10 December, 2015

Product Review: November Bicycles Nimbus Alloy TI Wheelset

It seems so common that factory bikes lately have one Achilles Heel - the wheels. Nearly every review I read seems to say something to the effect of, "an upgraded wheel package would make this bike faster/better climbing/more durable...". This appears to be the area where manufacturers control costs. Most buyers don't really understand much about wheels, while they can immediately spot the difference between Shimano Sora and Ultegra. Too bad - wheels are easily the biggest single game changer for many bikes.

After a few gravel rides on my Specialized Crux, I began to feel that was likely an issue for me as well. At 20 spokes front, 24 rear the Roval Pave SL wheels feel a bit flexy and undersized for my 200+ pounds. I'm not saying I'm some sort of Road Beast, but I'm a decent-sized guy who's reasonably strong. Had a wheel guru at a local shop take a look at the wheels. As seems to be the case with Specialized wheels, the bearings are pretty small. Especially up front. Two strikes.

But what are my alternatives? My wheel guru builds great wheelsets. But we chat and I'm looking at just over a grand for that. Nope. Took a quick look at Mavic, but something leaves me cold about these. 

Enter November Bicycles. I first ran across these guys on the RoadBikeReview online wheel and tire forum. Everyone comments on the great quality and tremendous value. A visit to their web site and now I'm intrigued. Semi-custom 'cross wheels for 600 bucks? For real? After some dialogue with owner Dave (great guy), I settle on the Alloy Nimbus TI with Pacenti SL25 rims in a 28/32 spoke configuration. The hubs are made for November by White Industries - basically a White T11 with a simpler shell and available only in a standard pewter color. I have a White ENO on the rear of my single-speed mountain bike and it's SOLID gear. November offers these wheels in a wide range of spoke configurations, rim choices, etc. so you're sure to find something that meets your needs. And if you don't know what you need, I found them really helpful in guiding my decisions.

Good looking ride!
I love getting sweet bike gear shipments. And November didn't disappoint. In a word: solid. These wheels look durable and solid, without feeling "overbuilt". The hubs are a great color and the bearings are butter-smooth. I really like the T11's titanium drive - nearly as light as aluminum and as strong as steel. And the Pacenti rims have a great profile, a great matte black finish, and even some pretty sweet graphics (hey, I'm a marketing guy by profession).

Once the wheels are mounted, I'm even happier. Somehow they just clean up the look and pull the bike together visually. I love that November even does their own skewers that are just a touch unique and match the hubs. Nice attention to detail.

OK, that's all fine, but what's it ride like?

Bomber rear hub!
Sublime. Smooth. Solid. The smooth-rolling hubs carry momentum wonderfully -- blast the descent on a roller and you get half-way up the next hill! The added rigidity of the higher spoke count and more rugged rim means flex is GONE. Every pedal stroke translates into maximum forward motion.

The Alloy Nimbus TI has transformed the Crux from a bike that I liked a lot to one I love. That's pretty cool. And surprisingly affordable.

Of course, this has me eyeing November's Rail 52 carbon road wheels. My Roval Rapides have been fine, but with a low 16/21 spoke count and the same small bearings, I wonder if I'm crushing them. Ah well, a consideration for next Spring.

If you're looking for a handbuilt wheelset with top-notch components at a mass-market price, I strongly recommend checking out November. Great product!