Reynolds Trail 27.5 carbon wheels review

Are these $2500 hoops the ultimate upgrade for your trail bike?

27.5 Wheels
With tires plumped up to 2.5", traction on Moab's Slickrock trail was otherworldly.

With tires plumped up to 2.5″, traction on Moab’s Slickrock trail was otherworldly.

The only real hitch came during tubeless set-up, which wasn’t as easy as we’d hoped. The Trail King tires mounted up by hand no problem, but it took some wrangling to get the beads sealed. After failed attempts with a cheap air compressor and then a dual chamber booster floor pump, we had to insert a tube to set one bead. After that the other bead popped in with the booster floor pump no problem. As usual, depending on tire choice, your experiences may vary.

Looks wise, I wasn’t blown away by these wheels. The simple red-on-black design is fairly pedestrian, especially when contrasted with the bright yellow Mavic hoops that had previously been on this bike. But bike beauty is always in the eye of the rider, so this isn’t worth stewing over.

What’s more significant is what’s underneath those red decals. Reynolds uses a process dubbed Mountain Rim 5 construction, where carbon fiber lay-up is altered based on its location on the wheel, be it sidewall, spoke face, nipple bed, tire channel, or hookless rim bed. The idea is to create the ideal tensile strength for each area. I obviously cant verify any of this. But I will reiterate that I bashed on these rims all summer and they did not break or otherwise disappoint.

Read User Reviews of the Pivot Mach 6 Carbon used in this test.

Sapim CX-Ray bladed straight-pull spokes are laced 28 front and rear.

Sapim CX-Ray bladed straight-pull spokes are laced 28 front and rear.

As for going hookless, the idea is that it creates a more durable wheel because there is no bend in the rim, which can make it easier to collapse. It’s also easier to install tires with hookless rims. These rims also feature an asymmetric rim profile, which is designed to maintain equal spoke bracing angles from the hub flanges on the drive and non-drive side. This reduces wheel dish and yields a more robust overall structure.

Just as impressive are the Industry Nine hubs (with Reynolds branding), which in the rear have a momentum-boosting 120 points of engagement with a scant 3 degrees of pick-up. Or put another way, mash on the pedals and engagement is all but instantaneous. This was especially beneficial on the litany of ledgy step-up moves in Moab, where just a hint of lag can mean the difference between a clean clear or a dab and maybe a tumble.

The only knock is that the wheels only come in center lock rotor attachment configuration, so you have to add adapters (and the accompanying weight) to run a 6-bolt set-up. It’s not a huge gain, but when you’re spending in excess of two large, every gram counts.

Bashing our way down the Boulder Mason trail at Crested Butte Mountain Resort's Evolution Bike Park was a no fear affair. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

Bashing our way down the Boulder Mason trail at Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s Evolution Bike Park was a no fear affair. Photo by Dave Kozlowski

On the trail, though, this was the furthest thing from my mind. Instead I was continually impressed at how well these hoops tracked and stood up to punishment. There’s a notion that the stiffer a wheel is the better, but true aficionados know that even that adage has its limits. If a wheel is too stiff it will deflect off obstacles with more force, which can in turn knock you off line. The best wheels (carbon or otherwise) are malleable enough to absorb some energy in order to maintain tracking. Doubters need only look at the World Cup downhill circuit, where racers frequently tweak spoke tension based on course conditions. I never went that far, as the Reynolds Trail wheels hit the sweet spot between stiffness and compliance.

Bottom line, despite at least a half dozen nicks and scratches on the exterior, these wheels have proven utterly bombproof. Engagement is snappy, weight is low, spoke tension remains even, hubs spin free, and I love the tweener width, which produced great tire shape without taking things too far. These wheels may be marketed as aggressive XC to trail, but I’d argue you could bash your way through most enduros with reckless abandon — and less weight.

Of course with a $2500 price tag, none of this should come as a surprise. In fact it should be expected. Indeed, if you’re looking for that final touch of high end performance (and have the disposable income to boot) the Reynolds Trail 27.5 carbon wheels can make even an already great bike better.

Arguably the most impressive part of these wheels: the Industry Nine Torch rear hub made for Reynolds.

Arguably the most impressive part of these wheels: the Industry Nine Torch rear hub made for Reynolds.

And if you want to protect your investment you can plunk down a little extra cash for the Reynolds Assurance Program, which offers no questions asked insurance for your carbon wheels. One year enrollment is $149. There are also 2-year ($229) and 3-year ($299) options.

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About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

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  • Perfectbike says:

    That’s a long list of minuses not the mention the lying about the weight of the wheelset. How can a modern rim have finicky tubeless setup? Stick with a Roval carbon setup of your choice.

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