Review: Reserve 50 Wheelset

Premium aero wheelset backed by a category-leading warranty

Pro Review
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The Reserve 50 is the company’s every-day aero wheelset.

Reserve Wheels was founded by Santa Cruz Bicycles in 2014 and launched its first wheelsets in 2017. Until this year, the brand was focused exclusively on mountain and gravel wheels and components. Reserve is now setting its sights on the road with a line of wheels developed in partnership with Cervélo. Both brands are owned by the Dutch conglomerate Pon Holdings, allowing them to share resources, R&D, and technical knowledge.

Reserve offers its road wheelsets in 35mm, 50mm, and 65mm versions. I tested the Reserve 50, which the company positions as its Jack-of-all-trades aero wheelset. Though initially offered as an upgrade option on model-year 2021 Cervélo builds, Reserve’s road wheelsets will be available for aftermarket purchase in the coming months.

Reserve 50 Wheelset Highlights

  • Depth: 53mm
  • Internal width: 21mm
  • Spoke count: 24
  • Compatible with tubed and tubeless tires
  • Weight: 490g (per rim) / 1,678g (Reserve 50 wheelset with DT 350 hubs)
  • Price: $1,800
  • For more information visit www.reservewheels.com
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Reserve’s road wheels come tubeless-ready and are compatible with inner tubes.

Reserve offers three build options for its road and gravel wheelsets, all of which roll on DT Swiss hubs. I tested the most affordable option, which sports DT Swiss 350 hubs and retail price of $1,800.

The Reserve 50 wheelset features carbon rims with a depth of 53mm, an external width of 27.5mm, and an internal width of 21mm. The rims are laced to the DT Swiss hubs with 24 straight-pull spokes per wheel.

Hookless carbon rims are starting to gain momentum on the road (and are the standard across Reserve’s mountain bike wheel line.) However, the company’s road and gravel wheelsets still employ a bead hook. I’m something of a tubeless evangelist, but for traditionalists who still prefer to run tubes, the hooked rim profile makes these wheels compatible with both. The wheelset ships pre-taped for tubeless use with valve stems included.

Related: How to install tubeless road tires

With tape and valve stems installed, the Reserve 50 wheelset with DT 350 hubs came in at 768g for the front wheel and 910g for a complete wheelset weight of 1,678g.

Reserve 50 Wheelset Review

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The Reserve 50 wheelset feels quick and predictable.

On the tarmac, the Reserve 50 feels precise and responsive. There’s an immediate get-up-and-go sensation from this carbon wheelset. The aero rim profile handles cross-winds well, perhaps not to the same degree Roval’s comically-fat but effective Rapide CLX front rim, but well enough to remain accurate and stable when navigating gusty conditions.

The company claims the Reserve 50 is most aerodynamic with 25mm tires. I alternated between Goodyear’s outstanding Eagle tubeless tires in 25mm and 28mm versions. In both cases, the tire installation was easy and the tires locked into place well below riding my pressures. (As a 150-pound rider, I settled on 75psi for the 25mm tires and 65psi for the 28mm tires.)

Related: Goodyear Rolls Out New Tubeless Tires

Like most deep-profile wheelsets, each tire width gives the Reserve 50 a distinct character that will appeal to different types of cyclists. With 25mm tires mounted, this wheelset feels nimble, fast, and transmits a fair amount of road feedback. With larger, 28mm tires, the Reserve 50 takes on a more muted character that’s more comfortable for endurance rides. If you’re looking for the sensation of speed and agile handling for crit racing, 25mm tires are the way to go. If you’re setting up this wheelset for all-day rides, rougher roads, or even mixed surface outings, opt for 28 or 30mm-wide tires.

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The lack of wind tunnel data leaves us guessing at how effective the Reserve 50’s rim profile is.

It’s hard to make comparative statements about this wheelset’s performance without wind tunnel data, which Reserve hasn’t provided. The company claims such data is easy to manipulate to favor a particular brand’s rim profile. This is true, adjusting wind speed, yaw angle and other variables can significantly impact the aerodynamic performance of a wheelset. Yet without some benchmark for performance, it may be hard for riders to justify the price when compared to Reserve’s more established competitors such as Zipp, Roval, Bontrager, and ENVE. It’s also worth noting that in contrast to several of the leading aero wheelsets, the Reserve 50 uses the same rim profiles for the front and rear rims. (The Reserve 65 wheelset does feature different rim provides, with the Reserve 50 front wheel paired with a 65mm deep rear rim.)

Related: Study reveals most aero position on bike

In the absence of aero performance numbers, Reserve competes on price, weight, and warranty support.

In terms of price, the Reserve 50 wheelset comes in below some of its competitors when built around DT Swiss 350 hubs and the same price point as its peers with the DT 240 hub option. Compare this to the Roval Rapide CLX at $2,500 or the least expensive build for ENVE’s SES 5.6 Disc at $2,550. The tradeoff is that the Reserve 50 isn’t a category leader in terms of weight. It’s heavier than the heaviest build for the ENVE SES 5.6, which weighs in at 1,553g. The flyweight 1,400g Roval Rapide CLX isn’t a fair comparison here, since it lacks tubeless compatibility.

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DT Swiss 350 hubs keep the price of the Reserve 50 in check.

Warranty support is the category where Reserve puts its competitors to shame by offering the best warranty in the class in refreshingly plain text. Simply put, if you’re the original owner, your Reserve wheelset is covered against manufacturers defects and damage that occurs while riding for as long as you own the wheelset.

“Whether you’re flying down the legendary DH track at Ft. William, railing corners at the Mission Crit, or leaving it all out there on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, if you break a wheel, we’ll send you a new one within 24 hours. If you back over it with your car, we’ll get you a low-cost crash replacement ASAP. We know that missing a ride sucks, and missing a race can mean throwing away months of prep, and we’ll do everything we can to ensure that never happens because of one of our wheels,” the company states on its warranty support page.

In addition to the lifetime support, the speed at which Reserve states it will provide a replacement wheelset is very compelling, especially in this time of severe product scarcity.

Verdict

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Good road manners, a class-leading warranty, and easy tubeless set-up are wins for the Reserve 50.

The Reserve 50 is a well-rounded wheelset for KOM chasers and riders and looking for a pair of high-end wheels they can reliably ride day in and day out. Tubeless set-up is hassle-free and riders have the option to run the Reserve 50 tubeless or with tubes to suit their level of technological acceptance. Even though any carbon wheelset is an expensive upgrade, the company’s warranty provides a high degree of reassurance to owners. However, if Reserve wants to be a serious contender in the aero wheel market, the company will need to make its wind tunnel data public so potential buyers can weigh all the variables and decide if it’s the right wheelset for them.

About the author: Josh Patterson

Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998, and has been writing about mountain biking and cyclocross since 2006. He was also at the forefront of the gravel cycling movement, and is a multi-time finisher of Dirty Kanza. These days, Josh spends most of this time riding the rocky trails and exploring the lonely gravel roads around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.


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