NOBL is a small Canadian wheel company that focuses on making high-end carbon hoops. It offers carbon rim and complete wheelsets in 27.5 and 29in sizes in a variety of widths to suit everything from cyclocross and gravel, to trail and enduro, to gravity riding.
The TR33 is NOBL’s Jack-of-all-trades wheelset. The ‘33’ refers to the outside dimensions of the rim, not the interior width, which is the critical number to keep in mind when attempting to pair rim and tire widths. The rim interior measures 27mm.
NOBL’s carbon rims feature hookless profiles to increase durability and external nipples for easy truing. They come with tubeless tape pre-installed and have bead lips on the sides of the drop channel to make tubeless inflation a breeze, which it was. I was able to use a floor pump to inflate and seat Maxxis and Bontrager tires on the TR33 rims with ease.
The company hand builds its wheelsets using Sapim spokes laced three-cross to your choice of Hope, Industry Nine or NOBL-branded hubs manufactured by Onyx Racing.
My test wheelset featured Onyx hubs that eschew the standard arrangement of pawls engaging a toothed drive ring in favor of a sprag clutch.
Sprag clutches aren’t common in cycling, but they are used in everything from heavy machinery to helicopters. A series of steel cams, or sprags, sits in a ring around the freehub body. They are angled to allow free movement in one direction and instant resistance in the other.
You can think of a sprag clutch as a one-way roller bearing — it spins smoothly in one direction and won’t give a degree in the other. The result is instantaneous engagement.
In addition to this, the system is completely silent — there are no angry bees or other irate insect noises to alert fellow riders to the existence of your very expensive hubset.
Swift and silent
On the trail, the sound of silence was the first thing I noticed about the NOBL wheelset. Actually, that’s a bit misleading, instead of the usual buzzing I’m accustomed to hearing from freewheeling DT, Hope or Industry Nine hubs, I found I was more attuned to the sound of my tires breaking traction while cornering, as well as minor annoyances, such as the sound of cables clattering against each other and a squeaky pivot I needed to take a look at.
The second thing I detected was how well these wheels rolled. The lack of drag from pawls, along with ceramic-hybrid bearings, made a small but noticeable improvement in coasting speed when pumping through flowy segments of my testing trails.
Moving outward from the hubs to the rims, the NOBL rims did a good job of balancing durability with enough vertical flex to smooth out the ride.
Weight is on the high-end of the spectrum at 1,800g for the complete 29er TR33 wheelset, with tubeless rim strip and valves installed. Much of this heft can be attributed to the Onyx freehub — the instant engagement provided by the steel sprags and drive rings comes with a weight penalty.
If you’re looking to shave grams and don’t mind a bit of noise, complete wheelsets laced to Industry Nine or Hope hubs will save approximately 180g and 150g, respectively.
Rim width is a moving target these days, with many trail and enduro-focused wheelsets spreading out to 30mm and beyond to suit riders’ desires for higher-volume tires. Still, the 27mm stance provides a good tire profile for 2.25–2.3in tires. If you want a wider footprint, NOBL offers the TR36, which has an internal width of 30mm
NOBL TR33 verdict
The highlight of this wheelset is undoubtedly the immediate engagement provided by the Onyx freehub. But is this prompt pick-up really necessary?
Some riders and some riding conditions don’t require instantaneous engagement. On the other hand, if you’re the type of rider who likes to pedal-kick off every obstacle on the trail, or if you frequently ride very technical terrain, the benefits quickly become apparent.