Over the past two years, I have been on a quest to lighten my bikepacking rig. I know it seems a bit silly to buy a sturdy, 29-pound steel bike designed to climb volcanoes and then try to make it lighter. But when the bike is fully loaded for longer trips, the whole affair starts approaching the 50 pound mark, making for some very tough grinds while cycling in the mountains. So tough that you start rethinking every single gram of weight on the bike.
After some thinking, it seemed that the easiest place to start dropping the weight would be with the wheels. Surly shipped the 2020 Krampus with a set of WTB alloy wheels, 3.0 Dirt Wizards, and huge, heavy tubes to fill them. The three items put together are next-level sturdy, but come with a significant weight penalty. This led me to swap out the tires for a set of tubeless 2.6 Maxxis Ikons, which did drop my overall weight by almost 2 kilos! Next up? Those wheels.
From the start I was keen on a set of composite wheels and even keener on buying something from a local brand. In British Columbia, we seem to have a very high carbon wheel brand per capita ratio. And to make the decision even harder, they are all pretty awesome. Ultimately, I decided on getting a set from NOBL, who manufacture rims in China and hand-build the wheels here on Vancouver Island.
I consider the interaction with product teams a super important component of a product's overall experience. I have had some pretty interesting interactions over the past couple years, and you can always get a pretty good sense of a company's culture from the people you interact with. That said, my chats with NOBL were legit friendly and fun.
I am probably not NOBL's target customer, at least for their mountain wheelsets. From most the marketing materials, it would seem that NOBL's mountain wheelsets are designed and engineered for squish bike riders ripping up the berms and singletrack—not fully rigid cross-country bikepackers like me. Words like “chase podiums at your local enduro” and “designed and tested on the World Cup circuit” had me wondering if I was making the right choice. For one thing, I wanted to put my 2.6'' low-pressure tires on them for that chonky B.C. backcountry. Enter customer service, who instantly assured me that the TR37s were versatile enough for my needs and that rigid bikes were in fact pretty awesome.
The staff walked me through a plethora of options for my new wheels. Once I landed on the 29” TR37s, my biggest decision was which hubset to build them around. Options include: Industry Nine, Chris King and DT Swiss hubs. After watching this video shot by NOBL's videographer Max McCulloch, there was no way I could choose anything other than the Industry Nine Hydra Super Boost.
Another nifty perk when purchasing a set of NOBL wheels is being able to choose the colors of the logo stickers on the wheel and spoke nipples. At surface level this could seem like a bit of unnecessary accoutrements; however, it's an awesome opportunity to tone down (or up) the wheels to match your setup. So many cycling companies are uber protective of their brand and want their logo to stick out vs. blend in. I give NOBL huge props on this. I ended up choosing black word type and a bright yellow crown. I thought that the black would show up on the charcoal of the carbon and the yellow would match the Maxxis logo of my Ikons. In my head I had the image of a muscle car's mag wheels.
One of the more interesting ideas behind the TR37s is the distinctive 'wave' profile. The sine-wave like shape of the rims allows the material to flatten out at each spoke and have a drop in between. According to NOBL this adds to the rims' lateral stiffness, which in my non-physics brain seems to make much sense. The front wheel internal width is 31mm and the rear is 30mm but both have an external width of 37mm, hence the name.
|Weight 29/27.5"||450g / 430g||550g / 520g|
|Weight 29”/27.5"||450g / 430g||550g / 520g|
|ERD 29/27.5"||599mm / 561mm||599mm / 561mm|
When the wheels showed up, I was charmed by the care NOBL poured into shipping and protecting the wheels I was about to bash all over the place. The carbon seemed to sparkle and the logo colours totally popped. As I had imagined, the black did stick out from the grey carbon, and the yellow was (almost) a bang-on match for the Maxxis logo. Inside the box was a polaroid of the wheels being built by NOBL staff in Cumberland, which was a nice touch. The sine-wave profile was a bit of a surprise, and looked more dramatic than any of the photos I had seen on NOBL's website.
While ordering, I managed to make a costly mistake, and I ended up receiving a Shimano freehub body. I was running a PG-1230 NX SRAM cassette that (obviously) needed a SRAM XD driver body. Crap. My friend Andy and I were leaving for a trip the following week, so I ended up taking the wheel to my friends at Marty's Mountain Cycle here in Victoria. As usual, they are the masters at getting things done fast and well. They ordered me the right freehub body for the cassette and sent me on my way. Cheers gents.
Before heading out on my big trip, I was able to take the NOBLs out on my favorite in-town XC loop. The first thing that is impossible to ignore is the freehub sound coming out of the Industry Nine hubs. Wowza. For sure not everyone is into a loud hub, and it took me a while to get accustomed to it; now—after 600km+ with them—I find myself using the sound in all sorts of creative ways, including alerting pedestrians and other cyclists that I'm behind them.
Moving from alloy to composite was a bit of a change and took some getting used to. Having to adjust to the lateral stiffness of carbon surprised me, but I soon found myself cornering quicker and more confidently than with my alloy WTBs.
But the real test for the TR37s was a trip my buddy Andy and I had planned around Northern Vancouver Island. I will admit, with 40 pounds of gear and food strapped to your bike it is hard to notice any weight improvement from your wheelset, but the TR37s continued to feel snappy and happy over the 6-day voyage.
Throughout the 400km trip we faced some serious steep climbs and descents. Steep descents in thick chonk (fully loaded) is always a bit nerve racking, but the NOBLs gave me the confidence I needed to make it through more than one sketchy high altitude backcountry pass. The vertical compliance and overall impact strength of the TR37s, along with lower tire pressure in the Ikons, provided all the travel my rigid bike needed to get over all those rocks and roots. It might not be 'enduro', but it aint lolly-gagging either.
Being a rigid mountain biker is a funny thing—I never really know if a product is intended for me. Anything that isn't gravel gear is positioned as enduro (or trail) gear. However, between those two categories lives an entire universe of riders that don't get a lot of recognition. I will say that NOBL's customer service team was the first to acknowledge that fact, and they assured me that their product would work for my use case. I will always appreciate that moment.
The wheels? They look and feel great. With the Industry Nine Hydra upgrade the TR37s come out to $1,875 CAD/$1,550 USD, which places them at the more affordable end of the premium carbon wheel spectrum. With a lifetime warranty and a 50% replacement cost discount for non-riding-damage (!!!), the price seems more than reasonable.
And in regard to the Krampus—it does feel lighter and more nimble than the day it showed up at my door. However, over the course of this latest trip I decided that the Krampus needs to be what it is—a sturdy bikepacking rig; and I need to get over trying to also make it my XC race machine. Last week, I made a special order from WZRD. bikes here in Victoria to build me a custom XC racer. You probably don't have to think too hard on which wheels I will be putting on that beautiful machine.
|Super whippy snappy with excellent control while cornering|
|Designed for enduro but fantastic for bikepacking|
|Customizing the NOBL logo colors to match your setup|
|More affordable than most other carbon wheel brands|
|Excellent customer service, lifetime warranty and replacement scheme|
|Make sure to order the correct freehub body|
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