Your Mountain Bike Wheel Questions Answered, from Inserts to Warranties

We speak with two mountain bike wheel experts from Reserve, a Santa Cruz, California brand that sells high-end carbon and aluminum wheels.

Joel Smith is the Brand Leader for Reserve, a Santa Cruz, CA brand that designs and markets wheels for everything from downhill to road biking. Steel Wisdom-Wilhelmsson is engineering lab technician responsible for lab-conditions wheel testing. 

In this episode we ask:

  • How are MTB wheels assembled? For high-end wheels, is most of it done by hand?
  • How does rim construction contribute to ride feel? Is a shallower rim better than a deep rim for ride feel?
  • What are the advantages of a high engagement freehub? Is there a number that most riders will find meets their needs or is more always better?
  • Are wheel sizes and standards continuing to evolve? What about rim widths? 
  • Are today’s carbon rims stronger and more durable than aluminum? How do the weights compare?
  • What other advantages does carbon have over aluminum rims?
  • How much stronger does a DH wheel need to be compared to a lightweight XC wheel? Front vs. rear? 
  • What is the most common mode of failure when it comes to mountain bike wheels?
  • What are your thoughts on tire inserts? 
  • How have rim profiles changed over the years?
  • What role does spoke lacing and the number of spokes play in a wheel’s strength and ride feel? 
  • Is a Super Boost wheel a better wheel?
  • What’s the deal with mountain bike wheel warranties? Generally speaking, do riders make many claims?
  • What’s your advice to mountain bikers when choosing a wheel upgrade?

Check out to learn more about the brand.

This episode of the Singletracks podcast is sponsored by Explore Brevard.

Where else can you choose from over 300 miles of epic singletrack against a backdrop of
soaring mountains and cascading waterfalls? Where else can you explore 100,000 acres of
public lands laced with hundreds of miles of backcountry gravel roads? Your best mountain
biking adventure ever begins in Brevard, North Carolina, home to Pisgah National Forest and
DuPont State Recreational Forest. Four primo bike shops will get you sorted, whether you need
a rental, service, or some cool swag. Top it off with an array of craft breweries, cafes, and
gathering spots that have earned Brevard the title as one of America’s coolest small towns. It all
adds up to one of the premier mountain biking destinations in the U.S. Find out more at

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