Novatec CXD Aluminium Clincher wheelset  £349.00

8/10

Light, stiff wheels capable of long road rides, or taking a battering for 45 minutes plus a lap.

Weight 1521g   Contact  www.extrauk.co.uk

by edwardbmason   June 15, 2014  

Novatec are a wheel manufacturer that are probably more common than many realise, often providing OE hubs for many of the big brands' factory built bikes. Now, they are starting to spread their own lines of wheels. Tested here are their CXD cyclocross disc wheels - a mid range wheel aimed at the fast expanding disc braked, drop barred portion of the market.

I've been riding mountain bikes for a very long time, and more recently have been racing cyclocross on a Kinesis Pro6. Many of the comparisons I'll draw are to Kinesis' similarly specced and priced CX Disc wheels that I've been using for the last 6 months (and not without their problems - but that's beside the point). I firmly believe CX bikes should be punished in the same manner a mountain bike is and as a result I am quite hard on cross wheels. So I was intrigued as to how the Novatecs would hold up when riding and racing some summer cross over the roughest terrain I could find in the West Country.

Out of the box these wheels look good. The different spoke count between front (20 hole) and rear (24 hole) is novel - and also smart as in my experience cyclocross rear wheels take far more of a battering when you're going full gas for 45 minutes plus a lap. The tension of the spokes and the truing were excellent from the moment I picked them up - and the wheels are still true as you like as I write at the end of the test. Quick releases were also supplied (something that is becoming annoyingly more rare with new wheels) and 4 spare spokes + nipples too. This was an unexpected and well-received bonus.

According to Novatec, the freehub body is "3 way compatible", that is it is capable of taking both Shimano/SRAM style cassettes, and also Campagnolo ones without having to change bodies. I've often wondered if this was possible - often as I curse spur of the moment ebay purchases without reading the blurb - and its good to see Novatec put it into practice. I can't say I tried the hub with a campagnolo cassette but various other reviews I've read say that it's easy to do.

The free hub body also comes with an 'anti bite' feature, which is essentially just a strip of steel on one of the cassette notches in the predominantly Aluminium body, to prevent the Steel cassette from digging into the softer Aluminium. This is a really neat idea, and at hardly any weight penalty seems like a no brainer. However, at the end of the review period I removed the cassette to find that some considerable digging in had occurred. If Novatec had considered more than one strip of Steel on the freehub body, I reckon this problem could have been avoided altogether. So, A for effort, but C for execution.

The free hub is quiet with a reasonably positive engagement. Some wheels I've ridden leave you having to turn the pedals quite a long way before you get engagement, which can be a nightmare on more technical climbs, or trying to remount and drive the bike forwards at the same time in a race. Here there were no such worries. One small thing, purely from a personal preference, I'm a fan of a nice loud hub buzz that the CXDs lacked, but that's really irrelevant to a hubs actual performance.

The bearings ran smooth and free both front and rear for the duration of my testing, despite some "summer cross" that would have been considered pretty wet even by last winter's ridiculous standards.

On to the rims. The CXDs are available in both tubular and clincher flavours, I had a clincher set to test. At 23mm wide, the rims accept a plethora of various tyre widths I tried. Generally though (and unsurprisingly really) I found that the fairly wide rims were more accepting of fatter tyres, 25mm and up.

The rims are also claimed to be tubeless compatible, once sufficiently taped. I'm all for the idea of tubeless but often find that in practice it just won't play along. My tubeless efforts with the Novatecs were not successful, but this is much more a reflection on my rim taping execution rather than the rim though. The tyres locked into the bead with relative ease using a track pump which is the main bonus, but my poor taping work led to leaking of air out of the spoke holes. Again, this is my bad and if I had actually bought proper rim tape such as Stans offering, I'm certain it's possible to run these wheels tubeless successfully.

I found the rims to be quite tight with WTB CrossWolf 32mm tyres (side note - they have not been good tyres to me). Switching out for summer cross to much nicer Ritchey WCS tyres and Conti Gatorskins for road duties has proved a much easier task.

One final point related to the rims. The rim tape supplied is god awful. It wasn't tight enough to stay put within the rim bed, and got stuck between tyre and bead when switching tyres over. I immediately replaced it with duct tape, as I often do with a new set of rims.

At 1521g, these wheels are pretty light. I found them to be quite a lot snappier to pick up speed than Kinesis' offering, both on road and off. This is unsurprising as the Kinesis wheels we tested a while ago came in at a shade over 300g heavier than these. Certainly when it comes to climbing I had no excuses with the CXDs.

However there's always the potential for a trade off of loss of stiffness with a loss in weight, especially on a wheelset made to be hammered. Novatec have handled this beautifully and the CXDs have been as stiff and strong as I could ever need in a cross race, as well as reliable for long road rides through the wet.

The wheels are finished off with Stainless double butted spokes, and alloy nipples. There's not too much to say about them really as I didn't have to true the wheels once during the test period. The two cross spoke pattern definitely helped boost the stiffness a little.

Finally, the price. At 350 quid the CXDs are 50 quid more than Kinesis CXDisc wheels (these names are too similar!), which I liked a lot. For this difference you lose a fair chunk of weight and get a set of wheels that (in my personal experience) are actually slightly more reliable. If you are in the market for a set of disc wheels - be it for cyclocross or road duties - I recommend the Novatec CXDs as an excellent choice.

Verdict

Light, stiff, stiff wheels capable of long road rides, or taking a battering for 45 minutes plus a lap for disc braked bikes

road.cc test report

Make and model: Novatec CXD Aluminium Clincher wheelset

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

From Novatec:

Our CXD wheelset combines the best of our road and offroad technologies. A shallow, lightweight Tubeless Ready rim is mated to disc-ready hubs worthy of some real dirty abuse.

700c alloy rims are specfically designed for use with disc brakes – no wasted material

Off-road worthy disc brake compatible hubs

Oversized rear hub axle is light and stiff

Unique 3-in-1 rear hub is readily compatible with Shimano, SRAM and Campy

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

CXD Clincher Specs

CATEGORY Clincher Road CX Disc

RIM TYPE/DEPTH Alloy 23.3mm

ETRTO/ERD 622-17 589.2

RIM FINISH BLACK MICRO PEEN

WEIGHT FRONT / REAR 1,465g

SPOKE COUNT F/R 20/24

SPOKES TYPE Stainless Double Butted

SPOKES FRONT L/R (mm) L:10–287 R:10–289

SPOKES REAR L/R (mm) L:12–283 R:10–281

LACING FRONT/REAR F:2X/2X R:2X/2X

NIPPLE TYPE Black / 2 Red 14mm Alloy

EYELETS / VALVE HOLE NO 6.5mm

HUBS XD611SB XD622SB

HUB FINISH Black Ano. Polished

AXLE FRONT/REAR AL 9x100x108 AL 10x130x140 or 10x135x145

CONVERTIBLE TO TUBELESS Tubeless Ready

CASSETTE (SHIM/SRAM/CAMPY) UNIQUE 3in1, 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 S compatible

MATERIAL OF CASS.BODY/COMPATIBILITY Alloy ABG [D2]

QUICK RELEASE QR249

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
8/10
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
8/10

Stiff but not overly so.

Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well. I thrashed them round a field a number of times.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The look great and the weight is a real help when climbing or chasing attacks.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The anti bite feature wasn't really as effective as I might have hoped.

Did you enjoy using the product? Definitely.

Would you consider buying the product? Definitely.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 21  Height: 182cm  Weight: 73kg

I usually ride: On-One Carbon Whippet Single Speed MTB/Kinesis Pro6  My best bike is: Scott CR1 Pro

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,

 

12 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

"The different spoke count between front (20 hole) and rear (24 hole) is novel..."

Really? Which rock have you been hiding under for the past 10 years?

posted by Welsh boy [102 posts]
16th June 2014 - 6:27

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Welsh boy wrote:
"The different spoke count between front (20 hole) and rear (24 hole) is novel..."

Really? Which rock have you been hiding under for the past 10 years?

i think ed's thinking more in the sphere of road disc wheels, which have tended to stick with the same spoke count front and rear. these aren't the first not to, but most have equal spoking

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7256 posts]
16th June 2014 - 10:24

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Yep, what Dave said! I also often custom build my own wheels and tend to go for the same pair of rims front and back - that probably contributed to my novelty factor too.

posted by edwardbmason [35 posts]
16th June 2014 - 11:00

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The newest version of the Kinesis wheels have a comparable weight - mine were under 1600g on the kitchen scales. The originals had a different rim I think.

The rim on the Novatecs sounds narrower - I wouldn't put anything less than a 28 on the Kinesis ones. May be something to consider if you want a really versatile wheel set (or have some favourite tyres you want to keep using).

posted by pmckeating [5 posts]
16th June 2014 - 14:07

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The "Easy 3-in-1" moniker is a misnomer. The cassette body can't take all three types of cassette, you have to fit a Campag specific one for Campag cassettes.

Novatec seem to be trying to make a big thing out of the fact the hub is compatible with the big three but is that such a big deal? Do you have to change the entire hub on Mavic, etc. if you go from Shimano to Campag? I don't on my Pro-Lites but then they probably use Novatec hubs anyway.

Nitpicking aside they look like good wheels for a possible future cross bike.

posted by daccordimark [8 posts]
16th June 2014 - 17:56

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20/24 spoke for disc brakes? No, just no.

Was the reviewer using disc or rim brakes?

posted by bikebot [455 posts]
17th June 2014 - 21:19

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I've been dithering between these and the Kinesis CX Discs for a couple of months for my Rose Xeon DX.

Does the 1521g include the skewers? The website lists them as 1445g - but then it lists the clinchers as lighter than the tubulars, so I wouldn't trust that (not that I ever trust the listed weights)

pmckeating, if the Kinesis are under 1600g, then it's down to price and durability I guess. I can only find one place online stocking these Novatecs, and I've seen the Kinesi for under £250.

Anyone have any views on which are likely to be more durable?

posted by billythestickboy [2 posts]
25th June 2014 - 17:53

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I got these for my Planet X XLS, and they've made the bike much more fun to ride. They are disc brake only, no braking surface on rims, one reason for the low weight I guess. Why not 20/24 spokes with discs?

posted by Vermilla2008 [4 posts]
27th June 2014 - 22:39

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Vermilla2008 wrote:
I got these for my Planet X XLS, and they've made the bike much more fun to ride. They are disc brake only, no braking surface on rims, one reason for the low weight I guess. Why not 20/24 spokes with discs?

I'd put it the other way around, why?

You reduce spoke count for aerodynamics more than weight, but cross racing isn't the speed of road racing. For disc brakes those spokes will have to be damn strong so you won't be saving weight, in fact to provide the same strength to support the braking loads from the centre of the wheel the total weight might have to be slightly higher with fewer spokes.

And if you want something that is also suitable for long rides, (as the review suggests), I'd rather use something better suited to get me home safely minus one spoke.

If there's any benefit I'd bet it's the smallest of fractions that only matters for the most serious of competitor. I'd rather trade that for strength and reliability, so would probably pick the also very good Kinesis wheels if I had to choose between them.

Oh, finally just spotted this in the review for the Reynolds Assault wheelset in April.

Quote:
These wheels are sensibly built to take the extra forces experienced with disc brakes, with a higher spoke count (24 front and rear) and two-cross spoke lacing all round

24 sounds fine on wheels like that (£1350!), I'd want 28 on anything I'd buy, 20 just sounds a bit daft to me. But as you've bought them, I hope they're a huge amount of fun and they prove reliable for you.

posted by bikebot [455 posts]
28th June 2014 - 1:48

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bikebot wrote:
Vermilla2008 wrote:
I got these for my Planet X XLS, and they've made the bike much more fun to ride. They are disc brake only, no braking surface on rims, one reason for the low weight I guess. Why not 20/24 spokes with discs?

I'd put it the other way around, why?

You reduce spoke count for aerodynamics more than weight, but cross racing isn't the speed of road racing. For disc brakes those spokes will have to be damn strong so you won't be saving weight, in fact to provide the same strength to support the braking loads from the centre of the wheel the total weight might have to be slightly higher with fewer spokes.

And if you want something that is also suitable for long rides, (as the review suggests), I'd rather use something better suited to get me home safely minus one spoke.

If there's any benefit I'd bet it's the smallest of fractions that only matters for the most serious of competitor. I'd rather trade that for strength and reliability, so would probably pick the also very good Kinesis wheels if I had to choose between them.

Oh, finally just spotted this in the review for the Reynolds Assault wheelset in April.

Quote:
These wheels are sensibly built to take the extra forces experienced with disc brakes, with a higher spoke count (24 front and rear) and two-cross spoke lacing all round

24 sounds fine on wheels like that (£1350!), I'd want 28 on anything I'd buy, 20 just sounds a bit daft to me. But as you've bought them, I hope they're a huge amount of fun and they prove reliable for you.

Thanks for the info, since I posted that I found an interesting discussion on numbers of spokes elsewhere on this forum (How many spokes....?). I got the wheels in February and they've been great so far, although I had to true them up a little after hitting a pretty major pothole last month. Time will tell I guess. I'll post here if anything goes wrong!!

posted by Vermilla2008 [4 posts]
30th June 2014 - 13:31

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These look reasonable for a lightweight wheelset ie not bombproof but raceworthy for a light(ISH) guy under approx 175lbs who is willing to sacrifice some relative durability for weight loss ie short term competitive advantage.

posted by donnieboy [2 posts]
1st July 2014 - 7:36

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billythestickboy wrote:
I've been dithering between these and the Kinesis CX Discs for a couple of months for my Rose Xeon DX.

Does the 1521g include the skewers? The website lists them as 1445g - but then it lists the clinchers as lighter than the tubulars, so I wouldn't trust that (not that I ever trust the listed weights)

pmckeating, if the Kinesis are under 1600g, then it's down to price and durability I guess. I can only find one place online stocking these Novatecs, and I've seen the Kinesi for under £250.

Anyone have any views on which are likely to be more durable?

So tubular/tubeless rims don't necessarily weight less than clinchers. Remember that clinchers will usually have holes through both layers of alu/carb rim walls, so they CAN but don't necessarily have less material (material = weight). However, it is up to the designer and fabricator to decide and implement this. You can only hope they have integrity and you can weigh them yourself to know. The rest is conjecture and prospecting based on assumption, hearsay and or generalization. It's nice to try and avoid missinformation when we can reasonably do so. More spokes with more materials can often be stronger - but you must recognize strong engineering design/physics/component relationships/dynamics and material technologies in order to know what to generally expect from any wheelset. Otherwise you accept your limited knowledge and begin to guess/figure in potentially the right direction or listen to some dude who said he likes some wheelset relative to some other wheelset he used before, which is different than your relative experiences...

posted by donnieboy [2 posts]
1st July 2014 - 7:41

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