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Wheel To Wheel Comparison - Reserve's 30|SL VS Roval's Control Carbon 18

We put two carbon trail wheels against each other and compare stiffness, compliance, weight, and durability to see which comes out on top as the most capable performer.

Wheel To Wheel Comparison - Reserve's 30|SL VS Roval's Control Carbon

How a mountain bike performs out on the trails is simply a culmination of multiple components working together to create a unique ride experience. Swapping out a single part can cause drastic changes to the feel and capabilities of a bike. One component that has a massive impact on a mountain bike's performance are the wheels. After all, your mountain bicycle would be nothing but a motionless clump of expensive components if not for the two wheels moving it forward. Choosing the correct wheelset intended for the type of riding being conducted is crucial to the overall comfort, handling and rolling speed of a bike. Lucky for us, we’ve spent the past few months riding and comparing two sets of carbon wheels geared towards aggressive cross country and trail riding: Roval’s Control Carbon and Reserve’s 30|SL. While the wheelsets share some similarities, each offers unique features and designs targeted at finding the perfect balance between stiffness and compliance while minimizing weight without diminishing durability. 

When the Control Carbon and 30|SL launched earlier this year, we conducted our First Look reviews to cover all their fancy features and our initial impressions. Since then we have logged countless miles between the two with the goal of finding out which wheels best compliment the demands of modern trail riding. 

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Roval Control Carbon Wheels

Strengths

  • Light weight provides sharp handling
  • Great vertical compliance for a smooth, damped ride
  • Value-packed price point 

Weaknesses

  • Lateral stiffness leaves some confidence to be desired in most demanding situations

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Control Carbon Highlights

  • Internal Width: 29mm
  • Spoke Count: 28
  • Spoke Type: Straight pull
  • Hubs: DT Swiss 350 
  • Hub Points of Engagement: 36 (Star Ratchet System)
  • System Weight Limit: 275-pounds (124.7kg)
  • Weight: 1417-grams (as tested, 6-bolt hubs with rim tape and valve stems)
  • MSRP: $1350 USD

Reserve 30|SL Wheels

Strengths

  • Lateral stiffness provides support in corners
  • Step-in rim bead locks in tire eliminating tire burping
  • Vertical compliance minimizes small bump chatter

Weaknesses 

  • Higher price point
  • Ease of tire removal due to step-in rim bead
  • Impact durability

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30|SL Highlights

  • Internal Width: 30mm
  • Spoke Count: 28
  • Spoke Type: J-bend
  • Hubs: DT Swiss 240 
  • Hub Points of Engagement: 36 (Star Ratchet System)
  • System Weight Limit: No limit
  • Weight: 1587-grams (as tested, center lock hubs with rim tape and valve stems)
  • MSRP: $1899 USD

Rim Design, Construction and Unique Features

You might be asking yourself, what makes Roval’s Control Carbon and Reserve’s 30|SL carbon wheels best optimized for the demands of cross country and trail riding? Simply put, both wheels use a carbon layup and construction that strikes a balance between weight and durability with a focus on vertical compliance and lateral stiffness. Compared to each brand's enduro or downhill carbon wheels, the Control and 30|SL weigh significantly less than their beefier counterparts and are built to perform under less aggressive riding. This means more flex for improved damping and comfort while pedaling with a manageable amount of lateral stiffness to hold up to moderate abuse without negative deflection characteristics. Both rims use a 28-spoke, asymmetrical rim design that places the spokes offset to one side of the rim. By flipping the rim direction from front to rear, the front wheel spokes are offset away from the front rotor to counter braking forces while the rear wheel spokes are offset towards the rear rotor to counter drivetrain forces. Beyond this single similarity, each wheel boasts unique features to achieve durability and comfort. 

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Roval’s Control rim is 29mm wide and was engineered with ‘just enough’ vertical compliance built into the carbon construction of the rim. This provides a comfortable and true tracking wheel out on the trail. Lateral stiffness is provided from the asymmetrical design which minimizes the spoke tension differential between each side of the wheel and reduces spoke offset at the hub. Found at the top of the rim walls, Roval uses their FlatTop design. By increasing the edge of the rim to 4mm, Roval says the Control rim can withstand 22% more force than standard width rim walls to avoid pinch-flatting tires. The Control wheels are only offered in 29-inch wheel size and only as a complete wheelset with DT Swiss 350 hubs. Roval says this is because each of their wheelsets is tuned as a system for an intended ride experience. Lastly, there is a system weight limit of 275-pounds for the Control wheelset.  

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Reserve’s 30|SL rim uses a 30mm internal width paired with a shallow 19mm internal depth. The ‘wide and low’ rim profile aims at providing some vertical compliance due to the shallow depth while retaining lateral stiffness from the wider width. The 30|SL also features a step-in bead lock. This was done to make tubeless tire setup easier as well as increase sidewall support when cornering and limit tire burping. Reserve offers the 30|SL in only a 29-inch wheel size but with multiple hub configuration options or as a rim-only for those wanting to build their own wheels. Unlike Roval, Reserve has no system weight limit for the 30|SL. 

Editors Note: Originally, we began testing 30|SL wheels laced to Industry Nine hydra hubs. Unfortunately, as we will detail below when we cover durability and warranty, our first set of wheels experienced a catastrophic rear rim failure while riding. Our replacement set of 30|SL wheels we received were laced to DT Swiss 240 hubs. As some people might notice, Reserve does not offer DT Swiss 240 hubs as a build option. Due to inventory limitations and short demand, we received what Reserve was able to provide for a warranty replacement. We spent more time testing our second set of 30|SL wheels with DT Swiss hubs so our review will consist of comparing that wheelset to our Roval Control Carbon test wheels. 

Transition Spur Test Bike and Setup

For the First Look reviews of both wheels, we rode bikes we had on hand at the time. The Roval Control wheels were momentarily ridden on a Marin El Roy steel hardtail while the 30|SL wheels were fitted on a Niner Jet 9 RDO. Since our initial shakedown reviews, both wheelsets have lived on our trusty Transition Spur test bike. With 120mm of travel and designed for aggressive cross country riding with a healthy dose of longer-slacker-lower geometry, the Spur has been the perfect culprit to weasel out the minute differences between each wheelset. 

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For consistency, we used the same set of Specialized Butcher tires between both wheels. Upfront we mounted a 29x2.3-inch Butcher Grid Trail T9 while outback we mounted a 29x2.3-inch Butcher Grid Trail T7. We also always ran 25psi in the front tire with 27psi in the rear tire. This is our go-to tire pressure for the dry, loose over hardpack conditions present in Boise, Idaho and gives us enough air volume protection to withstand rock gardens and plenty of tire flex to suck traction from the slippery conditions.

Tire Changes

Due to industry-wide product shortages, we were left with one set of Specialized Butcher tires to swap between both sets of wheels. Needless to say, this resulted in more than enough tire changes throughout testing. Even though tire changing has nothing to do with overall wheel performance, we figured some riders might care to know how difficult this process was. With the Roval Control wheels, removing tires was mindless. We were able to break the bead by hand every time and then use a single tire lever to slip the tires off the rim. Similarly, tire installation was a breeze and required no tire levers, just some patience and the bead would slip over the rim wall. From there, we were able to tubeless seat the Butcher tires with only a floor pump every time. When removing the Butcher tires from the Reserve 30|SL wheels, the step-in bead lock did an impressive job of locking the tire bead in place. A few adult beverages were sacrificed on multiple tire changes while wrestling with the Reserve wheels. In all cases, once one side of the bead had been broken and slipped off the rim, the other side would follow with ease. When installing our Butcher tires on the 30|SL rim, the process was much easier. No tire levers were required and every time only a floor pump was required to seat the tubeless tires. Maybe not a huge deciding factor when purchasing wheels for every rider, but it is something to keep in mind for those who change tires often.

Stiffness and Compliance

When discussing the stiffness and compliance of wheels, it’s important to analyze the on-trail characteristics while keeping in mind the type of terrain that was ridden. In general, rough and demanding terrain puts more stress and force on wheels which leads to more flex.  In our case, testing took place on smooth and fast-rolling trails with scattered rocks gardens, braking bumps and plenty of loose over hard pack vibrations. By no means the roughest terrain but plenty appropriate for the intended use of our Transition Spur. So how did Roval’s Control Carbon and Reserve’s 30|SL wheelsets perform in this terrain? 

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Beginning with the Roval Control wheels, the vertical compliance built into the carbon construction of the rim created a smooth, rattle-free experience in the most chattery of situations. However, as speeds and compressions would increase, the compliance of the wheel would begin to flex under impacts. This limited how straight tracking the front wheel remained in fast and rough straights, for example braking hard into a bomb-hole filled berm. The lateral stiffness of the Control wheels was also more easily overpowered when pumping into corners or landing sideways off drops compared to the 30|SL wheels. When pushing our abilities on descents we did find ourselves holding back in the most demanding sections for fear of overriding the wheels and getting shot off-line. The Reserve 30|SL wheels, on the other hand, provided more lateral stiffness without being too harsh or causing any wheel deflection. In corners, we were able to fully push our weight into the bike and never felt the wheels flexing or squirming. This stiffness was also appreciated in fast sections with multiple high-speed compressions as the front wheel remained unphased from impacts. At the same time, the 30|SL wheels still provided plenty of vertical compliance that dampened any vibrations from the trail and helped keep the wheels planted in sweeping, chattery corners.

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Reserve succeeded in finding the right balance of lateral stiffness and vertical compliance that matched our terrain and aggressive riding style perfectly. For riders with less demanding terrain or less aggressive riding styles, Roval’s Control wheels will be a great match with enough lateral stiffness to maintain form in many situations and plenty of compliance for comfort. However, if you find yourself pushing the limits of your short travel bike or your trails are littered with rocks, roots, drops and compressions, then Reserve’s 30|SL is the better option to keep you hauling ass with more composure.

Is 170-grams Noticeable On The Trail?

The short answer is no, not really. The 170-grams (0.3-pound) weight difference separating both wheelsets in favor of the Control wheels was negligible as both setups provided an incredibly light and responsive on trail experience. Regardless of which wheels we were riding, we could get on the gas when a punchy climb would present itself and our efforts would be rewarded with snappy acceleration. When pedaling up technical, rocky ascents we enjoyed how easily we could lift the front wheel over rocks to maintain momentum. 

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Roval Control Rear Wheel
Roval Control Front Wheel
Reserve 30|SL Rear Wheel
Reserve 30|SL Front Wheel

If blind folded and sent down the trail, we would know we were riding the lighter Control wheels because of their sharp handling characteristics and increased compliance compared to the 30|SL wheels. But as we mentioned above, the more compliant and therefore less stiff Control wheels were more flexible and created an unsettled ride quality in rough sections. For riders looking to save every gram possible, the Control wheelset is no doubt the best option. Just keep in mind they will require more precise line choice in chunky terrain to keep them from squirming under pressure. Riders looking to push the limits of their bike should go for the 30|SL and take the small hit on weight in exchange for the additional stiffness they provide.

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When discussing carbon wheels, we usually hear the argument that light wheels increase rolling speed due to less rolling weight. Filled with curiosity if the 170-gram difference between the two wheelsets was measurable, we conducted a highly sophisticated rolling speed test. We found the biggest hill in our neighborhood, 238-feet to be exact, and coasted down to see which was faster with a higher average speed. We used the same Specialized Butcher tires between both wheels as well as the same tire pressure. The results: Roval's Control wheels averaged 19.7 mph for time of 1:47 while the Reserve 30|SL wheels averaged 19.4 mph for a time of 1:49. While certainly not a wind tunnel test held to the highest standards, the 170-gram weight difference did equate to some extra speed. 

Durability

The durability of a carbon rim can be gauged by its ability to weather abuse from the intended riding it was designed for without cracking under impacts. Where aluminum has a tendency to bend under force, carbon has a tendency to crack. Throughout testing, the Roval Control wheels held up with no cracks to show. They also remained spinning true with no hops or wobbles and required no spoke tensioning. Unfortunately, as we mentioned above, we did experience a rim failure with our first set of Reserve 30|SL wheels.

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The culprit (black dash is where side impact occurred)
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While riding a decently rocky trail we compressed into a rounded rock that impacted the rear wheel vertically but from the side of the tire and rim. What resulted was a crack through the majority of the rim that displaced the rim wall on one side. This happened soon after our First Look review was released while the wheels were still mounted to our Niner Jet 9 RDO. At the time, we had Schwalbe’s new Wicked Will tire in their mid-protection Super Ground casing mounted to the 30|SL wheels. Luckily, we were able to ride out the failure and were surprised that the seemingly mellow section of the trail had led to a cracked rim. As you can see from the photo, the rocks and dirt share a similar grey color making it difficult to distinguish problematic rocks. Analyzing the incident, we feel that the impact was undeniably unique in the way we impacted a rock from the side, allowing it to likely skim past the tire and impact the rim directly. However, riding mountain bikes is unpredictable and line choice isn’t always as precise as we would hope. Considering the size of the rock and the moderate pace we were carrying when the incident occurred as well as the countless rocks we smashed during the rest of our testing, we would bet nine times out ten the 30|SL rim will survive such an impact. Unfortunately for us, we just ended up on the wrong side of the odds. In the end, our replacement 30|SL wheelset underwent more riding than our first set and held up flawlessly with no cracks, hops or wobbles and required no spoke tension adjustments.

Warranty

To make up for the less-than-ideal circumstance of having a rim fail during testing, we have to give credit to Reserve for their awesome, over-the-top customer service when filing a warranty claim. We simply went on their website and followed the steps to submit a warranty claim the same as any rider would do. First, we answered a few questions and uploaded photos of the damaged wheel. Once submitted, we were emailed a claim confirmation followed by a return label. Finally, we received a follow-up email from a Reserve employee asking if we had any additional questions to ease the process. Reserve prides themselves on supporting their customers with 24-hour replacement turnaround which they lived up to as we had a tracking number in our inbox the next day. Riding incidents happen and we appreciate Reserve being so helpful and relaxed during an unfortunate situation. Both Roval and Reserve offer lifetime ride-induced warranties on their carbon wheels to original owners. Both brands also offer discounted wheel replacements to damage not caused by riding, such as accidentally backing your car over your wheels. A key difference between the two brands’ warranty process is Roval requires riders to go through an Authorized Roval Dealer to file a warranty while Reserve handles warranties and replacements directly. If both brands’ warranty policies tell us anything, it’s that cracking carbon wheels can and does happen despite efforts to minimize failures. If you are considering either wheelset, take a look at the complete warranty policy for both Roval and Reserve to best understand how you will be taken care of if damage occurs.

Hub Performance

Both wheelsets are spinning on DT Swiss hubs. The Control wheels are built around 340 hubs with straight pull spokes while the 30|SL wheels are built around 240 hubs with J-bend spokes. Both hubs use DT Swiss’ classic 36 Rachet System internals. During testing, we have not experienced issues with any of the hubs. We did not ride in any wet conditions during our summer of testing so it should be no surprise that all hub bearings are still rolling smooth and fast. The modest, 36-points of engagement provided by both the 240 and 350 rear hub is nothing special but offered enough engagement for precise pedal strokes during technical climbs. DT Swiss hubs have always boasted ease of maintenance and the 36 Ratchet System continues that legacy. We pulled the freehub body off on both wheels to inspect bearing conditions and loved how mindless this process was.

Roval Control - DT Swiss 350 Rear Hub
Reserve 30|SL - DT Swiss 240 Rear Hub

With very similar features and internals, the main difference between the two is the 240 hubs shave around 50-grams over the 350 hubs and retail for a higher price. This cost difference can help explain the higher retail price of the Reserve 30|SL wheels. However, the saved weight does nothing for overall performance and should only be a benefiting factor for riders focused on every last gram saved.

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What's The Bottom Line?

Roval’s Control Carbon and Reserve’s 30|SL wheels offer riders a light, responsive and compliant carbon wheelset built to compliment the demands of cross country and trail riding. With identical hub internals, spoke count and only 170-grams separating the two, riders need to consider the differences in stiffness and compliance between both wheels to decide which option best suits their riding style and local terrain. Roval’s Control rim may only be 1mm narrower than the 30|SL rim, but on trail experiences more lateral flex when ridden hard in the roughest of sections. For riders who are counting every gram or don’t have the most demanding terrain on hand, the Control wheels will lower the overall weight of your bike and still hold up to plenty of abuse. They will save you a few hundred dollars as well compared to the 30|SL wheels. For riders who can afford to give up a few grams for additional lateral stiffness, Reserve’s 30|SL wheelset maintains a straighter tracking and sturdier feeling ride experience across a wider range of aggressive terrain. Finally, regardless of what wheelset best matches the terrain or on-trail characteristics you desire, both brands' generous, lifetime ride-induced warranty should help ease any hesitation with coughing up the extra dough for a carbon wheelset. 

For more information about Reserve's 30|SL wheels, head to www.reservewheels.com

For more information about Roval's Control Carbon wheels, head to www.rovalcomponents.com



About The Reviewer

Jason Schroeder - Age: 26 // Years Riding MTB: 15 // Height: 6-foot (1.8m) // Weight: 165-pounds (74.8kg)

A once-upon-a-time World Cup downhill racer turned desk jockey, Jason has spent years within the bicycle industry from both sides of the tape. A fan of all-day adventures in the saddle or flowing around a bowl at the skatepark, he doesn't discriminate from any form of two-wheel riding. Originally a SoCal native now residing in Boise, Idaho, you can find Jason camped out in his van most weekends at any given trailhead in the greater Pacific Northwest. 

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Jason_Schroeder Jason_Schroeder 9/24/2021 5:56 AM

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Disappointed this review didn't discuss rider weight when deciding on a wheelset. The Rovals may have been more flexy for the 26 year old 6' 165 shredder tester but they will offer a much different experience to lighter riders who don't shred. Which is a massive contingency. Light wheels do make a huge difference in how the bike handles/steers and rolls for a lighter rider who isn't sending it mach-chicken into rock gardens. Most people under ~160lbs would benefit from the Rovals lighter feel/handling/turning/etc. For heavier riders, or riders who shred hard, the Reserves are obviously a better play. While once-upon-a-time world cup DH racers can be awesome product testers, there also needs to be some understanding that 95% of riders are going to be putting anywhere near as much energy into a wheel. Especially those that are lighter.

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You make a great point and I appreciate you taking the time to drop a comment! I will say my impressions of both wheels is given based on my personal experience riding them. So like with any products, changes in rider size and ability can result in a different experience. My info is provided at the bottom so that based on my weight/height, riders who come in lighter/heavier/shorter/taller can draw a conclusion as to what would be best for them. As for riding ability, I do my best to test products thoroughly and hard to give an honest impression, and will keep doing my best to provide insight that keeps in mind a variety of rider abilities. Cheers!

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I have three sets of Roval Carbon wheels, although not this particular model. I choose them due to the lateral compliance as I’m 67kg and find a lot of carbon wheels too stiff. I think the compliance mostly comes from the straight spokes and lack of spoke contact at crossover. J-bends are, especially DT, are very firmly secured at the hub. If you’re a bigger guy maybe go with the SC wheels but then there’s a Roval wheel with J-bends etc that are heavier but apparently stiffer than anything. These wheels are one of those things that, love or hate them, Specialized does really well.

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I'm on my second set of Rovals. First being 27.5 Traverse carbon SL's in an outdated hub width. Now I'm on 29er Roval Traverse carbon SL's. Both have proven to be excellent. They use DTSwiss hubs and can't complain about the compliability (flex?) of the rims. I broke a spoke before I flatted a tire. That's pretty awesome. Especially when you're in the back country of Utah and didn't bring spares. smile

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Thanks for the test, but I have to say I doubt the results in regards to lateral stiffness. The lateral stiffness of the wheel ist given by the hub, spokes and rim. let's say hub stiffness is the same with both wheels. Then spoke count is the same (spoke diameter is the same?). The you have a ca. 30 mm wide u-shaped profile (rim). I cannot imagine the the layup is sooo different between the rims that you wiould notice the difference. Wall thicknesss is also unlikely to have a significant impact on the area moment of inertia. The only way I can explain this is that the spoke tension might have had an impact.

and regarding the rock strike: this one is really bad. that's a single rock sticking out of the ground. from experience I can tell this would have resulted in a huge dent in the alu rum, probably would not seal. but you could probably finish the race with the Jack Moir road side repair with a rock.

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Question about DT hubs: I've had some 350 freehubs fall off from the weight of the cassette, basically yard-saling the guts out onto the ground. All my experiences with 240s hubs never did this. I presumed that this was one of the cons of the 350s. Is this still the case?

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The 350 and 240 hubs use the same endcaps, and freehub body and the endcap is what holds everything in place. Not sure why this happened to you, but I have had quite a few wheels with 350 hubs over the years and never had them come apart like that.

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I have been running a set of ENVE AMs since i got my Tallboy1 8 years back. OK the bike had an easy life until 3 years ago and we moved to Hong Kong, where things got rootier and rockier. No broken spokes or re-tensioning from day 1. But i have just been going through the comments on PB, could the rim width be a factor? Would a skinnier rim saved the SL?

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Dang, you've got some serious life out of your ENVE AMs, that's rad to hear! In the case of the 30|SL rim failure, the 30mm width could have played a factor since the failure occurred from a side impact. Typically, a narrower rim will be protected more by the side walls/volume of the tire.

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I actually have had the opposite experience between my trail and dh bike. I think the added travel allows you smash wheels harder against obstacles since it isolates the unsprung mass better from rider.

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On the same trails a bike with less travel will put more stress on the wheels so yeah. But with less travel you would probably ride mellower terrain anyway so I am not sure that point is meaningful.

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There is some truth to more travel damping impacts more than shorter travel bikes, yes. However, these wheels are both designed to compliment and hold up to the demands of XC or trail riding. If put on a larger travel bike, such as a Scout, the wheels would feel more flexy and likely not hold up to the abuse from more aggressive riding.

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I’ve broken 3 Reserves over the past 3 years (one front and two rears within a month of each this summer). I’m pretty sure each of those failures also had some element of side impact, as well as just hitting very sharp rocks very hard in compressions (both rear wheel failures happened with Super Gravity casing tires and CushCore). Otherwise the performance of those wheels has been pretty solid, and I’m sure I would’ve gone through far more aluminum wheels/hoops during that time. I did have one issue with the warranty where Santa Cruz/Reserve essentially forgot about my warranty claim for a month or two and didn’t send me a replacement wheel. When they did, they sent a rear instead of a front. However, after emailing them, they let me keep the rear wheel as a spare and sent me a replacement front, so I don’t really view that as a customer service failure, haha. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the wheels and their lifetime warranty.

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Total side point here, I did the review of the OG Reserve 30s. I still have them and they are still working awesome. I've re-laced the rear wheel once, and just popped 2 spokes yesterday inferring I may need to do it again. Never in my life have I seen such great rim durability, to the point where you need to continually relace the wheel before you end up breaking the rim. For those wondering, I used to run cushcore, now I usually just run DH casing. Rim strikes do happen.

Point I'm making, I know nothing about the Roval and am sure they are great, but Santa Cruz's wheels are the most impressive I've ever been around.

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I ran a set of Reserve 30's for several years with zero issues as well. They are still going strong on the bike I sold them with. Wheels were absolutely bomb proof and I would be riding a new set instead of the WA1 Unions if they were actually available anywhere globally.

Have a set of the Control's now on my SJ and they are awesome wheels. Personally I can feel the difference of 1/3 lb in the wheels and think it makes a significant difference in climbing. I have ridden a lot of rocky fast trails on them and been great so far. In addition the level of detail they include is next level. Tension by spoke, runout to .0x mm, spare spokes, literally every detail of the build. We don't have a lot of the big compressions that Jason was talking about here so haven't noticed any deflection at all with them. Schroeder used to be local here and he rides harder than 99.9% of us, so unless you fit that description I doubt you would notice the deflection as well.

Highly recommend this setup, especially when you consider the price vs weight considering they are $500 less than the Reserves. Hard to beat for a trail bike setup.

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