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The most advanced and arguably beautiful wheels that Shimano produce (we won't talk about their Pro offshoot here) the 7850 50mm carbon wheels certainly catch the eye and with a price tag that places them neatly below rival hoops from Hed and Zipp.
The first time I rolled along on the 50mm versions of the 7850 wheels they seemed to offer everything that I would want from a high end wheel set: uncomplicated yet uncompromising design, light weight, rigidity and silence. My current aero wheel set is a pair of Mavic Cosmic Carbones which are around 2 years old. With these I am used to the loud freewheel 'clicking' that drowns out everything around and the unmistakable "whoooom" (practice it and it will work!) that accompanies me anytime the wheels are over 25mph.
The Dura Ace rims have neither. The free hub was silent and there was, strangely, no discernable sound created by the rims slicing through the wind. This made the long, fairly fast rides through the South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and North Somerset countryside even more of a joy. I could hear birdsong, planes far above, the chatter of villagers when passing through picturesque hamlets like Castle Combe and Freshford. It felt good not warning them of my arrival with the usual cacophony of humming and ticking. To put it succinctly, I felt lucky.
Fair enough the test bike wasn't too shabby, a Cervelo S3 adorned with Di2, so I was expecting lots from the whole package but especially the wheels. I have ridden several aero wheels in my time, Zipp 404s, a couple of types of Mavic, Spinergy Rev-Xs and more and these have been the smoothest of the lot. The best test that I could think of for all out pace was a bash at the castle combe duathlon where I would get 5 laps of a traffic free racing circuit, superb surfaces, wide straights and a bit of wind from every angle. I race this regularly on my Mavics so I know my lap times and the Dura Aces made me proud. A total of 58 seconds wiped off my best bike split, was it all in my head or did they make a difference… they did feel quicker.
The aluminium clincher rim surface made braking smooth and reliable, even with DA 7900 calipers which have been taking a bit of a beating on some forums. The machined rim helps add strength for time triallers like myself to make the most of the wheels. Weight is 1580g per pair: certainly light, but there are skinnier offerings out there.
The bladed spokes (16 front and 20 cross laced rears) improve aerodynamics and power transfer. The spokes are gripped directly with no need for 'elbows' to angle them toward the hub.
As with all Dura Ace kit, the aesthetics are pretty flawless: simple, elegant yet modern. The decals are understated but confident. There's none of this new fashion for making wheels look like they have come out of Top Shop with lary colours and in your face print - okay, that's purely subjective and of course there's no performance benefits one way or the other, but for me at least their understated looks is a plus. They do their job well and quietly. This trend is continued with the hubs, machined aluminium shell with a simple 'Dura Ace' laser etched to the surface. At the rear this design and lightweight ethos is complemented by a titanium freewheel body.
Inside the hubs we find borozone treated bearing races, with super mirror finished bearings to reduce friction to a minimum and offer an extremely precise action.
As with most Shimano rims available now these can take an 8, 9 or a 10-speed cassette though I’m not sure how appropriate an 8 speed Sora cassette would be on these beauties.
Overall these are wheels I could easily live with, and would be happy to. The clincher design makes them useable everyday rims for those of us who do many miles; they are not out of place on the weekend club run either. To be honest though, their home lies in the fast road race or tri/TT scenario where the wind cheating elements can come to the fore.
Value wise you can buy them from the big online retailers for less than £1k for the pair at the moment which is outstanding value when compared to the Zipp 404 at nearly half as much again, similarly the Heds. They seem to keep value too, a pair (used and with damaged decals) went on eBay for £850 recently so a strong sell-on price can be assured. If I had £1000 for wheels right now, I’d order some. Unfortunately I haven’t but I am saving – maybe the deeper version will be in the shops by the time I get the cash together… that would be an interesting choice.
The Dura Ace 50mm carbon clincher 7850 rim, all that a Dura Ace wheelset should be.
These may be 'aero' wheels but they are the sort that you can live with on your normal road bike. As we are seeing with most of the pros now the wheelset of choice is deep rimmed. These offer comfort, speed and reliability yet seem unphased by crosswinds. Excellent.
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Make and model: Shimano WH-7850 Dura Ace Carbon Clincher wheelset
Size tested: n/a
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?
The 7850 wheel set is aimed at the high end road user and aero fan who doesnt want to go as deep as say a Zipp 808.
Shimano say that these wheels deliver speed, smoothness and strength. I have had no experiences that would make me doubt this aim
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
A 50mm carbon fibre clincher wheel with a precision aluminium rim keep weight down while providing the ease of a tyre and tube set up. Braking performance is also reliable due to the non 'full carbon' design of this particular model (full carbon tubular versions are available). This rim is laced to the hub using high strength bladed spokes to further enhance the wind cheating properties of the 50mm 7850 wheel. A top quality dura ace hub with superb friction minimising bearings finish the wheels off in style.
I didnt hear a whisper of complaint. I had these wheels working hard down Cheddar Gorge at 70kph, rolling along Chippenham bypass in the pouring rain, sprinting up Dundry Hill...all things that in my experience give wheels the chance to let out the odd whimper but nothing from these. Superb, faultless.
Silence and effortless. This is how I would describe the DA 7850 deep carbon rims. They took very little to get them up to speed and once there they helped me along more than I helped them (at least that is how it felt), they were a pleasure.
As with the construction, combined with good tyres, tubes and tape these worked brilliantly. On muddy, gravelly roads when the heavens opened you might expect a puncture or water to get into the carbon sleeve but no, not a problem.
These are lightweight wheels but not as lightweight as some. More expensive rivals such as the Zipp 404 which already have a major following tip the scales at a claimed 1250g per pair, at the very top end of the scale German manufacturer Lightweight produces some rims that offer a sub 1kg performance (for tubulars and a price of above £2000). The Dura Ace 7850 50mm rims are light, noticeably so when working with top notch kit but they arent as light as some of their rivals so unfortunately they cannot score a perfect 10 here.
Combine all of the above and you have the proof that these wheels from Shimano are crying out to be used all of the time. They are as at home on a tt bike as on a 'normal' roadie. They climb very well, descend exceptionally and fly when on the flat.
This is where the weight issue goes out of the window for me...These can be had online for less than £800 for a pair (at time of publication) which is a steal. Why pay double for the Zipps? Dura Ace both have exceptional heritage and experience so no need to doubt the wheels there. Yes there are lighter wheels but for half the price?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Ideally. Both on the race track and on the road these wheels performed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I liked the feel of the wheels, the way they delivered feedback but not harshly. They were certainly stiff enough to ramp up the speed on a climb but gentle enough to give me some comfort on the country roads round here.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing, really. When you take into account that these wheels can cost the same (if you know where to look) as a set of Easton EC70's or a single Zipp 404rear wheel then they are incredible value for money, how can there be anything to dislike?
Did you enjoy using the product? Certainly
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
If you have the money and you are in the market for Zipps...save yourself £600+ and buy these. Go on a two week bike holiday to the Belvedere or a with the change and actually get out and use the wheels rather than being scared to do so. I wish I could give them a 9.9 out of 10, the weight issue is all that there is to fault them.
Age: 24 Height: 5ft 10 Weight: 66kg
I usually ride: felt ar4 My best bike is: i like my felt and my orbea ora tt bike equally
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, triathlon