First Ride Report: Reserve 30 AL Alloy Wheels



Words by Alex Sardella

When we first got word Santa Cruz Reserve (now just Reserve) was making the jump into the aluminum mountain bike wheel market, we were frothing like a latte from your favorite coffee shop. The Reserve program has always been a favorite for us at The Loam Wolf, but they’re undoubtedly being tailored to those with bigger wallets or those looking for a premium set of hoops for their bikes thus far.  Well, we come bringing great news today: Reserve now makes a quality, price point alloy rim, with the same life-time warranty package as their infamous carbon cousins.


The all-new 30 SL + HD AL Rims from Reserve are designed from light trail to heavy enduro riding. The naming structure remains similar to the carbon cousins, SL for trail, HD for enduro. With the release of their new product, Reserve kept the details rather simple: they come in either 27.5” or 29” rims; with only one build option for now. The rims are laced with the tried-and-true Sapim spokes and nipples to the oh-so-reliable DT Swiss 350 Hubs, and are coming stock with the much loved Fillmore Tubeless Valve.

First Ride Report: Reserve 30 AL Alloy Wheels

Looking into the details of the rims, the 30|SL rim have a spoke a count of 28, while its beefier brother – the 30|HD – has a common 32 spoke count. The inner width and alloy used on all styles is the same: an inner width of 30mm; and 6069 aluminum for the metallurgists out there wondering. The rims feature a similar asymmetrical design helping equalize the spoke tensions on the drive and non-drive sides. The weight is what impresses me.  The Wheelset Weight of the 29” 30|SL AL is 1840g, and 30|HD AL is 1920g. We can compare that to the 30|HD Carbon, at 1,829g with a top of line I9 Hydra Hub – 100g doesn’t sound like a huge difference with such a large price difference, but the proof will be in the riding of course. Speaking of I9, a wheelset I have come to enjoy is the I9 Hydra Enduro S Alloy wheelset which hits the scales at 1900g – so the Reserve wheels are very much in line with the competition.

Two massive talking points when it comes to the new Aluminum Reserve Wheelset – the price and lifetime warranty. The price comes at $699 for the package, which sounds like a sure-fire great deal. Making the deal even sweeter – they are backed by the infamous Reserve Lifetime Warranty, taking the proposed value of this premium aluminum wheelset to another level. The warranty is only served for the original owner. There is a 50% off retail cost for a crash replacement rim or any parts of the wheelset.

Santa Cruz, parent brand of Reserve, really prides themselves on their in-house wheel program. Every Reserve wheel is built from start to finish in house by the production team in California. A mix of humans and machines lace, build, and inspect the Reserve wheels, and boast an impressive start to finish build time of around 8-10 minutes per wheelset. You could check out the full process here, on our Behind the Brand tour of Santa Cruz from last year!


Reserve sent us the 30|HD 29” wheels for testing. Out of the box it was clear to see the care and quality of the Reserve wheels. From the cloth bags the wheels come in, the iconic red tag, or the QR code to have them registered under the lifetime warranty, there was a lot to get excited about. I noticed that the red tag now says Reserve, no longer Santa Cruz – maybe a move to push these onto more bikes without Santa Cruz on the down tube. They were mounted onto my Transition Sentinel with roughly 15k of vert during my testing period, on mainly enduro style trails. The wheels were easy to mount, and I didn’t run into any problems with the bead. Looking to get the full experience, no tire inserts or foam were installed either.

Once I laid rubber to dirt, it was instantly noticeable that the price point Reserve alloy wheels have a premium feel beyond their cost. The 30|HD has a spot on, natural, and compliant on-trail feel. I have ridden some alloy wheels that feel dull and damp and carbon rims that feel too stiff and harsh. The 30|HD falls somewhere in between, with the right amount of response and snap. I keep coming back to the word natural, the wheelset feels in-sync with the suspension and rubber creating a comfortable connectivity with the trail. Little lag is felt pushing in and out of corners or smashing between rocks. Compliance is key here and the aluminum wheels have proven to hold their line through the chunkiest of trails. So far, they’ve held up dent-free and continue to spin true, but the proof will be in the long term test.

Coming off a pair of carbon wheels, the added 30-40 grams of weight is hardly noticeable for me. The dependable DT Swiss 350 Hub combined with the Sapim spokes are comfortable and confident both pedaling and charging. The 350 Hub may not be the most premium option out there, but to keep these at an affordable price point, they are reliable and have been proven over the years.

The Wolf’s First Impression

Reserve launching into the Aluminum Wheelset category is going to be a big move.  The build and ride quality of the 30|HD holds true to the Reserve name, and to be backed by the Lifetime Warranty make these a top contender for anyone.  I will continue to stack vert on the Reserve Wheels and hopefully put them through a true durability test over the next 6 months, stay tuned to see how they stand up over the long haul. 

Price: $699
Sizes: 27.5 | 29


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