Reserve launched their first mountain bike wheels in 2017 with an unheard-of-at-the-time lifetime guarantee. Four years later it seems like almost every carbon rim manufacturer has to include a lifetime warranty with purchase, or at least a generous limited warranty.
While the newly released Reserve 28 wheels keep their lifetime guarantee and straightforward naming nomenclature with the internal width of the rim determining the model name, these are the first Reserve wheels that don't include the words Santa Cruz on them. Likely in an attempt to get more wheels on bikes that aren't Santa Cruz, these new wheels will be known simply as Reserve 28s.
Reserve 28 Wheel Details
• 29" only
• Carbon rims, 28mm internal width
• 24 straight-pull DT Comp Race spokes
• 2 cross lace pattern
• Hub options: DT Swiss 180, 240 or 350 CL hubs, Microspline or XD
• Weight: 1367 grams with DT Swiss 180 hubs, rim tape & valves
• Lifetime warranty w/ no weight limit
• MSRP: $1,599 - $2,199 USD (as tested)
Reserve says they went back to the drawing board to create the latest generation of Reserve XC wheels. They told me that they wanted to keep the new wheels fairly light since they're being raced on the World Cup XC circuit by Maxime Marotte, Luca Braidot, Martina Berta and Greta Seiwald on the Santa Cruz FSA team, but they prioritized ride quality over just making wheels that are as stiff and light as possible.
The Reserve 28s (left) have an internal rim depth of 20mm, 2.5mm shallower than the Reserve 25s (right).
The rims use a lower profile for "added lateral stiffness with increased vertical compliance" (our favourite marketing phrase), an asymmetrical design flipped front to rear for increased strength, and have a step in internal rim bed to ease tubeless installation. The Reserve 28s have an internal rim depth of 20mm which is 2.5mm shallower compared to the Reserve 25 rims and 5.1mm shallower compared to the Reserve 27 rims. Both the Reserve 25 and 27 will be phased out by the 28s in coming months as XC wheels trend wider. The recommended tire width to pair the Reserve 28s with is 2.2" to 2.5", but you can run as narrow as a 2.0" tire.
The carbon rims weigh a sensibly lightweight 385 grams apiece and have an inner width of 28mm. They're built up with DT Comp Race spokes around 24-hole straight-pull DT Swiss 180 hubs. If you buy a complete wheelset, the rims will come with pre-taped with valve stems, and if you buy rims only, the tubeless valve stems and tape are included. The Reserve 28s will only come in a 29” wheel size, with the version tested here weighing in at 1367 grams. It retails for $2,199 USD and comes with a lifetime warranty. It's worth noting that while some brands have a weight cap on that lifetime warranty, Reserve will honour the warranty regardless of rider weight.
There are two other builds for the Reserve 28s, with the wheels with DT 240 hubs weighing 1450 grams and retailing for $1,899 USD, and the wheels with DT 350 hubs weighing 1,550 grams and retailing for $1,599 USD.
The hookless carbon rims have an internal width of 28mm and have a step in internal rim bed to ease tubeless installation.
The Reserve 28s here are built up with DT Comp Race spokes around 24-hole straight-pull DT Swiss 180 hubs. Performance
Reserve got us these wheels ahead of the launch date, but despite my XC roots I've actually been putting miles on them on my light trail bike for the past month. We're just coming out of the rainy season here in Squamish, so I ran a relatively low 17 and 19 psi in a pair of Specialized Butcher T9 2.3" tires for the duration of the test. It's maybe more tire than these wheels will normally see, but they probably faced some tougher terrain than usual too. As for setting them up, it’s always nice when rims comes pre-taped, and tubeless installation was straightforward.
Overall, the wheels were extremely quiet, with no unexpected twangs or unsettling noises. It was easy to forget about the Reserve 28s entirely on both the climbs and the descents and just focus on choosing the smoothest lines. The performance of carbon wheels is an age old debate and we're not going to shout about the material's superiority from the rooftops, but they also ran true and kept their tension flawlessly throughout my time on them.
I will say that they felt like they did a great job of absorbing buzz from the trail and I never felt like my upper body was taking a beating. Like the choice of riding a full-suspension bike versus a hardtail in a race, the perception may be that you're riding slower on a wheel that's more compliant, but overall the added comfort could mean you still have the energy to eke out a couple extra watts at the end of the race. Or maybe it's all in my head, but hey confirmation bias gains are still gains!
Overall, the Reserve 28 rims survived all of the root and rock smashing I subjected them to, and the DT Swiss hubs were flawless, with quick engagement that’s so important for those quick cross-country race starts. After a month of testing and a fair amount of PNW rain during the testing period, the bearings are still smooth and there’s no lateral play.Compared to Roval's Control SL Wheelset
It can be difficult to evaluate compliance and stiffness when you’ve got a couple of inches of suspension, tires, and all of the pesky variables of real world testing. So I grabbed our set of Specialized Roval Control SL Team Issue wheels to do some back to back testing. I'd have loved to put Bontrager's Kovee XXX wheels in the mix too but Dan Sapp is guarding our set jealously out in North Carolina.
The wheelsets are remarkably similar. Both the Rovals and the Reserves are house brands trying to break away from their respective bike brands. The Rovals are 1mm wider at 29mm, ~84g lighter at 1283g, and $300 more expensive at $2500 USD. The Rovals also have a 275lb weight limit while the Reserves do not. Our Reserves had DT 180 hubs, while the Rovals have DT 180 internals. Both were set up with 2.3mm Butchers in the T9 compound with 17/19 PSI in them.
Absolutely nobody will be surprised to hear that the differences on trail are subtle, but they're definitely apparent. In back-to-back testing it's clear that the Reserves are on the more compliant side. They felt less sprightly, but my upper body also felt less tired at the end of the ride. The Rovals felt more stable at speed than the Reserve 28s however, despite being a little over 100 grams lighter, possibly due to their slightly wider internal rim width. The Rovals also make the occasional terrifying noise that reminds you you're on a very
light wheelset, while the Reserves were a little more confidence inspiring. [Ed. note: despite the Rovals making occasional sproingggg lightweight noises, I've been riding them on my hardtail for the last few months and Levy put in a lot of time on them last year, so we're pretty confident in their durability. –Brian]
The rims' lower profile reportedly contributes to their lateral stiffness and increased vertical compliance (those words again!).
Comfortable, confidence inspiring ride+
Reserve continues to lead with a lifetime warranty & no weight limits+
Nice to see 28mm ID becoming the go-to width for progressive XC
Not as light as some similarly priced house brands, let alone European exotica-
Not made domestically, if that's important to you-
Flagship carbon XC wheels are never going to be amazing value