In recent years, modern, reasonably priced (for carbon fiber) trail bike wheelsets have become nearly as ubiquitous in the sport as neon-clad, fanny-packn' trail scenesters. A portion of the carbon-wheel boom can be attributed to many brands using a hookless tire bead design, which can simplify the manufacturing process, lower production cost, create a stronger rim wall, and simultaneously bring down the overall price to the rider. By modern trail bike wheel, I'm referring to those with an internal width generally falling in the range of 30 to 35 millimeters, and designed to play nice with the large-volume knobbies typically (depending on the brand) 2.3- to 2.6-inches wide.
Reynolds' new TR S line of carbon wheels ($1,550) are built for aggressive trail riding, and if you dare, even going full enduro. Available in two versions, the TR 309 S for 29ers and the TR 307 S for 27.5-inch bikes, both wheelsets feature a 30-millimeter internal rim width, a tubeless-ready hookless rim profile, SRAM XD and Shimano freehub options, and a lifetime warranty. Both wheelsets are strung up by 28 straight-pull, bladed spokes front and rear, and Shimano's Centerlock disc interface. Additionally, both sizes are available in both Boost and non-Boost hub spacing options. My 29er set, plus the necessary rotor adapters registered a respectable 1,763 grams out of the box.
From a few feet away it can be tricky to spot a wheelset's unique characteristics. They’re all round, there’s always two of them, and the fancy stuff is usually pretty subtle. A closer look at the stylish Reynolds TR 309 S wheels reveals an interesting asymmetrical rim profile, which according to Reynolds is intended to provide a stronger and better-riding wheel through more even spoke tension. The sleek, CNC-machined Reynolds TR6 hubs feature a 5-degree engagement and 6-pawl freehub to quickly hook up when putting down power. The front hubs for both wheel size options are 15-millimeter axle specific.
ON THE TRAIL
Several years ago, when I made the switch to carbon wheels across my bikes, I'd eventually have durability issues with most brands. However, since the implementation of hookless beads I've had great luck with carbon wheels using the technology from Specialized, Praxis, and now Reynolds. My go-to trail bike is mid-travel 29er with a 160-millimeter travel fork, so with that setup there's little need to avoid chunky rocks and unruly roots. After months of abuse, the Reynolds carbon rims show little indication of any punishment, and the spoke tension was still dialed. While testing these wheels, I ran a few combinations of the following tires: a Specialized Butcher Grid, Specialized Slaughter Grid, Schwalbe Magic Mary Super Gravity, and Schwalbe Hans Dampf Super Gravity. All of those treads mounted up easily with a floor pump, and I experienced no issues with tires burping sealant under demanding trail conditions.
Ride quality is an often discussed aspect of carbon wheels. Traditionally, carbon wheels tend to be less forgiving and ride more harsh than an alloy set. Although the Reynolds hoops felt stiff and precise, I can't say the performance was particularly harsh. It seemed like a nice combination of compliance on challenging terrain at speed and stiffness in steep, rooty sections or when really laying into a corner. I register in 150-something-pound range; but even a clydesdale rider, or just an average-size ripper who dances down gnarly terrain with the finesse of a bag of hammers, will find peace of mind with Reynolds' honest-to-goodness lifetime warranty.
Although there are more versatile and reasonably priced carbon trail-bike wheels in the sport than ever before, I don't see these new ones from Reynolds coming off my bike any time soon.