Today I wanted to take a little break from everything running and drop back into triathlon a bit. A lot of folks asked after our triathlon feature, what gear was really the most important and can help make you stronger, faster, and more effective as a triathlete. First off, let me say there is no magic pill and all that is required is a bike, your legs, the ability to swim, and a little tenacity but if you already have a decent bike, then the single best upgrade you can make is to your wheelset. In this review, I wanted to offer an analysis of the Reynolds Strike SLG which in my opinion is one of the best mid-level aero carbon tubeless wheelsets on the market.
First off, let me clarify what I mean by the wheelset being your best upgrade. Most bike frames and components are fairly light nowadays. Your wheels however are probably way heavier than you probably expect. Even some of the nicest bikes on the market ship with very functional, but heavy wheels and no one even second guesses this. It is a cost savings mechanism for manufacturers because they’re buying these at a steep discount and trying to get you onto their frame. So if you have a decent frame, mid-level components, then you should definitely consider making investment in a wheelset and remember that even if you upgrade your frame or components later, the wheels can last you quite a while.
Now let’s talk about Reynolds. When we were looking for best in breed and considering the vast number of manufacturers out there, a lot of names that come to mind. Reynolds was one of the most attractive given that they were founded with carbon roots and they also offer a diverse lineup both in performance and affordability. Many of the higher end manufacturers focus only on the performance or competitive level athletes so mid-level and recreational cyclists are left to spend a lot more than they actually need to. So as far as I’m concerned, Reynolds provides an awesome lineup that is diverse enough to satisfy the majority of consumers out there without breaking the bank.
Reynolds puts the Strike at the high end of its Performance line instead of its Aero lineup yet its definitely the deep 62mm profile that first catches your eye. That extra profile brings an incredibly amount of stiffness to the wheel and also a new level of aerodynamics that feels borrowed from its higher end wheels. In terms of tech details, the setup for the Strikes is 16 DT Swiss Aero spokes up front and 20 in the back, alloy nipples, and Reynolds Straight-Pull hubs which are compatible with all major component manufacturers. The overall weight is 1635 grams for the set, a little over 3.5 pounds, and is probably going to cut 500 or so grams from your existing. Its not a major weight drop, but the tradeoff is the level of speed and stiffness that you gain by moving to carbon and this profile.
Next up is the SLG aspect which stands for Swirl Lip Generator, a patented technology designed to reshape the wind coming across the wheels and provide you a higher level of control. So in situations where you have challenging crosswinds, the wheels stay under control. The SLG is also what is supposed to provide the additional speed by channeling the wind more efficiently. I can say even the most novice riders will probably notice speed improvements of 2mph on their first rides, not sure if its the SLG or the wheel itself, but these things are fast.
The Strikes include custom skewers as well as carbon polymer-based Cryo-Blue brake pads, which you must use when you’re using carbon wheels because your typical brake pads will just tear the sidewalls apart if you don’t. They also come with special valve stems which is required to go tubeless and immediately made this over my head. So I just went to my local bike/tri store and let them do the setup properly. Note that getting the tires into the channel can be little tough as these run really tight and it can be a little hard to get seated, but once they are in, they are not coming out. After that, it was as simple as getting them on the bike and changing the brake pads which took no time at all. Once on, they ride like butter and honestly, I never want to see another tube as long as I live.
On the Road (and Track, Hills, etc)
The first thing I noticed when I got these out the door was the stiffness and the speed increase. Throughout all of my testing I found an increase of 2 to 3 mph in my overall pace while maintaining a consistent cadence and power output. This could have been the wheels or just the fact they made me feel a lot more pro, but either way I’ll take it. Confidence goes a long way and honestly, every time I look at my bike with these on there I just feel stronger. They definitely make an emotional attachment and draw some looks, so be prepared to show them off a bit.
One thing that did take some getting used to would be the braking. Carbon wheelsets historically do not brake as well as alloy wheels and there is definitely some minor lag from my alloys, but Reynolds has done a really good job mitigating this. Their proprietary polymer brake pad system is really quite remarkable and in the cases where I expected the braking to suffer, heavy rain and on deep downhills, they stayed true and firm. So while there is a minor change to how responsive the brakes are, Reynolds has really solved it in a way that makes it almost unnoticeable for most riders.
The next thing to cover is climbing because if I wasn’t clear, these things crush it on the flats. A lot of folks like to throw shade at aero level carbon wheels for climbing, but I can say I never once experienced this. The Strikes were super stiff throughout and gave me plenty of front-end control even at very high grades and we have plenty around here. I actually found them to be a really solid all around performer and would consider using these even on centuries and multi-day rides. They give you all the benefits of your typical alloy wheels like stiffness and light weight, but then allow you to open it up on the flats.
To wrap it up, let me say the Reynolds Strike SLGs are sick wheels. I can go into all the tech behind it, but what really matters is performance and they have this locked. If you have ever considered getting into a low end carbon wheel and want that nice deep profile that you can use through most conditions, then this is the wheel for you. Not only do they look amazing, but Reynolds as a company is well known for their customer support so you know they have your back if the wheels ever falter for any areas. So regardless of your level, from recreational rider up to a competitive cyclist or triathlete, the Strikes will give you an immediate bump in your game and you won’t be disappointed.
The Reynolds Strike SLGs are $1950 and available from your local Reynolds dealer.