Let’s be honest. Wheel reviews aren’t that interesting. Modern carbon wheels only need to fulfill a few criteria. You mostly want them to disappear as your ride takes over, blurred out… I feel like we post a lot of wheel reviews and I try my hardest to not regurgitate marketing jargon or keywords that get thrown around endlessly in bike media. As a consumer, you probably only care about a few things, of which I’ll address here, while showcasing some fun and different wheel review photos on one of the most recognizable all-road bikes here on the Radavist. Let’s check out the Reserve 35 Wheels below…
With the independent launch of Reserve Wheels, the brand is distancing itself from the parent company, Santa Cruz. This could be for any number of reasons, most don’t even need to be typed out, but the TLDR version I pick up on is people have brand loyalties, of which the overlap between Reserve and their favorite brand might not intertwine. Or it could also be that Reserve Wheels would look great on a Cervelo model, which is now under the same umbrella as Santa Cruz. Or.. Or… Or….
As brands expand, sometimes they outgrow the nest and that is for sure what is happening here. Reserve started out as Santa Cruz’s in-house wheel brand, which was a more affordable option for their full suspension mountain bike build kits, especially when stacked against ENVE and Chris King wheels. This brings me to my first carbon wheel criteria…
US Made Versus Overseas Made
In the carbon wheel market, you’ve got two main branches. US-made (or other country’s domestically-produced wheels) or overseas made. The implications of each are something we shouldn’t need to unravel here. In short, companies like ENVE make their rims in the USA. Reserve Wheels, like Santa Cruz’s frames, are made overseas. The price of producing carbon rims will undoubtedly be higher in the USA, which has created a barrier for entry in the US-made carbon wheel market, with more and more overseas carbon options, competition became a catalyst. For US-made carbon wheel brands to survive, they had to figure out ways to make their product more affordable, ultimately paving the way for more accessible carbon wheels for everyone. As the overseas market prices get lower, the competition has to follow. ENVE (and other US/CA/EU-made carbon rims) have lowered considerably in the past few years alone. So, that’s why I believe the main division in the market comes down to the wheels country of origin. This whittles down the market considerably. Some people want US/CA/EU made rims and others don’t care. No judgments here. I getcha. What both markets want however is a good warranty…
The past two years have brought about a paradigm shift in wheel warranties. Everyone is offering lifetime warranties now. Reserve has its own definition of lifetime. This is not limited, i.e. if you do happen to break a rim while riding, they’ll replace it for free within 24 hours. If you do something hair-brained like back over it with your car, or drive into your carport with your bike on your roof, or even if it’s locked up outside (why would you lock up a carbon-wheeled bike?) to a sign post and a car backs into it, destroying your expensive bike, they’ll sell you a low-cost crash replacement ASAP. This is the stupid tax but at least they don’t tell you to get lost! I don’t mean that in an adventure sense either.
This lifetime guarantee is spelled out in detail at the Reserve Wheels website.
Wheels that have warranties like this will ultimately gain more customers.
Producing a high volume of rims overseas means lower costs, which leaves a bulk to the pricing breakdown to the hubs. These Reserve 35 wheels were built with DT 180 hubs at the top-tier pricing at $2800, below that are DT420, I mean DT240 at $2400, and finally, at $1800, you get DT 350. If you’re handy with a spoke cutter, you can even build your rims to your favorite Chris King, Onyx, White Industries, Tune, or whatever hubs. Pricing and availability on the rims will be available early next year. Oh and all Reserve wheels are built in house in Santa Cruz. Pretty nifty!
The Reserve road lineup is composed of various wheel depths. The 35 model is 35mm deep. The 50 model is, you guessed it, 50mm deep and the 65 is… you get the point. For the sake of not giving two shits about aero or speed, I chose to review the 35 wheel model. My “road” riding these days is usually mixed terrain and the smallest tire in my bike shed is a 700×42.?? Ultradynamico Cava Race, pictured here. No, I don’t race.
Criteria not Criterium
Although, you could race a crit on these wheels easily. For me, the criteria that I want a wheel to meet comes to durability, ease of tubeless setup, spoke maintenance, and I guess, weight. I thought there might be more to it than that? Oh well.
I weighed these wheels when they showed up and my scale came in at 1395 grams with the rim tape, valves and disc lock ring. Why did I weigh them? That seems to be what people do, right? Truthfully, what really matters to me are the aforementioned criteria. Yes, the tires set up easily and seated right up, popping a confidence-inspired changgggg. The internal width is 21mm, which is ideal for 25mm through 35mm tires. Shhhhhh! Don’t tell them I put 42.?? tires on these wheels. Like I said, I’ve got tire size priorities here, as evident in that tight squeeze in the rear triangle. It’s not Firefly’s fault, I did ask for this bike to clear a 700x40mm tire, which technically it does – but it still clears a 27.5 x 2.2″…
Back on topic. Another criteria is spoke maintenance. The Reserve 35 wheels, and all their models for that matter have the mechanic’s favorite, external nipples. Done. Next.
Durability is a hard one. As I haven’t done anything crazy on these wheels yet. Chill-ass mixed-terrain rides, sure. A little bit of XC singletrack, yep. DH runs. Nope. They’re all-road wheels for chrissake but that doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t be durable. Considering other Reserve Wheels I’ve ridden on MTB and gravel bikes, I’d say they’ll do just fine with whatever you want to tackle on 35mm tires… and if they do break, that warranty sounds nice.
Looks! That’s the Last Point!
Well, how do they look? Easy to peel decals, nice, continuous surface texture, and color. I’d say that’s a plus. Calling them “murdered out” feels crass, especially in these trying times, yet we are talking about $2000+ wheels in the middle of a pandemic and massive economic nose dive… Anyway, they look the part.
I Guess Ride Quality is Another Concern…
What about the depth? Do they catch side winds? Honey, I’m 195lbs right now with my pandemic weight. If the wind blows, I catch it pretty good. I’m not the one to ask this question.
I always feel like carbon wheels either feel squishy and smooth like the Zipp Motos or the ENVE G wheels or bone-chattering stiff like some deep aero roadie jams. Honestly, this one is hard to say, since I’ve pushed the envelope here and put on the smoothest tires known to humanity, potentially voiding the warranty by exceeding the allowed tire diameter by almost 8mm. They feel like wheels to me.
In my experience, the ride quality of wheels is greatly determined by your tire selection. Smooth and supple are two adjectives that usually equate to a pleasant ride. Until you hit broken glass or a copper wire on the shoulder of a highway in Austin, Texas. How did we get there all of a sudden? I must still be traumatized from my 5 years of riding road there.
Yet, if you run a durable, puncture proof-casing, you’ve chosen to sacrifice life’s great joys in hopes of avoiding said catastrophe. So which is it? That’s up to you to decide. We’re not here to debate tires. Or are we?
Details for the 700c DT 180 build wheels reviewed here:
Price: $2800 USD
Hub: DT 180
Wheelset Claimed Weight: 1389g
Wheel Type: Road/All-Road/Many Road/No Road/Gravel/Dirt
Internal Width: 21mm
Spoke Count: 24
Asymetric Offset: 0mm
Recommended Tire Width:
25mm – 35mm 42.??
Driver Options: XDr or HG-EV
Brake Options: Centerlock
Hub Spacing: 100/142/420
Looks: K.I.S.S. and minimal
See more at Reserve Wheels. You know what else is nice? My bike hasn’t been this clean in months!