Review: Blacklabel 309/289r XC LTD wheels are a great mix of Reynolds & Ringlé
Did the teaser from Ringlé about a turquoise set of Super Bubba X hubs laced to carbon rims have you eagerly waiting for their release? Well, you’re in luck. With the launch of the new Reynolds 309/289 XC wheels, Ringlé and Reynolds are finally joining forces. The result is a beautiful new LTD set of wheels with turquoise anodized hubs with just enough pop to stand out on your ride. Fortunately, they also seem to ride as good as they look with the performance we’ve come to expect from the two brands.
One of the unique features of the Reynolds 309/289 XC wheelset is the use of front and rear specific rims. The front 309 rim measures just over 30mm wide internally, while the rear 289 measures 28mm. The last number in the name is a reference to the 29″ wheel size. Hayes (parent company of both Reynolds and Ringlé) states that this is because each rim was designed for the unique performance requirements of a front and rear wheel.
The wider rim profile up front matches well with the desire to get more grip and steering precision from your front tire. In this case, I mounted up a 29 x 2.4 WT Maxxis Aspen tire which measured exactly 2.4″ wide.
Out back, the slightly narrower 28mm internal width meant the 29 x 2.4″ WT Maxxis Rekon Race measures 2.38″ wide – just shy of the front.
During the initial set up, both rims and tires were incredibly easy to seat and seal running Stan’s sealant, and have remained inflated without issue.
What makes these wheels a limited edition is the inclusion of the “turquoise” Ringle Super Bubba X hubs. Turquoise is in quotes there because to my eyes, it’s really more blue than turquoise, though it also depends on the light. From a distance, it’s hard to tell that they’re a slightly different shade of blue from the adjusters on the Fox fork which makes them a great fit on our Ibis Ripley V4 test rig.
Unlike the Super Bubba Clock’D hubs, the Super Bubba X hubs have a single 90t drop-in drive ring that when paired with the phased 6 pawl freehub, results in 4° of engagement. While not as fast as the Reynolds x I9 Hydra hubs with 0.52° engagement, the Super Bubba X hubs are still very fast to engage.
On our review sample, the hubs includes a Shimano Micro Spline freehub installed, but you’ll have a choice of Shimano HG or SRAM XD freehubs as well. When I pulled the freehub to photograph the internals, there was some freehub grease on the ratchet ring, but really nothing in the pawl pockets on the freehub. That meant that all the pawls fell out of the freehub when I went to pull it from the hub. I added more Dumonde Tech Pro X freehub grease, and now they all stay in place – and should wear better in the long run. This was an early sample, so it’s quite possible production wheels will include more grease though.
Offered only in centerlock brake configurations, both hubs use straight pull Sapim CX-Ray steel spokes with external alloy nipples. Going along with the difference in rim widths, the two wheels use different spoke counts with 24 up front and 28 out back.
The LTD wheels are limited to 15 x 110 and 12 x 148mm Boost spacing, so if you need 12 x 157mm Super Boost, you’ll have to go with the set with Reynolds x I9 hubs.
On our scale, the 309/289 LTD wheels were quite a bit less than claimed. These were weighed with rim tape installed but no valves, and they had a combined weight of 1472g compared to the claimed weight of 1540g. Even if you add in a set of the heaviest valves at 16g, you’re still well under claimed. The wheels shipped with two valve sets, one was a heavier brass set and the other a lighter and color matched aluminum set.
Over the years, I’ve grown quite fond of both Reynolds and Ringle products, but in different circumstances. Some of my favorite carbon mountain bike rims have been manufactured by Reynolds, and the Ringle wheels I’ve used in the past have always been an incredible value for their level of performance.
That led me to wonder if the combination of the two would live up to the hype? At $1,850 for the set, these aren’t exactly budget wheels. Sure, they’re less expensive than many other mountain bike wheels with carbon rims, but they’re still a pricey upgrade.
Fortunately, the wheels performed exactly as expected. Or better. Ringle wheels have always had a snappy, precise feel to them, and it’s not different here. Only, the carbon hoops smooth out the ride a bit. These have the ride feel any high end XC wheel should with quick acceleration, and a high degree of precision in technical situations.
More than once I found the limits of the Maxxis tires at 20-22psi and bottomed the tires out onto the rim hard. The rims just shrugged off the impacts and kept rolling and the tires were unscathed as well. Even though the Ripley is on the extreme end of the wheels’ intended use, they were a great match for the bike. At the same time, they feel like they would be a great addition to a super light race bike as well. You can definitely find lighter XC wheels out there, but these wheels manage to feel extremely capable and not-at-all fragile while still checking in under 1,500g which is quite impressive for a 30/28mm internal width rim.
Overall, I came away quite impressed with the Reynolds 309/289r XC LTD wheelset. The name may be a mouthful, but their refined feel, great looks, and light weight performance with a price tag under $2k is something worth seeking out.