Novatec Flowtrail 29in wheelset.

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wheelsetWhile having 32, three-crossed, double-butted spokes to a wheel may be a little old-fashioned in these days of fancy factory wheelsets, there’s a reason it’s still the most popular way for most handbuilders to build a wheel. It’s neither stupidly light nor painfully weighty, and it’s also simple to repair, with good availability for spares. So I was more than happy to stick this wheelset from Novatec on my do-all bike (Cotic’s excellent Solaris) – and promptly forgot about them for months.

That’s an excellent sign for a test product. Coming back to them after several months of riding, everything is still just as I left it. The sealed cartridge bearings on both wheels are still running smoothly, with no rumble or oscillation. The only signs of the wear and tear they’ve been through (they’ve covered hundreds of trail miles since new) are a couple of scratches to the rim and a couple of slightly bent spokes that must have got on the wrong side of a pedal. They’re still within a perfectly reasonably degree of true and roundness and the sleeve-jointed rim remains undented. If I’d built these myself I’d probably have used brass nipples rather than alloy for longevity’s sake, but the colour-coded nipples – and the single white spoke to mark the valve hole – are nice touches (as long as your bike is, or doesn’t clash horribly with, red). Another appreciable detail is the reinforced freehub: although the body is alloy, the splines are edged with steel to avoid damage from the splines of un-spidered cassettes.

Novatec has taken care of forward compatibility by supplying a number of axle adapters with the wheelset to accommodate most current axle standards. With QR, 9mm and 15mm options up front, and QR, 10mm and 12mm options for the rear, there are unlikely to be many bikes this wheelset won’t fit, for the time being at least – and of course they’re also available in the ‘new black’ 27.5in size (although not in good old 26in…). Rims are tubeless-ready, too and the width provides just enough support for the 2.4in tyres I’ve been running, though I wouldn’t go any larger. In fact the only major problem I can foresee in the future will be when I want to switch axle standards to fit a different fork or frame – and can’t find the adapters in the toolbox…

As far as value for money goes, while these don’t have the cachet of, say, a similarly-priced pair of Hope Hoops, performance is still right up there – so if you’re looking for something which will do the job, but don’t want the same wheelset as all your mates, then give these a look.

Overall: A good traditionally-engineered wheelset. Tough and versatile.

Review Info

Product:Flowtrail 29in wheelset
Tested:by Jenn for Six months

Mark Alker

Singletrack Publisher

What Mark doesn’t know about social media isn’t worth knowing and his ability to balance “The Stack” is bested only by his agility on a snowboard. Graphs are what gets his engine revving, at least they would if his car wasn’t electric, and data is what you’ll find him pouring over in the office. Mark enjoys good whisky, sci-fi and the latest Apple gadget, he is also the best boss in the world (Yes, he is paying me to write this).

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