Shimano WH-M775 XT Wheelset
By James Sharp
Recently, we've reviewed two of Shimano's road wheelsets, the Dura Ace SL and the new Ultegra wheelsets. We came away impressed with both, and when the opportunity arose to take a look at the new 2008 Deore XT group, we jumped at the chance--especially since the group included the all new XT wheelset, reviewed here
For the first time, Shimano is offering an XT-level wheelset in two hub configurations: one with a standard 9mm quick release axle, WH-M775 (reviewed) and one with a 20mm through axle hub, WH-M776. There is also a rim brake version, WH-M770, as well. Both disc brake wheels use the same spokes and rim. On all of the wheels, the rim is UST tubeless compatible--no need to run sealant here. Our review wheelset weighed in at 1695 grams, sans skewers. The spokes are butted steel, while the nipples are aluminum to help keep the weight down. The freehub body is steel as well, which is a very good thing for longevity, even if it does add a few grams. The aluminum rims are a thin wall extrusion with reinforcements at the spokes. The XT wheels come with Shimano's ever reliable skewers.
Out of the box, the wheels ran true and round, just as you'd expect for a wheel of this caliber. Tires mounted up without the need to use tools, again, as you'd expect of a higher end UST wheelset. As more and more wheel manufacturers are moving toward expensive to replace aluminum spokes, it's nice to see a competitively light wheelset using more resilient steel spokes. Frankly, I think that the steel spoked wheels ride a smidge better, too. Though, truth be told, you have to run your tires pretty hard to tell the difference--harder than you normally would run tubeless mountain bike tires.
After months of use, our XT wheelset showed no signs of wear or abuse, they were just a little dirtier than they started. They still ran true and round, the bearings still spun smoothly and they held air as well as the day they arrived on our doorstep. I haven't touched them for any sort of maintenance. These are wheels that you can ride day in and day out, with nary a concern, and they keep coming back for more.
These are high end wheels, make no mistake. True, Shimano has their upper tier XTR wheels that are a smidge lighter--170 grams lighter, for thec complete wheelset--but unless you insist on the highest end components you can buy, the XT wheels are good enough for just about anyone. I would have no problem racing these wheels. Sure, they aren't the lightest out there, but the weight is reasonable for the price, and they more than make up for the increased weight in durability. Go ahead and abuse them, they can handle it.
The Center Lock hubs are a mixed bag, though. While I think that the idea is a good one, and installing the rotors is dead simple, there aren't a lot of brake companies that make Center Lock compatible rotors. This means that you either run Shimano's brakes--which are good--or you run Shimano's rotors with a different brake. If everything lines up and the brake track is wide enough then fine, if not, you're out of luck. Plus, having to buy different rotors--or for that matter adaptors to allow the 6-bolt rotors to work on the Center Lock hubs--increases the cost of running non-Shimano brakes a bit. If you are running Shimano brakes, then this is the way to go. It's clean, it works well and it doesn't loosen up.
The only thing that I would change with these wheels are the decals. I would make them reflective. They look like they should be, but they aren't. That's it. Admittedly, that's a pretty trivial complaint, and definitely not a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination.
Summary: If you are looking for a reasonably lightweight tubeless wheelset that is absolutely reliable, look no further. While not a race-specific wheelset, Shimano's new XT wheelset is the go-to, do everything wheelset that works well on epic rides, on all mountain suffer fests... basically anywhere you'd want quality wheels. There are lighter, there are flashier, there are even wheels that are, arguably, more cutting edge, but Shimano has built a reputation on components that work and work well, and the new XT wheels are no different. The WH-M775 retails for a surprisingly low $549.
James Sharp is a contributing editor for GearReview.com. More of his ramblings and a look at upcoming reviews can be found at his blog: Lactic Acid Threshold.
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