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Interview: Downhill Wheel Tech with Reynolds

Aug 7, 2023 at 16:19
by Nick Bentley  

Our in-depth tech exploration for the World Championships initially focused solely on tires. However, as we progressed through the pits, it became increasingly apparent that tires cannot be viewed on their own and that we needed to explore the wheels riders were using as well. With a brand new rim out this year, it was a good time to head over to the Reynolds pits and speak to Kevin Imig from Reynolds to see what tips he has for riders trying to make the most out of their wheelsets. We also headed over to the Pivot pit to chat to Barnaby Edwards, Bernard Kerr's mechanic, about how they work with the Reynolds wheels, and finally we chatted to Bernard himself about his experience with Reynolds wheels.


Reynolds: Kevin Imig

Tell us about the new version of the Reynolds DH rim.

Yep, it's our 307 and 309, we have a TR version which is more enduro oriented, but then the BL, which is the top of the line one for downhill, it's a 32 hole, 30 millimeter internal with 37 millimeter exterior. We use our IDM Matrix technology, so that's a special resin that adds to impact resistance, and then just a really refined layup schedule for the carbon layers. A big change is that we wanted to make a slightly more compliant wheel. One way that we did that was by reducing the stack heights, or the rim thickness. So it went from 26 millimetre rim height for the profile to 20.5 millimetre. That gave us quite a bit more compliance and gave the riders some more comfort, but still going from the 289 to the 309 adding that extra width also gives them the control that they need.

When it comes to wheel builds for downhill, is there anything that you guys do or recommend that teams do differently just for downhill? For example, reinforcing washers or brass nipples.

Brass nipples are a big one, carbon and aluminium don't act nicely together. And then another big thing is just proper spoke tension. The new rim is an asymmetrical design so that helps to keep equal tension on both sides, which makes it easier to build, adds to the longevity and durability of the wheel. But yeah, mainly sticking to the recommended spoke tensions, checking them regularly, brass nipples, and then backup washers that can be more of a builder choice.

Are there any kind of big obvious wheel build fails that you see quite a lot?

Not too often, the biggest would just be the like the spoke holes giving out from an improper build, tension being incorrect or too high, and then not keeping an eye on it and that could lead to something. But honestly, we don't see it very much.

Any kind of tips for people at home, if they are building wheels?

Get in contact, get a real spoke tension number or take it to a shop and have a professional build - you're gonna get a better result that way. Pre-stressing the wheel is something that we do when we build them. Maybe for a home builder, pre-stressing is a little bit of a risky step to do because if you don't do it properly you could end up damaging the wheel.

Do you guys do any kind of testing for tire insert use?

I can't speak to exactly how much testing we do. That would be something for our Utah facility, but we do have teams running the tire inserts with good luck. They're obviously finicky to get in, but it gives the rider a lot more confidence at the end of the day, and even without the tire insert we don't see too many problems.


Mechanic: Barnaby Edwards

You guys have been running Reynolds for quite a while, right?

Yeah, yeah. Bernie and the team have been on them for longer than I've been here that's for sure, which is four years. So yeah.

Is there anything that you have to do with the current wheels to keep them running?

They're the most reliable rim I've ever worked with basically, we go through so few of them for the whole team. They are very indestructible. The biggest thing I've really noticed, because we don't go through wheels, we actually have to replace the spokes halfway through the season. So the spokes start to fatigue. The rim's mint, we just rebuild it. Same hub, same rim, rebuild it on to exactly what it was just new spokes.

When you guys do your builds, is there anything special you do just because it's a downhill worlds? Do you run brass nipples?

Brass nipples, again, because they last us quite a while, we're kind of constantly re-tensioning while making sure the tensions are correct, keeping them in true. So just with adjusting them more in this wheel's lifespan than some other teams on other wheels might be. They would be discarding the wheel and rim and starting afresh.

What is the biggest thing for you maintenance-wise on a downhill wheel?

Maintenance-wise, there's not a lot really. Keeping an eye on it. Keeping an eye on the tensions, it depends on some tracks, like especially go to Schladming, they're railing the corners so hard, the corners are infinitely speedier, you can just push into them as hard as you can. So you find spokes start to come loose in places like that, like with the high speed, real high G force corners, you've just got to keep an eye on spokes. Other than that, there's not a lot we really need to do. It's pretty simple.

Do you remove dust seals, etc.. on the race wheel hubs?

I've played with it, yeah, there's a lot of work involved. Usually I've got two riders that I look after. So time is where you then struggle with that thing. Because if you have the seals out of it, usually it's a run and then you gotta clean them out again, or like especially you can't really do it at wet race. It doesn't really work. Often I've done it where I take out the inner seals and leave the outer ones. From the inside of the bearing they're not there, but then the outside still has some weather sealing abilities. I don't usually mess around with it too much. Just keep the bearings fresh.

Do the Pivot team run inserts?

Yeah, we run an insert in the rear usually, the Panzer inserts. They're super light. They hold the bead on really well and give a small amount of rim protection, but they don't really affect the feel of the tire. Unlike something like a CushCore that really supports the base of the tire; Bernie doesn't like the weight of it for a start. You can feel it rotating in the air. You can feel that kind of weight and also it kind of gives it quite dead feel to the tire, he finds. So the Panzer's really good for us in terms of holding the bead on and just a little bit extra protection without noticing it's there.

Any top tips for people at home for looking after their wheelsets?

Keep an eye on spoke tensions really. You could write off a set of wheels just by not noticing that a spoke has come loose and the more even your spoke tensions are, the longer it's going to last, the better it's going to perform.

Do you tweak your spoke tensions dependent on the track?

Not usually. The Reynolds rims are quite stiff inherently. So we will usually kind of run them at a certain tension and usually don't mess around too much. You'll find a lot of teams, again it's a work thing, you can run them real loose. You have to keep tightening them up. They come loose if you run them loose. So yeah, we're in middle ground of kind of loose but not too loose.


Rider: Bernard Kerr

How do you get on with Reynolds wheels?

Really we love them and we've been on Reynolds now for maybe eight years. They've been a really good partner of Pivots, their main product developer is Todd Tanner, and he used to race World Cup downhill and he really listens to us, listens to me. Even when we went on the Continental tires I trusted Todd, like heard good things about him and tested them so yeah, really, really good. We've had so many iterations over the years now I don't know if we're on five or six but it's gonna get better every time.

Where do you sit with wheel stiffness? Do you want a wheel that is super stiff or do you like a little bit of compliance?

I probably don't know enough. I like a wheel to be as compliant as possible whilst being as stiff as possible. I really love the feel, I always say to people if there's one carbon thing to have on their bike it'd be wheels.

Do you use inserts?

Panzer in the rear, nothing in the front. Yeah, sometimes we run with the front, but a lot of the time I'm just Panzer in the rear. A lot of the boys are in front and rear especially for enduro but I'm a rear guy.

Author Info:
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Member since Nov 28, 2019
300 articles

  • 50 22
 What about the elephant in the room - that catastrophic failure at Hardline last year that took out Bernard?
  • 81 3
 I mean he went 100+ ft to flat at probably 40 mph. Something was gonna go.
  • 14 17
 maybe the elephant in the room is the lack of transparent standardized testing & benchmarking. Also, after breaking a carbon frame & wheel, i don’t trust the consistency of carbon layups and fabrication.
  • 18 2
 @Longroadtonowhere: this....I am fairly shocked that the bars/cranks/Bernard's ankles didn't fail as well!

The reynolds carbon wheels I have run, have been the most reliable....meaning, zero breaks or issues beyond a popped spoke. I have broken 3 other brands of carbon hoops....
  • 19 8
 @Mtbdialed: I'm gonna be that guy now and say, Bernard would have been able to ride it out if the wheel didn't fail. If you look at the video frame by frame you can see the wheel exploding before the fork even bottoms out. I'd say the impact of Fabio Wibmers Lyon 25 and Brages Jah Drop was even higher. In both cases a lot of stuff broke, but the wheels kept spinning
  • 18 3
 @Longroadtonowhere: It's a case of bushing binding due to the speed and landing rear wheel first (+ probably high spring rate). When he was starting weighting the front wheel, the rear shock was bottomed out, so the fork was at a weird angle, effectively locking the fork.
The only two ways to dissipate energy then are hitting the ground head first, or finding the lacking 200mm of travel from the fork, between the hub and the rim. A sub 12kg rim can't survive that no matter how well it has been made.
Same scenario as Kelly Mc Garry during 2014 rampage.
  • 3 10
flag drjonnywonderboy (Aug 12, 2023 at 11:56) (Below Threshold)
 Yep, Craig Evans Reserve DH rims didn't fail in the same way on hardline. That was a scary crash and for a front rim to fail like that doesn't give me any confidence in the product. I run a Zipp Moto3 on the from for grip and compliance and a Reserve HD alloy on the rear for the lifetime warranty and they are £120 with a fillmore Valve. Reserve have shifted the rim industry in such an amazing way for the consumer. Enve got left behind.
  • 5 1
 @shr3d: If the wheel/rim was new out of the box it would be a valid argument. But than rim could just have some damage already and exploded in that landing...Daprela´s front wheel disintegrated in a rock garden in the worst moment,but same thing again,carbon fails catastrophically in many cases. So best thing,if you get a huge ding,inspect the rim visually very close.
  • 4 0
 If you think any manufacturer in this industry tests to that standard, be prepared to be disappointed.
  • 3 3
 @faul: "A sub 12kg rim can't survive that no matter how well it has been made."

Thats simply not true
  • 4 0
 a 12kg rim should be able to withstand some serious shit to be fair
  • 3 0
 @Mtbdialed: same here. The Reynolds rims I’ve had have been absolutely amazing, not even a popped spoke. No complaints here at all.
  • 2 0
 From what I gathered a long time ago, he was on a prototype wheelset, and after the failure he kept praising reynolds wheels. After that gigantic huck to flat, he got another frame because that one had failed as well, and an off the shelf wheelset for the rest of the weekend.
  • 23 1
 "I'm a rear guy"
  • 9 1
 “ A lot of the boys are in front and rear especially for enduro” Wink
  • 3 19
flag t-rick FL (Aug 12, 2023 at 10:38) (Below Threshold)
 He's that Jenna rear kind of guy
  • 5 0
 Panzer in the rear sounds tough enough, possibly tougher than Rimpact.
  • 10 0
 So Reynolds are so stiff, but they are so compliant and they fatigue spokes, also spoke tension loosens when you ride it harder, but stiff wheels are bad.

Am I the only one who just wants a wheel I can ride and not have to worry about? I'll trade compliance for something I don't need to schedule weekly spoke tension maintenance for.
  • 5 0
 It wasn't completely clear to me what he meant by spoke fatigue. Is he able to spot fatigue cracks and replaces them in time or do they just break and he replaces them then? I can spot fatigue in thin walled aluminum but not in a 2mm thick steel rod. Somewhere further down the article he mentions he likes to lower the spoke tension for more compliance which could be the culprit though. Lowering the tension increases the amplitude of the stress cycle which may have a larger effect on the fatigue propagation than the average stress.
  • 2 0
 I had good luck with e13 carbon dh wheels staying in tension. Full season of park riding and I only touched them once.
  • 8 0
 They need to offer “Reynolds Wrap” protective film for their rims.
  • 1 3
 Why is that, do they get damaged easily. Funny enough, first thing I do when I lace up a rim is remove all the stickers if present. Low weight is not my top priority but sticking plastic to a rim seems daft to me. That said, this was mostly with the Mavic and DT-Swiss rims I used. The ones I have currently just have transfers.
  • 11 0
 Who’s gonna tell him????
  • 2 0
 Nobody talks about spoke tension parameters and in between
Which forces are the wrenching spokes …..
Nobody talks about Ceramic bearings on racing , I read somewhere Bruni’s team are using ceramic bearings from a really expensive brand , but not sure
  • 1 0
 They use the DT Swiss Sinc ones. Most racers are on standard steel though, race bikes get the snot jetwashed out of them so they go through bearings fairly quickly and running ceramic is quite the costly luxury for very marginal gains. .
  • 2 0
 As someone who is relatively new to hometruing, do you guys all aim for perfectly even tension or perfect truness? Ie- since we have disc rotors we don't need the rim to be absolutely perfectly round- therefore, would a slightly off wheel that has perfect tension be stronger?
  • 6 0
 It's about minimizing the compromises, there will always be some outliers with a wheel build.
  • 13 0
 even tension is way more important than perfect trueness. Even tension is the 1st goal imo then truness 2nd
  • 4 0
 it doesn't have to be either/or. What you should do as an ameteur, is go very very slowly in tensioning, and don't be afraid to back spokes off now and then to even tension. You work tension at the same time you are working trueness(dish, side to side and roundness, aka hop.).
  • 3 0
 With a new wheel you often can do both. sub 0.2mm out of true and tensiometer's reading limited by tensiometer's frictions. (sometimes the junction can't be perfect tho)
With rims that lived tho, it's what you can achieve that isn't a "big no-no".
  • 4 0
 Tensions as perfect as possible, trueness as close as you can get without upsetting the tensions. Even tension is by far the most important thing.
  • 3 0
 @gabriel-mission9: @faul: @Mtbdialed: @Charlotroy: @thekernel114:

Thanks all, that's very helpful. I did mean a wheel that has had some abuse, not new.
  • 1 0
 Using the Park Tool spoke tensiometer, I just follow their guidelines. That is, true the wheel, then measure tension. Their app/radiochart indicates which spokes are too far off (where you can set how far off you consider acceptable) and work on that. Then I increase spoke tension and start over. So yeah, basically I first true the rim and then equalize spoke tension. But I think my priorities on equal spoke tension are higher. I'm fine with 1mm out of true but consider it finished when the spoke tensions all are within 5%.

I have no experience with carbon rims but from what I understand they are true soon enough. So I can imagine you'll be focusing mainly on getting the tension equal and within spec.
  • 4 0
 Nipples: "carbon and alu don't work togehter..." why then, Reynolds build their Enduro carbon wheels with alu nipples....check their website. hmmmmmm
  • 1 0
 If you want light wheels, you pay the light wheel price...that means aluminum nipples ¯\(ツ)/¯
  • 1 0
 "I like a wheel to be as compliant as possible whilst being as stiff as possible"

does he mean in different directions?
because complience is the opposite of Stiffness

We need wheel stiffness classification so we could choose the rim matching our weight and riding style
  • 1 0
 new technology is always welcome, there was a time when ENVE made the WORST Stiffest wheels on the planet and blew up tires constantly, they learned and this is the next level
  • 1 0
 It’s my understanding that Reynolds who makes premium carbon hoops for bikes is a different Reynolds than the Reynolds that makes premium steel tubing for bike frames.

Do I have that right?
  • 1 0
 Is it me or several answers/questions are redundant?
Brass nipples, spokes tension... spokes tension, brass nipples.....
  • 4 0
 Wheels can only be so complicated
  • 2 2
 Check under the Pivot bus at the end of a race weekend if you wanna know how well these hold up.
  • 3 2
 You mean the ones their enduro team uses for a whole season or...?
  • 1 0
 Legendary last sentence
  • 6 8
 The pressing question is, do you use inserts?
  • 8 2
 Answered in the article? Did you forget to read past the headline?
  • 5 0
 Check the spoke tension!
  • 5 0
 That interview is so repetitive, you could delete half of it and not lose any information!
  • 2 2
 @no-good-ideas: it’s called sarcasm and it flew right past you!
  • 2 0
 Are you running brass nipples?
  • 1 4
 It's not a matter of if you'll break them, it's when

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