Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reynolds Assault Review: Weapons for the Weekend Warrior

Based on my observations at races over the years, I think it's fair to say that most of us fall into the category of "weekend warriors." What I mean by that is most of us are juggling many things at once, with a finite amount of time to train each week. We do this stuff for fun, but we also want to improve.

As far as swimming and running go, I'd say the field is more or less "fair." Maybe the latest and greatest wetsuit on the market makes Johnny or Jane Triathlete a few seconds faster than you, but it's pretty much a level playing field. Even more so on the run. I'm yet to see anyone reduced to running in high heels or steel toed boots. I've got news for you though... the bike? As the kids sometimes say, "not so much."

I've seen all kinds of bikes at races, from "wow, that cost more than my car" all the way down to rusted out junkers with baskets on the front. It's not a level playing field. My first triathlon was raced on a roommate's mountain bike. From there I upgraded to what I'll call a "commuter bike." For the next 2-3 years I didn't even have clip in pedals, riding with my running shoes on. I was slow as molasses on the bike, but let me tell you, my T2 times were blazing fast! These humble beginnings didn't take any enjoyment out of the sport, but eventually I realized that if/when you want to get faster, you need to upgrade. I don't care how hard you train on that beach cruiser, you're not winning your age group! You need to train, and you need to upgrade.

she's not winning her age group

Besides upgrading from the beater you found in the garage to a proper tri bike or road bike, studies have shown time and time again that wheels are the single best upgrade you can make. So how much faster will aero race wheels make you? That's a highly debated question. According to Reynolds Director of Technology and Innovation Paul Lew, you can count on a time savings in the ballpark of 1-2 mph. My back of the envelope calculations showed the following time savings in minutes over Olympic, 70.3, and Ironman distances.

my back of the envelope estimate of min. saved under various scenarios

In other words, if you have aspirations of "going long," (Ironman, 70.3, road races, etc) and want to take a BIG bite out of your bike split, race wheels are the way to go. Also the case if you don't race, but enjoy long rides and/or lots of climbing. People who focus more on shorter races will certainly benefit as well. Maybe you've hit a bit of a plateau, or maybe you're sick of losing to a certain someone by 1-2 min at every race. It may be time to buy some speed.

That's where I find myself. Following years of trying to make my old bike "work," with new pedals, clip-on aerobars, etc., I bought my current ride three years ago. I was so elated to have a legitimate tri bike that I figured, for a while at least, that I'd just race on the aluminum wheels that came with it.

my Felt with its aluminum wheels

After my interview with Reynolds
a few months ago, I asked if they'd be willing to let me test some wheels so I could compare to mine. They obliged, lending me some 2014 Reynolds Assaults over the past three weeks. These wheels are 41mm in depth and 25mm wide, great for triathlons as well as road cycling.

Here's a recap of what I experienced compared to my wheels:

So much lighter: Admiring them for the first time, this was my initial reaction. I had my wife hold a Reynolds Assault in one hand and one of my wheels in the other, and she too was amazed.

Sex appeal: I refer to my bike as Francesca. I always find her very attractive, even on her "off" days. That said, these wheels took her to a whole new level. This was my second reaction, once the wheels were installed. I regularly caught myself going into the garage just to gaze at her.

smoke show

Got up to speed very quickly
: You know how some days you just feel faster than others? Even when I was riding casually, I had this feeling. A few hard pedal strokes and I was cruising much faster than usual.

Easier/quicker climbing: I rode out to some hills in which I'm usually in my easiest gear (and often out of the saddle) to climb. At what felt like a similar effort, on multiple days I climbed them all in the saddle and with at least one gear to spare.

Smooth: I went out on some windy days, yet never felt the effects. The Assaults are more shallow in depth (at 41mm) than others in the Reynolds lineup, but still, I was surprised.

Strong/stable: I like that the Assault rims are 25mm wide. That's only 2mm wider than my wheels, but they felt more stable. I learned that a simple allen wrench adjustment is all it takes to widen the brake track.

In summary, while swimming and running are more or less fair, cycling is not! If you're still riding that rusted out beater, set your sights on a replacement. If you've made that move and are looking for your next significant upgrade, I recommend testing out some Reynolds like I did. If you're on stock aluminum wheels competing against guys/girls with race wheels, the deck is stacked against you. Turn the tables in your favor! As a bonus, Reynolds' best in class "Ride to Decide" program makes it a no risk, high reward proposition.


  1. What kind of tires did you mount? 23's or 25's? Thanks.

    1. Hi, I ran 23's, but according to the guys at Reynolds, 25's are slightly preferable. The rims are 24.5mm. Hope this helps, let me know if you want to chat.

    2. Ok. Thank you very much! Think I'm gonna get me a pair. Was thinking of Edco's Umbrial (sort of last year's Reynolds Assaults), but the 41mm Assault's also look great on your bike!