If you’d asked me five years ago, I wouldn’t have pegged Reserve as a value-oriented wheel brand. Maybe it’s because of their previous close association with Santa Cruz Bikes or the fact that when they started, they only made carbon wheels. Whatever the case is, Reserve has emerged as competitive direct-to-consumer wheel brand that packs great tech, great support, and an outstanding ride.
Earlier this year Reserve released their first line of alloy wheels: the 30|SL AL and the 30|HD AL. The acronyms are widely used in mountain bike branding, with SL meaning super light and HD for heavy duty. While these are seemingly at the opposite end of the spectrum, there is some crossover. The SLs are made for XC, trail, and all-mountain riding and the HDs are made for trail, DH, all-mountain, enduro, and e-bikes.
Reserve sent me a set of wheels to try out this spring. I opted for the SL wheels and threw them on my enduro bike. By the product description, that may seem ill-advised, but they’ve been a great fit. For one, I’ll take any weight savings I can get, and two, I am not usually terribly hard on wheels. I’ve rolled the wheels over quite a few miles of singletrack and bike park trail this summer and they’ve shaken it off like a bull would a cowboy.
About the Reserve 30|SL AL wheels
The Reserve 30|SL AL wheels have an asymmetrical rim for stiffness and a 30mm internal width, optimized for tire widths between 2.2-2.5″ wide. They have a 20mm depth, are made for 6-bolt brake rotors and have 28 spokes per wheel. This is partly where the SLs differ from the HDs. The HD version has a 32 spoke count to keep it stiffer and a 22mm rim depth.
The HD wheels offer two different hub options but the SL has just one: DT Swiss 350 hubs, which have a 36T ring ratchet system, offering 10° of engagement.
With the DT Swiss hubs and Fillmore valves, the wheels weigh 1,894g on my scale, about 54g more than Reserve’s estimated weight, though it’s unclear if they include the 6g valves in that estimate. If so, then it would only weigh 36g more. All in all, it’s a reasonable weight, but not very light. XC riders who can only spring for alloy may want to look for a lighter option.
There are a few other cool things about these wheels. They come standard with Fillmore valves. The valves allow tires to be inflated more quickly than standard Presta valves, though they can be tricky with some bike pumps. See my full review of the Fillmore valves here.
Reserve wheels all come with a lifetime warranty for the original owner, though the text does say “Reserve will repair or replace at its option” any wheel they made which is damaged or destroyed by riding. This is fairly typical warranty speak.
But their crash replacement program is different and if a problem is warranty-able then Reserve might offer a “low-cost crash replacement rim,” even if you ran it over with your car or pushed the bike off a cliff. The program basically just covers the cost of the rim and not any associated labor.
I didn’t have any installation issues with the wheels. The tires slipped on fine and aired up easily, though, again, the Fillmore valves don’t get along with every pump out there.
On the trail
I’ve been riding the Reserve wheels for a little over three months and they’ve seen trails in Wyoming and all over Colorado, ranging from rocky, natural trails to wheel-bending berms in the bike park.
Before the Reserves, I had a set of carbon wheels on. Going from carbon to alloy can feel like a downgrade depending on the wheels, but this was not the case at all with the 30|SL ALs.
They don’t accelerate as quickly as a stiffer carbon wheel does, but the wheels have exceptional energy for an alloy set, and that’s great considering I’m on a heavy aluminum enduro bike.
The major upside on aluminum wheels, and more so on these Reserves compared to other options is how well they soak up chatter from small rocks and bumps on the trail without fatiguing the rider. The Reserve 30|SL ALs are stiff enough to keep their speed rolling down but flexy enough to fend off harshness from the trail and keep you from pinging off rocks.
The wheels feel stout laterally and hold their line around berms. They also change direction confidently, without the nervousness of a rim that feels too stiff. The 30|SL ALs are eagerly under your command.
DT Swiss hubs have always been interesting me, with noticeable downsides and upsides. They’re known for being reliable and easy to service, but don’t offer the engagement many high-end hubs do. With the 36T ratchet in the 350 hubs, they bite every 10° of crank rotation, which is about twice as much space as come of its competitor’s hubs. I’ll say, 10° is still adequate, and I think it makes for a quieter hub, but it can be a drawback on technical climbs when you need the speed of a quicker hub. DT Swiss does make a 54T ratchet upgrade compatible with the 350 hubs for $130. This brings the engagement down to 6.6°.
Overall, the Reserve 30|SL AL wheels have held up well. The rear wheel has developed a slight deviation but is still running strong and the front wheel is straight as the edge of a piece of paper. Some specks of rim paint have been donated to the trail.
Pros and cons of the Reserve 30|SL AL wheels
- Good price and value
- Energetic and efficient
- Compliant, soaks up chatter
- Seemingly good warranty and crash replacement
- Reliable DT Swiss Hubs
- Not terribly lightweight
- Only one hub option, not the best engagement
The Reserve 30|SL AL wheels are a reasonably lightweight aluminum trail wheelset with a proper balance of stiffness and comfort.