Cyclists who have been around a little while might hear the name Reynolds and still think of the British steel tubing manufacturer. Reynolds became synonymous with racing bikes after launching the popular 531 manganese-molybdenum tubing used on high-end frames back in 1935.
In 1999, the tubing company commissioned carbon forks to pair with its steel frames, eventually leading to the well-regarded Reynolds Ouzo Pro cyclocross fork raced to many victories by Katie Compton on her custom Primus Mootry. The fork projects led to the eventual creation of Reynolds Composites, now called Reynolds Cycling, a company focused on carbon and alloy wheels. Reynolds Cycling is a Utah-based company owned by Maclean Investment Partners, now completely separate from the UK-based Reynolds Technology Ltd. company that continues to produce high-end steel tubing. Got all that?
In 2014, Reynolds Cycling is laser-focused on producing high performance wheels, leaving the fork market yeas ago after most OEM manufacturers switched to proprietary house-branded forks and dramatically reduced the fork market. For anyone still associating the Reynolds name with steel, history and tradition, you’ll be undoubtedly surprised at the cutting-edge technology and innovations that Reynolds Cycling has released, and with its recent sponsorship of the Pivot Factory Downhill Team, it clearly aims to prove that it’s at the forefront of off-road racing.
For us cyclocrossers, the company has plenty to offer, and hints at more products in the near future aimed squarely at the cyclocross market. At Winter Press Camp last week, Reynolds Cycling showcased plenty of existing tubular, tubeless and clincher wheels that may appeal to the cyclocrosser. In fact, Rob Aguero, Director of Sales & Marketing at Reynolds Cycling, said, “Cyclocross is our next big thing, and we love the fact that it’s so family-friendly.”
A quick look at their website’s wheel selector (which features a Gravel/CX option) and you might go dizzy trying to sort through all the options, but we took a close look at some of the newer wheelsets at Winter Press Camp that are relevant to the cyclocrosser. The good news is that there are a lot of wheels that may be ideal for dual-duty use, and with a simple tire switch could be ready for “off-season” racing on the road or mountain bike.
Carbon Rim Brake Wheels
For the racer looking for a lightweight, high-performance carbon wheelset, the popular Attack, Assault and Strike of the company’s Performance line of wheels have been revamped and now feature external nipples, DT Aero Comp spokes and new rim shapes that are wider and offer improved aerodynamics.
The Attack is the lowest profile rim of the line, and features a 29mm deep rim that weighs 380g. It’s now wider at a 25mm external width, ideal for giving cyclocross tires more volume. The wheelset weighs 1380g in a clincher model, but it’s not tubeless ready (yet).
The Assault wheelset may be the most attractive option for the cyclocroser, with a 41mm deep rim that aims to blend aerodynamics with weight savings, and now comes in a tubular version. The tubular version weighs just 1315g (570g front, 745g rear), and features Reynolds Enhanced Swirl Lip Generator (SLG). The SLG is a raised lip on the sharp edge of the rim that is designed to reduce drag, which could be helpful in off-season crits or when you’re trying to hold off the pack after winning the holeshot in your cyclocross race. There’s also a clincher version that weighs 1475g. The 41mm depth should offer some mud-shedding in the deeper mud. The Assault tubular retails for $1700, the clincher $1800, and both come with skewers, the company’s new Cryo-Blue brake pads, and valve stems.
Reynolds also offers an “Aero” line of wheels that’s even higher spec and comes with higher prices than their Performance line, and Aguero is quick to point out that Reynolds Cycling now has wheel options for any racer that compete with the top-of-the-line models from brands like Zipp, ENVE and HED. “A lot of people were buying our rims, pairing with a DT Swiss Hub or Chris King,” he said, but with their Aero line and the new BlackLabel mountain line, the company has wheels that compete with any other brand in features, weight, price and caché.
The Aero line features a number of technologies not offered in the Performance line of wheels, including its CR6 carbon fibers – six types of carbon fibers as opposed to three in the Performance line, each optimized for a specific purpose, whether it’s braking, tensile strength, or impact resistance. This top-of-the-line group of wheels also features DT Aerolight spokes, and Reynolds hubs with DT Swiss 240 internals.
The Aero line also features Reynolds’ proprietary inkjet graphics, and Aguero says by simply eliminating the typical mylar graphics, the company can eliminate up to 23g per wheel.
The Reynolds Aero line tops out at mortgage-busting $4500 wheelsets, including the ultralight 968g RZR 46 that will make any weight weenie drool, but the wheel that Reynolds is showcasing for serious cyclocrossers is the brand new $2575 Aero 46 tubular wheel, with a 46mm deep, 26mm wide rim. It now comes in both clincher and tubular versions, with the tubular version obviously more relevant to cyclocrossers, and aimed at same market as the popular Zipp 303 used by cyclocrossers. The tubular Aero 46 T wheelset weighs 1405g (640g, 765g rear). The clincher version, already out on the market, retails for $2675 and weighs 1505g. We were wondering whether we might see a disc version of this wheel soon, to compete against the Zipp 303 disc (first ridden here, and reviewed in Issue 22), but Aguero wouldn’t comment.
Certainly $2575 is more than a lot of complete cyclocross bikes, but it doesn’t take much searching to find similarly-priced wheelsets rolling around the course in any cyclocross hotbed, proving there’s a market.
It’s Not All Carbon at Reynolds
Prefer alloy, or want something more affordable? Even though Reynolds is unique compared to most wheel companies in that it owns its own carbon fiber facility in China, Reynolds Cycling also has alloy rim wheels, with the $900 Stratos Pro wheels that weigh a relatively light 1445g and feature a 440g, 28mm deep, 21mm wide 6061 aluminum tubeless-ready rim. The rims look to be optimized for road tubeless use, but as we’ve seen with Easton’s tubeless rims, with the right tire, it may be possible to get a reliable, low pressure cyclocross setup.
If that’s still a budget buster, the Stratos Elite is $350, features a 26mm deep rim and weighs quite a bit more at 1925g (which is still less than a gram-per-dollar saved compared to the Pro if you care about that arbitrary benchmark).
Reynolds Does Discs
“Reynolds is super committed to technology and we embrace the carbon fiber disc brake movement in road and cyclocross,” says Aguero. “We’ve been making a cyclocross disc wheel for three years,” he explains, but admits that that wheel was not purpose-built but rather used components from other wheelsets, including a road rim and mountain hubs.
“Now we’ve changed the layup, [there’s] no visible brake track, and we use a road disc hub, and we’re looking to offer CenterLock rotor options,” Aguero says. The Assault SLG Disc is the company’s new road and cyclocross disc-specific wheel, with the same rim as the Assault wheels, without the brake track and with extra spoke holes. The $1850 set weighs 1565g, with a 438g carbon clincher rim, but also offers the aerodynamic benefits of Reynolds’ deeper, wider rim. There’s also $1750 tubular version coming as well, and it should weigh around 1405g.
If that’s beyond your price range, the alloy Stratus Pro Disc Brake wheels are $900 less, at $950, and weigh just 30g more. Why pay $900 for 30g savings? The Assault carbon rim is deeper and wider, and offers superior aerodynamics compared to the Stratus Pro rim, but the alloy rim is actually lighter at 420g, and tubeless ready (looking at the rim shape, they look to be optimized for road tubeless use (high pressure), but we have not tested a set yet.
The Stratus Elite, the budget-friendly model, also comes in a $400 disc model, but isn’t light with a 530g rim, and a total wheelset weight of 2135g.
Don’t Ignore 29er Options
While most wheel companies including Reynolds are offering carbon tubulars and some disc brake models, what really caught our eye are the carbon 29er options from Reynolds. Why? They look to offer a lightweight, strong option for someone who wants one wheelset for both mountain bike and cyclocross racing, with a rim shape that looks ideal for low pressure tubeless use (due to the internal lip to prevent the tire from dropping into the center channel).
Their 29 XC Carbon wheelset features a 375g carbon rim that’s 24mm deep and 26mm wide, offering some extra volume to narrow, cyclocross tires. Using 28 spokes front and rear, you can take comfort in knowing the wheels are built for mountain abuse, but still just weigh 1525g a set. The hubs can convert from QR to thru-axle by changing the end caps.
But we’re most excited about the rim shape and its tubeless potential, and if we can get burp-free performance with either tubeless or conventional tires on this wheel, carbon lovers would have a fine option for both cyclocross and mountain use. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Lower pressure will almost always result in more speed gains than weight savings if you had to pick one.
At $1900, the 29 XC Carbon are not cheap, and at this price, to put it into perspective, you could buy two sets of the lighter, all-alloy Stan’s Iron Cross Pro wheelsets (stay tuned for our full test on this updated wheel), but there certainly are differences. The Reynolds rim is slightly lighter and wider, and the wheelset does not have a weight limit, and offers a two-year warranty compared to a one-year warranty. If you’re an active mountain bike and cyclocross racer, you can try to justify the price by getting double the use.
Always Bet on Black
Having launched their high-end Aero line of road wheels, Reynolds wanted to do the same thing on their mountain line, and recently launched their “BlackLabel” mountain wheels, their answer to similarly-priced mountain wheels from competitors. The wheels feature sublimated, black-on-black rim graphics, DT Swiss 240s Centerlock hubs, 28 DT Swiss Aerolight spokes front and rear, and come in four models, a 27.5All Mountain, and 27.5 XC, 29 Trail and 29 XC.
Cyclocrossers would be interested in the 29 XC, and the hubs, like all DT Swiss hubs, are convertible between thru axle to QR with a conversion kit. The BlackLabel wheels are $500 more than the above-mentioned XC Carbon, at $2400, but save 85g. Like the XC Carbon, the BlackLabel 29 XC is tubeless ready, and designed specifically for low-pressure tubeless, not Road Tubeless, which is why we’re most excited to test this rim in cyclocross.
BlackLabel wheels are expected to launch this summer, and based on what we’ve seen at Winter Press Camp, if price was no option, these might be an ideal MTB/cyclocross race wheelset that’s durable enough to be an every day wheelset.
Stay tuned as we review the different models of wheels in the next few weeks and determine whether Reynolds any of these wheels should make your short list of upgrades for next season.
For more info: reynoldscycling.com