Tuesday, June 25, 2024
HomeCyclingReserve 40|44 Road Wheels: Comfortable, High-Performance All-’Rounders

Reserve 40|44 Road Wheels: Comfortable, High-Performance All-’Rounders

Earlier this week, Reserve rolled out their all-new 40|44 GR gravel wheels, adding to the brand’s growing selection of options for all types of riding. While that news is deserving of the spotlight, it just so happens that I’ve been putting a set of Reserve’s slightly narrower but similarly named 40|44 Road Wheels through their paces for the past several months.

Reserve began in 2014 as the wheel division of Santa Cruz Bicycles, and initially focused on developing rims for off-road riding and MTB. Leveraging the carbon fiber design resources of Santa Cruz enabled Reserve to quickly carve out a small but firm foothold in the wheel market. Reserve was also one of the first to offer a lifetime warranty on carbon rims, as remains the case today. This warranty program served to not only add confidence in carbon rims and make them a better value, but it forced many other manufacturers to back their carbon rims in the same way.

More recently, Reserve began supplying wheels to Team Visma-Lease a Bike (formerly Jumbo-Visma), which has been dominant in both the women’s and men’s professional pelotons, including a sweep of the general classifications jerseys in all three men’s professional grand tours in 2023, including the Tour de France. This relationship has led to the development of a full line of road rims and wheels that offer excellent ride quality, rolling efficiency, and aero performance, all at competitive pricing. 

Glamous shot of the Reserve 40|44 road wheels leaning against each other with tires mounted.
Reserve’s 40|44 road wheels have stealthy looks, minimal branding, quality DT 350 hubs, and come with a lifetime warranty. (photo/Ben Guernsey)

The workhorse of the range is the 40|44, which Reserve promises will deliver “all-day capability with aerodynamic sensibilities”. Although they are a race-ready wheel in many respects, the 40|44 are the wheels on which Visma-Lease a Bike’s professional riders do most of their training, making them the most relevant selection for most riders

Specs and Build

As the name denotes, the 40|44 are a mixed-depth wheelset, using a front rim that is 40mm deep, paired with a 44mm rear counterpart. The mixed depths reflect the reality that front and rear rims are subject to different demands. Up front, sometimes turbulent air is buffeting a lighter wheel that is bearing less of the rider’s weight and is free to rotate along with the fork. The shallower 40mm rim allows better stability by presenting less surface area. The taller 44mm rear rim makes for a slightly stiffer wheel build, for more responsive acceleration. Bearing more of the rider’s weight, shielded from the wind by the rider’s lower body and locked into the rear triangle of the bike, the rear wheel is much less of a liability in blustery conditions, so there’s no downside to the increased depth. 

Not only are the depths optimized for the disparate demands placed on each wheel, but the widths are also differentiated, with the front measuring 25.5mm internally and 33mm externally, and the rear 25 and 31mm, respectively. These width figures mean that the 40|44 are designed to work with tires no smaller than 28mm, and as large as 40mm, so they can be used not only for pure road riding but all-road and gravel as well. 

The DT Swiss 350 hub on the Reserve 40|44 road bike wheels
The DT Swiss 350 hubs are reliable and easy to service with 10° engagement. You also have the option to upgrade to DT 240 or DT 180 if you choose. (photo/Bennett Shane)

Our test set was built with DT Swiss 350 Straightpull hubs, weighed in at 1534g, and retails for $1799 US. Customers can upgrade to DT 240 build at 1445g and $2199, or DT 180 build at 1385g and $2499. The 24-hole rims can also be purchased for your custom wheel build for $650/ea (395g-front, 430g-rear, claimed). 

The DT Swiss 350 packs a huge amount of performance, reliability, and serviceability into the 40|44. The 350 hubs have a centerlock brake rotor interface, 36-tooth star ratchet for 10° engagement, and you have the option to purchase them with either Shimano HG-EV or SRAM XDR freehubs which should cover most riders’ drivetrain compatibility needs. The 240 and 180 hubs shave weight and might save a watt or two here and there, but if you’re an enthusiast who is paying for your wheels, hubs simply need to deliver smooth-rolling reliability and good cassette engagement, both of which the 350 has covered. Unless you’re really counting grams, the money saved on hubs is perhaps better spent on a few nice sets of tires, or a cycling holiday.

Reserve’s highly-touted Fillmore valves are included, and the wheels are delivered with tubeless tape installed. We appreciate pre-taped wheels, especially when the tape job is clean and sticking well, which isn’t always the case. The Fillmore valve is an award-winning and patented design that delivers high airflow for easier tubeless setup and eliminates the traditional, delicate, clog-prone valve core. These valves retail for $50, and after setting up the 40|44 and riding them for over a thousand miles, I certainly wish they were installed on all of my tubeless wheels. 

The Reserve 40|44 road wheels mounted with the Schwlabe Pro One TLE 30c tires

Reserve 40|44 Road Wheels Review

I’ve ridden a lot of different wheels over the years and especially in the past few months, but this was my first time riding any of Reserve’s wheels. My expectations were high given their price and the fact that they’re being used by world tour winning riders, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I set the 40|44 up with Schwalbe Pro One 30c tires, and the profile of the front tire was confidence-inspiring, a perfect dome that transitioned smoothly into the rim at the edges. Inflated to 65 PSI, the front tire measured at 30.5mm and the rear 29.7mm. 

Aesthetically, the 40|44 puts off a subdued, classy confidence. The matte paint applied to the rims is a dark gray tone, and along with the minimal branding, creates an industrial look that showcases the rim’s elegant profile instead of the brand’s graphic design prowess. 

Riding with the Reserve 40|44 road bike wheels
Blending impressive comfort, mid-depth aero rims, and a respectable weight, the Reserve 40|44 are an excellent all-around for any rider. (photo/Ben Guernsey)

On the road, the Reserve 40|44 immediately presented me with a buttery smooth ride quality that felt like a small amount of suspension built into the bike. They didn’t feel twitchy and hyper-reactive like many other mid-depth carbon wheels can. Instead, they have an assured, calm but inspiring ride that converts steady, deliberate power into a rhythmic, efficient momentum. The 40 and 44mm dim depths also hit that sweet spot between a slight aero advantage and rider comfort. These indeed feel like wheels for riding all day, on any road you want. 

Climbing performance with 30c tires was solid, if not revelatory. The 40|44 are efficient by way of smoothness and strength, more than outright explosiveness. In other words, pure climbers who like to repeatedly change pace to drop friends of competitors would need to install lightweight 28c tires in order to achieve their preferred feel from the 40|44, and even then there are certainly better (read: lighter) climbing-specific options. But, for those who like to settle in and climb at a steady yet quick pace, the 40|44 hums uphill nicely and doesn’t disappoint.  

Descending while riding the Reserve 40|44 road wheels
The smooth, comfortable ride translates nicely on the descents with excellent stability and calm, confident handling. (photo/Ben Guernsey)

That feeling of strength I noted is partly due to the use of straight-pull DT Swiss spokes. Straight-pull spokes allow for high spoke tension, which creates plenty of responsiveness during accelerations and lateral stiffness during aggressive maneuvering. And despite their stout feel, they are impressively calm and predictable when cornering and maneuvering, muting feedback nicely but not to the point that handling feels vague or sluggish. 

Who are the Reserve 40|44 for? While I find this question a bit perfunctory, I’ll say that the 40|44 will work wonderfully for just about anybody, across a huge spectrum of riding. What does that mean? Well, it means that the only situations where the 40|44 might feel slightly “meh” are extreme situations within the context of road riding when either gravity or air resistance pose formidable opposition. 

These aren’t the lightest and most spicy wheels ever made for long and steep climbs, and they aren’t going to feel like turbo boosters when you’re smashing big watts above 30mph. Are they still decent in these situations? Absolutely. While other wheels might offer more inspiring performance in one single area, they also come with some limitations, be it tire or drivetrain compatibility, increased hub maintenance, or mediocre performance at the opposite end of the spectrum. 

Climbing on the Reserve 40|44 road wheels
What they might lack in specificity, they make up for in versatility and comfort, making the Reserve 40|44 a great all-arounder. (photo/Ben Guernsey)

Think about how a 60mm wheel feels when you transition from a 30mph flat to a pitchy climb on a beat-up road, or the way a 1300-gram wheel feels when you’re trying to push 45mph down a gradual descent after you just lit up a climb. If you don’t know, I can tell you, it’s not great in either case. The Reserve 40|44 not only manages to avoid these compromises, but is also a joy to ride at any pace, and on any surface, for any distance. At $1,799 US, the Reserve 40|44 aren’t exactly cheap but they aren’t wildly expensive either. Factor in the lifetime warranty and these are an excellent upgrade for anyone seeking a comfortable, versatile all-arounder that you’ll be riding for a long time.




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