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Holy moly, Reynolds’ new super-light RZR wheels – they’re claiming the world’s lightest – are fast! Really fast. Like, so fast it’s mental! And for the kind of money that would get you a pro-level complete bike, so they should be we'd have to say.
Okay, so assuming you can afford them – which, we’ll admit, is quite a big assumption – what do you get for your cash here? First, what you don’t get is much heft. Complete with POP quick-release skewers and Continental Competition 22mm tubulars fitted up and ready to rock, ours hit the road.cc scales at 664g (fr) and 830g (r). To save you doing the mental arithmetic, that’s a total hit-the-road package of 1494g.
Reynolds are claiming an actual wheel weight of 875g. Ours came with the tubs already fitted so we can’t say for sure, but we know that the tubs weigh about 560g the pair and the skewers 32g. Add in the weight of the tub cement and we reckon Reynolds are about right. It’s an incredible weight – they feel ridiculously light.
As for technology, the RZRs – which were developed by Reynolds Composites studio, a division devoted to carbon fibre innovation – are dripping with it. They’re made using ultra high modulus, ultra light carbon fibre with boron positioned within the layup. For once we’ll start with the spokes because they’re key to the whole thing…
The spokes are airfoil profile all-carbon affairs with hammer-headed nipples that are bonded in place at both ends. There’s no thread anywhere, so there’s no need for any round sections that would increase the drag.
Reynolds are keen to point out that the spokes are attached with no tension, and that they can deflect up to 5mm without any trouble – a long, long way short of the point at which they’d fail (just 4% into the range, they reckon). Although they don’t say it, we get the impression that Reynolds are keen to distance their design from the (very limited) number of failures seen on other carbon-spoked wheels.
The 46mm-deep rims are shaped so that the widest point is around 33% back from the leading edge when the tyre is fitted – which, Reynolds say, provides the best aerodynamic performance. The trailing edge – the inner edge of the rim – incorporates what they call their Swirl Lip Generator that is designed to help the air that’s separated by the wheel ‘reattach’, reducing the pressure drag.
The shape is also intended to minimise the side forces acting on the wheel in a crosswind, so you don’t have to use so much effort to hold your direction. And the fact that the rims are only 46mm deep clearly helps there too. The braking surface is carbon although there’s a ‘ceramic scrim’ in there – a latticework texture to improve the braking performance and help dissipate heat.
Finally, the hubs: you get carbon shell bodies with tall flanges, each accommodating eight spokes, and an extra ‘torque flange’ at the rear. Uniquely, this is an extra flange that lines up with the centre of the rim – so it’s closer to the driveside spokes than the non-driveside ones – housing four more spokes. The idea is to stop the rim deflecting under torque – in other words, it holds the rim in alignment when you put the power in. The spoke nipples are bonded inside little sockets in the flanges so they can be replaced relatively easily, although they’ll have to go back to Reynolds for the work to be done – it’s not the sort of job you can do in your garage.
The bearings are ultra-smooth and lovely. Apparently, there are two sets of steel bearings and three ceramic bearings in there but you’re not allowed to disassemble them yourself – they have to go to an authorised Reynolds dealer, which is a bit of a bind to say the least. But them’s the rules as set down in the owner’s manual, and who are we to argue? And while we’re on about rules, the maximum rider weight for these wheels is 180lb (12st 12lb).
Okay, so that’s the theory; how do the RZRs ride? In a word: brilliantly. We could go gushing on about these wheels for weeks. They pick up speed so fast that it feels like you’re cheating. We stuck them on a sub-£1000 everyday bike (largely for the sake of irony, they increased the bike’s value by 600%) and they transformed the ride; we put them on an expensive lightweight race bike and it accelerated like a rocket. Are you getting this clearly enough? They are stunning.
And if acceleration on the flat is amazing, wait until you hit the climbs. You float. A saving of a few hundred grams over a more standard setup might not sound like much when you take the total weight of you and the bike into account, but the fact that it’s rotational weight that you’re saving means it makes a massive difference.
Things are equally good on the flat too. It’s like having your own portable tailwind with you all the time, and that’s no exaggeration. Topping up your speed is constantly just that little bit easier, and over the course of a ride, that translates into a whole lot of saved energy. And with a 46mm rim depth, you can use them in fairly blustery conditions without getting thrown off course every time you get hit by a crosswind.
Surely, though, wheels as light as there are going to bend in a stiff breeze never mind when you get out of the saddle and crank up the power. Well, no actually. We couldn’t get them to bend enough to rub the brake blocks even when we were leaning the bike over hard into the turns.
Downsides? Well, the stuck-on graphics are just waiting to peel and, more important, the freehub body started to mark pretty quickly – within a couple of hundred miles, which isn’t the best news. And then, of course, there’s the colossal price tag. On the plus side, you do get wheel bags with them, so you save yourself a few quid there!
But, even with those drawbacks, we’ve fallen for these wheels big time. If the truth be told, we’ve gone a bit giggly about them. They’re spectacular.
Although currently only available as a tubular wheelset, the RZR will also come in a clincher version – but we've no details on a timescale for that yet.
The lightest, fastest wheels we've ever used; a stunning performance, although the price makes them an option for few. Very few
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Make and model: Reynolds RZR 46T
Size tested: Tubular
Did you enjoy using the product? Oh yes
Would you consider buying the product? As soon as I've won the Lottery
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they could afford them
Age: 36 Height: 189cm Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.