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Reserve 30 SL wheelset review

The latest Reserve 30 SL wheels are lighter and shallower but it’s the ride character that makes them an awesome, aggressive trail upgrade

Reserve 30 SL wheelset
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

The Reserve 30 SL's lively-yet-super-controlled ride feel, robust build quality and lifetime warranty make them a dependable trail wheel upgrade

For

  • Lively yet controlled ride feel
  • Excellent accuracy and feedback
  • Seriously impressive damping
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Instant hub engagement
  • First stroke tubeless inflation
  • DT 350 hub option for bigger gaps
  • Hand-finished quality

Against

  • One side of the rim is a serious tire fight
  • Not as light as suggested

Reserve has totally changed its rim design, making it shallower and easier to set up. It’s the amazing balance of lively speed and damped, traction-boosted control that makes these some of the best mountain bike wheels we’ve ever used... As long as you can get your tires off.

Reserve 30 SL specifications and build

Reserve already has a 30mm internal ’30’ rim and the new SL shares the same asymmetrical design (offset is 0.4mm less) and reinforced eyelet blocks for the 28 spokes. The new SL is 3mm shallower at 19mm, 50g lighter at 440g and slightly wider externally, too. The internal shape also has a shallower center well with two distinct troughs for the tires to pop into.

That makes initial set-up - a previous problem with Reserve rims and some tires - far easier with instant catch and growth as the tire eases out of the center trough and over into the bead seats. You do need to put plenty of pressure in to fully lock the beads into the thick hookless sidewalls. You can expect some sealant spurt as they bang into place.

Reserve 30 SL wheelset

The wheels come with Nine Hydra or cheaper DT Swiss 350 hubs (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Not as light as the SL moniker suggests

At 1,670g the SL’s aren’t actually Superlight (DT Swiss and Roval have 30mm trail wheels under 1,500g) but they are lighter than both the existing Reserve 27 (1,790g) and 30 (1,830g) wheels. They’ve got an immediately lively, responsive feel multiplied by the rear instant engagement of the Industry Nine Hydra hubs to make them seriously quick up to speed or to snap out of corners. If you want more lag for freer suspension movement or a lower cost you can get the same wheels on DT Swiss 350 hubs for £1,599. 

Performance and trail ride quality

Lateral stiffness, hand-checked tension and final build make them accurate too so placement is pin-sharp and feedback great for gauging tire slip. The reduced unsprung weight meant we actually added a click of rebound both ends to our suspension to stop them feeling too lively over loose, chatter sections. Start hitting bigger rocks, water bars, slabs and drops, and the shallower depth noticeably softens, shrugs and sustains speed and control. The faster and harder we rode them the more impressed we were with how they preserved arms and control. There are still no signs of damage to the broad sidewalls despite regularly slamming hard enough into trail geology.  

Reserve 30 SL wheelset

Forgiving in nature, the rims are still strong enough to smash through rocky trail features (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

While Santa Cruz uses the same rim and spokes front and rear (unlike Crankbrothers and Hunt) the asymmetric rims are reversed in orientation. That’s important to know because the wider offset side (disc-side front, drive-side rear) has an excessively tight tire fit. That gives maximum security even when schralping on sub 20psi (we only ever saw slight sealant bleed from the other shorter offset side) and as the other side pops off easily it’s easy to fit a tube if you can’t plug a puncture.

Trying to switch tires is a serious fight though and we snapped two levers before we eventually unseated the second bead. Tightness does vary depending on tire fit but we found using Schwalbe’s tire fit lubricant beforehand meant we could get the tire unseated and off the rim. No plastic-shimmed woodworking chisels were necessary!

Verdict

The SLs don’t look that special on raw data but on the trail they’re our favorite trail wheels to date. They're lively and sprung in feel on climbs and less stressful on singletrack, but unerringly accurate regardless of the situation and speed you might be carrying. They come in workhorse or racehorse hub options with XD or MicroSpline (Centerlock and six-bolt versions) as well as a rim-only option (£599). Factor in the reassurance of a true lifetime warranty on rims that are proving seriously strong and there's a lot to like. It’s only the single-sided tire release issues that stop these short of a perfect score for aggressive trail use. 

Tech Specs: Reserve 30 SL wheels 

  • Price: $1,899 / £1,899 
  • Weight: 760g front, 910g rear  = 1670g with valves 
  • Width: 30mm (internal)
  • Depth: 19mm 
  • Sizes: 29in (Boost only)
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