The Reserve 25|GR is an impressively light wheelset that strikes the perfect balance of durability and weight. Mile after mile, these wheels are an absolute bombproof workhorse made for those who ride on the gnarlier end of the gravel spectrum.
Durable, bombproof construction
No rider weight limit
Lifetime warranty and no-fault crash replacement promise
No aerodynamic benefits
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Reserve may not be the first brand name that comes to mind when you’re shopping for new hoops, but with the trajectory they’re on, that will all change quite soon.
Born from the mountain bike world, Reserve was founded by the Santa Cruz bike brand in 2014. Basically, what Roval is to Specialized, Reserve is to Santa Cruz: a wheel company within a bike company that eventually grows to stand on its own two feet.
With Reserve, Santa Cruz engineers set out to not only create the most durable strength-to-weight composite bike wheels on the market, they were also prepared to back their claim up with—an at the time unheard of—lifetime guarantee.
They burst onto the market in 2017 with their first mountain bike wheels, and quickly earned themselves a reputation for making some of the most bombproof lightweight carbon rims one can buy. Standing the test of enduro and downhill racing and even the many shenanigans of MTB trickster Danny Macaskill, Reserve wheels quelled the fears of many who previously avoided carbon hoops due to the rather expensive risk of breaking them—myself included.
Taking what they’d learned from the demands of mountain biking, Reserve decided to tackle the gravel market next and released its first gravel wheelset, the Reserve 22|GR, in 2019. That same year, Reserve started working with the aerodynamics experts over at Cervélo for a foray into the road and triathlon market as well.
This season, you may have seen the Reserve wheels on the bikes of Marianne Vos and her Jumbo-Visma teammates or on Wout van Aert’s time trial bike when he stormed to victory on stage 20 of the Tour de France.
As Vos was well on her way to winning the green sprinter’s jersey of the Tour de France Femmes in late July, Reserve released its third and beefiest gravel wheelset yet. Staying true to their mountain bike origins, this wheelset was designed with the roughest, Grinduro-type gravel racing and riding in mind. With a 25mm inner rim width, it rivals some of the XC mountain bike rims out there, and is wide enough to comfortably hold a 50mm tire.
Let’s have a look at these super-wide offerings from Reserve.
Going wide. Reserve's newest and third gravel offering aims to go more places with a wider rim for more tire options and durable construction to meet the diverse needs of all drop-bar off-roaders.
Grinduro, monster gravel, All-Terrain, singletrack, doubletrack — the Reserve 25|GR wheelset is ready for the gnarliest of gravel adventures or simply the comfiest, with super-cushy 50mm tires.
The rims were completely redesigned from the previous two models. It now features not only a 25mm inner width, but also a semi-hook and asymmetrically shaped rim bed that matches the offset spoke hole position for ease of tubeless tire installation.
Like their mountain bike siblings, Reserve's gravel wheels sport a low-profile, box-section rim with externally reinforced spoke holes to strengthen the area where the rim sees the most force: around the spoke nipple.
Reserve recommends using tires no narrower than 28mm and up to 50mm.
One thing I especially appreciate about Reserve's approach to wheel building is their understated design and use of external nipples and standard spokes for easy tune-ups and repair. And should something go wrong, Reserve offers a lifetime warranty and a no-fault crash replacement policy.
The Fillmore Valves:
The 25|GR wheels come with Reserve's unique "Fillmore valves," which make sealant clogs and the need to remove the valve's inner core for installation, a thing of the past.
Fillmore valves are coreless. There's no inner core or threaded nut, just a single thin stainless steel rod running through the middle of the valve. For sealing, there's an o-ring on the rim side of the valve and a special valve cap that goes on top. Unlike your regular Presta valve caps that are quickly tossed aside, these Fillmore valve caps actually play an important role. The valve cap contains two separate threads, one for the stainless steel middle rod and one for the outside of the valve. When the cap is in place, the inner threads lift the rod up to engage the o-ring and seal the valve. Sealant can be injected directly through the valve.
Shimano and SRAM cassettes are well accounted for with hub options including DT Swiss 350 and I9's 1/1 Gravel each supporting both HG11 and XD freehub bodies. Campagnolo freehub options are not offered at this time.
1,339 grams with the Industries Nine 1/1 Gravel hub.
Anyone who's ever (tried to) set up tubeless tires at home, knows the frustrating, messy undertaking it can be. Luckily, tubeless technology on both tires and wheels has come a long way, and the majority of new wheels I've tested these past two years made tire installation relatively frustration-free. On the Reserve 25|GR wheelset equipped with the Fillmore valves, the tire installation was downright easy. I alternated between the Schwalbe G-One RS and Specialized Pathfinders tires, and both times, I was able to just use a tubeless-specific handpump — no air-compressor needed.
Out of the box, these rims look like a slightly slimmer version of the Reserve 30|HD wheels on suspension trail mountain bike. The same low-profile, the same externally reinforced spokes, the same matte black colorway, an I9 hub and only four spokes less.
The wheels ride like their mountain bike counterparts, too. And that's a good thing.
They're smooth and complaint, taking the sting out of the rough terrain below while keeping you planted and in control. My first test ride on these was a four-hour-long endeavor that features everything from decently maintained gravel and pavement to washboards and high-speed descends on loose, dusty gravel.
The wheels provided stability and cushion to the point that they seemed to disappear. Except for maybe on the climbs when the only thing one notices is the lack of weight. At just over 1,300 grams the 25|GRs are a remarkably light workhorse of a wheelset. The Industry Nine hubs deserve some credit here as well. While considered a more affordable I9 hub, the 1/1 hub spins up nicely and makes a pleasing, low whizzing sound.
In this age of highly capable, light-yet-robust, gravel-specific wonder machines, I'm among the minority of riders who still prefers being under-biked rather than over-biked. It's good for sharpening your bike handling skills and I just get a kick out of it. So to that end—and perhaps inspired by their MTB siblings sitting in my garage—I couldn't wait to take these hoops out on some techy terrain.
If you know where to look, Portland's Forest Park is a wonderful testing ground. It's got everything from broken-up pavement, rough gravel with fist-size rocks, crushed stone, dirt and even some steep, rooty, singletrack descends. In other words: perfect Grinduro-esque terrain.
It is here, on this terrain, that the wheels stood out to me most, and Reserve's mountain bike roots began to show. The wheels absorb the bumps and manoeuvre the roots and ruts nimbly. With its wide internal rim, compliancy and nimble handling, these wheels would give many XC mountain bike wheels a good run for their money.
Playful, light yet stable, the 25|GRs are confidence-inspiring and simply feel indestructible — perfect for the gnarlier end of the gravel spectrum.
The only downside here is that when it comes to gravel racing, where races can be as long as 350 miles at one go, consumers are looking for wattage savings, however minimal, at every angle. Aerodynamics are starting to play an increasingly big part in gravel racing and the industry is responding with aero framesets, aerobars, wind-tunnel tested bags and deeper profile wheelsets. In the quest for speed, the shallow 25|GR wheels miss out completely, though Reserve does offer an aero gravel wheelset, the Reserve 32|GR, which come spec'd on the Cervélo Aspero.
With the 25|GR wheelset, Reserve prioritized ride quality and durability over aerodynamics, though Reserve did tell Cycling Weekly that they do anticipate that we'll see a bigger focus on aerodynamics in the gravel market in the years to come.
Verdict & Value
The Reserve 25|GRs weigh just 1,339 grams, feature a shallow but 25mm wide rim and will cost you $1,599 USD. So how does it compare to its competitors in the carbon gravel wheelset market?
Well, at 1,339 grams this is a competitively light wheelset, especially considering the $1,599 price point. A comparable Enve wheelset, the G23 for example, might weigh 30 grams less but will also cost you an extra grand.
Roval's popular Terra CL come closer in price, at $1,750 for the set, but weigh in slightly heavier, at just 1,410 grams.
Perhaps Reserve's biggest competitor here is the Scribe Gravel Wide++ wheels. This wheelset also features a 25 internal width rim, weigh a touch over 1,300 grams but come at the super-reasonable price of just $1,000. Like Reserve, the Scribe wheels also come with a Life Time Warranty and crash replacement policy so for both Scribe and Reserve, you'll know your investment is going to last.
Carbon hoops were once deemed too fragile or delicate for rough terrain. But that’s been disproven by the mountain bike world for a while now, and carbon wheels are a standard for the top-end of any gravel race as well.
Still, if you're a heavier rider or are simply rather rough on your equipment, carbon is often approached with caution. The Reserve 25|GR wheels, however, strike the perfect balance of durability and lightweight.
These workhorses will withstand the abuse and rigors of even the roughest of gravel terrain, offering you comfort and stability mile after mile. If you're on the fence of going carbon on gravel, and/or ride on the gnarlier end of the gravel spectrum, this is the wheelset for you.
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