Basics: 80mm deep; 19mm inner rim width; Reynolds hubs with 10-degree engagement
Pros: Fast in a straight line; tubeless-ready; accommodates wide tires
Cons: A bit skittish in moderate winds; crosswinds blast these all over the place
Reynolds’ AR80X wheels are unapologetically aero, with a deep 80mm rim profile. They feature just about everything you’d expect from a modern aero rim, including a 19mm inner rim width to accommodate wide tires, disc brake compatibility, and quick hub engagement. They buffet a bit more than we’d like, but at an excellent pricepoint, the AR80X wheels are certainly worth the investment if you’re after deep-section wheels for a time trial, triathlon, or flat race.
Carbon wheels have gotten much less expensive and much more capable in just the past few seasons. Reynolds’ AR80X DB wheels exemplify much of this improvement with an excellent pricepoint and quality construction that leads to a fun, fast ride. The AR80X wheels probably won’t be your daily drivers, but if you’re a triathlete, or breakaway artist, these wheels are right up your alley provided it’s not too windy outside.
There’s just something exceptionally cool about the whirring sound deep-section wheels make. It’s like a UFO is following you wherever you pedal; strangely, that noise always makes me feel faster, as though I’m really crushing some big watts. The AR80X DB wheels from Reynolds make that very UFO-esque noise, and when I mounted them to a Scott Foil, I felt like I was boarding a rocketship.
And indeed, these wheels complement an aero bike like the Foil perfectly—if that combo sounds right up your alley, then the AR80X wheels are worth your time. But if you’re a spindly climber who looks at aero bikes and only sees extra weight, these wheels obviously aren’t right for you.
Indeed, with an 80mm rim depth, the AR80X wheels are actually pretty specific tools. Time trialists looking for a good value on a deep set of wheels will like these, as will sprinters and breakaway romantics who just want to go fast on rolling terrain. The AR80X wheels are certainly well-suited to those situations, and Reynolds has kept up with current trends with a 19mm inner rim width to accommodate modern tires. Set these wheels up tubeless and you’ve got a pretty well optimized aero setup.
AR80X Versus the Competition
The closest competitors to the AR80X wheels are the Enve SES 7.8 Disc wheels (starting at $2,550, up to $3,300), and the Zipp 808 NSW wheels ($3,500). I’ve ridden the 808 NSW wheels and found them to be remarkably stable in crosswinds. Zipp makes much of its ABLC sawtooth dimpling, which the company says controls vortex shedding. This in turn reduces drag. That certainly seems to be the case with the 808s, but it’s important to note that you can buy the AR80X wheelset for less than the price of just the 808 front wheel. So Reynolds certainly wins the value proposition here, and by a longshot.
Unfortunately, I can’t speak to the performance of the Enve SES 7.8 Disc wheels, as I have not ridden them. But it’s once again important to note that Reynolds offers an exceptional value as compared to the Enve wheels.
The mountains are a good 10 miles to the west of where I live, which means there’s plenty of rolling terrain between me and the nearest big climb. And it gets awfully windy in these parts, so it was the ideal testing grounds for the AR80X wheels. I spent much of my testing time on such roads, though I also did tackle some sustained climbs to get a sense of how they fared in the hills.
The windiest days revealed the limits of the AR80X wheels. I expected these wheels to dance quite a bit in the harshest crosswinds due to the deep rim profile, and I was right. That should come as no surprise; I’ve yet to ride a rim this deep that didn’t get kicked around in big crosswinds.
But I also got a fair bit of buffeting in more moderate winds too, more so than I was expecting, given Reynolds’ claims. That said, I would hardly call these poor performers in windy conditions; I have ridden wheels that cost twice as much and dance a lot more. For as deep as these wheels are, they feel planted enough in a variety of conditions that I would count them as a reliable set of wheels for all but the windiest racing conditions.
The AR80X wheels are also a fair bit heavier than climbing or all-around wheels, as you might expect. I didn’t really notice this until I hit the steepest pitches on some of my climbs. Indeed, on moderate climbs—say, up to 4% or 5%—the weight hardly seemed to matter. It wasn’t until I was out of the saddle and gritting out higher pitches that the weight felt evident. Again, this should hardly come as a surprise. Most riders will benefit from deeper wheels and the aerodynamic enhancements that come with them, in most riding situations. So for perhaps 90% of the riding I do, the AR80X wheels were likely providing me with an advantage.
The Ar80X DB wheels offer exceptional value for a deep-section aero wheelset that’s disc-ready and able to accommodate wide tires. When paired with the Scott Foil, the AR80X wheels felt right at home and complemented a fast, stiff bike nicely. They’re not the most supple wheels, nor are they the lightest option out there. But if you’re after pure aerodynamics at a price that beats much of the competition, the AR80X wheels are worth a look. That said, there are deep-section wheels out there that feel more stable in crosswinds, but you’re likely to pay a lot more for them.
This article originally appeared at VeloNews.