Novatec’s Diablo 29 is a solid and very durable wheelset with a wide, tubeless-ready rim that is ideal for mounting fatter tyres, and with hub end-caps for complete compatibility. The high weight will deter some, but they are aimed at the gravity market. So if you’re not worried about your climbing speed, they’re a quality product worth noting.
The Diablo is available in the three wheel sizes, but we picked the 29er size because there’s a growing need for burlier wheels for the 29er bikes and the Diablos, with the 28.5mm wide rims, fit the bill. There is a growing number of longer travel 29er bikes coming to the market, and the wheels are typically the weak point of them all.
These wheels feature fat CNC-machined 6061 hubs paired to 28.5mm external width rims, with a 23mm internal width. They look very smart in red anodised finish paired to the black rims. Talking of the rims, they’re the widest 29er rim I’ve yet tested, and made the Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35in tyres I mounted on them sit up nice and square. The rims are tubeless ready as well and I had no problems using a Stan’s rim strip and valve.
First thing you notice once you’ve fitted them to the bike and hit the trail, is that they’re not the lightest or fastest rolling. Weighing in at 1,959g on my scales, they’re bordering on being too heavy for a lot of trail riders. The weight is noticeable on the climbs, as you’d expect, but the payback is how tough and strong they are when you get into really technical, rocky and nadgery trails where the stoutness of the wheels comes to the fore. They take the impacts from jumps, dodgy landings and low pressure tyres with grace.
The weight is noticeable on the climbs, as you’d expect, but the payback is how tough and strong they are when you get into really technical, rocky and nadgery trails where the stoutness of the wheels comes to the fore.
The wider rim paired with the 2.35in tyres means they sit more comfortably on the rim with none of the roll and squirm that can happen on narrower rims. That improves the ride and handling. You can pummel them through rock gardens and they display great strength. Despite pinging the rims a few times during test rides, the wheels are still rolling nice and straight, and there are no dents in the rims to speak off. You’d have to hit them really hard to dent them.
With a multitude of axle standards on mountain bikes these days, Novatec have smartly provided the wheels with interchangeable end-caps. They’re very easy and quick to change and means that no matter what axle standards your bike requires, these wheels will fit - the hubs are compatible will all major axle sizes.
The rear wheel features Novatec’s own freehub design with a unique Anti Bite Guard. What it basically boils down to is a small, hardened steel plate that prevents the cassette digging into the soft alloy of the rest of the freehub body. If you’ve ever had to battle to get a cassette off a freehub, this is a feature that makes a big difference, especially if you’re often swapping cassettes between wheels.
Inside the freehub is a 6-pawl ratchet ring drive system, which produces instantaneous pickup, with no noticeable delay when stamping on the pedals. The rims are laced to the hubs with Sapim Race double-butted spokes, 32 in each wheel with a 3-cross pattern.
Aside from the high weight, I was very impressed with the Diablo wheels. Here, finally, is a properly tough wheelset that is well suited to the riding potential of the modern crop of long travel 29ers.
More information: Novatec Diablo 29 wheels
What Novatec says:
The devil has spawned a big brother and it’s tougher, meaner and less forgiving. Like an avalanche of aluminum and steel, the Diablo29 eats gnarly terrain and demands more. At only 1,890 grams, the Big Devil is still lighter than many 26-inch “competitors."
- Trail pounding 28.5mm width in a 29" diameter hoop
- Tubeless Ready micro peened rim profile
- 4-in-1 front hub for compatibility with QR, 10, 15 and 20mm front axle systems
- Heat cured graphics are light and can withstand hard off road abuse