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Reserve 28XC 350 wheels review

The lightest wheels ever from the Santa Cruz sub-brand are fast and tough enough to challenge the best in the segment

Reserve 28XC wheelset
(Image: © Graham Cottingham)

Our Verdict

Not cheap but worth the investment for superbly responsive yet quietly controlled hand-built wheels with a lifetime warranty

For

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Responsively light
  • Quietly damped control
  • Excellent traction
  • Hand-built quality
  • Fat tire friendly

Against

  • Not the lightest or livliest cross-country option
  • DT hubs pick up slightly slow
  • 29er Boost only

Reserve 28XC wheels are designed to be light but not at the expense of ride quality and durability. We reckon they’ve got the acceleration-boosting, but technically confident balance spot on for most real-world racers and recreational speed freaks, too. Reserve gives you the option to choose the hubs that suit your priorities and pocket, plus the warranty is second to none.

We have been putting the Reserve 28XC wheels to the test to determine whether these new lightweight hoops are the best mountain bike wheels for cross-country racers and trail-blazing mile munchers.

Wheel construction and build

The XC28s use Reserve’s latest broader asymmetric rim-bed design to even out spoke tension and provide a 28mm internal width footing for tires up to 2.5in. The fiber layer is specifically designed to promote vertical mobility and the rim profile is also 5mm shallower than the previous Reserve 25s. 

The lateral stiffness and overall strength of the wheels are superb and you still get the signature molded reinforcement lumps for the 24 DT Swiss Comp straight-pull spokes. They also come standard with a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty, complete with no rider weight limit, which is almost unheard of on wheels that weigh as little as 1,367g (if built up with DT Swiss 180 hubs).

Our sample is strung up around the latest DT Swiss Spline 350 hubs which adds 200g to the overall weight. The 385g (claimed weight) rims and spokes are the same and engagement is based around a 36-point (10-degree max lag) ratchet, though that doesn’t make nearly as much of a difference in terms of dynamic ride feel as it sounds. 

Reserve 28XC wheelset

The 28XC wheels come with the option of DT Swiss 350 (pictured), 240 or 180 hubs (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Performance and riding experience

The rim design uses the same asymmetric shelved rim profile as the Reserve 30 SL wheels and again the tires are a tight fit, particularly on the wider side. That means an excellent seal and spit-free inflation even with a hand pump, which was not the case with some tires on older Reserve wheels. The slightly narrower width and the fact that the best mountain bike tires for cross-country are lighter and more flexible meant we didn’t have the trouble swapping rubber as we did on the trail-oriented wheels. It’s only one side that’s tight so fitting a tube in an emergency isn’t an issue anyway.

While the pickup lag on the DT hubs will annoy some as it causes an occasional clunk compared to an I9 or Hunt hub, it does mean less kickback when freewheeling on a suspension bike with a lot of anti-squat. DT hubs deliver bomb-free durability and super easy tool-free servicing. Together with the exceptional warranty cover, these are outstanding wheels for those determined to get the most out of their descending speed and distance covered.

The ride feel is spot on for these scenarios too, as there’s definitely a noticeable damped and controlled feel that translates into remarkable full bike quietness and calmness. We ran them first on the new Santa Cruz Blur (where they’re a standard build option) but we also fitted them to a Specialized Chisel hardtail that was previously running Roval Control Carbon wheels. The Reserves still felt more settled and smoother than the lighter, deeper rimmed Rovals, particularly when pushing hard through turns or hitting rough descents faster than is probably wise.  

Reserve 28XC wheelset

The reinforced spoke holes maintain lateral stiffness while allowing vertical compliance (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Verdict

While aggressive riders who are totally on board with the ‘smoother is faster’ concept will love the way the 28XCs ride, we know that’s not the case with every pilot - especially among the XCO racers, so fans of super-light mountain bike wheels should look elsewhere. While lightweight mountain bike wheel rivals in this highly competitive space are plentiful, none can match what these new Reserves bring to a bike in terms of race-ready low weight, enhanced trail control, and warranty.

Tech Specs: Reserve 28XC wheels

  • Price: $1,599 / £TBC (as tested) 
  • Weight: 1,580g (SRAM XD freehub, taped and valved)
  • Sizes: 29in Boost only
  • Freehubs: XD or MicroSpline
  • Rotors: Six bolt or Centerlock
Guy Kesteven

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 got an archaeology degree out of Exeter University, spent a few years digging about in medieval cattle markets, 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 coughed out a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too. We trust Guy's opinion and think you should, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel Ltd MTBs, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Cannondale Supersix Evo Dura-Ace Di2 Disc road bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg