Haibike Noon SL
On first sight the Noon SL fits that stereotype of typical German engineering. It looks solid, business like in gun metal grey, with a touch of blue to break it up. No wild tube shapes and a solid looking, straight bladed carbon fork. The frame has fittings for mudguards, racks and double bottle cages, this is no minimalist racing snake…
So of course, my first outing on the Noon SL was a race! But it was something a little different: the Omloop van der Drie Dorpen. This is a LVRC (League of Veteran Racing Cyclists) event run over a mixture of road and farm track, perfect for a ‘cross bike. Swapping the Racing Ralph’s for a set of Clement Strada LGG, sorted the tyre choice, but a 36-46 chainset was going to leave me under powered, so that was swapped for 53-39. A longer stem, more suited to road racing was added as well, and I was ready to go.
This demonstrates one of the advantages of a ‘cross bike, as with a few minor tweaks you are ready to tackle any form of racing; great if you only have one bike, which would have made my dad happy, as it’s what he used to do back in the ’50s and ’60s. Riders had one bike and would swap out wheels and chainrings depending on what event they were riding. Maybe it’s time we returned to a simpler time?
The Omloop is run over 52 km of rolling tarmac and gravel road, which is a test for machine and rider. I didn’t notice any other riders with disc brakes and would probably not have been allowed to race were it a British Cycling sanctioned race, but this was a LVRC race and they have a different, inclusive approach to racing, not governed by the UCI…
With the course combining smooth tarmac and dry, brick and gravel strewn farm track, I was worried that the 7005 aluminium frame would be a little harsh. I needn’t have worried. A combination of fat, 28mm tyres and carbon fibre fork took enough of the sting out of the ride, but still left the Noon SL feeling sharp.
Handling wise, the Noon SL is stable and confidence inspiring. Riding hands off, it sticks to it’s line without a wobble. It may not make for the most exciting ride, but on longer trips this means you should arrive feeling a little fresher.
One slightly off putting point was the combination of the narrow, 19mm, Rodi Stylus rims and the rotund 28mm Clement Strada LGGs. On a wet twisty section of the course, it felt as if the bike was rolling into the corner a little too quick. Not enough to cause a problem, but the first time felt a little off and led to me backing off a couple times until I got used to it. A good reason to test all new equipment before you race!
The wheels were one of the Noon SL’s weak points; at 1250g for the front and 1470g for the rear, they aren’t the lightest around and this meant sprinting wasn’t the sudden burst you might expect, more a surge! Once up to speed they do roll well – do I hear flywheel effect? – and a lot of the wheels weight will be down to the brake rotors, an item that is obviously missing on a traditional wheel.
Another small niggle was the rim tape that was fitted. After a couple of mystery punctures, I had a good look at the rim and noticed that the rim tape, which was of the rigid plastic type, was deformed around the spoke holes. This led to the tape buckling and created raised edges that were causing punctures. Swapping to a softer tape sorted the problem.
The build quality of the wheels was also not up to what I would expect from a German firm, sorry for the stereotyping. After what was an admittedly intense couple of weeks – 1 road race, 100 miles commuting, 2 summer cross races and 50 miles of off roading – the wheels had a major break down. Both front and rear had spokes that had de-tensioned to the point where they were almost dropping out. The rest of the build on the bike has been faultless, so I’m assuming this was a one off, but was something of a let down.
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