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SHIMANO DURA-ACE C50 – A RACE-FOCUSED ALL-AROUND

The Shimano Dura-Ace C50 tubeless wheelset, also known (by nerds) as the Shimano WH-R9270-C50-TL, combines the aerodynamics, stiffness, and responsiveness needed to excel in crits and road races on rolling terrain. It also offers enough compliance and stability to do long rides with occasionally imperfect pavement and variable weather.

For this review, my fellow tester Miles rode the Dura-Ace C50s while training for and riding in his spring race series. Fellow tester Aiyana, a light and fast former racer, evaluated these same wheels in the early spring before the roads were cleaned and patched, and while the winds were still a prominent feature on many of her rides.

Both remarked on the C50’s excellent speed on rolling, paved terrain, and comfort on 4-hour training rides, most of which included some climbing. The wheelset’s handling ability gave Aiyana great confidence in navigating the typical potholes and road debris of our New England spring road conditions.

The Dura-Ace C50’s versatility compares well to other all-around road wheels but doesn’t rival wider “all-road” wheels that perform equally well on road and gravel surfaces, many of which would be better for the longest road rides.

This Shimano wheelset shines on clean, rolling roads and at fast speeds. While Miles is always competitive in his age group races, he strung together a series of wins on the Dura-Ace C50 at the Killington Stage Race, Nutmeg Criterium, and Tour of America’s Dairyland crit series that had me wondering if he’d ever part with the wheels so I could send them back to BTD (BikeTiresDirect), who shared them with us for this review. (He did. I will.)

Miles and Aiyana separately praised the C50’s superior aero performance, or at least our real-world way to evaluate that characteristic, a wheelset’s ability to hold its momentum at 20mph/32kph and above when riding into the wind. I found it mildly surprising that the Dura-Ace’s 21.5mm internal and 28.2mm external width rims outperformed several wider and similar width ones, each mounted with a pair of 28mm Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR tires we use when comparing wheels. This again proves the value of riding the wheels rather than reading the specs or lab test data when choosing between them.

In addition to being very aero, the Shimano Dura-Ace C50 wheels are also amongst the most stable in windy conditions compared to others in the all-around category. Aiyana felt like the wheels were almost meant for the highly variable winds and rain she rode through on several rides. Miles reported smooth sailing in windy conditions and that he never felt the wind grab the front wheel the way it does others.

Miles heaped his highest praise on the Dura-Ace C50’s stiffness and responsiveness. Impressively fast in a straight-line sprint. So responsive going into and out of corners.

He felt they were nearly perfect for the fast, sprint-filled races that he enjoys.

As Miles reported, “I have total confidence these wheels will get me wherever I want to go and get there fast. In a race, I can vault forward on the road whenever I need to, sprint up to wheels I want to be on, and hold my speed really well.”

Perhaps because she’s lighter and putting less power into the C50 than Miles does, Aiyana didn’t sense the same snap or spring from the Dura-Ace C50. Instead, she welcomed their combination of aero speed, smooth rolling, and comfort.

While it’s rare to see either Miles or Aiyana coasting, they reported that when they do, the C50’s freehub (only available for use with Shimano 12-speed groupsets) is louder than most.

At US$1890 (normally US$2100) from BTD (BikeTiresDirect) and £1600 and €2200 outside North America, the Shimano Dura-Ace C50 is a relative bargain compared to other all-around wheels we’ve reviewed from the major brands.

It doesn’t quite carry speed like ENVE SES 4.5 or Zipp 454 NSW or roll as feathery as those wheels or the ENVE SES 3.4 and Zipp 353 NSW. But these Shimanos are right up there, just behind those sets. And, if you don’t want to spend what those Zipp and ENVE wheels will cost you, there’s no better road race-focused all-around wheelset alternative we’ve tested to date than the Shimano Dura-Ace C50.

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Compare the Shimano Dura-Ace C50 to similar wheels in my review of The Best All-Around Carbon Disc Wheelset

10 comments

  • “Compatible only with Shimano road 12-speed cassette sprockets”. Is this true?

    • Super Tanker, it is true that, as I wrote in the review, the Dura-Ace C50 is “only available for use with Shimano 12-speed groupsets.” Shimano only sells the wheelset with a Microspline freehub. While you can put a 12-speed Shimano cassette on an 11-speed HG freehub, you can’t put an 11-speed cassette on a 12-speed Microspline freehub. Shimano doesn’t offer an HG or SRAM XDR freehub for this wheelset. It’s a bummer that Shimano doesn’t offer these options, but unfortunately, that’s the case. Steve

  • How would you compare to the 404 firecrest?

  • Just asking as they are close in price.

  • Hey Steve, I’m in the market for a new wheelset with updated int/ext diameter to run wider tyres.
    Coming from Enve 5.6 ses disc, would this be a substantial upgrade ? Planning to run 28/30mms with a new set

    • Daniel, C50 wouldn’t be an upgrade. The SES 5.6 disc (and rim) was one of my favorite wheelsets – did it all. C50 is a similar internal width. Would go with the SES 4.5 disc or another with a 25mm internal if you want to run 30mm wide tires. See my review covering the best all around, aero and all road wheels if you’re looking for options. Steve

  • Hi Steve, do you think the Dura-Ace C60 would be a bit faster and have more aero gains but less stable compared to the C50. I’m building an Aeroad and right now I’m split between the C50 and C60. I’ll be riding mostly on flats and turns. Any advice? Thanks

    • KC. We haven’t tested the C60 so I can only speculate. We’ve tested a lot aero wheels https://intheknowcycling.com/aero-bike-wheels/ in addition to all-arounds https://intheknowcycling.com/carbon-disc-wheelset/. Generally, we’ve found that the wheel brands that have figured out how to make their all-around depth wheels (45-50mm deep) stable in side winds have also done so on their aero ones (50-65mm). However, even the best aero wheels aren’t a whole lot more aero, at least in wind tunnels per their own data, and in our more anecdotal, real world testing of how well they “hold momentum” than the 50mm deep ones. You’re talking a watt or two at 40kph/25mph. So you can maximize aero performance for top amateur and pro racers but for the average enthusiast that doesn’t ride that fast or isn’t that good a handler, you may not gain any performance advantage. Steve

  • Hi Steve, Thanks a lot for the advice!

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