Review: Reynolds AR80 Wheelset
Great, another wheel review. Yes, the market has gotten very saturated, and we've written a lot of other wheel reviews. No, I'm not going to tell you a fairy tale about how these are the fastest wheels ever made, nor that they handle better than any other wheel in strong crosswinds. What I will say is that they ticked all the boxes. Let me explain.
Most of the riding that I do is with training wheels. No, not the 4 year old learning-to-ride kind, but the shallow aluminum wheels that are seemingly impervious to pot holes and cross winds alike. But what training wheels lack in speed they make up for in rugged durability. I've been in this sport for a while now, and raced at the professional level on all kinds of gear. But I still have a real love and appreciation for great equipment. So, whenever I get a chance to test a deep section carbon wheelset, I still get that same childlike feeling of magic and wonder. At the end of the day, I really just wanna go fast!
Mounting the Reynolds AR80 wheelset to my Omni rig, I instantly perceived a difference in my ability to translate force directly through the drivetrain into the wheels, without lag. Maybe that's a result of finer freehub pawl spacing. Maybe it's a placebo effect. But it felt good. Riding into the wind was equally impressive. I perceived less effort than usual in terms of maintaining my line at speed. This was true despite their significant depth. Normally, if you're going to get blown around on the road, an 80mm-deep front wheel will provide ample area for the wind to grab. But modern rims in the "Firecrest" era do a really good job of managing even high gusts, and the AR80 is no exception.
Of course, aero performance isn't EVERYTHING, despite what some companies might claim in a pithy slogan. Practical considerations like safety, reliability, and durability all make a very real difference to athletes who have to foot the bill for their own gear (read: non-pros). Personally, I wouldn't necessarily want a set of wheels that would crumple at the first sight of a pot hole. And in my own test riding, I faced my fair share of road imperfections in Colorado throughout my testing hours with the AR80 set. The wheels handled them with grace, absorbing much of the jarring vibrations, while most importantly staying true. In short, the wheels are well-built and ready for the long-haul.
The last thing I'll mention should be the least important item on this list unless you're doing a solely uphill race, which is weight. As deep-carbon hoops go, they won't be the lightest set you can buy, but are still significantly lighter than a set of trainers. They will be competitive with other rims of their depth class, such as Zipp's 808 (or 858), Enve SES 7.8, FLO 90, or similar. If you're looking at rims of this depth class, ultralight weight numbers shouldn't be your concern, and Reynolds doesn't give you any reason to fret either.
But down to brass tax. Would I buy a set of these? At the price, and for what they offer, they are absolutely competitive. The complete wheelset costs $1300, similar to a set of FLO Carbon clinchers, and a good all-rounder set. Although without the same pizazz and wow-factor of brands like Zipp or Hed, the Reynolds AR80 could confidently be trained and raced on for many years.