Reynolds Blacklabel G650 Pro Wheelset Review

Written by Alvin Holbrook, on July 12, 2022

Gravel cycling is diversifying more and more, and component manufacturers are doing their best to keep up as much as they can. What does one do if they’re looking for comfort, grip, and reliability out of a carbon gravel wheelset rather than outright speed? For a long time, Reynolds only had one answer: the road-centric ATR. The Reynolds G700 and Reynolds G650 wheels are Reynolds’ answer to the increasing diversity of gravel bike wheels. And for those looking for the lightweight, most feature-filled option, Reynolds offers this mouthful of an option: the Reynolds Blacklabel G650 Pro gravel wheels

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The Reynolds G-Series wheels offer a wide 25mm internal rim width, a fuss-free feature list, and a robust lifetime wheel warranty. This review is based on the top-shelf iteration of these wheels, which offer premium construction, impressive low weight, and one of the most generous warranties around.

Reynolds Blacklabel G650 Pro Details

Reynolds G700 and G650 wheels are split into three tiers: G650, Blacklabel G650 Expert, and Blacklabel G650 Pro. Those tiers are split into two wheel sizes: one for 700c tires, and one for 650b or 27.5” tires. All G-series rims share the same rim shape, though only the Blacklabel models receive Reynolds' IDM carbon layup. The lightweight rim, used for both the front and rear wheels, offers an on-trend 25 mm internal width, 30 mm external width, and relatively shallow 26 mm depth. And while Reynolds says these wheels can be used either with or without tubes, the hookless bead requires a tubeless-compatible tire. 

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Officially, Reynolds says the G650 and G700 rims are optimized for tires from 38 mm to 52 mm in width. Max tire pressure is a quotes 70 PSI

Our review set, the Reynolds Blacklabel G650, is the top of the line, featuring an Industry Nine Hydra hubset with flanges and shells designed specifically for Reynolds. It also gets lightweight Sapim CX-Ray spokes, with 20 in the front and 24 in the back. That brings the wheelset’s overall weight down to just 1287 grams for the pair. 

Besides the pair of wheels, a wheelset purchase also includes a pair of black tubeless valves, end caps to work with a 15mm thru-axle, and a warranty card to remind purchasers to register their wheels. 

Why Design Another Set of Gravel Wheels?

The Reynolds G650 gravel wheels are the brand’s wide-tire-optimized gravel wheelset. It isn’t unlike something like an ENVE G23 or G27, which prioritizes stability over outright speed. 

Reynolds was one of the first wheel manufacturers to release a carbon gravel-specific wheelset called the ATR all the way back in 2015. Now in its second generation, the Reynolds ATR wheelset has three levels: ATR, ATR X, and Blacklabel ATR, and has become a largely pavement-centric wheelset with extra width and robustness to tackle different grades of terrain.  It offers strong aero performance when paired with a wider tire and has shown an ability to take a beating. But its deeper 40mm depth meant it could feel a bit stiff-riding on rough terrain. Nothing wrong with that, but that’s where Reynolds figured a new gravel wheelset would come into play.

Okay, but that still doesn’t answer why Reynolds would dedicate resources to building a second set of gravel bike wheels. To gain further insight, we talked with one of the engineers behind the Reynolds G-series project to figure out the why behind these wheels. Thanks, Todd!

Reynolds uses a proprietary value called a RAV score to determine the performance of their wheels both within their lineup and amongst the competition. While Reynolds was hesitant to detail what exactly goes into a RAV score, the critical output is three indices: an Efficiency Index, an Aero Index, and a Stability Index. the Reynolds ATR wheels are measured to have similar results to other mid-depth road wheels, the G-Series wheels offer a much higher Compliance Index and Stability Index. 

Perhaps the most interesting part of this new line of Reynolds wheels was its focus on appealing to those riding more rugged gravel, singletrack, or chunky stuff. G-series was optimized from the start for rugged gravel, singletrack, and the chunky in-between terrain people often find themselves riding. To achieve a high Efficiency Index and Stability Index, a low rim weight was critical. So too was a shallow rim for compliance. Marketing teams have told consumers for years that a stiff rim was a better rim, but a focus on compliance in the carbon rim market is a useful development for off-road applications. Within the context of a rim, compliance allows the rim to conform to the off-angle rocks one might find riding, soften the vibrations that might filter through the bike to the rider, and even add a bit more grip to steep, technical riding.

In short, if the ATR is designed for the more dirt-road and race-focused gravel bikes out there, the G-Series is for the more adventurous bikes and riding out there.

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Part of the wheels’ street cred - or rather dirt cred - is the adoption of Reynolds IDM carbon layup. They stressed that IDM is proprietary, and was designed specifically for mountain bike applications. IDM is supposed to be stronger but it is the use of specific resins means that there is some vibration damping as well, which translates to more control and durability over harsh terrain. That it also smooths out terrain means riders get a more comfortable, smoother ride. At least, that’s the claim.

Reynolds wheels come pre-wrapped with tubeless rim tape straight from the factory. On the scale, the Blacklabel G650 Pro wheels weighed in at 1285g for the pair, or about on par with the quoted weight. This is roughly equivalent to something like an ENVE G27 wheel with Industry Nine Torch hubs, a similarly-designed wheelset aimed for ride quality and cornering performance rather than aero efficiency. Even still, Blacklabel G650 wheels are one of the lightest gravel bike wheels on the market today, regardless of wheel size.

Last bit here: Reynolds offers a lifetime warranty for their wheels. Riding rough gravel roads and singletrack on a bike that isn’t too far away from a road bike can be hard on a wheelset, which makes the Reynolds Lifetime Warranty an important feature to note.

The lifetime warranty covers manufacturing defects and issues that might occur during normal riding and extends to replacing consumables within the first two years of ownership. That means they’ll replace or repair spokes, spoke nipples, with the necessary labor; even the return shipping when a rebuild is required is included. Further, Reynolds offers a 30-day return policy for their wheels, even after you’ve ridden them.

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Reynolds Blacklabel G650 Pro Riding Impressions

Reynolds positions their Blacklabel wheels as premium carbon wheels, and I think this is the case with the Blacklabel G650 Pro wheels. These rims hold air well, even without tubeless sealant. The tires used include a set of Rene Herse Juniper Ridge 650b x 48 mm tires as well as Panaracer Gravelking SK 650b x 48 mm tires. Neither were particularly tough to install, and both popped into place with just a standard floor pump, though the Rene Herse tires required them to be partially installed on the bead seats in order to fully seat.

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Now to the riding. We’ve been fortunate enough to be on these for the last month or so before release to vet them and dig into what strengths they might have to offer. Perhaps the most noticeable thing about these wheels is just how responsive they are. They get up to speed quickly and maintain speed over rough terrain Further, they are quick to respond to pedaling inputs, thanks to the wheels’ low weight and quick freehub engagement courtesy of the Industry Nine Torch hub internals.

After about a month of riding, the Blacklabel G650 Pro wheels are still as true today as they were out of the box. That isn’t just on smooth dirt roads, but on lots of chunky dirt roads torn up by farm vehicles as well as lots of technical singletrack you find from classic underbiking rides. One expects this out of top-shelf carbon gravel bike wheels, and these Reynolds wheels meet those expectations.

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How do they compare to the competition? Among wheels at Contender Bicycles, the closest comparisons come from ENVE, both with the ENVE G27 wheels. While we weren’t able to ride them back to back with the G27 wheels, both roll very well out of the box and are similar in quoted and measured weights. However, hub engagement seems just a bit quicker than the ENVE Alloy Hubs. This isn’t a big deal on a traditional dirt road, or even on calmer singletrack. But where one might notice the difference is on really low speed, technical terrain. The quick pickup and lack of dead space between starting to pedal and the bike moving forward is the point in favor of the Blacklabel experience; if you care about these things, then these are likely your choice. 

One might also compare these to something like a Zipp 101 XPLR wheelset, which is a gravel wheelset that also focuses on compliance and grip off-road. The Reynolds wheels are a fair bit lighter - think about 350 grams, or almost a pound - though the Zipp wheels feature a single-wall construction that should offer tons of grip and riding compliance. 

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Conclusion

Reynolds wanted a gravel wheelset that was focused on off-road performance, particularly on the rugged gravel, singletrack, and chunky stuff one might find on more adventurous gravel rides. We think Reynolds found exactly what they’re looking for in the Blacklabel G650 Pro wheels. The wheels have proven to be durable with proper riding time, the hubs roll quickly and smoothly without issue, and their low weight means riders can still have a lightweight gravel bike, even with heavier, wider tires that typically come with 650b setups. We think just about anyone would appreciate these attributes.

The average gravel cyclist might trend toward alloy wheels, as they are perceived to be stronger and more durable overall. But these Reynolds wheels, with the IDM technology from their mountain bike rims, lifetime warranty, and reliable Industry Nine hubs, look to be just as reliable of a wheelset while being a whole lot faster in every situation. And while there are a number of cheaper consumer-direct options available, these Blacklabel wheels are a premium option with few drawbacks tied to a name long synonymous with technology in Reynolds.

Words and photos by Alvin Holbrook.


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