Nox Composites Kitsuma wheelset review£1,399.00

Class-leading mega-wide rims

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Nox Composites hails from Knoxville, TN. Two engineers/bike racers founded the company in 2012 and their focus has been on delivering carbon wheels that excel at making bike riding better and more competitive, all at prices that enable more riders to experience the benefits of carbon hoops.

These wheels saw months of unrelenting use
These wheels saw months of unrelenting use

Nox Composites Kitsuma wheelset specs

  • Rim weight: 475g +/- 10g
  • Actual wheel weight: 960g rear, 830g front
  • Hubs: Industry Nine Torch XD 12x142mm rear, 15x100mm front
  • Spokes: Sapim CX Ray black
  • Asymmetric rim offset: 2.6mm
  • Spoke dole drilling: Asymmetric, 5 deg
  • Max spoke tension: 200 kgf
  • Depth: 30mm
  • Width: 42mm external, 36mm internal
  • Hole count: 32, (others available custom order only)
  • Tubeless ready: taped and valve installed
  • Finish: Satin Unidirectional CarbonTech 
  • Features: UniWeave, RockGuard HL, Anti-Burp Bump
  • Rider weight limit: none

They're 36mm wide internally, 42mm wide externally
They're 36mm wide internally, 42mm wide externally

Nox Composites Kitsuma wheelset build

Nox isn't the first to the wide rim party, others have split the sea of narrow rims, namely Derby, as well as Ibis with its awesome 741 hoops, and a few others here and there.

The benefits of wide rims are numerous and easily felt. It all boils down to supporting the tire better. Instead of rounding the tire, wide rims square the tire and the tread allowing better cornering and less sidewall squirm and folding. Wide rims increase tire volume, therefore improving stability and traction, both huge benefits everywhere, from slow speed technical climbs to full-gas descending — and certainly when blasting corners. They’re also less prone to burping when set up tubeless. See, wide rims are goooood.

Subtle labels and loads of sidewall support are some highlights of these wheels
Subtle labels and loads of sidewall support are some highlights of these wheels

Nox builds all its wheels in Knoxville, TN. The 36mm wide (internal) Kitsuma rims were laced to Industry Nine’s beautiful Torch hubs with black Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes and external (where they should be) nipples. There's not much I can say that hasn't already been said for the incredible, made-in-North Carolina Industry Nine jewels. Throughout testing they were noticeably silky smooth and never once missed a beat. Simply put, they are impeccable and a fine choice for rims of this caliber. 

I was plenty eager to slip some tires over the Kitsumas but first threw them in my truing stand just for a check over. As expected, everything looked and felt perfect, with zero wobble and a clean build. Spoke tension was balanced and consistent, the true hallmark of a quality wheel build and a strong indicator of how tough the wheel will likely be or not.

It should be noted that Nox uses asymmetric hole drilling. Offsetting the holes increases both the spokes' net tension and changes the bracing angles. What does that mean? More even spoke tension on the drive and non-drive sides for a stronger, longer lasting wheel.

The beads are hookless, there’s no little hook or ridge for the tire bead to sit under. Removing the hooks takes a considerable step out of the manufacturing process, keeps the carbon fibers continuous and increases the rim’s strength. Nox calls this Rockguard HL Rim Protection. It also means the max pressure is 45psi, not because of the rim, but because of tire manufacturing discrepancies. 

Industry Nine's Torch hubs were the heart anchoring this wheelset
Industry Nine's Torch hubs were the heart anchoring this wheelset

The Kitsumas came pre-taped and with valves installed for simple tubeless set up. Mount up a tire, add some sealant, and cross your fingers. I was very happy I didn't have to assault my ear drums with my noisy air compressor as the tires popped into placed with just a floor pump. The included valves are very nice, providing solid sealing without having to resort to busting out pliers to crank the lock nut down. Great valves, thank you Nox!

They came pre-taped and with a tubeless valve installed
They came pre-taped and with a tubeless valve installed

Have to have the right rubber

Having rims this wide makes tire choice even more crucial. If the tread isn't right, you're going to find out, and it likely won't be fun. To test this a bit, I mounted up some of my go-to tires, 2.3in Maxxis High Roller IIs. They have massive side knobs and a very square profile, which is addictive to lean on in the corners. However, mounting them on the Kitsuma's 36mm wide girth changed them, and not for the better. 

Maxxis's venerable High Roller II looks okay but sure isn't
Maxxis's venerable High Roller II looks okay but sure isn't

Together they made cornering about as subtle as a light switch. Leaning the bike felt good until it didn't and I was on the floor. The tread on the HRIIs is just too square for rims this wide. Mounting some wider Bontrager 2.4in XR4s really unleashed the Nox wheels' potential. It took a few rides to find the correct pressure, but from then on, it was on. 

Now the good stuff, the ride

On skinnier rims, I typically run 2.3in tires around 25psi front and 32psi rear, but when pumping up tires on the Kitsuma rims to those pressures they felt rock hard. So I bled the psi down to 20 front and 25 rear and went out for a spin. 

From forest senders to sandy deserts, the Kitsumas inspired me everywhere
From forest senders to sandy deserts, the Kitsumas inspired me everywhere

First thing I noticed was how much braking traction there was. It was freaking insane. All my braking points (on the trails) didn't make sense anymore. I inadvertently did a stoppie at one point due to how hard my front tire bit the ground. Early on I realized I might have to change my riding style with these insane wheels. Being able to let the speed hang on until the last seemingly possible second before throwing on the anchors? Oh yes, yes please.  

The second thing that hit me was how much more traction there was available. Especially on off-camber trails, and when scratching up tricky, loose, techy climbs, there was ample traction where the rubber met the dirt. Hooning the bike into corners was a revelation in speed and the increased tire sidewall support was hugely appreciated. The traction was of course bolstered by the Kitsuma's big-time rim stiffness.

Stiffness was better than great, holding lines better than imagined. The folks at Nox prize stiffness over weight or practically anything else for that matter. Riding these wheels changed familiar lines, allowing me to cut corners a little tighter, to load the tires harder, and of course go faster. It might just be in my head, but finding the sweet drift spot seemed easier, or at least more consistent.

Drifting or riding like a goon, the Kitsumas brought out the fun every time
Drifting or riding like a goon, the Kitsumas brought out the fun every time

The fun didn't stop there, oh no. Launching the bike into hairy situations, how do I put this, became simultaneously more reckless and more in control. It’s almost as if the Kitsumas were pushing me to step over the ragged edge of disaster, with a little reassuring voice saying “do it, it’s gonna be awesome.”

In the back of my mind I knew the traction was there, the big cushy tires would forgive my errors and the wheel's stiffness would see me through to the other side. “Don’t touch the brakes, just mach into the chaos, we’re gonna smash this together and you're gonna love it.“

Going through a couple of different tires I’ve flatted the rear a few times but the rim itself was unfazed. The rims do have plenty of knicks, scratches, spilled sealant, and other war wounds, but it’s all superficial cosmetic stuff. 

Plenty of knicks and scratches, the 30mm tall rims had to fend off plenty of rocks
Plenty of knicks and scratches, the 30mm tall rims had to fend off plenty of rocks

Better than the parts

To me, there’s nothing better than when an upgrade or a new component immediately and drastically improves how my bike rides. But it’s far more than just how light or how fancy the new part is, it has to elevate my riding. Yet again, it's more than purely function, it has to excite, engage, make me curious as to how much farther I can take things, it has to make me want to go ride, be amped to get out there, to find new lines and new ways of pushing the ragged edge of speed and control.

To be a truly exceptional upgrade or piece of kit it has to change my riding in positive ways I didn’t know were possible. These wheels are this good. 

Nox Composites' Kitsuma wheels will change your ride
Nox Composites' Kitsuma wheels will change your ride

Nox Composites Kitsuma wheelset pricing and availability

  • Rim pricing: US$499, UK and Australian pricing not available
  • Complete wheel pricing: £1,399, US$1,808 and AU$2,420
Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Age: 39
  • Height: 6'3"/190cm
  • Weight: 175lb/79kg
  • Waist: 34in/86cm
  • Chest: 42in / 107cm
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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