If you are one of the three people following my blog you will realise by now that I am a bit of a thinker and a lot of a tinkerer. I want to know how my bike is working and I like it to work as efficiently as possible. I will happily be the first person to try some new technology or part.
I was a relatively early (non-sponsored) adopter of carbon rims, including in the bike park on my V-10.5 (I remember quite a few people telling me that my wheels would not last!) and truly believe that, despite my environmental concerns, that carbon rims are a positive game changer. I have, despite rationalising that a DT350 hub is more than good enough for my riding, become more and more drawn to the DT240S as they are lighter and more refined. I have accepted that I really like products that represent the epitome of the technology they represent and dropping rotating mass is the best way to really pep up the feel of one’s bike.
There is quite a lot going on in the modern wheel set; width of the rim (lateral stiffness), inner width of the rim (tyre foot print), depth of the rim (vertical stiffness), asymmetrical spoke holes (more favourable spoke angles for a stronger, less stressed wheel build), type of spoke (lateral, vertical stiffness and fatigue life), type of nipple (light or tune ‘proof’), and of course the hubs, which have a wide range of variables themselves; width and axle dimensions, hub weight, engagement points, noise, drag, longevity and serviceability.
I have been watching this segment of technology for a long time. I first heard about a sprag clutch in 2000 but they were heavy and dealer support was limited or non-existent. There certainly wasn’t an option of test riding one where I was living at the time.
Fast forward to 2016 and the NOBL TR33 wheel set. I made contact with Dustin Adams, NOBL’s Operations Manager, a few weeks ago and finally managed to connect in person and as a bonus he had his wheel set available for a test ride (a crash meant he was too sore to ride so he took the opportunity to send his suspension away for a service, no bike meant his wheels were free for a demo ride).
They are the new TR33 rim on the new NOBL hub set. The rim is 33mm outer width and 27mm inner width with a 23mm depth. Average rim weight is claimed to be 385 grams +/- 15 grams. The rim is designed with asymmetric spoke holes which are drilled at an angle for a better rim to spoke angle and use standard ‘external’ spoke nipples where one can true the wheel, with a standard spoke key, without having to remove the tyre and tubeless rim tape. There are several builds offered with a choice of spokes (DT Competition, Competition Race or Aerolite) and either aluminium Squorx or brass pro-lock nipples. There is also a choice of Hope Evo Pro 4 or Industry Nine Torch hub sets.
One of the most attractive features, in my opinion, is the development of a NOBL hub, based on a refinement of Onyx Racings rear hub, which runs on a Sprag clutch. This is totally silent, serves up a 5% energy efficiency (according to a study by Duke University) and delivers INSTANT engagement. It is such an amazing experience that I had to stop about 100 metres into my first trail to check it really was noise free.
Almost frictionless glide when coasting and lots of instant bitey teeth when you put the pedal down!!
I am the first to admit that my test ride was on the more tame end of the spectrum for the Sea to Sky corridor (I am returning to proper riding post ACL surgery so working my way back up the challenge tree) but I tried a few different lines on “Lumberjack’s“, deliberately taking the roughest line, both up and down the trail to get a feel for the wheels and for the engagement of the rear hub. It is like many things in mountain biking, until one tries something else one doesn’t know that there is anything better out there! For example what kind of rider would consider a DT240S rear hub with a 36T star ratchet installed to be lacking? One that has ridden a NOBL rear hub is the answer.
By the time I finished the ride on “Rollercoaster” I was feeling very ‘at home’ on the wheels despite not really trusting the tyres fully (not my usual flavour of tyre). I have been riding a certain US made brands wheels for four years now and I would swap my 70/30 wheel set for a set of these without a second’s hesitation (well other than to consider the horrible US-Canadian exchange rate which means the second hand value of my wheel set has improved!).
Sure there is a slight weight difference; the requirement to use hardened stainless steel, and the way that the driver is part of the barrel that extends into the centre of the hub, means that a NOBL 12 x 142mm XD rear hub weighs 460 grams as opposed to a DT240S 12 x 142mm XD which weighs 230 grams.
The NOBL first generation version hub is lighter than the original Onyx Racing hub, benefiting from some additional machining to lean it down a little. There is also a second generation driver about to be released which uses some very clever metal material management to allow the hardened steel engagement area to be sleeved over a lighter alloy body with a hardened alloy XD or HG driver body. This is forecast to shave another 80 grams off the weight of the hub. The use of hybrid ceramic bearings also reduces weight slightly and certainly assists the silky smooth, silent operation. The bearings appear to be standard sizes so should be easily replaced, when the time comes, either from NOBL or RWC (Enduro bearing specialists for North America).
At the moment you can have the NOBL hub in two colours, Black or Polished, both versions look great in their own way. They will retail for C$1,795 with the NOBL 32h hub set, DT Comp Race spokes and Squorx alloy nipples.
Find out all you need to know about NOBL wheels here.