Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 C24 Carbon Clincher Wheelset: Review

Back in March this year I bought a pair of Dura-Ace 9000 series wheels. It's now October and about time I wrote a review!

The story of these wheels goes back to September 2012 when, on a short holiday in France, I happened across the Tour of Pembrokeshire sportive event in a magazine and promptly booked a place on the 'Epic' 108 miles route. Whilst not my first 100 mile sportive event, this one was certainly the lumpiest (10,800ft total ascent) and I'd need some new wheels for that - right?  In reality, I was relying on one pair of wheels for commuting and my social rides and the Pyrenees trip also meant I'd need some lightweight climbing wheels too! Up to this point I'd been using the Mavic Aksium Race rims that came as stock on my Kuota Kebel which, I should add, are absolutely bomb-proof!

Once loosely justified and my conscience settled, I set about researching some wheels. That was a long and, frankly, arduous process but soon I knew what I wanted. I was looking for mix of attributes but predominantly I wanted a lightweight, low profile wheel-set with aero features but would offer a good level of durability and affordability at the same time. I wasn't looking for just a climbing wheel but a good all-rounder capable of hitting some hills and making up for my poor climbing abilities! At the time I also wanted carbon (mainly because they sound epic on tarmac) but I hadn't ruled out alloy if the right wheel was out there. Eventually I whittled it down to the Easton EA90, the Campagnolo Shamal Ultra or the Dura-Ace c24's.

Unexpectedly, choosing between the three became quite an easy task: Although the Easton's were the cheapest and best looking, the negative reviews of the poor quality hub immediately put me off. This left the Shimano's or the Campags and since the latter were more expensive by nearly £200 I settled on the Shimano's. Simple!

A carbon-alloy hybrid clincher, these were the lightest of the 3 (appealing to my obsession for lightweight ‘everything’) but were by no means the best looking. Getting the negative out of the way from the off - these are not the best looking wheels and the under-stated looks and lack of 'in-your-face' decal assault won't suit everyone's tastes - They weren't mine at first either but I have grown to like them more and more over time.
The only other niggle is the sound of the free-hub which, to me, sounds a bit cheap! I'd have liked the whisper-quiet, quality of a Campag hub (not least because it helps to not announce you're freewheeling when drafting fellow cyclists whilst breaking Rule 19 and probably 23!) and the shimano hub is disappointingly loud and crass in comparison.

From these two (fairly petty) cons, you can pretty much guess that everything else I have to say is largely positive and, like me, the first thing you'll say after frantically tearing the tape off  and pulling these from the box will be "jeeping shit, they're light".....or something to that effect. This is because they are and in fact they're so light that I was initially very sceptical that these would take the puny weight of my Kebel, let alone me, without crumbling into a mass of sharp, spindly metal and splintered carbon.
Relying on just 16 spokes for the front and 20 for the rear it would seem, on paper at least, that Shimano might be taking too many liberties in the weight reduction department! However, having used these wheels now for around a thousand miles, the only downside to so few spokes is how easily they can be knocked out of true. Don't get me wrong, they'll take a good bashing from pot holes, speed humps and other road debris (and have) but a hit from even a slight angle to any of those spokes (as happens when your cycling brethren decide to stop immediately in front of you without warning -  Paul and Fabio shall remain nameless here...) you will be left with a rather wonky wheel. Fortunately, they aren't complicated to put right, as can be the case with some rims, but nevertheless extra care is needed to look after such a lightweight wheel and I think its worth mentioning this if you're thinking you can treat them like your winter training wheels!

Lets get into the nitty gritty of weight next because yes they're light but how light and how is that weight distributed?  Being quite anal and being used to weighing every item of my backpacking gear, The first thing I did was to weight these little beauties with and without tyres.
Out of the box, the front and rear weigh  596g and 791g respectively on my digital scales. Shod with latex tubes, Continental GP4000s and a SRAM PG1070 10-speed cassette the entire set-up comes in at 2356g - which is pretty impressive at this price range. The free-hub is titanium, so strong and light, and its pretty obvious that the lack of weight at the actual rim is where this wheel excels. It takes almost no effort to get these spinning and keep them spinning - since most of the weight is concentrated at the hub and not the outer rim. Acceleration then is rapid as a result and it feels very much as though all of your power is being used correctly to propel you forwards and is immediately noticeable.  The Mavic set-up weighs 2821g so this little exercise has shaved 465g off my bike weight in one simple exercise, though the actual weight saving doesn't tell the entire story since the weight distribution is equally as important in wheel performance terms.

Quite surprisingly, these wheels are very rigid for their weight and so cornering and handling have improved at the sacrifice of all-out comfort - where the stiffness can take some getting used to.

The aero features are minimal with this wheel but at just 24mm depth you're not going to be surprised at this! I expect that if you want full aero features, you'll no doubt be looking at the deeper 32, 35 or 50mm profiles anyway, so the inclusion of aero spokes and a differential rim profile at the rear isn't going to impress all that much - though every little helps of course! Whilst you don't get the aero benefits associated with deeper rims, you also don't get the inherent handling issues on windier rides and these hold their line whilst taking a battering from cross-winds - as was the case in Pembrokeshire in April.

Surprisingly, the braking performance of this rim is (somehow) significantly better than my Mavic wheels. As the breaking service is still alloy, there's none of the overheating issues under braking that some full carbon clincher wheels experience, so if you're descending skills are lacking (like mine) and you find yourself on the brakes a lot, you're safer with this combo unless you want to go down the full carbon tubular option. In addition, there's no need for carbon specific brake pads either so for most it will be a simple, straight-forward swap from your existing wheel-set which just takes a bit of the pain away if, like me, you do this regularly.

Overall, I'm very happy with the wheels and particularly as the first upgrade to my Kuota Kebel. They have literally transformed the bike and I've no doubt it made my Pyrenees trip and the Tour of Pembrokeshire sportive a whole lot easier as a result! I've covered over a thousand miles of variable road and weather conditions and the hubs are spinning as freely as the day I opened the box. They're 11-speed compatible too so will suit those thinking of making the jump in the near-future - if this a consideration for you?

If you're heading for the hills or fancy a lumpy sportive event and are looking for some new wheels that can do it all - I can seriously recommend these in terms of function, price and reliability - just don't expect them to grab peoples attention in the aesthetics department!

Now, I'm sure I need some deep-profile, full carbon tubulars to really complete my wheel-set armoury. Hmmmm, where to start.......


  1. These wheels are not that light for a 16/20 spoke count. You could easily build HED Belgiums in that range with 20/24 or use Stan's 340 and they would be a lot lighter.

  2. Great review, was impressed with your comments and observations and this helped me to decide on my new wheels. I am doing the Ride Across Britain this year so wanted something that was light and solid and these seem to fit the bill. I have just got the 2014 version, and so far am very happy. Yes there are lighter/better looking wheels out there, but for the money and confidence in them you can't go wrong.

  3. Thanks and I'm really glad to hear the review was good enough to help you decide. Hope you're enjoying them?

  4. Torn between C24 and C35...your review has tilted me just a bit to C24 :)

  5. Glad I could help.

    If your riding is going to be a mix of climbing and normal riding then I'd go with the C24s. I've now had a chance to try set of 32mm full carbon tubular wheels and unless your flying along flat roads in a group and need the aero advantage I can't see you'd regret the C24s. Having said that, deeper profile rims look awesome though....

  6. Thanks for the review. I am riding Roval SLX23s with DT Swiss freehubs, which are loud, for me. I had been riding Shimano Ultegras. Heavier, yes, but very quiet while freewheeling. Doesnt anyone know about QUIET freehubs, or must I join in the current mantra of Louder is Better? And please don't tell me not to coast. Thanks.

    1. I know, there seems to be a move towards cheaper hubs too so this tends to mean louder latching. I know they say that it's only when coasting but I just think it's all a bit unnecessary. Having said that, these Wheels have gotten quoted with use so maybe it's more an out of the box thing? My FarSports tubulars are outrageously crass in comparison.

  7. Do you know if there are any spec differences between the 2013 and 2014 c24s?

  8. Hi, on a quick look over the specs they seem to suggest not a lot has changed. They seem to listed a bit cheaper everywhere I look...

  9. What spacer/s will I need to run on a 10 speed set-up?

    1. I run these on 10 speed at the moment and its just a case of using the supplied spacer.