a few pairs, from Schwalbe Ones to Continentals and 35mm Schwalbe cyclocross tyres.
From a durability point of view it's good to see a steel freehub body. Aluminium ones may be lighter but tend to get gnarled up by the sprockets.
The only real downside to these wheels is the weight: 1960g with the rim tape in place. That's quite a heft to get spinning from a standing start over and over again and certainly rules these wheels out for racing of any kind.
In terms of value the RX31s offer a decent investment considering they are pretty much bombproof and Shimano wheels are often discounted in the shops. Anything you can save on the £299 price tag will be a bonus.
We've seen lighter disc brake wheels here at road.cc like the Kinesis Racelight Discs but they are an extra £100 which further confirms the value for money of the RX31s.
Solid, dependable wheels for on and off road duties, now available with thru axle
road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano RX31 wheelset
Size tested: 24 x 700C
Tell us what the wheel is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"Since Bikes have changed over the years products got better and lighter, for this also goes for the wheels. Braking on the rim surface of light weight wheels becomes more critical in wet conditions. Disc brakes offer the rider constantly same power and controlability and prevent the rim to wear out.
Together with the hydraulic disc brakes Shimano introduced a compatible wheel set at Ultegra level, the WH-RX31. This is an 11-speed center lock compatible wheel set for road and cyclocross bikes. The wider rim (17C) is best matching newer wider tires."
I think the RX31s are a solid wheels ideal for the majority of riding on and off road. Being available in thru axle setup now completes the range.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
24 mm high profile aluminium rim for improved aero dynamics
Easy to use Centre-Lock rotor mount for use with disc brakes
24 stainless steel butted and bladed straight pull spokes with a 2-cross lacing pattern improve lateral and torsional (power transmission) rigidity
Elbow-less spokes with alloy nipples make for a strong yet compliant wheel
The hub uses angular contact bearings designed to cradle the balls giving both radial and lateral support for superior strength and durability in real world riding conditions. They also offer precision bearing adjustment and easy maintenance
Labyrinth and contact sealing - low-friction seals effectively shut out water, mud and dirt without affecting rotational smoothness
700C Clincher rim only
Recommended tyre width 25-38C
Front hub - 100 x 12mm
Rear hub - 142 x 12mm
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Yes, absolutely no issues whatsoever with a lot of the testing being on tough gravel roads.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Relatively easy, I could get various tyres on (28mm road & 35mm CX) without the need for tyre levers.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a hardwearing 'do it all' wheelset the RX31s are hard to knock.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
How strong they are
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
They are heavy.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The competition has grown since we first tested the quick release version of this wheelset but the RX31s still hold their own in terms of performance and durability. They are quite pricey for their weight at full rrp but as with most things Shimano you'll rarely ever pay that.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.