Novatec is a brand that many of us may have come into contact with without even knowing it, they have been producing quality hubs used in many wheels for a number of years but have now decided to go the whole hog and produce their own branded wheels.
The Novatec R5 is a 50mm deep carbon clincher rim that has followed the recent trend of using a wider rim profile. The 24mm wide “Hypertoroid” profile is said to improve the aerodynamics of the tyre/ wheel combination by smoothing out the interface between the tyre and the rim. When used in conjunction with all black tyres they also look pretty slick.
The wheel obviously utilises Novatec’s own hub which spins fantastically smoothly. The black of the hub is highlighted with red end caps, and nicely for me, perfectly matched my bikes colour scheme. The rim is a matte carbon with bold white decals, which while certainly not subtle aren’t garish. The front wheel runs 20 spokes radially laced and the rear runs 24 spokes with a single cross pattern on the non-drive side and a 2 cross pattern on the drive side. If you look closely at the spokes you will notice that on each wheel, among the black spokes are two silver spokes, these are set at either side of the valve hole, to allow for easier locating of the valve, presumably for those who choose to flaunt old school protocols and do not match their tyre labels with their valves. In any case they are kind enough to provide you with spare spokes in black in case you don’t like this odd spoke look.
While on spare parts, the wheels come complete with a set of lightweight titanium skewers, also the recommended brake pads and a pair of valve extenders. The skewers I found, unlike some lightweight skewers, to be good at their job however the thread I found to be a little short. This meant care needed to be taken when loosening off the skewer to get it past the “lawyer tab” on the front wheel, as it was very easy to have the nut come right off the thread, and dropping one of those on the side of the road in grass could be a nightmare. It was also nice not to encounter any ticking from the valve extenders protruding through the rim as can sometimes annoyingly be the case.
The wheels weighed in at 752 grams for the front and 960 grams for the rear, this included the rim tape that was already installed. That doesn’t put them in the super exotic category of lightweight wheels, but then again the price also reflects this. The R5 is a noticeably stiff wheel; with brake blocks set tight out of the saddle climbing efforts did not result in any brake rub at all. They would certainly make a great criterium or race wheel and are also good on all but the harshest roads but if you were after a super comfortable ride then maybe the shallower profile R3 should be in your sights. The R5’s spin up to speed quickly and seem to hold speed well. The profile is quite stable under crosswinds with only a slight buffeting being noticed on the blusterier days. The braking on the Novatec’s was a pleasant surprise. I have steered away from full carbon clinchers for a few years as I wasn’t happy with the braking of my last set, but these have come a long way. The braking is only marginally compromised when compared to an aluminium rim, both in the wet and in the dry. The brakes do still carry that slight carbon squeal, but it is not a howling noise like years gone by, just enough to let others know you are lucky enough to be riding carbon rims. There was no hint of the wheels overheating at all, however I didn’t do any super long descents nor was I keen to actually push these to failure. There was no recommended maximum tyre pressure noted on the rims that I could find, so with that I pumped my tyres up to 120psi and there were no issues at all.
Of course good carbon clincher wheels come at a cost, but the $2,000 asking price for the Novatec R5 is not exorbitant, especially compared to some other brands about. When you factor in the ability for this wheel to handle most conditions and therefore be used more often along with their ability to make your bike look like a race machine every day then the rate per km isn’t much at all and makes a more compelling argument than a pair of fancy wheels that only gets used once a month.
Distributor: Bicycle Parts Wholesalers