Gear · General · Wheels

Santa Cruz Reserve Carbon Wheels

Five years ago, a little Santa Cruz video on a bike web site debunked every skeptic’s fear about the long-term durability of carbon fiber bicycle frames. Now we are doing the same for wheels. Santa Cruz Reserve wheels are built on the highest quality carbon rims on the market. Our confidence in the design and strength of our wheels is backed up by a lifetime warranty, just like our frames.

Danny MacAskill Testing the Reserve Wheels in Glasgow

Strongest Wheels on the Market

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.

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.

Reserve wheels impact testReserve wheels spoke pull

2017 v10 29er

2017 v10 29er
2017 v10 29er
2017 v10 29er

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.

Reserve wheels nipple detailReserve wheels cross-section detail

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.

Lifetime Warranty

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.

Built in Santa Cruz Using Sensible Parts

We never want to miss a ride, and when you travel to remote places, it’s impossible to bring a backup for everything, or all the special tools for all the different parts. We’ve always taken great pains to use readily-available, standard parts on our bikes, and our rims are no different. J-bend spokes, mechanical-lock nipples (that you can access without taking the tire and rim strip off), and hubs from DT Swiss and Industry Nine make building good wheels easier for us, and maintaining the wheels or finding spares a lot easier for you.

Manufactured for Wheelbuilders

We spent a lot of time making sure the rims were strong enough, light enough, and durable enough, but we also spent a lot of time making sure that our master wheelbuilders here in Santa Cruz would approve while turning rims into high-quality wheels. The spoke holes are asymmetric, which isn’t an innovation on its own, but it does make for a very strong wheel build because the spoke tension is equal on both the drive and non-drive sides, front and rear. We also drilled the holes at a bit of an angle to allow the nipple to sit straight against the rim, which prevents uneven force from being applied to the carbon, and makes lacing easier. Our favorite feature? External, easily-accessible nipples so you don’t have to break the bead or get sealant on your shorts just to make a small adjustment.

Reserve Wheel BuildingReserve Wheel Building

Standard, High Quality Components

We try to avoid proprietary designs in our bikes, so we were never going to use some double-threaded, straight pull spoke in our wheels. All of the wheels we spec on our bikes are built using standard J-bend spokes (DT Competition Race), mechanically-locking nipples (Sapim Secure Lock), and either the venerable DT Swiss 350 or the much-loved Industry Nine Torch hub. If you break a spoke anywhere in the world, you’ll probably be able to replace it with parts available at the local bike shop.

High Quality Components

Now Available Aftermarket from Santa Cruz Retailers

You can now order Reserve wheels for any bike in your garage. With options spanning two wheel sizes, three rim widths, and two hub choices, a set of Reserves will match any modern mountain bike perfectly.


High Quality Components High Quality Components
27.5 Inch Rims Reserve 27 Reserve 30
Wheel Size 27.5 inches 27.5 inches
Internal Width 27mm 30mm
External Width 33.5mm 37.4mm
ERD 557mm 551mm
Asym Offset 4mm 5mm
Spoke Count 28 28
Single Rim Weight 435g 470g
Complete Set Weights(Complete set weight includes rim tape and valves)
With DT350 Boost Hubs 1677g 1751g
With I9 Boost Hubs 1657g 1731g
Recc. Tire Width 2.0 – 2.5in 2.3 – 2.6in


High Quality Components High Quality Components High Quality Components
29 Inch Rims Reserve 25 Reserve 27 Reserve 30
Wheel Size 29 inches 29 inches 29 inches
Internal Width 25mm 27mm 30mm
External Width 30.6mm 34.0mm 36.4mm
ERD 594mm 590mm 590mm
Asym Offset 3mm 4mm 4mm
Spoke Count 28 28 28
Single Rim Weight 390g 455g 490g
Complete Set Weights (Complete set weight includes rim tape and valves)
With DT350 Boost Hubs 1607g 1755g 1831g
With I9 Boost Hubs 1587g 1735g 1811g
Recc. Tire Width 40mm – 2.4in 2.0 – 2.5in 2.3 – 2.6in

Want to know more? Contact us using the below form or visit us in our Store


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