Whether it's a sunset lap with friends or a race run against the clock, a broken wheel ruins any ride. Santa Cruz set strength and impact resistance as their highest priority to create the highest quality carbon rims on the market. Designed from the ground up for one thing - like everything to come out of the Santa Cruz factory - Mountain Biking.

Everything from the thickness of rim beads to external spoke hole reinforcements comes purely from Santa Cruz's years of experience, knowing what riders need at every level—from international racing to your local trails.

While strength was a priority from day one, Santa Cruz live and breathe MTB so knew that compliance was every bit as important. At a glance, strength and compliance seem to be opposing forces, but hit the sweet spot where they work together and your ride is suddenly transformed in a way no other aftermarket upgrade can match. Santa Cruz have found that sweet spot, making a set of Reserve wheels the ultimate upgrade.


One thing Santa Cruz knew for certain going into this project in 2017 was that the industry standard impact test for carbon wheels wasn't going to cut it. That test, approved by the UCI, impacts both sides of a rim equally with a flat rubber pad without a tire mounted on the wheel. It's designed to replicate a pothole-type impact on the road.

On a mountain bike, a rock is much more likely to only hit one side of the rim, so the rim beads have to be independently strong. They created a test in our lab that simulates one side of the rim landing directly on a square-edged rock from over 3 feet in the air with no suspension, and a lightweight tire inflated to 25psi.

"As we began to put some of the other rims on the market through this test, we broke a lot of them more or less like we expected to—on the bead—but we also found that a critical failure mode was the spoke nipples pulling through the rim due to the sudden increase in spoke tension as the wheel flexed on impact"
Santa Cruz

That just wasn't good enough so Santa cruz designed and built a machine to test for this weak point in wheel design and, long story short, a spoke will fail before the rim does. We've seen this test in action and the strength of these rims is astonishing.

A carbon rim’s profile and the wheel’s build spec determine how the wheels ride. Santa Cruz built Reserve prototypes in dozens of combinations to come up with a configuration that they think strikes the perfect balance of strength and stiffness, we've had a go and we agree. Santa Cruz have looked at the competition and tested them to destruction to set a benchmark for how their wheels should perform. Every aspect of the manufacturing process has been considered for maximum performance. The images above show how this attention to detail pays off, a special wax mould used during the molding keeps the inside of the rim uniform.

  • Asymmetrical rims build up into stronger, more reliable wheels by improving the bracing angles and equalizing spoke tension side-to-side
  • Carbon layup is optimized to resist torsional forces
  • All wheels are hand built with 28 spokes, 3-cross for strength and comfort

Lifetime Warranty

Lifetime. No gimmicks. Not limited. If you do actually manage to break a rim while out riding, Santa Cruz will replace it for free. And probably high five you in the process! If it gets run over by a truck they'll help you out with a low cost accidental 'crash replacement', because life's too short to argue. We know riding time's too precious to keep you waiting, so we'll do our best to sort you out fast.

How Strong?

After Riding the same set of Reserves for the whole 'Wee Day Out' shoot, Santa Cruz insisted Danny MacAskill tried a bit harder to find the breaking point of their new rim....


"After just one day of riding on the new Reserve wheels, we can comfortably say: Santa Cruz didn’t promise too much in terms of handling!"
"Despite our best efforts to keep up with Cedric Gracia and Anka Martin, not a single person at the media camp managed to break a rim. After three days of riding, the wheels emerged unscathed"
"When considering trade-offs, the strength to comfort ratio of the Reserves strikes an excellent balance, unmatched by the competition. Add that they’re cleverly built with easily accessible replacement parts and include a lifetime warranty, and you really can’t go wrong."

Demo Reserve Wheels at Stif

Want to see for yourself what all the fuss is about? Call your local store and book a demo.