Tested: NOBL TR37 Wheels
Sine waves, sprag clutches and corrugated cardboard
-Front- & rear-specific construction
-31mm inner-width front
-30mm inner-width rear
-Multiple hub options
-Carbon fiber only
-No-foolin’ lifetime warranty
-Good balance between comfort and stiffness
-Not the most compliant rims out there
-ONYX Vesper option not ideal for most riders
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Four years ago, I took my first spin on NOBL rims, a pair of OG TR36s to be exact. They were laced to a set of purple Onyx Classic hubs. Baller, I know. And they rode exactly how I thought a high-end pair of boutique carbon spinners should—sharp, stiff and responsive as all get-out. They’ve performed flawlessly since then, and I haven’t needed to upgrade—a blasphemous concept, I know. Especially for me–I seem to have a way of destroying parts. But now, after almost four years of post-consumerist bliss, I got my hands on these contemporary TR37 carbon hoops from NOBL, and just like that, my old TR36s felt a bit—antiquated.
Harsh. I meant to say harsh. Which, in fairness to NOBL, is pretty much how every carbon wheel from the mid to late teens rode (quiet down, Ryan Palmer!). It’s only been in recent years when the balance between stiffness and compliance has been realized. Wheels like Crankbrother’s Synthesis E 11, and later, Zipp’s 3Zero Moto acknowledged the fact that flex, in the right direction, is actually a good thing.
Which brings us to NOBL’s latest creation, the TR37s. Set squarely as the enduro-oriented offering from the British-Columbia-based hoopsmith, the TR37 is focused on strength and stiffness—but we just established that strength and stiffness are the easy parts. NOBL also paid unique attention to comfort and compliance, touting a flat profile and front/rear-specific construction, just like the Crankbrothers Synthesis. The front rim is 31 millimeters inner width and the rear is 30. Both are 37mm outside, which means the rear rim also has more meat on the beads for strength, while the front flexes more vertically and better accommodates a slightly wider tire.
Still, NOBL took things a step further. The defining feature of the TR37 is its unique sine wave profile. Between the spokes are lower-profile sections, increasing the side-to-side stiffness without overly compromising its vertical compliance. Think corrugated cardboard. Corrugations increase stiffness and strength in the direction parallel to their orientation while allowing flex in a perpendicular direction.
The TR37 weighs 450 grams (29er) for the front rim and 515 grams for the rear (claimed). Not featherweight, but not bad. For reference, a Crankbrothers Synthesis rim tips the scales at 480 and 495 grams front and rear (claimed). And anyway, the TR37 isn’t meant for featherweight riding. No, these rims are likely going on a brute of a bike, which is exactly where they belong. The TR37s do not muck around when it comes to descending. It is their specialty, not unlike the bikes I tested them on. It’s said that bikes best suited for downhill shenanigans don’t really come alive until they exceed, or at least approach, Mach Chicken. The same is rarely ever said about wheels, but the TR37s fall into that exact category—they need speed to be fully realized. Descending at Half Chicken is fine, but it doesn’t allow these rims’ unique features to truly shine.
The TR37s feel balanced and smooth under hand and foot, but without feeling soft or flexy in the slightest. Think of it like opening up your high-speed damper a click or two—you won’t really feel it most of the time, but on those hard and fast hits, it’ll make a difference. Likely, that balanced feeling is due to the front and rear-specific layups. Front and rear wheels interact differently with the trail, not to mention with our suspension and with our bodies. Designing rims around that fact allows the front rim to focus on what’s important; not getting bounced off line and not rattling your fillings loose. Meanwhile, the rear wheel simply has to track with the direction of your momentum and remain predictable. Addressing these needs individually actually makes for a more unified feel to how front and rear wheels behave.
This translates to a controllable ride at speed, one where deflection is predictably mitigated and it’s easy to stay on line. However, that’s not to say TR37 aren’t snappy and stiff. In fact, the TR37s are some of the most laterally stiff rims I’ve been on. Like, hella stiff, if I may use a term that far predates the carbon rim itself. They’re not so burly that they’ll twist your frame and buzz side-knob against seat-stay, but they aren’t very forgiving when you land sideways or slap a corner too hard. The rims feel like they are meant for pushing. The lesser goal of compliantly calming your line choice is decidedly secondary—they might be a bit overkill for mellow terrain or passive pilots. There are smoother carbon rims out there for general purpose trail riding.
My test rims came laced to a set of beautiful Onyx Vesper hubs—NOBL has an extensive wheel-building program that lets you design your dream hoops. Logo colors, hub brands, spoke thickness, with everything laced by hand in Canada to boot. Starting at $1,200 (USD), builds are pretty dang reasonable, and the value continues throughout the lineup. In fact, the only build I probably wouldn’t recommend going for is the one I chose to test. The Onyx Vesper hub’s rear sprag clutch on my test wheel slipped, despite replacement internals and a trip to Onyx HQ. To be fair, Onyx does push the Vesper hub more to the light-duty trail or cross-country audience, not the enduro audience. And anyway, I’ve owned two sets of Onyx Classic hubs, which are another NOBL build option, so if you really want that instant engagement, go with those—they’re more reliable and have less (if any) wind-up.
But back to the rims. That’s what we came here for. I didn’t experience any rolled beads or burped tires during testing, running a WTB Vigilante 2.6 Light casing up front (21 psi), and a Kenda Regolith 2.5 SCT casing (27 psi) in the rear. I hit both rims a few times on square edges, but never suffered a pinch flat or observable damage to the wheels. My old TR36s have survived years of similar abuse and are still going strong, so if that’s any indication of manufacturing quality, the TR37 will be rims that last. So far, the test rims are straight as an arrow and spoke tension has remained even.
If, by chance, you do manage to break a rim on a sharp rock, NOBL’s lifetime warranty will get you a replacement rim at no cost to you except for shipping and the time it takes to re-lace a wheel. If that sharp rock was actually your Toyota Tacoma or the roof of your garage, well, you’ll still get a discounted replacement rim. On another quality-of-life note, tires are easily seated on the TR37 with a floor pump, and I could just about get the majority of tires I tried on the bead without using levers (but it was a lot easier with levers).
Riders who’s throttle is stuck fully-pinned will enjoy the solid, yet forgiving, feel of the TR37s at speed. NOBL made these rims for hard-charging, flat-out affairs. If anything, the TR37s are a perfect example of intentional compromise. Their slim profile and front-/rear-specific construction gives them give when you need it, but the unique sine wave architecture keeps them spritely stiff everywhere else. Factor in the lifetime warranty, customization on your wheel build and performance that exceeds the price tag, and you have a set of hoops that will be hard to beat. In fact, they might just be the kind of wheels that will quell the consumerist inside for years to come—imagine that.
The Onyx Vesper option I tested was one of NOBL’s top-end builds for $1,600. A Chris King or DT240 set will go for the same. But for the identical TR37 rims and Sapim D-Lite spokes, you could go with either an Industry Nine 1/1 or DT 350 hub for an incredibly impressive $1,200.
Learn more at noblwheels.com
Photos: Samuel McMain