The WH-RS170s are part of Shimano's entry level into the world of disc brake ownership and while they aren't the lightest set of wheels out there, they are strong and well made, so should be ideal for the winter trainer or the odd excursion onto gravel tracks and bridleways.
Back in February last year I reviewed Shimano's RX31 wheels and they scored very well all round. They felt much lighter when riding than their actual weight would suggest. These RS170s follow that theme, and not only are they just 140g heavier but a mere £174.98 compared to the RX31s at £299.99.
The rim is disc brake specific so there is none of that painted brake track that we see on some wheels, just a smooth, rounded 'U' shaped profile. The depth is 24mm with an external width of 23mm (17mm internal), and Shimano recommends tyre widths of 25mm up to 38mm which suits the latest vibe of most riders increasing their rubber width.
Tyres are easy to fit too. A pair of 32mm gravel models which were an absolute pig to get on a set of Mavic Aksium Disc wheels slipped onto the Shimanos with very little thumb pressure. It was the same with some 25mm Continentals.
On rim brake wheels you often see different spoking patterns on both wheels and even on the opposing sides of the rear wheel, but disc brakes have changed that. Dealing with the forces of the disc rotor on one side plus the power from the drivetrain sees the rear use 28 spokes laced in a two-cross pattern on both sides, which is also replicated on the front.
Not only does this resist the forces it also makes for a strong wheel, which is ideal if you want to smash through the bumps and water-filled potholes on your winter commute.
I'm pleased to see brass nipples too, having had plenty of corroded and snapped ones after a year of commuting taking in the rough and salted roads of a harsh winter.
Hub-wise things run smoothly with little resistance thanks to the angular contact bearings of the cup and cone setup, and they are easy to adjust too. The RS170s have seen a lot of water, mud and grit over the test period and aren't showing any signs of grumbling at all.
This setup is intended for 12mm thru-axles, which is pretty much the standard that has been settled on for most road and gravel machines lately.
The freehub is reasonably quiet when freewheeling, and engagement isn't too bad; there are quicker systems out there but you aren't going to notice unless you are really looking for it.
That's all the techy stuff, so how do they ride?
They're great. As I said earlier, you don't really notice the weight, especially once they're rolling. Acceleration takes a knock, as does sprinting, but that isn't really what these wheels are all about.
Stiffness is spot on and they turned up nice and true, something that they maintained over the test miles, which included a fair bit of off-road action. If I was running a disc-equipped bike through the winter months this is definitely the type of wheelset I'd be looking for: durability and strength over lightness and speed every day of the week.
The weight – 2.1kg including the rim tape – is pretty similar to Mavic's Aksium Discs, which have a claimed weight of 2,045g for about the same money. I've got a pair of those, and running the RS170s alongside there is very little to split them, so from a value point of view the Shimanos look to be in the right ball park.
On the whole I'd say don't bother looking too much at the specs and weights. If you want a solid, relatively cheap wheelset that's happy to take some abuse then the RS170s are worthy contenders.
Great value do-it-all wheels for riders who want strength over speed
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Shimano WH-RS170 Clincher Disc wheelset
Size tested: Rim Size 622x17C, Rim Width 23mm
Tell us what the wheel is for
The Shimano WH-RS170s are an entry-level disc brake ready wheelset designed to be strong enough for rough roads and some excursions off-road.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Wheelset, consisting of front and rear wheel
· ETRTO: 622 x 17 C
· Black stainless steel spokes (round): front + rear: 28 pieces each, brass nipples
· For clincher and folding tyres 700x25C up to 700x38C
· Rim width: approx. 23 mm, height: approx. 24 mm
· Centerlock brake disc mount
· For Presta valves (minimum length: 40 mm)
· Compatible with 8-/9-/10-/11-speed Shimano HG
· Material: rim, hub body: aluminium; axles, freewheel body: steel
· Contact seals
· Weight: front: approx. 942 g/HR: approx. 1.149 g
· Front and rear wheel hub with 12 mm E-Thru axle mount
· Hub width: front: 100 mm/rear: 142 mm
· Incl. rim tape and 10-speed spacer
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Yes, they are solid.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
No issues with a selection of different tyres.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
All you get is rim tape as your frame will be supplied with the thru-axles. Rim tape worked fine, no movement or punctures.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For commuting, winter training or gravel use they are great.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
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 overall score
If you want a solid wheelset for a bit of everything then the WH-RS170 makes for a great choice. They aren't the lightest or quickest wheels off the line but, for what they are designed for you can't really knock them.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithein
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
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!