Shimano XT 29″er Wheels: Final Review- by Guitar Ted
The time has come to give my final thoughts on Shimano’s newest version of their XT 29″er wheels. The First Impressions post can be seen here. Since then the wheels have been ridden in poor conditions such as snow, mud, rain, and now dry and dusty conditions. The full gamut, really. So let’s see how they’ve held up and then my thoughts on how these wheels stack up against the competition.
Throughout testing the XT wheels have resided on my On One single speed rig, since that is the bike that has a 15mm through axle fork, which the XT wheels required. There is another front wheel model with a standard quick release, but the wheels are not convertible to different axle standards. Unfortunate for this test, but more importantly, unfortunate if you need to swap out to a different bicycle which requires a different axle standard than what comes on the XT wheels.
What has been great is the tubeless functionality with UST rubber. If you have Michelin, WTB, or Geax tires,(or any other UST based rubber in mind), the XT wheels will be part of the easiest, most reliable tubeless system you’ve used. (At least near the top of the heap. ) The rims work with the UST based tires I put on these wheels so easily and so well during riding, (if they were on the XC side of the width spectrum), that I could almost totally forget about them. Only a refreshing of sealant from time to time, and a periodic check of air pressure was ever required.
Another area where the XT wheels were very impressive was wheel stiffness. I detected only the slightest amount of wobble, or was it my low air pressures? By this I was convinced the wheels were tracking well, and I could rely on them to hold a line, give me secure feelings in corners, and climb with extreme amounts of torque applied without whimpering or shirking their duty. Of course, with the 1800 plus gram wheel weight, I would expect them to be stiffer than your average XC weight wheel. What I wasn’t very impressed by was the XT wheels XC rim width. 19mm is maybe still good for a racing wheel, maybe. But at the weight of the XT wheels, I would expect to see a nice, wide, tire supporting rim width in the 21-23mm range for inner width. (See c_g’s recent American Classic wheel test as an example of this, here.)
In terms of the free hub engagement, bearings, and wheel stability, I have zero complaints here. Shimano XT’s reliability is reflected well here with this version of the XT 29″er wheels. The hub’s engagement was solid every time, albeit not as instantaneous as maybe some prefer it to be. The wheels were true throughout the test, and the bearings, although subjected to the worst of Winter and Spring moisture and mud, always rolled smoothly.
Conclusions: Durability, ride feel, tubeless performance- it is all here, but unfortunately the weight to rim width ratio leaves me a bit sour on these wheels. Not to mention the fixed axle standard which leaves versatility for the rider out of the picture. At a retail price of $799.99, you can find wheels with similar, or less weight and that have the versatility of wider rims, and varied end cap availability. So, it becomes hard to find a good reason to look hard at these wheels for a set of trail bike, everyday wheels, or for a XC racing wheel set.
Yes, the XT wheels are super with tubeless tires, as long as you go with the UST crowd, and yes- the XT wheels are reliable, smooth, and actually look pretty nice on a bicycle. However; the weight and rim width just don’t seem to match up with either XC or for Trail/AM uses. It is unfortunate, because Shimano got a lot of things right here, but the XT wheels just come up a little short for me.
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.