Tested: Novatec Diablo V2 Wheels
Words: Anthony Smith
Photos: Van Swae
My time on the Novatec Diablo wheels started innocently enough. While snooping around the Bike magazine shop I came across this wheelset that none of the staff were scheduled to test yet, from a company that I really didn't know a whole lot about, Novatec. The wheels looked good, sounded great, and rolled smooth. I asked around too see if I could throw these on the Banshee spitfire that I was testing at the time. The answer came back “Sure...ride ’em, but you'll have to write the review.” Sounded like a fair plan. After all, I just needed to get a couple of weekends out of the wheels before I had to send back that test bike, so I figured I would give them a shot. But here we are, a year, and a half later, and I have these wheels on my third test bike to date.
The Diablo wheels are dubbed as Novatec’s do-it-all freeride, enduro, 4x wheelset. That may sound like a big brush stoke of categories for any one wheelset to cover, but given all the Diablo's adjustability and compatibility, it turns out to be an accurate description.
The front wheel weighs in at 872 grams and its hub boasts Novatec’s 4-in-1 range of adjustability. The standard 9-millimeter QR and through QR are perhaps unnecessary given the aggressive type riders that these wheels are targeted towards. The 15-millimeter and 20-millimeter through-axle modes are the only way that I ran these wheels for the duration of the test. Changing these wheels from 15 to 20 millimeter is as easy as popping out the inserts you don't need, and putting in the ones you do. Little mechanical aptitude, or intelligence required.
The same plug-and-play compatibility is featured on the 1011-gram rear wheel. A standard QR, 10-millimeter through QR, through-axle, 12-millimeter through-axle and X12 through-axle are all inlcuded. Despite these wheels being on three different bikes the best option on all three of these bikes proved to be the standard QR. I did make a point of swapping out the rear axle parts to each mode out of curiosity, and, as with the front wheel, any dummy can figure this out.
The Diablo wheels boast the use of Sapim nipples with POLYAX / S.I.L.S. (Sapim Inside Lock System) On paper this claims to prevent tension loss and spoke bending at the nipple. What? Despite the fact that this all reads like a smoke and mirrors use of nonsensical, technical jargon, after all the time spent riding these wheels they maintained their tension and trueness. It was very impressive and unexpected to be honest. The brilliant durability was on par with what I would expect from a wheel builder at the local shop to achieve with a quality hand built set of wheels.
Everything was roses on the Diablo wheels over the course of testing them. The bearings had held up surprisingly well. Spoke tension, and trueness were both terrific. I had just one more ride on the wheels planned before the review was slated to post, and then it happened.
Something was up. The freehub spun freely in both directions. My ride was over. After a short hike out of the woods, I drove back to the shop and pulled apart the rear hub. It was quickly apparent what had happened. The freehub body had separated in two and the inboard section holding the pawls had split in three. We got in touch with Novatec, and this did not come as a surprise to them. They became aware of this problem shortly after I started testing the wheels, and had since made revisions to correct this flaw.
According to Novatec, "We have replaced the cassette bodies on the wheel set with a much stronger steel version and have redesigned the hub and alloy cassette body. The new alloy cassettes body has the inner bearing moved all the way inboard (under the pawls) and an increased amount of material around the pawls. However the parts are not interchangeable with the old design so the steel cassette body is the only way to fix the current hub."
Given the one-and-only issue that I had with the wheels (since putting on my bike a year and a half ago) was a catastrophic one, the question begs to be asked: Would I want to trust another set to do my bidding on every blown turn, bad line and jump I short? Hell, yeah! Literally, until the day the rear freehub body exploded, I did not have a single issue with these wheels. They ran smooth and true, and were up to any challenge I threw their way. Besides, the one glitch (albeit a major, ride-ending one) I ran into has, according to Novatec, already been corrected on the latest version of the Diablos. For a reasonably priced and high performance wheelset capable of being mounted on a huge range of bikes, I would say that Novatec's Diablos are a fantastic value.