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The four hundred pound mark is a competitive price point for wheels: If you're looking to upgrade it's the kind of money that'll buy you something decent, and the Solitudes are certainly that. They're a well-built, good quality racing wheel that'll suit if you're aiming for racing or TTs. For more general riding, the all round appeal isn't quite as wide as some similarly priced offerings.
The Solitudes are hand built from quality parts. The nicely finished semi-deep alloy rim is laced with DT spokes to Reynolds' own slimline hubs, and the overall impression is very sleek. There's plenty of metal in the rim, and the weight at 1560g is about average for wheels at this price. The rim is noticeably narrower than many: the Solitude is designed as a race wheelset so the expectation is that they'd be sporting at biggest a 700x23c. Anything wider than that balloons a bit, so I wouldn't recommend them if you routinely run a bigger tyre for whatever reason.
The deep rim and narrow profile mark these wheels out as a semi-aero design, and this may have had some bearing on the decision to run internal nipples on the spokes, recessed inside the rim. This certainly makes the wheelset look nice and tidy but I'd need some persuading that it makes any aerodynamic difference, and to true the wheel you'll have to take off the tyre, tube and rim tape. Luckily so far this hasn't been necessary, they're still slide-rule straight after many miles of testing. Durability overall has been excellent, although one thing to note is that it's a good idea to make sure the cassette is on nice and tight, as it's possible to notch the Aluminium freehub body.
Out on the road the Solitudes roll well and they feel assured, especially on smooth tarmac. When the surface breaks up a bit the depth of the rim means they're quite stiff in the vertical plane, transferring more road shock than a shallow rim might. Laterally they're middle of the pack, with a 4mm deflection for a 15kg load at the rim: Not as stiff as a Fulcrum 3, stiffer than an RS80. Out on the road I got the odd bit of brake rub but generally there were no problems.
They're not the fastest wheels out of the blocks, possibly due again to the fact that a fair bit of the weight is in the rim. Once up to speed they crack along, but on hillier courses the small weight penalty (100g over an RS80) comes into play more. They're small differences, but the wheels are where you'll notice them most.
I'd been riding the Solitudes for a month or so on varied terrain and to be honest I was a bit underwhelmed, but then I found their true spiritual home: Castle Combe racing circuit. I completed a duathlon there, and out on the smooth, flat tarmac they fairly buzzed along, slicing through the wind and feeling every bit the race wheel they're designed to be. They excel in those conditions, so if you're looking to upgrade to roll a bit quicker in circuit races or fast TTs then they're well worth a look. Similarly, if you're keeping your old wheels for training and want some Sunday best hoops, they look and feel the part. If you want to sink £400 into some decent all-purpose wheels for all your riding, however, these wouldn't be my first choice.
Good budget race wheel for fast, smooth rides but there are better all-purpose hoops at this price.
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Make and model: Reynolds Solitude wheelset
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
they say: "The Reynolds Solitude proves you don’t have to settle for second class performance in a value-packed alloy wheelset. For 2009, the Solitude continues to deliver specs and performance that rival any aluminum wheel, at any price. It’s a strong, stiff, lightweight aluminum rim with a low spoke count, internal spoke nipples, and a shallow-V profile, so it excels across a variety of conditions. The Solitude is hand-built, and loaded with quality for the long haul. It climbs fast, pulls through on the flats, and sheds seconds in a time trial. If you’re looking for a value performer that’s way more than a training wheelset, pick up the Solitude."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Semi deep section alloy rim laced to Reynolds slimline alloy hubs with 20 radial DT Revolution spokes (front), 24 2X DT Revolution spokes (rear). Internal spoke nipples.
Nicely made, the wheels are hand built and the spoke tensions are nice and even. They remained true throughout testing
Great on smooth, flat TTs and circuit races, less well behaved on training rides. Better suited to the smooth stuff
No problems during testing, except that there was some notching on the cassette hub from a too-loose cassette
Not heavy, but not light at this price either
The Solitudes can be a bit unforgiving over more broken surfaces
Good wheels, well made and finished
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Well. They're designed as a racing wheelset and that's where they're most at home. However, many people will be wanting more all-round capability from a wheel at this price
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Feel smooth and fast on good surfaces
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
internal nipples are pretty user-unfriendly, still unsure about the merits of the narrow rim
Did you enjoy using the product? yes
Would you consider buying the product? I'd probably go for an all-rounder
Would you recommend the product to a friend? yes, depending on their requirements
Age: 36 Height: 190cm Weight: 98kg
I usually ride: Schwinn Moab, urbanised with 700cs My best bike is: Trek 1.5 with upgrades
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.