Test: $650 Tubeless Wheels

By T.C. WORLEY

Stiff, relatively lightweight and packed with loads of trickle-down technology from Shimano’s top-of-the-shelf Dura Ace line, the Ultegra WH6700 tubeless wheels are a solid pair of rollers that go at an affordable price. For $650 retail you get a pair of road wheels that deliver race-level tech to a wide range of riders who might not be able to drop a grand or more on their wheels.

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Shimano WH-6700 tubeless wheelset

Over the winter and spring, I’ve rolled these wheels paired with a set of tubeless Hutchison Bulldog CX tires, which have a tread and can run tubeless or with a tube as well. They have adorned my cyclocross bike, the Javelin Primitivo (aluminum frame, carbon fork), for training rides and a couple competitive events.

For its WH6700 wheels, Shimano uses a thin, low-profile rim, and the rim is reinforced with brazed plates where the bladed spokes connect. This leaves a clean, hole-less surface inside the wheel, and thus no need for rim tape. The design saves weight and makes it perfect for running tubeless tires, though if you prefer you can still run them with tubes in a time of need.

If there’s a whiz-bang feature to these wheels, it’s in the way Shimano has shirked the trend of sealed cartridge bearing hubs. Using the tried-and-true cup and cone ball bearings in the 6700s, the company claims there is less friction and thus smoother rolling hubs for a longer amount of time. Though I cannot prove it, I’d swear they roll smoother than any of my other wheels. In a recent gravel-road century race, I was the first one to the bottom of the hill every time — maybe it was my lack of braking, but maybe it was the wheels. Hard to say. Either way, they are smooth-rolling hoops and they haven’t left my bike since I first mounted them months ago.

While they aren’t billed as race wheels, it wouldn’t be a mistake to use them as such. At 1,652 grams for the set, weight weenies will deem them too hefty. But racers on a budget will like them just fine. A low spoke count — 16 front, 20 rear — and bladed, stainless spoke design lends a little speed to the setup.

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Cut-away graphic of WH-6700 hubs

The WH6700s are really a perfect training wheelset, too. From rutted off-road trails and high-speed washboard gravel roads, to the pot-holed mess that winter left us with on local roads, these wheels have performed great for me. After several months of hard use, they are still rolling true and smooth.

Who’d love these wheels? Riders looking to upgrade from a cheap set that came on your bike or a rider in need of an affordable racing wheelset. CX racers might consider them if they want to run low psi without risking pinch-flats. I’m loving these clean and tightly constructed wheels for a variety of uses — from fast city commuting to training to racing. If you favor dependable excellence and a fair price tag over flashy graphics and carbon spinners that easily cost $1,000 or more, then the WH-6700s might just be a great do-it-all wheel option for you and your ride.

—T.C. Worley

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