Reynolds TR 309 S Carbon Wheelset Review
Cons: occasionally twitchy at speed, less dampened feel
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Reynolds isn't exactly a household name in the mountain bike industry, but they have been producing quality wheels for a long time. Their TR line of carbon wheelsets was recently released and includes a range of reasonably priced, for carbon, wheelsets in a variety of widths. The TR 309 S is aimed squarely at the trail and all-mountain market with a 30mm internal rim dimension that pairs well with today's modern tire widths. They are impressively lightweight and have excellent 5-degree freehub engagement, plus they are backed by a lifetime warranty. They aren't exactly cheap, but they won't make you mortgage your house to afford them either.
The TR 309 S are made with Reynold's Mountain Rim 5 and feature an all carbon construction with a 36mm external and a 30mm internal rim width. The rims have a 26mm depth and are asymmetrical with a 4.5mm offset that is intended to help improve ride quality and durability through even spoke tension. They have a hookless rim bead to help simplify the tire mounting process and to enhance the durability of the rim bead itself.
Reynolds makes their own hubs and the TR 309 S gets their TR6 Mountain hub. These are CNC machined aluminum and have a sleek design with shallow spoke flanges milled out to accommodate the 28-straight pull bladed spokes in a 3-cross pattern that lace them to the rims. Brake rotors are attached to the hubs with the included center lock adapters. The TR6 hubs have a 6 pawl freehub system with a quick 5-degree engagement.
The wheels come set up with tubeless rim tape and valve stems and are offered with decals in a variety of colors so you can match them with your bike. They are offered in both boost and non-boost hub spacing and with either SRAM XD or Shimano HG freehub bodies. Reynolds also backs their wheels with a legitimate lifetime warranty and a 30-day customer satisfaction guarantee.
The TR 309 S wheels definitely impressed our testers with their weight to shred-ability ratio. With wheels that feel as light and lively as these, it's easy to pigeonhole them as flimsy and fragile and to put a little less trust in them on the trail. All of our testers felt a little apprehensive on these wheels at first due to just how light and crisp they felt but quickly gained trust in them as the miles went by. It didn't take long until we were all taking it to these wheels through rock gardens and corners with no regard for their lightweight.
Testers found them to feel quick, climbing felt easier and less fatiguing and accelerations were noticeably faster than on heavier models. They also felt stiff and precise, perhaps the stiffest model in our test selection. A couple testers noted that these wheels felt a little less dampened than wheels like the Race Face Next R31 or the Santa Cruz Reserve, and occasionally twitchy at the highest of speeds. We attribute this to the lighter weight and possibly to the bladed spokes that might absorb a little less energy than thicker double butted spokes. Either way, it's not a deal breaker as these wheels felt great most of the time.
Reynolds has spec'd the TR 309 S wheels with their own TR6 mountain hubs. They roll smooth and fast and have excellent 5-degree freehub engagement. There is little lag or free play in the drivetrain system as a result, this reduces chain slap and makes the drivetrain feel tighter and more efficient. Due to their quick engagement, these wheels simply feel higher performance and notably so compared to the 10-degree engagement found on both the Santa Cruz Reserve and the Roval Traverse wheels.
The TR 309 S wheels are one of the lightest models we tested and this is noticeable not only on the scale but also in hand and on the bike. At 1,738g, these weigh in 94g less than the Santa Cruz Reserve 30 and 54g less than the Race Face Next R31.
Their lighter weight is especially noticeable on extended climbs and during accelerations as there is less rotational mass overall. It helps to give these wheels their lively demeanor while not sacrificing stiffness or handling precision. The one thing testers noted is that they do have a slightly less dampened feel than the slightly heavier carbon models, and at speed they occasionally feel a little twitchy as a result. That said, these wheels have an otherwise excellent ride quality and are incredibly durable considering their weight. In this case, we don't think you're going to sacrifice much ride quality or durability in an effort to save weight.
For comparison, they weigh roughly 400g less than the heaviest alloy model, the DT Swiss E 1700 Spine 30, and 159g less than the lightest alloy model the Industry Nine Enduro S Hydra. If you're seriously looking to lighten up your trail bike, the TR 309 S is a great way to do so.
Reynold's is so confident in the durability of their TR 309 S carbon wheels that they back them with a lifetime warranty. They are one of several brands to back their carbon wheels this way, and it adds some serious value to what has long been considered an expensive and potentially fragile purchase.
During testing, we rode these wheels as hard as all the rest and have no damage to report. The wheels stayed true, the spokes held their tension, and we didn't crack or damage the rims in any way. We feel confident that the TR 309 S wheels are as durable as the other carbon models in our test, and if you should ever break or damage them, Reynolds will repair or replace them.
At a retail price of $1,550, the TR 309 S wheels don't exactly come cheap, but they are comparable to the other high-performance carbon wheels in this review. The price of carbon wheels has come down in recent years and you certainly don't need to shell out over 2 grand for a quality set anymore. These wheels are the lightweight, plus they have quick 5-degree freehub engagement and come with a lifetime warranty. If you're looking to lighten up your ride with a surprisingly durable and precision handling set of wheels then these are a great place to start, and you don't need to sell a kidney to afford them.
Our Editor's Choice Award winner, the Race Face Next R31, do come in $50 less expensive than the Reynolds, but they only have a 2-year no-fault guarantee. Otherwise, the performance is similar though the Race Face weigh slightly more and have a more dampened on-trail feel. The Santa Cruz Reserve wheels cost $50 more and have somewhat smoother trail manners but weigh a bit more and have a lower performance 10-degree freehub engagement.
The TR 309 S wheels are a quality lightweight carbon wheelset that are stiff with precise handling with a lively feel. They are also impressively durable, standing up to all of our test ride abuse in stride, in addition to being backed by a lifetime warranty. If you consider the weight of your bike parts, or even if you don't, the Reynolds TR 309 S is a quality lightweight carbon wheelset that should be on your short list.
Other Versions and Accessories
Reynolds produces a huge array of wheels for all types of mountain biking. In addition to the TR 309 S model reviewed here, Reynolds also makes a TR 309. The primary difference is the hubs, the $1,299 TR 309 is equipped with their TR3 Mountain hub with 10-degree engagement. The weight of the wheelset also increases to 1755g.
Reynolds also makes another carbon wheelset in their TR line for 29" wheels. The TR 249 ($1,299) and TR 249 S ($1,549) have a 24mm internal rim width. The less expensive model comes with their TR3 Mountain hub with 3 pawls and 10 degrees of engagement while the S model comes with their TR6 Mountain hub with 6 pawls and 5 degrees of engagement.
For 27.5" wheels, Reynolds makes the TR 307 ($1,299) and TR 307 S ($1,549), with a 30mm internal rim width. They also make a TR 367 ($1,299) and TR 367 S ($1,549) with a 36mm internal rim width. For both widths, the wheels vary in their hubs as described above.
— Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens