Noble Bikes GX5 Gravel Bike: Getting Rolling- by Guitar Ted
Gravel cycling has been hot of late and so there has been a flurry of activity from several companies looking to take advantage of this style of riding. This bike from Noble Bikes may seem like one of those kinds of moves to hop on the wagon and make hay while the gettin’ is good. However; that isn’t the case here, and this is a serious entry into the gravel cycling market that has some pedigree, although it is not immediately apparent.
To properly understand the brand and this particular bike, it might prove useful to have a look at the history behind the GX5. The bike is really an evolution of ideas formed in 2012. The brand’s owner, Mark Landsaat, was employed by Raleigh at that point and Mark played a major role in the design and development of the Raleigh Tamland. (Click here for my “Gravel Grinder News” era Tamland Two review.) Since then, Mark has left to start out from scratch with his own brand with a partner. They have been working on a evolution of the ideas presented in the Tamland and the result is the new Noble Bikes GX5. So, this isn’t an “off the shelf”, carbon catalog bike. This bike has some very tried and true ideas behind it along with an application of modern technologies. Let’s take a closer look…..
What It Is: The GX5 is carbon fiber, of course, and has the latest in technology including internally routed cables, electronic shift routing capabilities, through axles front and rear, and flat mount brakes. However; there are some things old and some things new with the geometry here that bear mentioning.
The basics from the Tamland were carried over- The low, size specific bottom bracket drop, (ranges from 80.5 on the small end to 72.5mm on the largest size), the slack-ish head angle, size specific again from 70.0°-71.5°, and the long fork offset which is 52mm for all sizes. The “new” has to do with Mark’s “Forward Geometry”. This pairs a longer top tube with a shorter stem to move the rider’s weight forward a bit in relation to the bike.
Of course, tire clearances are increased over a road bike with the stock set up being a 40mm Donnelly MSO which is tubeless ready, by the way. Noble lists a 40mm as being maximum for tire size, but I bet you could squeeze in something like a 42mm width tire in here for dry course riding. There are hidden fender mounts, by the way, and rack mounts also are provided.
But, that isn’t to say that this is a bikepacking rig, it really is a “go-fast” gravel travel machine. The Noble GX5 sent to us to review is a size 58cm and without pedals it weighed in at 19.55lbs with tubes in the tires. That may not win any awards for the lightest gravel travel sled, but it isn’t anything to sneeze at either. The wheels are Stan’s Grail MK3 hoops laced to Stan’s hubs, so lighter wheels certainly exist. (Stan’s claims 1675 grams for this wheel set) There are also some other bits and baubles one could replace to bring the weight down further, but as it stands, this is definitely a racy weight and not a heavyweight brawler by any stretch.
First Impressions: Noble Bikes is direct to consumer, and as such, I think it bears mentioning here about how the bike was packaged and how it went together. The bike comes double boxed, which is a rarity for any company to do. The bike is very well packed inside, and it will take the average person far longer to free the GX5 from its mummification than it will to assemble it. Handle bars, front wheel, and front brake caliper mounting are all that is really necessary to do, along with the seat post insertion. Adjustments were few. The only tricky part being the setting up of front brake clearance, and that isn’t all that hard to do. Noble provides a slick assembly video on their site if you need any guidance here.
The bike, once assembled, is a handsome rig with its rich, blue color and tasteful graphics. The SRAM Force rear derailleur matches the scheme well. Speaking of the drive train, you get a 1X set up here with a 10 – 42T 11 speed cassette and a 40T X-Sync front chain ring.
Shifting is one sided with the SRAM Force brake/shift lever and the left side lever is brake only. Those are Force calipers in the hydraulic flavor working on those 160mm rotors, by the way. All of these bits were perfect straight out of the box and so far during my “getting to know you” rides I haven’t had any issues with stopping or shifting.
While I am not inclined toward a 1X drive train personally, (I use doubles with 46/36T chain rings), I could be swayed otherwise. That said, there are no provisions for a front derailleur on the Noble GX5, although I suppose an electronically controlled one, like a SRAM wireless type, might be possible here. Either way, that’s a bold move on Noble’s part.
In terms of the frame, it is an amazing piece of carbon fiber engineering. While there is a Press Fit bottom bracket, it appears to be one of the screw-together types, so that would be better than the original Press Fit offerings, if true. The headset is internal, of course, and the frame ports are tidy and unobtrusive. There is no port for anything but the rear brake and rear derailleur. The rear stays are wide and flattened for compliance and the carbon shafted seat post all work together to give the GX5 a really smooth ride.
The GX5 cuts a very similar profile to the old Tamland Two I have. Both have a sloping top tube, a fair amount of seat post extension, and both have similar geometry. Therefore; the ride quality and handling aspects of the GX5 weren’t alien to me. It felt like “old home week” but different. That difference was the stiffness of the bottom bracket, the lower weight, and the sound of the bike. Carbon bikes just have a unique sound when ridden versus metal framed bikes.
So Far…… The Noble GX 5 is not a bike or brand you would think of as having a history in gravel bike design, but in fact, they do. It shows up in the geometry and details that the GX5 has. All that doesn’t mean a thing though if it doesn’t look good and ride well, both things the GX5 has done so far. With a design that does not support a front derailleur, the GX5 is bold and uncompromising in its purpose. How that plays out as we get this rig onto the gravel roads will be seen in our next “Checkpoint” update coming in a few weeks or so.
Note: Noble Bikes sent the GX5 over for test and review at no charge to riding Gravel. We were not paid, nor bribed for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.