It's no secret that downhill racers aren't kind to their equipment—bent and broken rims, smashed derailleurs, torn tires—they're all part of the price that's paid every race weekend in the quest to reach the podium. For that reason, aluminum is still the rim material of choice for many racers, largely due to the fact that an alloy rim is much less expensive to replace than a carbon fiber one.
But what if it was possible to create a stronger carbon rim, one that could handle hard impacts without failing, allowing it to be used for multiple race weekends in a row? Reynolds think they have the answer with their new DH wheelset, which was developed in conjunction with World Cup racer and nose-manual master Bernard Kerr.
Reynolds Limited Edition Bernard Kerr DH Wheelset
• Intended use: downhill
• Carbon fiber rims
• Sizes: 27.5''
• Internal width: 28mm
• External width: 34mm
• Industry Nine Torch hubs, 12x150 or 157mm spacing
• Made in USA
• Weight: 1910 grams
• MSRP: $2700 USD (includes jersey and signed poster)
The rims are handmade in the USA from a made from a material that was originally developed for the aerospace industry, with a special resin formula that's intended to provide a much higher level of impact absorption due to its ability to deform without cracking. The rim's profile is identical to what's used on Reynold's Enduro wheelset, with a 28mm inner width and an asymmetrical shape for more even spoke tension. The 32 hole rims are laced to Industry Nine's Torch quick-engaging hubs with Sapim spokes, creating a wheelset that weighs 1910 grams.
Originally developed for the aerospace industry, Reynolds' new carbon layup is designed to have a degree of compliance built into it, allowing it to deform during a large impact rather than cracking.
According to Todd Tanner, Reynold's product manager,“We came up with a material a year ago that exhibited the durability and ride quality characteristics that we were looking for, but at that time neither us or our material vendor could come up with a proper cure cycle to mold it into a product in a feasible manufacturing process.
"For the last year we've been working on figuring out how to manufacture a rim out of this material in a way that would be repeatable, and to have a rim that met our quality and durability testing requirements. In January we finalized that process and did some testing with Bernard. He's been riding them since then, and he has over 200 practice runs plus two downhill races, including the City Downhill race, all on the same wheelset.”
The new material isn't much heavier than what Reynolds uses for their Enduro and Trail wheelsets, but the cost is quite high, although Reynolds does hope that in the future they'll be able to begin using it throughout their lineup.
Reynolds' testing has shown the DH wheels to be 40% stronger than their Enduro wheels, which should help them withstand the abuse that's dished out by downhill racing or pounding out laps in the bike park. They're also backed with a lifetime warranty against any manufacturing defects, and for even more peace of mind Reynold's offers their Reynolds Assurance Program. For a yearly fee of $149 the program offers a "no-questions asked" replacement policy, which covers rider-induced damages, like coming up short on a massive canyon gap, or backing over your wheel on the way home from a ride.
The Bernard Kerr Limited Edition DH wheels will retail for $2700, a price that also includes a jersey and a poster signed by Bernard Kerr. These wheels seem to be working for Bernard Kerr, but we all know he only rides on his front wheel—how will they fare underneath slightly less talented riders? We'll be putting this wheelset to the test over the course of the next few months—keep your eyes peeled for a full review once we rack up enough downhill laps to reach a definitive verdict.