Reviewer: David Quigley
Can you get light, affordable and Carbon Clinchers ?
The Reynolds Assault Clincher (also available in tubular), is Reynolds attempt to get into the entry level market for, well lets call a spade a spade here… weekend warriors who want flashy looking deep section wheels at a reasonable price and with the convenience of a clincher. Do they succeed ? Almost.
The Assault is basically a copy of Reynolds own long serving and popular DV46 series wheels (ridden by AG2R in Le Tour). They use the same rim mould with a different (cheaper) carbon layup and instead of using slightly modified DT Swiss 240 hubs like their more expensive relative, they use a generic but nonetheless wonderfully smooth hub.
Weight is pretty good at a claimed 1525 grams for the set (mine weighed in at 1540), which puts it in the same rough ballpark as a good, light, conventional aluminium rim like the omnipresent VW Golf of the racing wheel market, the Mavic Kysrium SL and far ahead of the market leader in this segment the Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL which clocks in with an actual weight of around 1770 grams making the Reynolds a full half a pound lighter. And with all those savings at the rim, that is rotational weight you are saving.
The Reynolds is also a full carbon rim compared to the Mavic Cosmics aluminium rim with carbon fairing, which has it’s advantages and disadvantages, namely that it is lighter, but most likely not as durable in the event of a crash and of course it does not have an aluminium brake track either.
Speaking of braking, the Assault behaves like all carbon rimmed wheels I have used. If you have used carbon rims before you will know what to expect, if not they will take a little bit of getting used to. Braking performance is as you might expect not quite as good as an aluminium rimmed wheel, especially in the wet. Like most carbon rims, braking performance is uneven so you have to give yourself a little more time to stop as the brakes take a second to bite and then become quite grabby. The Reynolds pads which are included are not fantastic, however the ever reliable swiss stop yellow pads (expensive at €40 a set) improve matters considerably albeit with the penalty of dramatically screeching very loudly when you brake hard. More importantly, carbon rims in general tend to have a problem overheating with heavy and prolonged braking, especially on long alpine-like descents, it won’t be a problem in Ireland, but bear this in mind if you are off to the continent with them. Carbon does not dissipate heat very well so it is not uncommon for your pads to melt and your brakes to fail if you tend to ride the brakes the whole way down a 20k alpine descent. That being said, I have the 2009/10 model of the wheel. The newer 2011 model in addition to different decals also has a scrim braking surface which is supposed to provide better braking and also removes the overheating issue (and accounts for an extra 40 grams in weight). Robin Kelly uses the newer models and assures me that they live up to this claim.
Regarding stiffness. The wheels feel soft to me, they don’t give the harsh stiff ride of the Cosmics but that could be just the damping effect of the carbon itself as I can detect no flex whatsover. Robin is a heavier and more powerful rider than me and although they are not the stiffest wheels he has ever ridden, he has no problems with flex.
Feel on the road is good, the hubs are silky smooth and a couple of thousand miles later feel the same as the first day I rode them. They are not nearly as aero as Zipps as has been demonstrated in several famous independent wind tunnel tests. This is probably because they use a fairly unsophisticated standard shape and at 46mm deep they are not quite as deep as most wheels in this range, nonetheless the data shows that they are still quite an aero wheel (and a handsome one at that).
The wheels come as a package with skewers, spoke key, brake pads and tyre levers (the tyre levers are the worst I have ever encountered and all broke on the very first use). Price varies, I paid 900 for my 2010 models in a sale online whilst most bricks and mortar shops are selling them for around €1100 for the 2011 model.
So, to answer a question I often get asked. Can you get a lightweight, carbon clincher wheel without breaking the bank ? No. No you can’t. In fact a light carbon clincher is a relative term, the sidewalls have to be re-enforced with so much carbon to be strong enough to restrain the outward pressure of the tire bead that I don’t think I would risk riding an uber-light carbon clincher any more than reputable manufacturers seem to be willing to try produce them. The Assaults however come as close as any wheels I have seen in this category (along with the 50mm Easton EC90 wheels) without buying either some no-name made in china job, or paying the price of a small family saloon car for some exotic carbonsports lightweights or similar.
The more relevant question is this … why are you buying a carbon clincher ? I have the 2008 model of the Reynolds DV46UL. That particular model although looking identical from a distance weighed in at 1040 grams for the pair. A whopping half a kilo weight saving from the rims and with the practical benefits (from a racing perspective at least) of a tubular wheel. I bought the Assaults simply because I wanted clincher wheels that I could easily repair on the road in the event of a puncture in training without having to mess around with brake pads etc. (This was before I had to pay for a wedding of course). Would I recommend them ? Yes I would. If you have a few quid in your pocket and want a pretty wheelset to pimp out your bike and which is somewhat practical then these are a fine choice. However, if you already have a set of decent aluminium wheels and are looking for an aero carbon race wheel, I would get tubulars.