Mountain Bike Action Product Test: Reynolds Blacklabel 309/289 XC Wheels
Reynolds Blacklabel 309/289
Reynolds is run by a group of carbon experts who are focused on making the best wheels possible. The all-new 309/289 XC wheels are the newest wheels in their line, offering cross-country-class weight and the strength of a heavy-duty downhill wheel. The wheels are available with a few different options, including two premium Blacklabel-level wheelsets, along with TRS- and TR-level wheels for value-conscious riders. For this test, we went all out on a pair of Reynolds Blacklabel rims and proprietary Industry Nine Hydra hubs.
Other options include the limited-edition Blacklabel 309/289r wheelset, which has Ringlé Super Bubba X hubs anodized in a turquoise color, paying homage to the original Super Bubbas of the past. These wheels drop the price by $250 but are only available while supplies last. The last two options include TRS- and TR-level wheels that use an ever-so-slightly heavier carbon layup and slow-engaging wheels. The starting price is $1300 as opposed to the $2100 premium wheelset tested in this review.
Blacklabel 309/289 XC wheels are Reynolds’ cream-of-the-crop option built with IDM (Impact Dispursing Matrix), a technology found in Reynolds’ downhill wheels. Reynolds then used fully CNC-machined hubs with an impressive .52-degree engagement for instant power delivery. The Blacklabel wheels weigh a mere 1435 grams per set in a 29er configuration. Reynolds uses a wider front rim with a 30mm inner width and a 28mm rear width designed to improve cornering performance and compliance out on the trails. The wheels are offered with Boost hub spacing, as well as 157mm rear hub spacing for Super Boost bikes. Freehub body options include Shimano HG, Micro Spline and SRAM XD, meaning you shouldn’t have an issue running the drivetrain of your choice.
Field test results:
We figured the best bike for testing our new wheels was something in the 120mm travel segment, blending cross-country and trail. Sure, these wheels are built for lightweight XC racing and would likely do great on that type of bike, but they claim to be downhill-tough, so a more trail-friendly bike was in order. We replaced a pair of DT Swiss M1700 wheels, which, to be fair, are less than half the price; however, it allowed us to remove 313 grams (.69 pounds) from our bike.
From our first pedal stroke, we immediately noticed a huge increase in acceleration and then stiffness once we hit a few turns. While it might be hard to feel the advantages of the offset front and rear rims, they seemed to make a difference on the trail. We noticed a snappier rear end and additional traction from the front tire, plus more front- and rear-end compliance. Hub engagement was another part of these wheels that wildly impressed us.
When crawling up technical terrain, we found the nearly instant hub engagement allowed us to have power right when we needed it. There was never a moment when we needed to rock the cranks back and forth reaching for power. Reynolds did a great job building these wheels to please XC racers and trail riders wanting a light yet durable option. Riders looking to gain some of the technological advantages of these wheels without emptying their wallets can opt for the entry-level model for right around $1200. That’s an excellent price point for carbon wheels.
• Blacklabel level is a top-of-the-line race wheelset
• Multiple price points are available with lesser options
• Offset rim profile offers advantages in performance
• Limited to 29-inch sizes
• Top-level wheels demand a top-dollar price
Star Rating: ★★★★☆
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.