The not-so-minor details
Shimano XT M8020 wheels
Wider rim than past versions.
Durable and reliable hub design.
Still not as wide as many trail-specific rims.
1990g+ is on the heavier side of things.
‘Workingman’s bling’, Shimano’s XT grouppo has long set the benchmark for delivering high performance without a premium price tag, and one of the standout items from the XT range in recent times have been the wheels. They have a reputation for tough rim construction, an easily serviceable hub design and simple tubeless compatibility, at an attainable price point.
The 27.5″ M8020 wheels we’ve got on test come from the ‘Trail’ line of XT components (most XT components are available in either Race or Trail variants), so they’re built tough and the design is quite a departure from XT wheels we’ve ridden in the past. If you’re a 29er rider, never fear, they come in a ‘size large’ too. Like all Shimano’s high-end wheels, these guys are hand built from start to finish.
First up, the M8020 rims get a welcome increase in width. They now measure up at 24mm internally, which should afford more stability to big tyres run at lower pressures. 24mm still puts them on the narrow end of the spectrum for a trail-specific wheelset, but it’s a good improvement over previous versions. The rim is offset too, which allows for more even spoke tensions between the drive and non-drive side spokes, ultimately making for a stronger wheel.
Previous versions of the XT wheels had a sealed rim bed, which required the use of a funky, threaded, screw-in spoke nipple, but this has been abandoned in favour of a tubeless rim tape to seal the spoke holes. Moving to a more conventional arrangement like this allows the use of regular spoke nipples for repairs, plus the rim can be made lighter too.
The hubs retain Shimano’s user-friendly cup and cone bearing system. It can serviced with just a couple of cone spanners and a lick of grease by most home mechanics. They’re not light hubs, but anyone who has tried to remove a cassette from a chewed up a lightweight alloy freehub body will happily accept a few extra grams associated with the steel freehub found on the XT wheels. We clocked the pair in at 1910g on the Flow dream-crusher scales.
We’ve mounted these wheels to our Trek Fuel EX 9.8 long-term test bike, and fitted them with a set of Bontrager SE3 tyres, which have the same tread pattern as the XR3 just with slightly tougher sidewalls. It should be a good combo, and we’re looking forward to asking them some lumpy questions on our rocky home trails.