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I was repacking the bearings on my bike when I saw the bearings were shot. I purchased a inexpensive set of Shimano WH-RS21 wheels. My old wheels were Ultegra 32 spoke, and until the bearings went out after 70K miles were bullet proof. I notice the pros who weigh much less than me don't use low spoke wheels, (I'm 180# after a long winter) I haven't noticed any improvement on my times with these areo wheels, but they seem squirrely at times, I've got about 200 miles on them. Will they, especially the front collapse on me as I sometimes fear?
 

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I had a set of these many years ago. They are 20 spoke rear and 16 front.

Because the spokes on front have a wider and symmetrical bracing angle , unlike the rear, and the front wheel carries a lot less weight, your fear of having the front wheel suddenly explode is unwarranted IME.

What you should be worried about is the rear wheel. I popped a couple of spokes at different times during my year or so with these wheels. One on each side as I recall.

edit. after seeing MisterM's post I realized that mine were R550's as well, because it was about 13-14 years ago. But as he says they look very similar, with the same spoke count and similar looking hubs. I don't have mine any more.

One would think that Shimano have improved since then.
 

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Metal wheels don't just collapse. You might break a spoke(s) or crack a rim and have to phone for a ride home but they won't just collapse dangerously. Carbon spoked wheels can do that but to the best of my knowledge metal rims and spoke don't just collapse.
 

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I have 10K+ miles on a set of WH-6700s. I've replaced the bearings twice in both wheels. The wheel has never gone out of true, they roll very smoothly, the freehub is silent and both wheels still look essentially brand new. I weigh about 155.
 

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I have 10K+ miles on a set of WH-6700s. I've replaced the bearings twice in both wheels. The wheel has never gone out of true, they roll very smoothly, the freehub is silent and both wheels still look essentially brand new. I weigh about 155.
Just out of curiosity did you actually 'need' to do that or just do it for the heck of it? Seems really low mileage for two bearing replacements. Lots of rain riding?
 

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Yes. I subjected mine to all kinds of wet and salty abuse, and the bearings seemed very well sealed. I never touched them other than an occasional clean and regrease. For the price, they are not bad at all.
 

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...but they seem squirrely at times...
I know you said WH-RS21 but I have experience with the R550's which are very similar design. They came on my Orbea Onix some 9-10 years ago. At the time I was about 200#. "Squirrely " is exactly how I would describe them. At first I thought it was in my head but anything over approx 30mph on a decent was just "off". The term I used was "unstable" but squirrely is better.

I replaced them with more "traditional" rims after about 300mi. "Traditional" meant Ultegra/Velocity Fusion 28F/32R wheelset. The difference for me was huge. Much more confident descents. The RS21's may be much better than the R500's but given your post I'd guess they are more similar than different. I was not at all unhappy to get rid of the incessantly noisy popping front wheel, the proprietary spokes or the "squirreliness".
 

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Completely different wheels, but my 16 spoke front and 20 spoke rear have held up very well since 2009. Aero bladed spokes might be a contributing factor to there stability... don't know. Hit plenty of pot hole, needed to tighten a spoke here and there but still riding them today... Neuvations M28 wheels.... oh and I weigh 133#
 

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If you are asking about whether these wheels are safe, I would say yes, there is no inherent danger per se. If you are asking about whether it is wise to use 16/20 spoke wheels, my answer would be, it depends on a few things. Of these types of low spoke wheels, I would say Shimano probably makes some of the most robust wheels for the money - see exceptions below BikerJulio's quote regarding the R550s.

However, I would not recommend them for anybody over 200lbs. Also worth noting is that in order to make a durable wheel with less spokes, you will need a heavier rim to compensate for the extra force from each spoke since fewer spokes overall are doing the same amount of work. So there are no weight savings in having a smaller spoke count. It is all about having a wheel that looks faster. In a nutshell, sex sells.

What you should be worried about is the rear wheel. I popped a couple of spokes at different times during my year or so with these wheels. One on each side as I recall.

edit. after seeing MisterM's post I realized that mine were R550's as well......
The Shimano R550s have numerous bad ratings if you look them up. They are one of Shimano's most entry-level road wheelset. Other than these, I have never heard of a Shimano road wheel popping spokes or cracking at spoke holes. Now if you look around at the various Bontrager and Mavic road wheels, you will find plenty of spoke hole cracking issues on those.

This all being said, the Shimano RS-11 and RS-21 don't have as good bearing seals as some of the wheels with their higher end hubs. If you ride in foul weather or store your bike in less than ideal conditions, this could be an issue. I had a pair of RS-11s that had the front bearings and cups trashed in 4K miles. I think I was caught in the rain on those no more than 3 times. Shimano replaced them for free under warranty through my shop.
 

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The only problem with them is, if you mess up a rim and need a new rim there are very few 16 hole rims that you could replace it with you would probably just trash the wheels at that point. This happened with me and RS-80s.
 

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The only problem with them is, if you mess up a rim and need a new rim there are very few 16 hole rims that you could replace it with you would probably just trash the wheels at that point. This happened with me and RS-80s.
Yep. Most factory wheels have proprietary parts. They are throw aways.
 
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