Reserve 30SL wheels: Tested

By Justin Walker 4 July 2024
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Carbon mountain bike wheels are often considered a luxury, not an essential. The Reserve 30SL wheels aim to prove they are, in fact, absolutely necessary for keen mountain bikers looking to optimise their ride.

When the first set of Reserve carbon mountain bike (MTB) wheels hit the market in 2017, they caused a more-than slight kerfuffle. Not because the wheels were overly expensive (although they weren’t that cheap, either) but mainly due to the brash newcomer offering a lifetime warranty on its hoops. This was, in 2017, not that common with bike wheels; mountain bikers are not kind to their wheelsets, generally, so for a ‘new’ brand to launch with the confidence in its product that Reserve exuded, it ensured the wheels stood out from day one and swiftly established itself in an already crowded market. Since then, Reserve’s reputation as a builder of robust wheelsets has grown, and the company has added more models to its range – in both carbon and aluminium – for all cycling disciplines. From road and gravel through to XC, Trail, Enduro and downhill MTB, there’s a Reserve wheelset for every bike, including the latest variants fitted as standard to Aus Geo ADVENTURE’s long-term Santa Cruz Tallboy:  a set of Reserve 30SL wheels. 


The Reserve 30SL wheelset (available in 29-inch size only) should not be viewed as simply a ‘lighter version’ of the Reserve 30HD (skewed more toward aggressive riders/enduro bikes).

The 30SL wheelset is of asymmetrical design and features a wider and lower rim profile (with 3mm less cross-sectional depth compared to the 30HD), with the aim of adding strength and lateral rigidity to the wheels (further enhanced by the unique ‘over-built’ reinforced spoke holes – a clever way of countering the force that part of the wheel cops when riding). The new rim profile is claimed to improve vertical compliance for comfort and increase traction levels. That new rim shape is also designed to make fitment of tyres easier, with a tighter bead/rim connection. 

The wider and lower profile is designed to combine lateral rigidity and strength with vertical compliance.

The 29-inch wheelset on test here features 28 spokes front and rear and is fitted with an Industry Nine Hydra hub (XD, six-bolt only). You can option the Reserve 30SL with a DT350 hub as well, for both XD (six-bolt) and Shimano Microspline (six-bolt). The Hydra hub option for Shimano Microspline is CentreLock-only.

The 30SL wheels also feature the nifty Reserve Fillmore valves. These nifty items claim three times the air input compared to the standard Presta valve, are designed to eliminated sealant clogging, and include a cool micro-adjust feature: a light push down on the top of the valve allows small amounts of air to escape to set optimum tyre pressure. 

The Industry Nine Hydra hub performs as expected, with excellent engagement and that ubiquitous ‘buzz’ out on the trails.

Overall weight for this Hydra hub-equipped wheelset is just 1750 grams (including valves and rim tape). More impressive, though, is the fact there is no rider weight limit (this tester rejoices!) and the wheelset comes with a lifetime warranty.

In the field

As a (very) long-time mountain biker, I can still remember the first carbon MTB wheelsets, and more specifically, how stiff they were. Today’s carbon hoops are far removed from those earlier incarnations and the Reserve 30SL wheelset is an excellent example of how much more testing and thought has gone into its design. 

The 30SL wheels have been tested on a variety of trail surfaces over the past couple of months.

The trails ridden during testing have been primarily around the Sydney MTB haven of the Northern Beaches; sandstone-laden, rocky and rooty, and often with loose dirt/sand over the harder under-surface. In other words, near-ideal test ground for MTB wheels. The much-mentioned designers’ attention to vertical compliance has paid off big-time with the Reserve 30SL: the wheels provide great damping over rougher, vibration-inducing surfaces, and offer good stability and traction. Bigger hits have been absorbed well, too, with no notable deflection when hitting obstacles at an unfavourable angle. With all this talk of damping, it’s worth noting that there is not too much; the rider’s ‘feel’ of the wheels is retained, and it’s easy to keep the wheels (and bike) pointed in the right direction.

The Fillmore valves have proved reliable and quick in use, and the prominent reinforced spoke points are a nod to the Reserve designers’ goal of building a tough MTB wheel.

One big mis-jump brought an awfully loud thump from the rear end, but close inspection saw no discernible damage (except to this rider’s ego). The spokes have stayed in alignment to date, the Fillmore valves have become more appreciated than expected, and that Industry Nine Hydra hub just keeps spinning fast and free (but yeah, with that not-so-quiet buzz!). The only thing we haven’t tested yet is tyre fitment, but that will be reported in our final review of the Tallboy. In short, the Reserve 30SL wheelset has simply done its job, but it has done it notably well, to the point where this former alloy-wheel-only believer has seen how a well-designed and engineered carbon wheelset can improve your ride quality and efficiency. 

The final word on the Reserve 30SL wheels

Upgrading your MTB’s wheelset is probably one of the biggest (and most beneficial, in terms of bang for bucks) things you can do for an improved ride on the trails, but it ain’t cheap. The Reserve 30SL wheelset shows exactly why this is the case; a well-damped ride that does not sacrifice accurate and fast directional input, an impressively light weight, and what seems like bombproof construction, are all positives of the Reserve 30SL wheelset. For those downcountry XC/trail riders, who sometimes tackle trails more in the enduro spectrum, the 30SL is more than up for it. 

Subtle red graphics offset the stealthy full-black colour way.

Yes, they will put a sizeable hole in your wallet (although they sit mid-range in price compared to other equivalent carbon hoops on the market, and we reckon the DT350-equipped 30SL looks a great buy), but with all of those aforementioned positives – and that lifetime warranty – we’d have to say that, for riders looking to get more out of their bike on the trails most of us ride, the Reserve 30SL carbon wheelset is an investment worth contemplating.

RRP: $3399 (Industry Nine Hydra 110 hub six-bolt XD, as tested; Shimano Microspline CentreLock);
$2299 (DT350 110 hub six-bolt XD; six-bolt Microspline)

See Reserve Wheels for more info on its full model range. Reserve wheels are sold at Cervelo and Santa Cruz dealers across Australia.