We would never think of riding a mountain or gravel bike that wasn't shod with tubeless tires. The ability to run lower pressures and the increased flat prevention can't go unnoticed. While it's been a little bit slower to catch on with the road set, more road tubeless tires are currently available, and the technology, materials, and reliability have vastly improved. Shimano has been on the forefront of road tubeless know-how from the get-go and the Japanese bicycle component manufacture has been delivering tubeless road wheel options for over a decade. The durable Ultegra-level WH-RS500 wheelset adds to Shimano's current lineup and brings road tubeless to the masses is weighing in at just 1649 grams and built for rim brake use.
First, a note on naming conventions. Though it's now got a serial model number, RS500, this wheelset is an updated version of the Ultegra hoops that Shimano partisans have been training on for years. They're lightweight, reliable, and tubeless-ready, making them an obvious choice for those spring base miles in questionable conditions.
And speaking of questionable conditions, the machined brake tracks promise superior braking to carbon race hoops in all weather conditions. The 24mm deep rim profile ensures quick acceleration through low inertial mass and a comfortable, more compliant ride. At 20.8mm external and 15mm internal width, the rims aren't quite on par with the behemoths we're seeing on gravel grinders, but the tubeless compatibility goes a long way to taking the sting out of chipseal when mounted with tubeless tires in the 25mm range.
The front wheel is built to a high-tension on 16 stainless steel straight-pull spokes to deliver a responsive ride and increase aerodynamics. A 14mm oversize alloy axle increases stiffness, and we're big fans of Shimano's cup and cone bearing system, as it has proven to be easy to adjust and maintain. The rear wheel is laced with 20 spokes in a 2-cross pattern on both the drive and non-drive side and can handle high-torque big ring efforts without flinching. The freehub is made of steel which is quite durable and prevents individual cogs from digging into the body.
The rim bed is designed for road tubeless tires but is fully compatible with standard clincher tires and tubes as well. Tire widths between 23-32mm are fully supported, though we find 25-28mm to be the sweetspot. Regardless of tire size, the max recommended weight limit on the wheelset is 220lb. The freehub is 11-speed compatible, but with the included 1.8mm spacer, it can be used for 9- or 10-speed drivetrains, too. The rim and hub are anodized grey to tie them in with the rest of the Ultegra line, and the stainless steel spokes and alloy nipples are black. Shimano's excellent internal-cam quick release skewers and rim tape are included.
- One of the best all-around wheelsets for racers on a budget
- Aluminum rims offer great braking performance
- Tubeless-ready design alloys for more plush traction
- Steel freehub is durable and prevents cogs from digging in
- Cup-and-cone bearings are user friendly to maintain
- Compatible with 11-speed drivetrains, or 9- and 10-speed with included spacer