Reserve 25/GR gravel wheels review – broader, smoother, and lifetime guaranteed

The latest Reserve carbon gravel wheels from Santa Cruz are designed to make the rough smooth and survive the most severe conditions. So, how do they ride?

Reserve 25/GR gravel wheels
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

BikePerfect Verdict

Not aero but seriously smooth, control boosting and bombproof lifetime warrantied carbon gravel wheel with awesome valves and all at an impressively low weight.

Pros

  • +

    Genuine lifetime warranty

  • +

    Lightweight

  • +

    Calmly damped grip and comfort boosters

  • +

    Seriously tough

  • +

    Easy tubeless inflation with Filmore valves

Cons

  • -

    Dulls sharp kick and precision sensations

  • -

    Not aero

Why you can trust BikePerfect Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

The latest gravel wheel/rim from Reserve sits between the narrower 22 and the deeper 30 and it’s designed for the lumpier, pointier ‘Grinduro' world between groomed gravel and full-on MTB. It’s balance of bombproof strength, high control, low weight and lifetime warranty make it one of the best gravel wheels available If that’s your happy place.

Reserve Filmore

You get the excellent high flow, clog busting Reserve Filmore valves as standard on complete wheels (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and Components

Being a cynical old sod, when Reserve first told me about their new 25mm internal width gravel wheel I wondered if it was just a rebadge of the old Reserve 25/XC MTB rim. And to be honest that wouldn’t have been a bad move as that was a really good wheel that would fit well into the intended ‘almost MTB’ habitat intended for the 25/GR. Getting the calipers and scales out shows it’s an entirely new rim though. 4mm shallower at 18mm deep, with 24 spoke holes and matching molded reinforcing plinths not 28 and weighing 30g less at 360g.

The rim also has a totally new cross section with a very slightly curved inward (definitely not hooked) sidewall shape, super thin shoulders and ‘humped’ trough profile for easy tubeless inflation. It’s also an asymmetric design (by 3mm) to reduce sideways spoke offset. Like all Reserve compete wheels they come with the excellent high flow volume, clog fighting Filmore valves as standard too.

While I had a pair of the rims built up using DT Swiss 350 hubs and straight pull Sapim CX- Ray aero spokes, production wheels will come with either DT Swiss 350 or Industry Nine Torch (£/$300 more) hubs and DT Swiss or Sapim ‘J- Bend’ spokes 

Reserve 25/GR

Complete wheels are based around the legendarily durable DT Swiss 350 hubs or lighter, faster engaging Industry Nine Torch hubs (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Ride, handling and performance

With the Filmore valves letting air in almost as easily as a conventional Presta valve without the core in, and the trough building up pressure nicely before a clean pop the Reserves are bliss to set up tubeless. The 25mm internal width gives plenty of room to slide a rim/tire protection insert in, which is becoming increasingly common for rough play.

Even without an insert there’s a real quietness to the overall ride and the rougher the surface, the better they feel. They’re not as comically ‘tank track’ in their compliance and ‘crawl over’ character as Zipp’s radical 101 rim, but the smoothness and grip gains over conventional carbon rims are very obvious. Similar to running about 5psi less pressure but without the worries of burping the tire or trashing the rim. And if you want a proper hovercraft ride we tested the wheels right down to high teen pressures just to give the rims maximum hammer and they still didn’t care. They’re happy with tires from 28mm to 50mm too and I even ran them on my gravel tandem for a few rides where they felt super surefooted and solid – however sideways we go. With only 24 spokes that’s probably not a great idea long term and probably crosses some official recommendation boundaries on the DT hubs. 

Reserve 25/GR

Each spoke sits on a separate reinforced bulge for maximum, lifetime warrantied strength at a low weight (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

While the softer, quieter feel and relatively slow 10 degree engagement means they don’t feel the sharpest, raciest wheels, the impressively low weight means they actually accelerate super well once connected. Because they properly stick on landings and in corners so you can make maximum use of their lightness to properly throw the bike around more radically than you normally would with drop bars. That makes them a great match if you’re also running wider bars, chunkier tires, dropper post and suspension (though the Reserves go a fair way to making moving forks/stems/seatposts that less necessary).

The one thing the Reserves don’t do as well is road or fast, smooth gravel riding. I mean they physically do it as well as you’d expect a flat, shallow sub 1400g wheel to do it. But, just like running a lower tire pressure, their quietness and softness can potentially trip the ‘I’m going slow’ alarms in your head, even if your actual speed across the ground shows otherwise. You’ll want the Reserve 30/GR for a physical aero advantage though – if your gravel is more about high speed racing than high spirits rallying. 

Reserve 25/GR

The rougher it gets the more the Reserves love it, but they're still fast, light and super comfy on less taxing surfaces (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

If you’re into maximum speed on smoother ‘gravel’ surfaces then you’ll want something deeper and sharper feeling than the 25/GRs. That said, they’re the best wheels I’ve used though in terms of speed sustain, control, smoothness and probable survival on rougher trails. Bonus grip, super light responsiveness, rock solid reliable hubs, easy tubeless set up and the best warranty in the business makes them well worth the investment if you can afford it.

Tech specs: Reserve 25/GR gravel wheels

  • Price: $1599 / £1599
  • Size: 700c
  • Options: Rim only, DT Swiss 350 or Industry Nine Torch hub based wheels  
  • Weight: 670g front, 780g rear = 1450g total (includes tape, Filmore valves and Centrelock lock rings

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg