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[Tested] Noxon Aluminum Vs Carbon Wheels Comparison

[Tested] Noxon Aluminum Vs Carbon Wheels Comparison

13/11/2016
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13/11/2016

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The carbon vs. aluminum debate is probably one of the longest running debates in cycling. Carbon is seen as the black wonder material that typically produces increased ride quality along with substantial weight loss in components and frames.  With 2017 products starting to appear in the shops we thought it would be a good idea to test a possible upgrade that many riders consider or dream about – carbon wheels.

Well in order to compare what difference carbon made to wheels, we got ahold of two sets of Noxon wheel sets. One set in aluminum & the other in carbon. We then set to work riding them, discovering the differences between the two materials on the same bike, on the same trail, back to back.

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Noxon Aluminum and Carbon wheels, we tried both to see how they worked.

Specifications

Aluminium – Noxon DISCOVERY – ALL ROUND
Wheel Geometry: Internal 27mm external 30mm height 18mm
Front :  BOOST (All other sizes available)
Rear: BOOST 148 (All other sizes available)
Freehub: 10/11 speed, Sram XD 11 speed
Spokes: Alpina made in Italy sfinati 2-1.5-2
Nipples: Ottone autobloccante
Weight limit: 100 kg
Max Pressure: 3 bar
COLOR: Black/ Silver
Weight: 27.5” 1440 grams per pair.
Price: €920 for the pair (3 years crash replacement warranty)

Carbon – Noxon ULTRA ENDURO CARBON
Wheel Geometry: Internal 30mm external 35mm height 19mm
Front :  BOOST (All other sizes available)
Rear: BOOST 148 (All other sizes available)
Freehub: 10/11 speed, Sram XD 11 speed
Spokes: Alpina made in italy sfinati 2-1.8-2 3x
Nipples: Ergal (branded alu nipples)
Weight limit: 100 kg
Max Pressure: 3 bar
COLOR: Black/ Silver
Weight: 27.5” 1740 grams per pair.
Price: €1500 for the pair, (3 years crash replacement warranty).

Interestingly, just because wheels are made out of carbon doesn’t mean they will be automatically lighter, in fact Noxon sent us the set of Discovery wheels because they said it would be the most suitable high performance aluminum rim for our Intense Spider 275 all mountain/trail bike that we would be testing them on. They also wanted us to fully understand how their concept of aluminum construction feels and set a baseline.

The Carbon wheel set they sent us was their only carbon All Mountain/Enduro version. Noxon claim they are 40% more robust than any of their aluminum counterparts. At 300 grams heavier than the aluminum Discovery that didn’t seem like a stretch.  Noxon also explained that these sets of wheels featured their fastest rolling hubs to date.

It should be noted that Noxon also make an “Enduro” duty aluminum wheel set which come in at 1880 grams.

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Boost hub spacing and a very smooth functioning free-hub body.

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The pre-installed tubeless valves sit slightly off centre.

inside width

Internal rim widths are fairly similar.

Methodology

Our aim was to ride the two different wheel sets back to back multiple times and try to understand the differences in ride feel.

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We fitted the wheels with the same tyres, Maxxis DHF and DHR with the same compounds and casings.

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Our wheels were set up tubeless with the same amount of liquid.

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Our wheel sets all ready to go.

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Once we had completed a few runs we swapped the wheels over.

On The Trail

After repeated runs on the high performance Aluminium wheels we switched to the Carbon wheels and started riding the same trail in Punta Ala (Quercia Numerata) repeatedly.

Immediately the cornering felt more precise, quicker and smoother with the Ultra Enduro Carbon wheels. The bike is even more responsive than it was with the aluminum wheels. With line choice it is possible to become even more precise,  you can choose your lines with less error and placing your wheels in a specific part of trail became easier.

The feedback and feeling in the suspension system increased significantly on the Carbon setup,  the rebound and compression speeds all became more noticeable despite the fact that we already had the bike pretty dialed.  In any case, we left our settings alone to focus solely on the wheels.

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The Carbon wheels installed.

We noted that acceleration was different, in the sense the wheel set had more zip and sprightliness to them when blasting down the trail, we felt we could change direction, start and stop a lot more quickly. When pedaling on flat or uphill sections, it feels like more energy from the rider’s legs and body is transferred more efficiently to the bicycle .

Our experience with rock strikes and durability for us was faultless. We think the fear of breaking carbon wheels is less of an issue if set up properly. Particularly after an in-depth discussion with a wheel builder we know, who stated that most damage occurs when people don’t set their tyre pressure correctly. If you repeatedly bottom out the tire on aluminum or carbon rimmed wheels, breakage is highly likely at some point for both materiels. On the trail, despite our best efforts our 2.3 bar pressure setting for our 95 kilo weight caused zero damage to both sets of rims.

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One particular feature we liked was the use of the wider internal rim width on both wheel sets. The extra width on the Noxon Carbon rims offered improvement over narrower carbon rims that we have tried in years past. The bike feels very stable with 2.3″ tyres. Cornering is very grippy; at no point do you feel like the bike is squirming around or you’re losing traction when the wheel is pushed to the limit.  The tyre stands up more and gave us superior lateral grip with both wheel sets, the minor rim width differences were indistinguishable on the trails. It felt like the material was the main game changer.

When riding with the Ultra Enduro carbon wheels we found ourselves hitting more trail features and using the trail more widely as the alertness of the bicycle picked up which translated to more fun. We found we had more precise breaking points as well in corners. The experience we had was an overall smoother, faster end to end experience of the trail.  Although we didn’t measure it, it felt like our descent times improved.

Conclusion

Essentially if we look at the choice between wheel sets it’s hard on paper to understand what is happening. In the real world and with a consistent approach to our back to back test, the bike felt softer and less able to cope with poorer rider inputs with the light weight high performance aluminum wheel set.  If we were trying to sum up the Noxon Discovery aluminum wheels, they felt smooth and precise, they did match the quality of the carbon frame we were using.

However if you have the money, it is certainly worth considering switching to carbon wheels. The performance upgrade to the bike is pretty huge compared to all other upgrades that one can make. Your fun factor definitely increases more than any other bicycle upgrade that we have tried.  Everything on the bike becomes more alive and the trail riding experience becomes more enjoyable.

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The extra weight in this case of the Carbon wheels was more than offset by the performance increase from the material choice.  In fact it surprised us how a heavier, more robust wheel set completely out performed their lighter high end aluminum offering by being stiffer. The three year crash replacement guarantee Noxon offers should allay fears about any breakages.

Overall the design of carbon rims has come a long way in the last few years and the use of a strong spoke pattern, in this case a cross three build and a wide internal rim width.  The ease of mounting tubeless, plus a really noticeable performance gain, makes the choice of upgrading to a carbon wheel set almost a non-question for us.

Noxon
Thanks to Bike Store Firenze for Wheel sets and test bike.
Uplifts and Test Center @ Punta Ala Trail Center

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