Santa Cruz Bikes helped bring carbon rims into the mainstream when their World Cup Downhill team began partnering with Enve components. That relationship, played out on mountain bikes biggest stage, proved to riders everywhere that technology offered serious benefits.
However, Santa Cruz felt that there were two issues plaguing existing products on the market. The first was that carbon rims sometimes break, often catastrophically. The other was ride feel. Heavy duty carbon rims often feel harsh.
Three years ago, Santa Cruz set out to resolve these issues. The end goal was to a create a rim that was stronger and more reliable than any other product on the market, while maintaining a compliant feel. The result is the new Reserve line.
The process began in the test lab. Santa Cruz started by analyzing competitors products to learn how they were constructed and why they broke. They also fabricated a series of mountain bike specific test jigs which could simulate real world impacts. From there, they went on to build an in-house carbon lab, which allowed them to quickly model and test a myriad of different rim shapes.
Reinforced spoke holes
One of the primary ways that carbon rims fail is from either a single sided rock strike or when a spoke pulls through the rim. To eliminate these failure points, Santa Cruz uses externally reinforced spoke holes. There are a number of other brands that due something similar, but they tend do it internally. The problem is that this extra material has a tendency to migrate during construction. As a result, the spoke hole may not actually be drilled through reinforcement. It can also create soft spots in the rim, where the carbon is not properly compacted.
By placing the reinforcements on the exterior of the rim, Santa Cruz can ensure they’re in the right place every time. They can also visually check that the spoke holes are drilled in the right place. By only placing extra carbon in the areas where it’s needed, they were able to shave weight, which they reinvested in the rim bead.
With traditional rim designs, spoke tension is uneven because the hub isn’t centered. This unequal triangulation results in reduced durability and stiffness. To resolve this, brands like Santa Cruz use an asymmetric spoke hole pattern. This equalizes spoke tension side to side and improves spoke bracing. It also helps prevent the spoke from becoming untensioned during load, which can lead to nipple failure.
Each wheelsets is handbuilt in Santa Cruz, Ca. They’re laced 3 cross using double butted DT Swiss Competition Race spokes paired with Sapim Secure Lock Alloy Nipples. These nipples have a small dimple incorporated which puts friction on the threads and prevents them from backing off. All of these components are readily available worldwide, there’s nothing proprietary about them. And they’re easy to service, because the nipples are external.
At launch, the wheels will only be available as a $1,200 upgrade on new Santa Cruz or Juliana. Compared to the former Enve upgrade, that’s an $800 savings.
The brand plans to launch an aftermarket product line this Fall in two different trims. Both wheelsets will use the exact same rim, spokes, nipples, and build process, but you’ll be able to pick between DT Swiss 350 and Industry Nine hubs. Pricing has yet to be determined.
Santa Cruz will be offering a total of five different wheelsets, two 27.5 and three 29”. Both the 27.5” and 29” wheels will be available in a 27 and 30mm inner width. The 29” also receives an additional 25mm wide version, which is targeted towards the XC market. All five rims are 28 spoke hole.
Now here’s the kicker, Santa Cruz is so confident in their new wheels, they’re backing them with a lifetime warranty. That’s right, Santa Cruz is backing the Reserve wheels with the same warranty they offer on their frames and bearings. They’re not the first brand to offer this kind of warranty, but they might be the only ones who claim a twenty four hour turnaround for a replacement.
On the trail
Last month, we had the opportunity to test ride the new Reserve 30 wheels at the Juliana Strega/Santa Cruz Nomad launch. If you’ve ever ridden a Nomad before, you know the bike is all manner of trouble. It encourages the kind of bad behavior you’d normally reserve for a night with friends and a bottle of tequila. Take that foolhardy confidence, sprinkle in a whole lot of awkward rocks, and you have the perfect testing grounds for some hack induced rim failures.
Despite our best efforts to keep up with Cedric Gracia and Anka Martin, not a single person at the media camp managed to break a rim. After three days of riding, the wheels emerged unscathed (albeit a little scratched). Our three day test was just long enough to to get an idea of how well these rims ride, but not quite long enough to see how they stack up over time. Considering how reliable Santa Cruz frames are, we’ll have to give them the benefit of the doubt until we get a sample for long term review.
For more info, visitwww.santacruzbicycles.com.