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As the high-end offshoot of Joytech, the Novatec brand has been around for 20 years, producing high quality hubs for both the OEM market and the aftermarket. With deep roots in hub manufacturing, Novatec may not be a name on every riders lips, but chances are you’ve ridden one of their products before, likely without even realising it. But aside from an exhaustive array of hubs, the company also produces complete wheels too. And thanks to a concerted push in the North American market alongside high-profile athlete sponsorship, we’re starting to hear a lot more of the Novatec name these days.

The company’s stated goal is to provide high quality, and high performing products that also represent good value for money too. Case in point is the tubeless compatible Sprint wheelset, which has a sticker price of just $769 USD, or $799 in Australia. In the world we live in where road wheels can often push past $2-3k, that’s a nice aspect on its own. Having recently received a pair of Sprint wheels to put to the test, we decided to take a closer look at the small details that make up the complete wheelset. Read on for confirmed weights, close-up photos and tech specs…

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Novatec offer a solid range of complete road wheels, with 4 carbon models and 4 alloy models covering everything from disc brake cyclocross wheels, through to 90mm deep section carbon tubulars. Having been around for about 7 years now, the Sprint is Novatec’s lightest option in their Road Alloy lineup, coming in at a claimed 1355 grams for the pair. The pair you’re looking at here is the company’s 4th iteration of the Sprint wheelset, which employs lightweight tubeless ready alloy rims, Pillar straight-pull spokes, alloy nipples, and Novatec’s own sealed cartridge bearing hubs.

“Race-readiness and work-horse reliability are terms that are not usually spoken together but the Sprint delivers both in spades. With weight lighter than most carbon wheelsets the Sprint uses tried and true alloy rims for raceday performance in all conditions.” – Novatec.

The Novatec Sprint Wheelset features:

  • Lightweight alloy wheelset designed for sprinting & climbing
  • Rim construction: Proprietary alloy with sleeved join, machined braking surface and black micro peen finish
  • Rim dimensions: 23.3mm (depth), 21.3mm (external width), 17mm (internal width)
  • Pillar stainless steel straight-pull spokes w/20 x front & 24 x rear
  • Novatec alloy hubset w/Japanese sealed cartridge bearings and 7075 Alloy axles
  • 3-pawl freehub mechanism
  • Technologies: Tubeless Ready, Anti-Bite Guard
  • Rider weight limit: 80kg
  • Claimed weight: 1355 grams
  • Extras: Stainless Steel quick release skewers, tubeless valves, tubeless rim tape, and 8/9/10 speed cassette spacer
  • MSRP: $769 (US), $799 (AU)

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Most riders will be familiar with the Novatec and/or Joytech names from their enormous range of road and mountain bike hubs. How enormous? The company has 3 different factories across Taiwan and China that produce some 20 million hubs each year. That’s a lot of hubs. So it won’t come as much of a surprise that Novatec/Joytech also manufacture hubs for some of the biggest wheel brands in the business. In fact, there’s a strong chance that you’ve ridden a set before without even knowing it.

While Novatec has been expanding its range of complete wheelsets in recent years, it appears that hub production still makes up the lions share of the company’s output. I spoke with Jake Scott, the General Manager for Novatec US, about this being the case in the future. “The main business has been traditionally hubs” Jake explained. “As we move forward we are focused on both (wheels and hubs), but will always have a keen focus on the performance and durability of our hubs. It is something that separates us from many of our competitors.”

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The hubs on the Sprint wheelset feature a relatively traditional profile. The diminutive front hub keeps its shape and internals simple, and as a result it is claimed to weight just 86 grams. The rear hub gets a much larger flange diameter, with smoothly rounded edges hiding the seating pockets for the heads of the straight pull spokes. Oversized end caps offer a pop of colour with a bright red anodized finish. The lightweight alloy hub shell is paired with AL 7075 axles, Japanese-made sealed cartridge bearings, and a 3-pawl freehub mechanism. Overall, the hubs have an excellent fit and finish, without being overly flashy.

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One neat feature on the rear hub is the Anti Bite Guard for the freehub body. Not dissimilar to the Steel Face design used on American Classic hubs, the addition of ABG aims to add durability to the lightweight alloy freehub body, without adding significant weight. By reinforcing one of the cassette splines with a steel plate, there should be less chance of individual sprockets digging into the freehub body and causing issues with cassette removal and installation. There is only one steel spline however, so only time will tell as to how effective this design really is out on the road.

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The rear hub delivers 13.3-degrees of engagement from its 3-pawl design. The steel ratchet ring threads directly into the alloy hub shell, and provides 27 deep engagement points. The pawls themselves are also steel, and their chunky profile is nearly double the width of the pawls in some comparable hubs we’ve ridden previously. As with most Novatec hubs, nearly every component you see here is individually replaceable; pawls, springs, axles, bearings, ratchet ring, and seals.

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There is an incredible amount of machining detail that has gone into the rear hub flanges. Unfortunately this detail is covered up once you’ve got your cassette mounted. You should also be able to notice the depth of the ratchet ring teeth in the above photo, which provides added surface area contact with the pawls.

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Despite Novatec’s main business being hubs, you wouldn’t know it just from looking at the Sprint wheels. The black micro peen finish on the rims gives the wheels a classy look, while the machined brake track features built-in wear indicators to monitor the braking surface. A nice surprise was to find that the rim graphics are painted on, with the only stickers being the small Novatec logos that cover up the sleeve join. Novatec equip the Sprint wheels with Pillar straight-pull stainless steel spokes and alloy nipples. All the spokes and nipples are black, except for two silver spokes and red nipples that sit either side of the valve. The complete wheels are handbuilt at Novatec’s own factory, where they are individually laced, trued and tensioned by a real human being. The only machine used in the wheel building process is for initial tensioning, but otherwise the wheels are started and finished by hand. Checking over the wheels with a tension meter before installation, all of the spokes exhibited balanced tension both front and rear, with each wheel also spinning dead true.

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Included with the wheelset are tubeless valves and tape, which come pre-installed from the factory. Also included is a pair of stainless steel quick release skewers (not pictured). Initial wheel testing will be conducted with various standard tyres and tubes, before putting the tubeless profile to test with a selection of tubeless compatible tyres.

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Coming in at a confirmed 1396 grams, the Sprint wheels are impressively light at this price point. We’re guessing the claimed weight of 1355 grams doesn’t include the tubeless tape and valves, so we’re confident in Novatec’s claims.

Of course it’s worth remembering that as light as the Sprint wheels are, they do have an 80kg rider weight limit, which means they won’t suit every rider out there. We’re also keen to see how these wheels hold up to everyday riding and training, as well as the racing applications they’re built for. Keep an eye out on BikeRumor for the follow-up review, though for more information in the meantime, follow the below links;

USA: www.novatecusa.net
Australia: www.bicyclepartswholesale.com.au

13 COMMENTS

  1. These look pretty darn normal to me. Sure they’re light but these are pretty skinny for being tubeless and comparing them to $2-3000 wheels is questionable since those wheels are all carbon. Maybe these can be compared to aluminum American Classic Tubeless(roughly the same weight), DT Swiss or Easton Tubeless wheels that are over $1000 for their lightest aluminum wheelsets. I’d expect these to still be cheaper than they are but the same goes for American Classic, DT Swiss and Easton. The steel sleeve on the freehub should really be an across the board standard on any light wheel

  2. In every Novatec branded hub I’ve used (including PowerTaps) the bearings crap out in less than 1,000 miles and are super gritty.

  3. It says more about me than the wheels when I laugh at “micro peen finish…”. The wheels are priced reasonably, but something other than red/black/white scheme would be nice.

  4. This is not new, we had these at our shop for a year and a half or more, surprisingly good wheelset for the price, stiff, light and fast. The profile has a ridge to keep the tyres from burping and the micropeen finish looks excelent and lasts a long time. Bearings are easy to service and come by.

  5. Birdman…that’s all smoke. Nobody is really looking for super shallow, lightweight rims for top end sprints any longer. Aero first, weight second. These wheels are for climbing and just training, for any type of racing other than an uphill TT where you’re riding ultra slow, pretty much ANY deeper set of wheels will suit you better unless its 2000 grams. That said, I’m sure the rim is pretty light to get the weight down there. Its gotta be in the low 400g range or even a tiny bit lighter.

  6. That price comparison is complete rubbish. These are only a little cheaper than what you can commonly buy a Shimano DA9000 clincher wheelset for online. If you go for the older model DA, you can get them for under AU$700. Those are nearly identical weight, but don’t have a 80kg rider weight limit. The only advantage these have is that they use non-proprietary spokes (and tubeless compatibility for the few that want it)…

  7. My reservation is that it’s a light very light rim built with 2:1 lacing in the back. Typically, you use 2:1 lacing on a rim stiff enough to keep straight against two right spokes in a row.
    Also reminds me most of Stan’s Alpha wheels. Similar price, weight, cost, width, tubeless-ness… And probably fragility.

  8. Thanks for the feedback gang!

    @Veganpotter: You’re on the money there with your comparisons! This article is mostly a ‘First Look’ piece to cover off the basic specs and confirmed weights of the Novatec Sprint wheelset for those out there who might be interested. The follow-up review will indeed have more in-depth information about the ride quality, durability and ongoing performance of these wheels. We’ll also be comparing them to equivalent alloy wheels on the market, such as those from Shimano, American Classic, and Easton. Keep your eyes peeled!

    @Dylan: The statement regarding $2-3k road wheels isn’t drawn as a direct comparison, it’s more of a comment about the fact that expensive wheels are commonplace these days. While there are indeed some beautiful high-end wheels out there, not all of us have the cash to splash on them. Myself included! I think the Novatec Sprint wheelset is intriguing given the specs on paper versus the list price, but more time and more road miles will tell as to whether they’re worth the investment. Also, great comment regarding the Dura-Ace wheels, as we’ll be testing the Sprint wheels back-to-back with the C24’s (amongst others) to see how those compare!

  9. Hi Everyone, let’s make sure it’s really clear. This sprint is NOT the American Classic Sprint 350 which AC has had for 10 years.

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