I first saw the Topo composite wheel at Interbike in 2006. Jonathan Garen, a semi pro racer and the director of sales and marketing at Reynolds, demonstrated to me the lateral strength of a Topo rim by smashing it against the cement floor several times (I’ve noticed that makers of composite goods like to do this to shock people) and sure enough, it survived the demo-lition without a scratch (or bend or ding or loosing it’s shape whatsoever). I’m sure that you couldn’t do that to an alloy rim without turning it into a useless piece of recyclable metal.
I walked away thinking, whoa, that has merit. So, when Jonathan emailed me about doing a review on the Topo wheelset I didn’t hesitate.
Out of the box the Topo wheels feel substantial, as in durable not heavy – at 1588g for the pair they weigh in at 68g more than a Mavic SLR but before you compare the weight, keep in mind that the Topo wheels are built on a 28 spoke (DT Swiss Revolution) 3X pattern vs. the 24 spoke 2x pattern of the SLR. Combine the stronger 3x build with the ultra stiff/virtually indestructable 32mm-deep composite rim on the Topo and you don’t need to test ride them to know that the Topo will be the stronger wheel.
Knowing that the Topo wheels are light, all I really wanted to know was how they felt and how they held up under rough riding conditions so, even though they are not really billed as an all-mountain wheelset, I put them on my Yeti 575 and took them out for some abuse. The first big ride I got in on the Topo was the Doctor Park Trail just north of Gunnison. Typical Rocky Mountain ride: 1 hour of gravel road (gradual climbing) big stream crossing, 45 minutes of granny gear climbing, 1 hour of pure bliss descending back down to the pave. Perfect test ride – it’s a tuff job but somebody’s gotta do it….
The Topo wheels, lighter than a Big Mac and built around a DT Swiss 240 hubset, climbed on the gravel road and granny gear section just as you would expect. There’s no sacrifice here. On the descent, I cut ‘em loose. I never felt a hint of flex out of the corners or while breaking hard coming into the technical sections. There’s just no way that your gonna ding a composite rim so I really felt confident that I could beat the heck out of these rims.
I ended up riding the Topo wheels all summer (I’m still riding them now, although I’m sure they’ll want them back soon) and their still rolling straight as an arrow. For the XC racer or even the all mountain rider who still wants to climb fast, the Topo wheels are just about perfect: light and bombproof.
The Topo wheels are light, durable and certainly reliable but they may not be for everyone. Reynolds makes the Topo in two models: clincher or tubular (that’s right). The tubular model is really only for the world cup racer or someone looking to impress their buddies with the hard to find technology – but man, I’ll bet the Topo T’s are fast... Clinchers are generally fine but these day’s just about every XC rider is riding tubeless. You can make the Topo Clincher into a tubeless wheel using a Stan’s No Tubes kit or possibly a DT Swiss tubeless kit but those conversion kits really are not for everyone – they work great but there is some process and mechanical prowess involved in making them work (I’m a big fan though). If you’re willing and able and you make the conversion, you’ll have the lightest and strongest wheelset on the trail. So what I’m getting at is that I’d like to see the Topo Wheelset offered as a true UST tubeless wheel. It just makes sense.
This is not major complaint, just something you need to keep in mind: Owning a deep dish 26” rim offers a challenge. I rode around Gunnison and didn’t find a long stem 26” mountain bike tube until the third bike shop that I visited. They had two in stock (I wasn’t even positive that anyone made such a thing). I never ordered another long stem tube so I’ve been riding around with a patch kit, crossed fingers and (just in case) a long stem adapter thingy ever since. When riding these rims, you’ll need to make sure you always carry a spare long stem tube and/or valve stem adapter and a patch kit because you won’t be able to borrow your buddy’s tube.
Basically, I liked these wheels so much that I just want more: I want tubeless, I want a 29er version, I want a singlespeed version and I’m wondering if anyone out there will back me up on a short term loan so I can get a set of my own. Ok – they are expensive but the composite Topo rim should live long enough for multiple wheel rebuilds so you can get you money’s worth.