Shimano GRX Carbon Wheels: Checkpoint

Shimano GRX Carbon Wheels: Checkpoint – by Guitar Ted

With the release of the GRX Carbon wheels by Shimano, we now have a total package from the component giant for the gravel/back road rider. Everything from electronic shifting, brakes, and now wheels is covered. I’ve spent some time on these wheels now and I have a mid-term update to share, so let’s get to that. If you missed the technical introduction, you can check that out here.

The GRX Carbon wheels as they appeared on Guitar Ted's bicycle leaning against a guard rail in a rural setting
Shimano GRX Carbon wheels on GT’s Noble Bikes GX5.

Ride Performance: When I use a wheel set, I’m looking for good handling on loose gravel first and foremost. That is what determines a good wheel from a bad wheel, in my estimation, because let’s face it- We all want our cycling experiences to be smooth and trouble free. Wheels that cause handling issues, be that by being flexy, or otherwise, are not a lot of fun to herd down a road, and that’s not what I, or anyone else wants.

Rural gravel road scene.
No smooth lines through this!

So, do these GRX Carbon hoops measure up? Whenever I look at a carbon rimmed wheelset, I expect that I will find that the wheel will be stiff enough laterally that it won’t oscillate in deeper crushed rock. I expect that leaning into turns will be met with a confidence-inspiring feeling both from the front and the back wheel. Additionally, if the wheels can have any sort of comfort-enhancing features that are discernible, well that’s icing on the cake. Of course, the wheels must be mechanically sound as well.

Okay, these wheels measure up pretty well. There are some places I think this wheel set falls short of the mark set by some other wheels I have ridden. There is also one minor question mark I have as well. I know, I know….. You want the details!

I have pushed these wheels pretty hard in terms of rough gravel. We’ve been blessed recently with some of the worst deep, rough gravel I’ve ridden. The GRX Carbon wheels do a really fine job of keeping you going straight without an over-abundance of oscillations which would make you have to muscle the handlebars to keep your bike on a straight line. Now, this isn’t the best wheel at this I’ve ever ridden. That would be the FLO Cycling wheel set we tested a couple years ago now. But it is pretty close in that regard.

Bicycle propped up in a rut on a dirt road.
The GRX Carbon wheels helped me navigate this tricky, rutted dirt road more easily.

That wheel stiffness also comes into play when you have to navigate tricky rutted out sections. Steering precision is paramount here and the lack of lateral flex meant that I could steer through ruts and around wheel-eating trenches without worry.

But that same wheel stiffness also means that the GRX wheels have a rougher ride than some others I have tried. It isn’t ‘bad’, but there are smoother riding wheels, and that needs to be noted here. Because if you think that a carbon wheel set will somehow “smooth out your ride‘, this wheel set is not that wheel set.

Finally, I noted a couple of instances where the free hub would catch in a strange way. Almost a missed engagement which would sound like a ‘pop‘ when I resumed pedaling after coasting. Again- this only happened twice, and only during the first few rides while testing. It has not happened since then. By the way, these Shimano wheels are some of the quietest while coasting that I have tested recently. The rider who likes quiet free hubs will be rewarded if they get these GRX wheels.

Close-up of the GRX free hub.
There was some concern about this free hub early on, but so far since then it has been performing quite well.

So Far… The GRX Carbon wheel set is a definite contender in its price-point for carbon wheel sets meant for all-road riding. The internal rim width is spot-on for gravel tires from the 38mm-47mm range and the rims are easy to set up tubeless since they come pre-taped and with valves installed.

I noted a nice, stiff feel in terms of lateral rigidity which translates into a wheel set that handles loose crushed rock very well. This also means that steering precision is high and rear wheel flex is minimal. Both things a rider would prize highly in more technical terrain.

I was a tad bit concerned by the free hub hiccup I experienced early on, but there has been no hint of that since the early rides I had on this wheel set. I will have to see how thngs shake out with regard to that after more miles and I will report back in my final verdict on these wheels in about a month or so. Until then, I am pretty impressed so far with this wheel set and I feel it caps off a great range of components for gravel riding from Shimano.

For more on the Shimano GRX Carbon wheels see the webpage for them here;

Note: Shimano sent over the Carbon GRX wheels to Riding Gravel at no charge for test and review. We were not paid, nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

Related Articles

3 thoughts on “Shimano GRX Carbon Wheels: Checkpoint

  1. Thanks for this. I have a set of the alloy GRX wheels and like them too except for the dreaded Shimano freehub play that seems to crop up fairly often in their wheels. Have you experienced this with this wheelset?

    No matter how much I tighten the cassette or adjust the bearing preload, I can’t get rid of the freehub play. It’s much more evident with a cassette mounted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.