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Shopping for race wheels is confusing. Manufacturers have multiple lines and within each line they often feature multiple profiles with minute differences indicating a specific breadth of use. It almost seems like you need to buy 6 different wheelsets to accommodate every riding condition imaginable. And, well, that's not feasible for most of us. The Reynolds RZR series consists of only three wheels. Yet, it is a dedicated and diverse series that utilizes the latest Reynolds innovation. The RZR 92 focuses on deep aerodynamics for races against the clock, while the RZR 46 is a non-UCI approved, sub-1000 gram lightweight terror. This leaves the RZR 46 TEAM Wheelset as the go-to UCI approved wheelset for the world's top riders.
The complexity of the RZR design is deep, so we'll break it down into pieces. To start, we need to understand the prevalent ideology in aerodynamic wheel design, and to do so, we need to understand drag. What is it? Simply put, it's the restraining force that acts on the wheel when its direction of motion is counter to the free stream of airflow. Now, airflow near the surface of a wheel is turbulent by nature, and when it comes close to the rim surface, it becomes a turbulent boundary layer. This is the start of two kinds of drag, skin friction and pressure drag. Currently, wheel makers are attempting to harness the turbulent layer, closing it at the rear section of the rim. The reasoning behind this is that the system reduces pressure drag, but in return, the wheel sees gains in skin friction. However, this is viewed as a positive trade off, as skin friction has around a ten-fold lower drag value than pressure drag.
As technology develops, engineers are forced to develop more efficient airfoil designs, and these designs take the shape of what's called a NACA profile — think of a stretched out tear drop shape. In recent years, though, some wheel designers have started to view the NACA profile as insufficient to the aerodynamics of wheels. The reasoning behind this is that while an airfoil only has what are called a leading and trailing edge, the rim's shape requires a trailing edge to double as a leading edge. Thus, we see the wide, rounded spoke faces of today. However, Reynolds views this development as a step back from the proven designs of the airfoils that smooth turbulence. And this is just what the RZR 46 TEAM does with both its rim shape and what Reynolds is calling its Swirl Lip Generator (SLG).
At 20.8mm, the rim bed of the RZR TEAM 46 features a narrower width than the RZR 92's 28.0mm. Now, you're probably wondering why it's narrower? Well, a wider rim uses more material, and more material leads to a higher weight. However, the incorporation of SLG combines an aerodynamic advantage with a feathery overall weight. What SLG does for the 46 TEAM is to trick the introduction of airflow into thinking that it's encountering a wider rim. How? Basically, SLG is just a 0.9mm lip on the leading edge of the rim that smooths airflow as it passes to the tapered spoke face. And while it might sound a little primitive at its core, SLG tests at the A2 Wind Tunnel confirmed that it translates to a 12.5 second gain over a distance of 40 kilometers. Additionally, empirical testing showed that SLG reduces drag by 20% at a yaw angle of 10 degrees — pretty impressive considering that Alphamantis, Inc. testing reflects that we spend the most time at 10 degrees during racing.
So, with SLG, drag is greatly reduced. However, Reynolds wasn't content with just this. In fact, Reynolds views the aerodynamic engineering of wheels as a four-part structure. 1) The wheel must be lightweight, yet structurally sound. 2) It must reduce turbulent airflow in order to create a low-drag system. 3) The aerodynamic efforts cannot compromise the steering and handling of the bike. 4) The wheel must generate an aerodynamic advantage from its lift-drag-ratio. Not surprisingly, one wheel rarely encompasses all of these traits. In fact, we find that article numbers Two and Three actually tend to contradict one another -- think of a disc wheel. However, at around 1185 grams, and with one of the lowest drag systems on the market, the RZR 46 TEAM accomplishes all of the above harmoniously.
With the RZR, Reynolds also addressed an all-too-common ailment to carbon wheels -- poor braking. The solution was found through the development of what Reynolds calls its Crynogenic Glass Transition Braking System (CTg). Essentially, this is a patented braking design that required both a redesign of the brake track laminate and pads. Accordingly, CTg uses a temperature-conductive laminate at the brake track's transition points that withstands higher levels of heat than typical carbon laminates (around a 100 degree dispersion). And when paired with Reynolds' polymer Cryo Blue brake pads, braking becomes more predictable and requires less finicky feathering on fast descents.
It's impossible to not notice the RZR's carbon spokes and hubs. However, it is easy to miss that the rear hub features three hub flanges. The additional flange is positioned as to lie under the center point of the rim. So, while the radial spokes provide lateral support to the wheel, and the tangential spokes transfer torque from the hub to the rim, this 'torque flange' ensures that applied torque is pulled within the same plane as the rim's center. This increases efficiency over the standard two flange system, where the spokes pull the rim to the left or right plane with applied torque. For the spokes themselves, Reynolds not only used carbon fiber, but they're actually small airfoils — a NACA 0033 airfoil, in fact. This designation means that the width is one-third of the length, but more importantly, it further reduces turbulent airflow over the wheel.
But, if you're feeling a little hesitant at the prospect of racing on carbon spokes, you can be assured that Reynolds spent a great deal of time protecting your investment. Typically, spokes encounter failure when deflection meets compression. However, the NACA 0033 spokes deflect around 12cm before abject failure, and within the RZR system design, Reynolds states that the spokes will not encounter more than 5mm of deflection. So, you're left with the added aerodynamics, rigidity, and ride quality without any drawback. Furthermore, the aforementioned traits have been further accentuated through the incorporation of Kevlar threads in the rim. And not only does this add strength and resistance to impact, but it also shaves off a good deal of weight.
We understand that the RZR TEAM 46s are a bit, well, cost-prohibitive to most. However, for the discerning racer who values speed and the pinnacle of efficiency, the RZR 46 TEAM stands without rival. The Reynolds RZR 46 TEAM Carbon Tubular Road Wheelset is available in the color Black with White labels and in a tubular configuration. Please note that the rear wheel is offered with either a Shimano or Campagnolo 11-speed freehub compatibility. Also, every wheelset includes two pairs of Reynolds Cryo Blue Brake Pads. Reynolds recommends only using its proprietary pads, as the use of any other brake pads will result in a void of your warranty.
- Item #REY000N