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Santa Cruz Reserve Wheels31st MAY 2017

Strongest Wheels on the Market

But how strong? let's cut to the chase, we gave Danny Mcaskill a set and let him loose to see what our rims can withstand ...

Whether it's a sunset lap with friends or a race run against the clock, a broken wheel ruins any ride. We set strength and impact resistance as our highest priority, but strength doesn't have to mean uncomfortably stiff. Our wheels are compliant enough to avoid that harsh "wooden" ride that gives some carbon rims a bad name offroad. We only make offroad bikes at Santa Cruz, so we have the privilege of being able to focus purely on the mountain bike experience. Everything from the thickness of rim beads to external spoke hole reinforcements comes purely from our experience of knowing what riders need at every level—from international racing to your local trails.

  • A new line of premium carbon mountain bike rims and wheels from Santa Cruz designed to be the strongest, most reliable on the market.
  • Designed, tested and prototyped in Santa Cruz, California using our new our in-house carbon lab and well-established carbon fiber expertise. Made in our exclusive factory.
  • Backed by the best product support program in the industry—the Santa Cruz Lifetime Warranty, just like our frames.

Material Where You Need It

This information in hand, we set about determining how we might design a rim to mitigate those failures, and part of the result is the square-shaped reinforcements you can see around the spoke holes. We made plates of different carbon spoke hole designs in our carbon lab in Santa Cruz, developed a test that mimics the sudden increase in pulling force associated with an impact, and spent a few months breaking bits of carbon, spokes, and nipples until we got to the point that we were breaking all spokes and nipples and no carbon.

We're far from the first company to reinforce high-stress areas with more material, but they're visible to ensure that the spoke hole drilling matches the reinforcement. Super-precise placement of these reinforcements allows us to use only the amount of material necessary to achieve the strength required, rather than reinforcing the entire rim. We then invest that extra material into the other common failure point of a rim—the bead.

The rim beads on the Reserve wheels are thick, relative to other rims on the market. As much as a millimeter thicker on either side, in some cases. The material we saved by optimizing the placement of the spoke hole reinforcements went directly into the bead, making it extremely strong without adding weight to the overall construction. The beads are hookless: this makes for a better fit with modern tires, but also simplifies manufacturing, which results in more consistent carbon compaction—the technical way to say stronger rim.


Making strong wheels is actually pretty simple if you don't mind them being weighty. Thing is... we mind.

Reinforcement bosses at each spoke hole add strength to keep spoke nipples from pulling through.
Reserve rim beads are up to 30 percent thicker than the industry average.


  • Putting carbon reinforcements around the spoke holes enabled us to add strength where needed while saving overall weight.
  • Because we put the reinforcements on the outside of the rim, we're insured of correct, centered drilling which can be an issue on internally reinforced rims.
  • We took that weight savings and reinvested it in the rim bead where rocks strikes are more likely.
A Santa Cruz Reserve rim (left) has no voids and a smooth, wrinkle-free inner surface, unlike most competitors (right).


  • We use a special wax bladder molding technique to ensure excellent compaction and no voids, or air bubbles
  • This creates rims with low manufacturing variability and more consistent construction, making them more reliable.

Mountain Bike-Specific Design and Testing

One thing we knew for certain going into this project three years ago was that the industry standard impact test for carbon wheels wasn't going to cut it. That test, approved by the UCI, impacts both sides of a rim equally with a flat rubber pad without a tire mounted on the wheel. It's designed to replicate a pothole-type impact on the road.

On a mountain bike, a rock is much more likely to only hit one side of the rim, so the rim beads have to be independently strong. We created a test in our lab that simulates one side of the rim landing directly on a square-edged rock from over 3 feet in the air with no suspension, and a lightweight tire inflated to 25psi.

As we began to put some of the other rims on the market through this test, we broke a lot of them more or less like we expected to—on the bead—but we also found that a critical failure mode was the spoke nipples pulling through the rim due to the sudden increase in spoke tension as the wheel flexed on impact.

  • Testing reveals our rims to be significantly stronger than competitors.


Like many of the tests and standards required today, rim and wheel benchmarks were ported over from road biking. We pass those easily, but don't think they're adequate for mountain biking, which is why we came up with our own.

Our battery of lab tests simulate realworld mountain bike impacts.
Our battery of lab tests simulate realworld mountain bike impacts.


  • Because a majority of mountain bike rim failures occur from impacting rocks on a single side of the rim, we created a lab test that simulates this.
  • We also conduct a spoke pull test to insure our reinforcements are doing the trick—they're so strong, the spoke fails before the rim does.
Josh Lewis, Team Santa Cruz x SRAM, 50:01 Crew
Danny filmed the entirety of Wee Day Out on a single pair of Reserve wheels

Then We Took Them for A Wee Day Out

As you saw with the recent hullabaloo surrounding 29er wheels on DH bikes we're big believers in putting prototypes under our athletes and asking them to push it as hard as they can.When it came to wheels, we couldn't think of anyone who would be harder on a prototype than Danny MacAskill. He started riding a pair of Reserve 30s (spec'd on the new Nomad) just before the filming of A Wee Day Out in the summer of 2016, and has yet to break one.

The Santa Cruz-SRAM Enduro Team have been racing on the Reserve 27 wheels since the first of the year, and our Factory racing team and various employees have been riding and racing all the models since June of 2016.


  • In the real world, our pro enduro team has a reputation for destruction, so they've been testing stealth Reserves since the start of the year.
  • The 50:01 Crew have also put the rims to the test by doing things that probably shouldn't be done on a bike.
  • We also employed a superhuman to administer extreme impacts to the new product—and you've actually already seen footage of that testing!


A carbon rim's profile and the wheel's build spec determine how the wheels ride. We built Reserve prototypes in dozens of combinations to come up with a configuration that we think strikes the perfect balance of strength an stiffness.


  • Our width-to-height ration of 1.5:1 strikes the optimal balance between ride quality and strength
  • Rims that are a taller ratio tend to ride harshly and transmit trail shock
  • Rims that are wide but shallow make for a flexy feel
  • We also made specific profile and dimensional decisions based on intended use, which we'll see later


  • Asymmetrical rims build up into stronger, more reliable wheels by improving the bracing angles and equalizing spoke tension side-to-side
  • Our carbon layup is optimized to resist torsional forces
  • All wheels are hand built with 28 spokes, 3-cross for strength and comfort



  • Three rim widths layed-up proportionate to their intended use
  • Available as an upgrade on 2018 Santa Cruz and Juliana CC bikes
  • Available as complete wheels aftermarket


  • Two rim widths layed-up proportionate to their intended use
  • Available as an upgrade on 2018 Santa Cruz and Juliana CC bikes
  • Available as complete wheels aftermarket
Available as an upgrade on
Santa Cruz CC &
Juliana CC Models
+ £1,200

Available as an aftermarket wheelset
DT Hubs: £1,599
i9 Hubs: £1,899
Chris King Hubs: £2,199


Lifetime. No gimmicks. Not limited. If you do actually manage to break our rim while out riding, we'll replace it for free. And probably high five you in the process! If it gets run over by a truck we'll help you out with a low cost accidental 'crash replacement', because life's too short to argue. We know riding time's too precious to keep you waiting, so we'll do our best to sort you out fast.


  • Rock-solid lifetime warranty—just like on our frames and bearings
  • 48-hour turnaround
  • Dedicated wheel service staff
Hand Built In California.
Tested Worldwide.

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