You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating, if there’s one spot on your bike to splurge it’s the wheelset. A half-pound saved on your wheelset will be far more beneficial than a half pound saved on any static component of your bike such as the frame. Today’s riders are putting greater demands on a wheelset than at any time before. With that said, it’s no surprise that carbon wheels have become so popular. Wheel developers have utilized advancements in carbon layups, hookless beads, wider hub spacing, asymmetrical rim profile for even spoke tensions, stronger spokes, reinforced spoke beds and lacing durability to create durable wheels that are light and strong. So, it is not too much of a surprise that it seems that every week companies are coming out with new carbon wheelsets. One company that has flown under the radar for some reason, is Reynolds Cycling. If it wasn’t for a friend who used to work at Reynolds and for Bernard Kerr’s flashy Reynolds Wheels I probably wouldn’t even know of the company at all. So earlier this year I decided to try out a set of Reynolds hoops on my Ibis Ripmo. The Ripmo was great with the OEM Ibis 938 alloy wheels, but I knew that nice set of carbon wheels would make it even mo’ better. I ride fast and hard and after only about 60 miles I had put a huge ding in my rear Ibis 938 alloy wheel. And while I was able to bend the bead back to get it to hold air, I knew it was time for carbon. For background, I’ve ridden a few high-end wheelsets including NOBL TR33s, NOBL TR38s, Santa Cruz Reserve 30s and a few others. Notable wheels I’ve yet to try include Enve and We Are One. I’ve now put several hundred miles on my Reynolds TR 309 S Carbon Wheelset and here is my take:
In the Reynolds MTB wheel lineup you have three flavors. The Blacklabel, TRS, and the TR series. The Blacklabel is the flagship wheelset with premier performance and price to match. At the other end of the spectrum is the TR series. All Reynolds MTB wheels are available in 27.5 (650b) and 29er diameters. The Reynolds naming convention is the first two numbers of the model designate the inner wheel width, with the final digit designating wheel diameter. Thus, a 309 wheelset is 30mm inner, for 29er. Brilliant. The TR wheels are a bit heavier but come with a more palatable MSRP. For my money, the TRS is the goldilocks of the group. I ended up going with the TR309S wheelset which comes with Reynolds TR6 (6-pawl) Hub with 5-degree engagement (1,653g for $1,550). This set is lighter than the heavy duty Blacklabel Enduro wheels with its’ Industry Nine (I9) hubs and 3-degree engagement (1,753g for $2,100). The TRS wheels are also lighter than the 1,755g ($1,300) TR Wheelset with its’ 10° 3-pawl TR3 hub. It should be noted that the TR series rims are also available in 36mm internal and 24mm internal widths. The Reynolds TR hubs are only available in centerlock, but, the wheelsets come with adapters that will allow you to run a 6-bolt disc rotor. This is a nice added feature and one I didn’t even know was available until I opened the wheelset box.
There is also a sticker pack available that will allow you to run a custom Red, Blue, Orange, Yellow or Green Reynolds graphics / Logo. The wheels have a lifetime warranty and come taped, valved and ready to go tubeless. Setup was relatively easy for both sets of Maxxis tires that I have put on. I have mounted two 2.5 Minion DHFs, a 2.5 Aggressor and a 2.3 Minion SS. For reference I am 180 pounds and I usually run 25 psi front and 30 psi rear, plus or minus 2 psi. I usually remove the valve core and give the tire of blast of air from the compressor to set the bead, then put the sealant in thru the valve, screw the valve back in and give it a nice shake to spread the sealant. I stored the wheels horizontal overnight, flipping from time to time until it was time to hit the trails. The wheels held air great with very little air loss at setup or between rides, and no burping.
The rims are laced to the hub with 28 aero spokes front and rear. I doubt aero spokes help you for 90% of mountain biking but nearing the end of a long day of riding, when your legs are spent, and you have a long, high-speed section against a soul-crushing headwind you’ll be glad the Reynolds Engineers spec’ed the most aerodynamically efficient spokes available.
Once on the trail the wheelset seems to disappear underneath you, and that is a compliment. It gave the Ripmo a lighter, zippier feel, most noticeable accelerating out of corners. Climbing required less energy and I was faster up the hills due to the reduced rolling weight. The wheels are stiff enough to keep an accurate line choice through rock gardens and technical sections. The steering is precise and intuitive but not so stiff as to feel harsh or fatiguing after a long descent or after a long day of riding. I thought I would really miss the 3° engagement on my previous set of I9 hubs, but the 5° (72 Points of Engagement) of the TR 6 hub ended up being just fine to me. I think the 10-degree (36 POE) TR3 hub would leave me wanting more POEs for the technical ratcheting required for trials maneuvers and slow technical climbs. But while riding I couldn’t tell too much difference between the TR 6 Hub and my previous I9 torch hubs. Both have always worked flawlessly, with a that nice buzzing sound when coasting.
In the several hundreds of miles that I’ve ridden this wheelset I have had quite a few rock strikes and plenty of chances to ding, crack or destroy a wheel. I’m pretty careful with line selection but some trails and Enduro racing don’t give you a choice. After burning through a couple sets of brake pads and a couple tires the wheelset is still performing flawlessly. Both wheels are still spinning smooth and have not required a trueing. There are a few scratches and scuffs on the sides of the rims from rock strikes but no cracks or spoke failures. I have had a front and a rear tire pinch/puncture flat from sharp rocks but no visible damage to the rim in either case. I even coasted 1 mile back down to my truck on a flat front tire once.
In all, I couldn’t be happier with these wheels. The price is competitive, and they have a lifetime warranty should I ever have any problems. The fact that I drive past the Reynolds headquarters driving home from work every night? Well, that’s just a nice bonus.