- 4.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
With the ever present desire for all things hyper-light, never has there been a greater demand for carbon wheels than at this very moment. Though fiber wheels have been around for a great deal of time, it wasn’t until more recently that the safety of these wheels was given as much attention as their weight. Now more than ever, braking surfaces are nearing the performance of aluminum rims, carbon is more consistent and predictable, carbon spokes are less prevalent but those that remain are structurally more sound and with the increased pressure for disc brakes on road bikes, carbon wheels have never made more sense. However, with these advancements, prices have risen accordingly. Where does a rider look for a quality mid-range carbon wheel that performs like a stallion?
I can’t think of a better place to start. Introducing the Reynolds Attack carbon wheels available in clincher form only. This 700c set of hoops is among a handful of quality carbon rims that haven’t shot through the roof in pricing along with increased demand. Where this set enters the market is very competitive but as with any component, it must stand the test of riding to have any true value. To start with, the Attack wheels are the lowest profile rim that Reynolds offers in a carbon package at 29mm. Excellent for sprinting and climbing, this model is highly versatile and is Reynolds lightest package claimed at an impressive 1365g.
Revamped for 2014, the Attack, Assault & Strike all offer a wider rim profile compared to previous versions. This is a trend realized across the entire market to increase compliance, enhance tire seating and to accept larger tire sizes as they too are gaining traction in popularity. I’d have to agree that stepping up to even a 25mm tire adds significant comfort to your ride and without question the new rim profile that Reynolds employs does amount to a confidence-inspiring ride. Along with the new rim, we have the return of external nipples…thank the cycling gods! Serviceability is now restored and according to some sources the overall aerodynamics of internal vs external nipples is somewhat negligible given the greater rim profile and tire size.
From a materialist standpoint, the new branding looks fantastic. The minimalist image compliments what is a beautiful set of wheels by design. But more importantly, attention was given to reengineer every facet of the wheels. The new hubs, for one, use a mix of bladed straight pull spokes, some in a direct pull and others in a two cross pattern to add strength where needed and reduce weight where not needed. A difference in hub flange design is easily noticed. The front hub sees an overall loss of both flanges. By constrast, the rear looses the non-drive side flange but sees an enlarged flange on the drive side to promote stiffness. Reynolds uses bearings that feel above average for this price point, but within reality.
Some final features to touch on, the “CTg" (cryogenic glass transition) brake track coupled with reynolds new slotted blue pads adds a great deal of braking performance to rival aluminum rims. Beneath the brake track lies a red line which when exposed indicates the braking surface is beyond usable…again a new focus on safety in carbon wheels. Rim tape is included along with some skewers that don’t quite seem to live up to the perceived quality of the wheels, though they certainly do work.
Now on to the important stuff, how do they ride?!? Overall, the Reynolds Attack wheelset hits a sweet spot balancing performance, construction and price. These wheels are most notably great regarding radial stiffness, smoothness of ride and freehub engagement all in a relatively lightweight package that begs to be pushed harder and harder. Ride comfort is quite pleasing. This characteristic is likely the result of the reworked rims but may also stem from the spoke tension which feels a touch lower than some competitors. Therein lies one problem, lateral stiffness is lacking. This is most noticeable during climbs out of the saddle. Throw a ton of mustard at these wheels and you’ll likely notice the lateral flex. I’m no stallion, nor am I heavy but on two separate bikes I encountered this issue where the wheel (rear primarily) would deflect enough to skim either brake pad and proclaim a subtle chirp. Keep in mind, I had ample space (3mm each side) between the rim and each pad and everything was set up just skippy. By no means is this a deal breaker for the Attack wheelset, but the nuisance persists and reflects a lack of lateral stiffness.
Final thoughts. Money always seems to creep its way into each of my reviews, but really, I think it is especially pertinent here. Value is a focal point for many consumers and on a major purchase such as this, it has a major role. In the case of the Reynolds Attack wheelset, I believe value is exactly what this package delivers. It is not the very lightest nor the absolute most aero or the most bling, not even the fastest, blah blah blah. Instead this wheelset achieves success by providing a high build quality, smart (and safe!) design features, excellent performance that rivals higher buck wheels all while keeping your budget in mind. Because of this, the Attack wheelset and likely the Assault or Strike models for other riding styles, is/are an attention-stealing wheelset. Though my testing has only racked up maybe 700miles and a couple of centuries, I’d have no hesitation in recommending this wheelset to a vast range of riders especially those who want 95% of the performance found on wheelsets that are 50-80% more expensive.