The Rossland Rubberhead Enduro, now part of both the Kootenay Rockies and BC Enduro Series, has been a project of mine for the past 5 years and I’m ex...
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March 19, 2014
Fall Reflections, Future Predictions
September 15, 2016
First Impression: NOBL carbon wheels
May 6, 2015
NOBL 650b wheels laced to Hope Pro 2 hubs.
I have been riding NOBL’s carbon fibre wheelset for a few weeks and want to pass on some of my impressions.
The carbon fibre innovation in mountain biking has lead to many improved products, and while I’m not sold on some applications, I am convinced it has its place. One clear winner, from my experience, is carbon fibre wheels.
Riding my old rims on my Xprezo Adhoc before my NOBL wheels arrived provided a direct comparison between quality aluminum and carbon fibre rims. The difference was staggering, and actually took me some time to adjust to the performance enhancements.
First off, a bit about NOBL Wheels: based out of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, NOBL was founded in 2012 by Trevor Howard and Ryan Kononoff. Trevor has a background in advanced composites and is behind the design side of the company, while Ryan brings a background in business development and investment. Both are avid bikers and rip in their own right. Their focus is to simply build the best wheels possible and their no-compromise dedication is impressive. They’re already building a loyal following of riders who have experienced NOBL wheels.
Now for the geeky stuff. I had two wheel sets built up by NOBL:
The NOBL TR38 650b rims are the wider of the three available with an external width of 38mm and an internal width of 31mm. They also have a 36mm and 28.2mm for 29” wheels, including a high-end XC race wheel coming in at 1430g! NOBL wheels are asymmetrical in profile to optimize spoke length, tension and strength. Here’s a cool video by Trevor explaining the asymmetrical benefits. They are “hookless,” which means they are much stronger and hold tubless tires firmly in place. Again, here’s a video of Trevor explaining the benefits of hookless technology. Lastly, these rims feature a wide flange to increase strength and prevent flats.
So that’s impressive, but ultimately it comes down to how the wheels ride. I have put these wheels through considerable abuse already. I’ve used them for XC and full on DH rock smashing. They’ve held up with remarkable poise and zero flats or burps (exceptional for me). Here are some of the more notable benefits:
Lighter: This decrease in centrifugal weight means a more responsive, flick-able ride. It’s a feeling that has to be experienced to be appreciated.
Stiffer: this is perhaps the biggest surprise. I found myself over-steering corners as these wheels are so stiff it simply blows my mind. I’ve had to adjust to how I initiate corners due to their responsiveness. This also translates to rough, gnarly terrain. I can charge through with comfort and at noticeably higher speeds.
Precision: the above benefits translate into a remarkably precise feeling
Putting the NOBL wheels through the paces.
on the bike. I feel like I went from a butter knife to a scalpel. As such, I can place my bike on the desired line with greater accuracy and confidence. The wider profile provides insane grip too.
Acceleration: Of course every racer is looking for small advantages, and this may be one of the biggest. I can accelerate and get up to speed much quicker when I get on the gas coming out of corners due to the stiffness and lighter weight of the NOBL wheels. This is a distinct advantage on the rugged enduro courses I race in BC, and I can’t wait to see how it translates to my race times.
Overall, this is the single biggest upgrade I’ve made on my bikes since the dropper post or maybe even disk brakes. I can’t help but fall into the cliché that these things are game-changers. They’re not cheap, ranging from $1700 (hope hubs) to $2200 (I9 hubs) per wheel set and $575 per rim. While NOBL offers a one-year warranty for manufacturing defects and a 2-year crash replacement policy, these wheels are so insanely strong that as long as you’re running adequate tire pressure, they could last a lifetime. And that’s not considering the above mentioned performance enhancements.
If you’re leaning towards a carbon wheel set, it’s important to note that they aren’t all made the same. NOBL’s proprietary design has significant benefits compared to most of the competition, and they’re also Canadian. They’re well worth the consideration. You won’t regret it.