Reynolds hoops have become an increasingly popular choice for those in the market for a carbon fibre wheelset,the US firm’s range covering a spectrum of prices. The Forty Six clinchers we’ve been testing for a while sit roughly in the middle of the price band, priced as they are at a whisker under £2000.
The Forty Sixes are flanked in the range by the Thirty Two and Sixty Six, so there’s a rim depth to suit all tastes. The Forty Six is a good middle ground, and is the closest of the three to the near-standard 50mm rims that many cyclists want on their bikes. They’re also a good compromise between the aero benefits of deeper rims and the lighter weight of the shallower rims, finding suitability in road races, time trials and even non-competitive riding.
To put the wheels to test, I packed them in with the NeilPryde Diablo and headed to Majorca for the Wheels in Wheels training camp. The eight days of riding would surely offer a serious test for the wheels, and their performance as well as their durability would be put under serious scrutiny.
The 46mm rim is constructed from high modulus carbon fibre with a narrow and straight-sided profile, and boasts several smart features that helps it stand out from the increasing choice in the carbon wheel market. Firstly there’s a Swirl Lip Generator, a small lip on the trailing edge of the rim [acting like a Gurney flap – ed.] to encourage airflow to fill the low-pressure area behind the rim section rather than break away into turbulent flow, with a resulting reduction in air drag.
Linking rims to hubs are Reynolds DT Swiss hubs with DT Aerolite bladed spokes, 20/24 front/rear with tangent spokes on the drive side and radial lacing elsewhere and nipples hidden inside the rims. Inside the delivery box are Cryo Blue brake blocks and the latest Reynolds quick release skewers. Both Shimano/SRAM and Campagnolo freehubs are available. Weight for the carbon clinchers tested is 1474g.
Then there’s the heat-resistant braking surface comprising a heat-conducting resin plus protective weave coating on the rim, a technology reynolds call CTg (cryo + glass transition point). Braking performance is one area where I’ve always disliked carbon rims; they never really perform anywhere near as consistently as good old aluminium wheels. But this new braking track gives the Forty Sixes (and other Reynolds carbon rims) a very similar level of power and feel to standard aluminium rims, so swapping between wheels doesn’t require much of a brain retune.
So much that their performance impressed me greatly on the many long fast descents of Majorca, all longer than any UK descent. The surface offers strong braking from the first moment the pads contact the rim right through to dragging the brakes (not something you should do with carbon because of the risks of heat build-up) but even when doing this, braking still remained powerful, with little noticeable degradation in performance.
Heat build-up can be an issue with carbon rims (highlighted by RH’s problems with his wheel choice ) but the Reynolds proved faultless. They maintained a near 100% record, until the last day when the rear inner tube (finally) popped, that is. This heat build-up is a seemingly-inescapable problem with carbon rims but the Reynolds, with their special braking surface treatment, coped much better than most other carbon rims out there, and in particular handled the long descent to Soller fine.
How did they ride then? They performed superbly, is the short answer. I came away from my time with the wheels impressed; in fact, I didn’t want to give them back. Their stiffness and light weight results in incredible acceleration, with a very quick turn of speed from out of the saddle climbing. Whether climbing some of the big hills on the small island or sprinting for the town name sign that indicated the end of the day’s ride, they impressed on all fronts.
Out of the saddle sprinting really reveals their stiffness; the bike leaps from left to right with shocking immediacy, and making changes of direction reveals no hesitation from them. They’re a wheelset that is well suited to the attacking style of rider, as they encourage you to do that at every opportunity. They’ll tire you out quickly, though, if you indulge them!
As for their aero benefits, here, without a wind tunnel to hand, it’s difficult to really assess their performance, but based on perceived effort level at various speeds on the Forty Sixes compared to a pair of Ksyriums, they felt faster, with less effort required to maintain speed. It’s more noticeable at the higher speeds, approaching 40-50kph, where they really propel along with startling velocity.
In crosswinds they’re not so good however, and seemed to cope less well than other deep-section carbon wheels being tested by others in Majorca. While I struggled to begin with during the first five-hour ride with lots of crosswinds (leading to a tired set of arms from the bars constantly ‘tugging’ left and right) I soon became accustomed to it. This is a common problem with deep-sections; it’s generally unavoidable, so it would be unfair to criticise the Forty Sixes too much for their poor handling of cross winds.
They’re a tough set of wheels, as I found out when I hit some rough roads and the odd pothole on the Majorcan roads, and back in the UK they handled the scarred roads of Surrey and Kent ably. Their durability is such that I wouldn’t hesitate to use them every day, rather than saving them for Sunday best (which is great because if you’re going to spend serious money on wheels like these you want to use them as much as possible don’t you?)
That stiffness I mentioned early does have a downside however, and that’s in quite a loss of ride comfort. The stiffness of the bike used to test the wheels contributed a small degree, but when I put some regular wheels back into the Diablo ride comfort was restored to satisfactory levels. You’ll find yourself searching out smoother Tarmac aboard these wheels to save your butt.
They’re not cheap wheels, and might at a glance appear to offer little by way of an edge over the more affordable Assaults. The addition of the bladed spokes and the 100g saving will be enough to convince some. However, I would rather take the cheaper Assaults and keep the extra grand in my bank account.
Reynolds Forty Six clincher wheelset £1,999.99