Shimano's RX31 wheelset is a good value setup for anyone running a disc road bike or 'crosser. It's not designed as a lightweight race wheelset and doesn't perform like one, but it's solidly built and happy to rack up the miles.
Shimano have had a bit of rethinking to do with regard to their wheel line, what with discs and the switch to 11-speed, so there are a lot of new wheels out there. This is the first widely-available road disc model from the Big S and it's aimed at the same territory as the non-disc RS31: commuting and training.
So, it's a solidly-built unit, with a 24m disc-specific rim attached to a centre-lock disc hub with 24 straight-bladed spokes in a two-cross pattern. 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. All-in weight for our pair was 1,831g with rim tape, but without the discs, so you're looking at just over 2kg rotating mass once you have your brakes fitted. The wheels arrived tightly built and there have been no issues with them running out of true. Not that you'd necessarily notice of course, since there are no brake blocks to rub on the rim.
We've used the RX31 wheels on board three different bikes. The Culprit Croz Blade, a full-on aero road bike, felt like it deserved lighter – and deeper – hoops, and it duly received some in the form of Reynolds' Assault SLG carbon wheelset. We also had the RX31s fitted to our test bikes at the Shimano road disc launch out on the slopes of Mount Etna, where the difference up a proper mountain (it's an 18km climb to the top) between the RX31-equipped disc bikes and the non-disc bikes running Ultegra WH-6800 hoops was certainly noticeable, although how much of it was down to the wheels (the disc bikes had a heavier frame, too) was harder to pin down.
Now they're on my Kinesis Tripster ATR, which is designed as a do-anything bike, and they're an excellent match. The bike itself isn't enormously heavy (9.3kg with these wheels) but neither is it so light that you feel that a robust wheelset will hold you back. It's a multi-purpose bike too, capable of taking a big tyre for more adventurous riding, so the 25-38mm range of the RX31s is about right.
And they roll very well. A lot is made of overall weight when talking about wheels but most of the extra weight over non-disc wheels here is in the hub; the rim, where extra mass should in theory be more noticable, is shallow and reasonably light. The rim bed is wider than a standard road rim, flattening out the profile of a 25mm or 28mm tyre. Many people tell me that should make a difference in terms of comfort; I'm yet to really discern it. But a bigger tyre unquestionably makes for a comfier ride and these RX31s will go pretty big if you want them to and your frame allows it. I've run 30mm Challenge Strada Bianca tyres on them (at 70psi) and the difference over a race slick is very noticeable, much more so than any drop in speed.
I've been using this set of RX31s for some bigger rides, most recently 180km on the LVIS Audax and for rolling terrain on awful UK tarmac with plenty of flat sections and a few chewy climbs they don't give much away to a lighter set of wheels. If you're racing cyclo-cross or bagging Alpine cols you might start to feel them drag a bit, but for everyday riding they're a very good choice. They're strong enough to cope with some harsh treatment without being so overbuilt that you feel that you're doing a bunch of extra work for nothing.
Like the WH-6800 non-disc wheels, Shimano are pitching the RX31s at an Ultegra level. And like the non-disc wheels, they doesn't really match up with that groupset's privateer racing heritage; even more so here, in fact. But that's not to say they're bad wheel because they're not. As a replacement for heavy own-brand wheels on a disc crosser, or as spec for an all-purpose disc build, they're spot on.
Very good all-purpose wheelset for your do-anything bike or 'crosser
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Make and model: Shimano RX31 wheelset
Size tested: Black
Tell us what the product 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.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
RX31 clincher disc road wheel, offering all the technology of Shimano wheels at an economical price
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
Supplied with Q/R skewer
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Well designed and solid disc wheels perform very well for most riding.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Solidly built, stiff, durable.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
On the heavy side for faster riding.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 102kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium 853
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.