Shimano XT 29″er Wheels: First Impressions- by Guitar Ted

While it hasn’t been too often that I’ve been able to ride on trails of late, I have gotten enough time on the Shimano XT wheels to give you a First Impressions post. Here is the Out Of The Box, which details all the technical features of these wheels. Now let’s take a close look at what I think so far….

XT 29er wheel

Shimano XT wheels as seen on my Inbred SS

The XT wheels were first set up with a wider tire, (the Michelin Wild Grip’R, on test here), but those tires were traded out for the Michelin Wild Mud, (on test here), and in both instances, the match between the UST spec wheel and UST spec tire was heavenly. I could easily seat the tires up with a poor performing floor pump, and the beads of the Michelin tires softly popped into place with no problems. As for tubeless performance, as long as you match these up with UST spec tires, it will be a great experience.

Now for the “not-so-good”. This has to do with the rims’ width. The skinny, 19mm inner width is okay if we’re talking about a lightweight, XC racing weapon, but the Deore XT wheels represent a component that belongs to the family of parts from Shimano that represents the Trail rider’s needs. So, shouldn’t the Deore XT 29″er wheel have a wider inner rim width? I would say the answer to that question is “yes” for most riders.

The weight of these wheels is somewhat suspect as well. At 1850 grams, the wheel set weighs more than my Project Wheel Build wheel set, (see here), and those wheels also have more spokes in them. The Project wheels also have an inner rim width that is 4mm wider than the Shimano wheels. This supports trail tires in a much better fashion than the XT wheels can.

The performance of these wheels has been great so far, thankfully, and I’ve noticed that the rear hub seems to feel better than XT hubs of old as far as the free hub is concerned. The engagement seems more solid, if I can say that, but not necessarily “quicker”. As for lateral rigidity, the XT wheels seem a bit above average in that regard, but considering how much the wheels weigh, they had better be somewhat stiff! I am reserving final judgement in this category, however, until the trails clear up. I can say that so far, in slower, technical riding, the XT wheels have been solid.

With a performance that is workmanlike, a tubeless compatibility with UST spec tires that is fantastic, and decent look, the XT wheels would seem to be rather impressive, that is, until you look at the skinny rims. Can you run bigger rubber on these rims? Certainly, you can. However; these days, with the choices out there that provide a better foundation for trail tires to work off of, the XT wheels seem to be a bit of a confused product in terms of intentions. It doesn’t fit the bill of an XC racing wheel set, and the rim width isn’t inspiring for those who ride trail and AM type rides that are going to be looking for a bigger tire footprint.

Once the trails clear out, I’ll put these wheels to some final tests and come back with a final word. Stay tuned….

Note: Shimano sent these wheels for test and review at no charge to twenty Nine Inches. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.