We first got ahold of the Novatec Factor Wheelset a few months back during a long bout of testing a handful of different carbon wheels. Coming in at just 23mm wide internally and featuring a standard bead hook as opposed to a the more modern hookless bead these might seem a bit dated on first glance, but there is more to the story…Continue on to see how they’ve treated us over the long haul.
• 28 Hole Front/32 Hole Rear
• Bladed, J-Bend spokes laced 3 cross
• 3° engagement from 120 points
• 23mm internal width/30mm external width
• Shimano or SRAM XD Drivers available
• 9/15/20mm front options
• QR, 10mm,12×135 & 142x12mm rear options
• Retail : $1800
• 1790 Grams(actual, w/o valves or rim strips)
When we first started dabbling with bolting these up to our ride, we opted for 2.3″ tires set up tubeless, and wouldn’t have wanted to go much wider due to the slightly narrow rim width. Because the rim strips that are included aren’t adhesive or airtight, we just grabbed some rather generic rim tape and slapped it on. For the price, it would be nice to see valves and tape included but we can’t complain, at least Novatec does include 4 spare spokes so we did appreciate that. One small note about valves : as the rims are quite deep, a longer valve will be optimal, as you can see in the picture below, our valve was a bit short but we made it work…
Regardless, setup was pretty quick, but getting the tires to seat was slightly trickier than the super easy hookless setups we’ve grown accustomed to. During the tubeless inflation part, it’s fussy trying to keep the tire beads out of the drop center of the rim but it’s nothing that an air compressor can’t strong arm.
Going over the hubs we really liked the nearly instant engagement. 6 offset pawls bite into 60 points of engagement where only 3 teeth are biting at a time. Because they are staggered, this gives 120 total points of engagement. The Factor 327 have a distinct buzz and very rapid engagement; something we greatly appreciate on the trails. There is nothing worse than a cheap rear hub that lags . Let’s see how these bad boys did once they hit the dirt.
Aesthetically, we liked the simple graphics, and shiny black hubs. When we first saw the Factors, we assumed that you’d see the carbon layup in the rim, but it is a painted surface so that wasn’t the case, it’s svelte nonetheless. The two silver spokes paired to red nipples are a nice touch.
On the Trail
The first thing we appreciated was the very rapid engagement. Although we’ve already mentioned it, it really is nice on technical climbs or when you’re trying to snap out of a corner. Although the Factor 327s are by no means a benchmark in lightweight carbon wheelsets, they felt stiff, light and snappy on the trail. In fact, they felt a bit stiffer than some of the wider offerings we’ve tried. Most sane, rational people don’t simply spend a ballpark of $2,000 on a carbon wheelset with the sole intention of saving a couple hundred grams. The biggest appeal is trail feel as a nice pair of carbon wheels can literally transform a bike and make it come alive on a trail. However, some carbon wheels can bit a bit too stiff and some can be a bit noodly and flexy. We thought the Novatecs struck a perfect balance and provided a fantastic on trail feel.
For the most part we rode the Factor 327’s on rough terrain that lended itself the to mid-travel bikes that Novatec seems to have aimed them squarely at. Although at times we wished the rim itself was wider to better support our tires in rough turns, our test rider aboard them tends to run higher pressures in the low to mid 30 PSI range even when conditions are a bit sloppy. Because of that, these wheels suited him fine and he wasn’t longing for a 40mm wide rim that he would allow him to run 15 PSI in. To each their own, but if that’s what you’re looking for, the Factors aren’t quite the wheels for you.
Speaking on durability, after a few months of hammering, we haven’t had to true or re-tension our spokes. They came with a rather high spoke tension to start. That could speak for their snappy attitude on the trails. As for the rims, we have picked up some scratches and smashed them into some rocks pretty hard, but have yet to find any cracks, nor have the rims gone out of true or given us any grief with burping tires. Regarding the hubs we’ve also been pleasantly surprised. After removing the freehub and re-packing it with fresh grease, we’re please to report that nothing got contaminated. A rather stout seal is in place to assure things run smooth and problem free. The bearings front and rear are as smooth as ever and we haven’t had to fuss with constantly making sure they didn’t develop any play. All in all, the hubs have been smooth and trouble free.
In the grand scheme of things, we’ve had a great experience with the Factor 327 wheels. Determining whether or not they are the right upgrade for YOU is something you’ll have to weigh out with the information above. On one hand we applaud their on trail feel and amazing engagement; plus we have been very happy with their strength and durability. With that said, the market is shifting a bit and many riders are now looking for wider rims. For the $1,800 price tag, lighter wheelsets can be found; even with aluminum rims. However, you won’t find an aluminum wheelset anywhere with this ride quality. Whether these are right for you comes down to personal preference really, but you will be happy with how they feel on the trail and they should hold their own for some time.