Novatec's R3 Disc wheelset takes Novatec's mid-section 38mm carbon rim and mates it with a disc hubset to give you a fast-rolling all-conditions wheel. It's well-made and feels quick and stable, but it's a bit narrow for wider tyres and not tubeless or thru-axle ready, which may limit its appeal for the gravel generation*
The R3 Disc wheelset shares its rim profile with the non-disc version, the obvious difference being the lack of brake track. It's a 38mm section rim with a fairly narrow profile; more Reynolds than Zipp. The external width at the tyre bead is 21mm. Novatec call it a 'wide profile' rim, which it is, compared to a rim from the 1970s, but I'd say 'wide' these days was at least 23mm, and some wheels – the 28mm Reynolds ATR, for example – are considerably more. This is a pretty standard width, which means 23mm tyres are great and 25mms too, but if you're running 28s they do balloon out a bit. If you're investing in mid-section wheels for a bit of aero advantage but you also want to embrace the world of fatter race tyres, that's something to consider.
The R3 discs are evenly and strongly built, with stainless aero spokes: 24 at the front and 28 at the rear, in a two-cross pattern. They were true when they arrived and remained so over about 800km of testing. You don't notice lateral flex in a disc wheel as much because there are no brake blocks to rub on, but these wheels always felt nice and tight through the corners and under power. A 38mm section is only just into the territory where it's going to make a meaningful aerodynamic advantage and you have to be going fairly quickly to make any gains over a standard box section. They're lighter than a deeper rim of course, although at 1,670g per pair these R3s aren't the lightest you'll find.
The hubs are very well made, with a six-bolt disc mount front and rear. That means if you're running Shimano's Centerlock hydraulic disc rotors, you'll need to swap them out. Shimano recently opened up the Centerlock standard to all wheelmakers and in our opinion it's a better system. The other plus of Centerlock is that you can still fit six bolt rotors using an adaptor. It will be interesting to see whether the next generation of this wheel is still a six bolt design; several manufacturers, including Reynolds and DT Swiss, have moved over wholesale to Centerlock.
The freehub (Shimano/SRAM as standard, Campag available separately) has steel anti-bite plates to stop your cassette chewing up the alloy freehub body, and they work a treat: taking the cassette off at the end of testing revealed only the slightest notches in the metal. The internals of the hubs feature cartridge bearings that have rolled smoothly throughout testing. The axles are QR only though, so if you want a set of wheels that's future-proofed for that thru-axle frame you've got your eye on, these aren't for you.
I've used these wheels on my Tripster ATR, and in the time they've been fitted done everything from training on the local circuit to bashing out a 300km audax. They've acquitted themselves well: they're good wheels. They limit their own appeal though: the trends we're seeing – wider rims, wider tyres, thru axles, tubeless – aren't really considered here. The R3 Disc feels like a bit of a stopgap solution: Novatec using the components they already have to service an emerging market. The result is a good wheelset that gives you the benefits of a carbon wheel - lightness and strength with powerful braking performance - but I'm confident that the next incarnation will be more tailored to the specific needs and trends of road disc bikes, and better for it. If you've already committed to road discs and your frame is quick release and designed for a 25mm tyre, they're well worth a look.
*not an actual thing
Good wheels built from quality components, but
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Novatec R3 Disc wheelset
Size tested: black
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?
The R3 is an ideal do it all wheelset that was made to attack, sprint, climb, spin, race, and train. This wide profile carbon rim is disc brake ready and provides a consistent braking advantage while on the road. If you could own only one road wheelset, the R3 would deliver in ultimate performance and be the perfect choice.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Disc brake ready
An ideal, do-everything, 38mm deep, wide profile full carbon rim
Matrisilk structural mesh and Protex enhanced braking surface
Medium depth profile is an ideal balance between rigidity and on-road compliance
Handbuilt with Stainless CX-Sprint stainless aero spokes and alloy nipples
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Nicely made, roll well, stiff
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
QR only, not tubeless ready, a bit narrow for 28mm tyres
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes: they're good wheels
Would you consider buying the product? No: they're not really very future-proof
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 189cm Weight: 91kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.