Many folks seem to struggle with the concept of downcountry as a mountain biking category, but I was instantly drawn to it the moment I learned about it. I've never been a devoted enthusiast of mountain biking genres since I've never truly felt like I fit into any single one. Instead, my riding style lands somewhere between XC and Trail, mirroring my personality—always having one foot in and one foot out of everything. What I truly enjoy is embarking on longer rides, creating loops right from my front door, and seamlessly connecting multiple mountain bike zones. I love riding every type of terrain I can find, from gravel roads to techy singletrack, fully embracing the versatility that “downcountry” offers.
Last year, I dedicated considerable thought to finding the ideal bike for the kind of riding I was passionate about. After careful consideration, I decided to go for a custom made WZRD. BCXC (British Columbia Cross Country) bike. It's essentially an XC bike, but with a slightly longer reach and a more aggressive head tube angle to handle the rugged trails here on Vancouver Island. Em from WZRD. truly knocked it out of the park with this bike, and her craftsmanship is undeniably among the best. An essential goal for this bike was to incorporate as many BC brands as possible into it, and even when BC-based options weren't available, we aimed to source from PNW brands.
Selecting the right wheels is almost as crucial as picking the bike itself; after all, they're the components that make direct contact with the ground and keep you rolling. For me, the decision was a no-brainer - I went with NOBL. Not only are they local, but the people at NOBL are simply great, super friendly, and pretty rad all around. This marks my second set of NOBLs. A couple of seasons ago, I mounted a set of TR37s on my bikepacking rig, and it transformed the bike's entire feel. Once you've experienced that kind of performance, there's no turning back. For this bike, with Em's guidance, we opted for a set of NOBL's TR35 wheels for the job.
The TR35 wheels are a versatile choice for mountain bikers, coming exclusively in a 29" size with 28 spoke holes for both the front and rear. With a 21mm depth and a width of 35.5mm (30.5mm inner width for the front and 29.5mm for the rear), they offer excellent compatibility with tires in the 2.3" to 2.6" range, making them perfect for downcountry ripping. Each wheel weighs in at a lightweight 395g for the front and 435g for the rear. NOBL provides a fun weight calculator for those who are truly committed to understanding every detail. These wheels boast slightly oversized bead seats for a secure tubeless fit, and they're ready to roll right out of the box.
The TR35s offer a range of hub options, which can affect pricing significantly. I personally went with the Chris King 6-bolt hubs, which were new to NOBL at the time. These hubs are renowned as some of the best in the industry, legendary for their quality. They accommodate both Boost and Boost XD with any driver, feature heavy-duty seals, a one-piece solid axle, and even come with a lifetime warranty. Plus, they're self-serviceable, allowing you to maintain them with (relative) ease.
Let’s face it, looks matter when it comes to our bikes, and the wheels are a significant part of the overall look and feel. When Em and I were brainstorming the bike's design, I had a mental picture in mind, partially inspired by my neighbor's big dumb truck—well, most of it. The one thing I wasn't entirely sure about was the wheels and the choice of color for the NOBL vinyl decals. It was Em's idea to add the silver brand stickers to the wheels, aligning perfectly with the stainless WZRD. logo on the top tube. The combination of the matte black on the Chris King hubs, the silver nipples (which makes me giggle because I'm a child), and the branded NOBL valves tied everything together perfectly. Not only does it look drop-dead gorgeous, but the entire wheelset exudes quality that's visible even before getting them on the bike.
Throughout the summer, I've had the opportunity to properly ride the TR35s, and I have to admit that I tend to get a bit lost in the intricacies of wheel attributes. It's intriguing how some of these characteristics seem to contradict each other—like compliance and stiffness—yet, it's the way they all seamlessly come together that essentially defines the ride quality of any wheel.
The very first thing that stood out about the TR35s was their remarkable lightness. Unboxing the wheels at work, I couldn't resist walking around with the front wheel, encouraging my coworkers to hold it. This inherent lightness directly translates into speed; these wheels are undeniably race-ready. The TR35s constantly impress with their agility and responsiveness. On flat terrain, they excel at maintaining speed, keeping me cruising quickly. No surprise there.
In the deep singletrack is where the TR35s really shine. Regardless of the obstacles that lie ahead, these wheels conquer the most demanding of punchy and technical climbs. The rapid hub engagement allows for swift power transfer, making it easier to conquer steep inclines and navigate technical sections. But their prowess isn't limited to ascents alone. It's during the descents that the TR35s truly come into their element, instilling me with a sense of confidence. As I hurtle down the trail, the wheels' stability, responsiveness, and traction provide the assurance I need to test my personal boundaries, all while maintaining an impeccable connection with the terrain.
One of my favorite local trails, Electric Avenue, has always made me approach it a bit slower due to its general chonkiness. However, with the combination of the 2.3 Maxxis Rekon Race tires (another excellent choice by Em) and the TR35s, I felt an unprecedented sense of confidence, allowing me to conquer Electric Avenue at a pace faster than ever before. It's a thrilling experience to be flying through the trail, consistently pushing my limits.
Similar to the TR37s, one of the key attributes of the TR35s is their strength. Despite the TR37s boasting 32 spokes compared to the TR35s' 28 spokes, these wheels have proven to be incredibly robust. At 5'10", 170 lbs, 45 years old, and a father of two children, I'm not soaring through the air or risking casing my rear wheels on landing. However, I've taken numerous decent sidewall hits, and these wheels haven't flinched one bit. Moreover, the lateral stiffness is impeccable—there's zero lateral movement in the wheels and tires, something I've unfortunately grown accustomed to on my drop-bar mountain bike.
The NOBL TR35s have proven to be the perfect wheelset for the custom WZRD. As I hit a spectrum of terrain and trail types, these wheels show remarkable versatility—which for me is the essence of downcountry. Their remarkable lightness translated into enhanced speed, making them ideal for those who value race-ready performance. What sets the TR35s apart is their ability to effortlessly balance compliance and stiffness, a quality that becomes especially evident when navigating punchy climbs and technical descents.
Moreover, the resilience of the TR35s, despite a seemingly lean spoke count, is truly amazing. They've shrugged off countless sidewall hits, leaving them unscathed and maintaining their lateral stiffness. The TR35s have given me an infusion of confidence on descents, as I've comfortably pushed my boundaries and explored the limits of my riding skills.
NOBL also stands out for its commitment to customer satisfaction. Their Sinewave series, including the TR32, TR35, TR37, TR41, HR35, CR35, HR45, and CR45, comes with a reassuring lifetime warranty. This warranty covers any rim damage that may occur while you're out riding. Even more impressive is their 50% accidental replacement policy, ensuring that you're well-supported in case the unforeseen happens.
It's also worth noting that NOBL has recently unveiled the Generation 2 (G2) version of their wheels. This release brings a range of upgrades, including enhanced impact resistance and improvements in rim design. For a detailed look at these updates, you can explore their blog here.
A TR35 set starts at $1675 ($2450 with the Chris King upgrade as shown) get them here.
|Lightweight: The TR35 wheels are exceptionally light, translating to improved speed and agility on the trail.|
|Confidence on Descents: These wheels instill confidence during descents, making it easier to push your riding boundaries and tackle challenging terrain.|
|Chris King Hubs: The choice of Chris King hubs is a notable pro, known for their quality and durability.|
|Aesthetic Appeal: The wheels have an attractive design with options for color coordination, contributing to the overall look of your bike.|
|Price: High-quality components often come with a premium price, which might be a limiting factor for some riders.|
|Spoke Count: While the 28-spoke count works well, some riders may prefer a higher spoke count for extreme durability.|