In April, Cyclocross Magazine got a close-up look at the expanding line of cyclocross and gravel bikes from Noble Bikes. We also went home with the GX5 carbon gravel bike and took it out for adventures on local terrain including gravel, singletrack and dirt roads.
While Noble Bikes might be a small brand without star athletes and big ad campaigns, its size shouldn't disqualify it from consideration when you're shopping to satisfy your gravel or cyclocross ambitions. The brand focuses on SRAM-equipped 1x cyclocross and gravel bikes in carbon, aluminum and steel, hitting different price points.
Is the Noble Bikes GX5 the right gravel bike for you? Read on for a full review.
The Noble Bikes GX5 Frame:
Noble’s founder Mark Landsaat previously worked at Raleigh and during his time at the company, developed close relationships with overseas manufacturers. Landsaat took his knowledge and experience to design his gravel, cyclocross and mountain bikes and found factories to build frames to his specs.
This model is built with SRAM 1x drivetrains in mind. There's no provision for a front derailleur braze-on, but Landsaat says that's an option in the works. Of course, you could easily swap to Shimano GRX 1x or SRAM eTap AXS 1x, but currently, the GX5 comes with just the SRAM Force 1 build.
If your gravel enjoyment doesn't depend on well-known brands or exclusivity, then Noble Bikes' GX5 is certainly worth a look. The frame delivers what many would expect in a modern carbon gravel frame. There are three bottle mounts, flat mount disc brake mounts, hidden front and rear fender mounts, ample clearance for 42mm tires (stated is 40mm), and internal routing of both brake hoses and shift housing.
Because of Landsaat's history at Raleigh, it should come at no surprise that Noble Bikes' carbon GX5 shares a few things in common with the steel Raleigh Tamland gravel bike. For a 56cm size, the frames share the same head tube and seat tube angles, bottom bracket drop, chainstay length and head tube length. In some ways, it's a carbon Tamland Landsaat never got to work on.
Starting a small brand, especially with a proprietary carbon model that requires a new mold, can be cost-prohibitive. Instead of plunking down six figures to ensure exclusivity on his carbon model, Landsaat allowed the manufacturer to sell the same frameset in a few select overseas countries but not the U.S., of course.
As a result, during your globe-grinding gravel adventures, there's a tiny chance you might see the same Toray carbon frame under a different brand. We've seen that happen in the world of cyclocross, under different circumstances, when the award-winning Bailey-designed carbon cyclocross frame later appeared under Italian and Canadian branding and on top of CrossVegas podiums, although the GX5 won't be sold under other names in the U.S.
The GX5 isn't aimed at the diehard bikepacker but rather the gravel cyclist or gravel racer. There aren't frame barnacles for adventure mounts, but there are some nicely hidden fender mounts.
Could you do cyclocross on it? Without a doubt. The 56cm frame fits nicely on your shoulder with its flattened but sloping top tube, and Noble's "Forward Geometry," perhaps the brand's answer to Cannondale's "Out Front" design, pairs moderate head tube angles (71.5 degree on the 56cm) with slightly longer axle-to-crown forks (400mm), top tube lengths and more fork offset (52mm). The longer top tubes and shorter stems are Landsaat's major modification over the Raleigh Tamland's configuration.
There are six frame sizes, ranging from a tiny 48cm to a 58cm. Smaller riders will likely find a good fit that may not be available with other brands. Very tall riders might find the biggest size a little small. The frame and fork are relatively light, with the second largest size (56cm) tipping the scales at 1,129 grams without hardware and the fork at 473 grams.
Our 56cm frame pairs a 57cm effective top tube with a generous 160mm head tube, long-ish 44cm chainstays and low 75mm bottom bracket drop. With a 73-degree seat tube angle, a rider enjoys a 389mm reach and 591mm stack.
Care about bottom bracket standards and seat post diameter? The GX5 relies on the press-fit BB86 standard that can allow for more tire and mud clearance due to wider chainstays near the bottom bracket shell. You're perched on a standard 27.2mm seat post—allowing for some compliance options—and limiting your dropper post options.
Of course, like most modern frames, the GX5 offers flat mount disc brake caliper mounts and 12mm thru axles. Out back, the frame utilizes a "floating derailleur hanger" which makes thru axle alignment and threading a simple task.
The Noble GX5 Build:
Noble Bikes offers SRAM-equipped complete bikes. Each model has just one build option, and ours came with the proven SRAM Force 1 group, Stan's NoTubes Grail MK3 alloy tubeless wheels and unbranded but perfectly functional alloy bar and stem and carbon post.
It's a no-nonsense build that prioritizes function over flash and creates an understated look that I came to appreciate.
The Force 1 group offered ample gear range, with a 40t X-Sync front ring and an XG-1175 10-42t XD rear cassette. I've gotten used a 1:1 low gear for gravel, and the 40:42 low gear offers insurance against unexpected leg cramps and long climbs.
The Grail MK3 wheels are 20.3mm wide, feature a 440g alloy rim, and tip the scales at 1,675g list weight. It's a good choice for a reliable, affordable tubeless tire setup. Be careful with the end caps when you remove the wheels. They have a habit of falling off.
Noble dresses the Grail MK3 wheels in the versatile Donnelly X'Plor MSO 700c x 40mm tires. The tires have a relatively durable tread pattern and offer a balance between puncture and cut protection and suppleness. It's a fine choice for a do-most-things-well tire. If you're like me and ride in an area where tire cuts aren't much of an issue, you might want to save nearly half a pound with a swap to something like the lighter and more supple 42mm WTB Resolute or Terravail Rutland knobby gravel tires.
One unique component of the build was the spendy Wheels Manufacturing Thread Together BB86 bottom bracket. It's a nice touch over standard press-in bearings. In testing, ours ended up creaking a bit, but thanks to a Wheels Manufacturing Bottom Bracket Socket tool (stay tuned for a review), a bit more torque got things quiet for the rest of our testing.
It's a smart choice for a serviceable bottom bracket and easier to work with than installing new bearings or trying to Loctite the whole assembly.
The whole package is quite light. Noble Bikes lists it at 18.9 pounds without pedals. Our scale said just shy of 18.7 pounds without pedals. Our trademark weight without wheels (for wheel swappers/upgraders) is just 10.8 pounds. That's quite light for a gravel bike that costs $3,299.
The Noble GX5 Ride:
I'll get it out of the way first. I'm a fan of do-it-all bikes that eschew targeting sub-genres and can handle trail riding, cyclocross and gravel without feeling out of place. That's how I like to ride—without switching bikes—but that's certainly not how everyone rides.
There's a much bigger population out there that wants a gravel bike and has no plans to race cyclocross on it, let alone actually "race" a gravel race, and will rarely venture into technical singletrack. If that describes you, and you like SRAM 1x drivetrains, the Noble GX5 should be very high on your shopping list. It's a no-nonsense, lightweight package that delivers outstanding value.
The GX5 is exactly the type of bike we'd opt for on long, all-day gravel rides. It's low, stable and not road bike-twitchy, with a moderately slack head tube angle and long wheelbase (105.4cm by my measurements) and chainstays. It's a setup that allows you to focus on the scenery, without worry of small rut sending you off into a ravine. It's the opposite end of the spectrum from the recently-reviewed 3t Exploro gravel bike, a bike that prioritizes aerodynamics, quick handling and road-bike tendencies.
That doesn't mean the GX5 is slow steering. The short, 90mm stem and bigger fork offset make for relatively responsive steering. It's just that navigating around tight switchbacks or cyclocross hairpins isn't really the GX5's strength.
The GX5 is suited for longer rides, with the three bottle mounts and a carbon post that offers a bit of compliance. The svelte stays also seem to add some welcome to flex to mute the bigger hits.
Although tire choice and pressure have a much bigger impact on rear wheel traction than chainstay length, the GX5's long rear end favors stability over billy goat climbing up steep, loose or slippery rises. It's not ideal for cyclocross—its long chainstays and wheelbase keep it from being well-suited for sprinting out of corners or up hills—but that's a worthy compromise for long gravel rides and descents.
It's worth noting that the chainstays revealed my size 45.5 feet and slightly ankles-in pedaling style brushed the chainstays. I actually didn't notice it at all while riding, but cyclists with more pronation, bigger feet (or a forward cleat position) might want to take note.
The Noble Bikes GX5 is much more than the sum of its parts. While there's no major differentiating feature, component or gimmick, the GX5 boasts a well-thought-out frame and handsome color scheme with a smart parts package to create an outstanding value at $3,299.
It's ready for adventure out-of-the-box, once you shed inner tubes for valves and sealant. That's nearly $1k less than similarly-equipped bikes from bigger brands, and yet you can call Noble Bikes and speak directly with the owner.
There are better bikes if you're looking for one rig to handle cyclocross and gravel racing (the Kona Major Jake, Specialized Crux and Open Cycles U.P. and pricey U.P.P.E.R. come to mind), and Noble Bikes has its own cyclocross offering that's specifically aimed at racing between the tape. But if gravel is your main focus, Noble Bikes is worth a long look. The GX5 competes for the top SRAM-equipped gravel bike I've ridden.
Noble Bikes GX5 Specs:
MSRP: $3,299 complete bike as tested
Frame: Toray carbon frame and fork, 142x12mm rear dropouts, flat mount, 140mm minimum rotor front, 160mm rear, floating rear derailleur hanger, hidden fender mounts, 3 bottle mounts.
Fork: Noble Bikes GX carbon
Rear Derailleur: SRAM Force 1
Crankset: SRAM Force 1 GXP with 4ot X-Sync ring
Cassette: SRAM XG-1175 10-42t
Shift/Brake Levers: SRAM Force 1
Brakes: SRAM Force 1 HRD flat mount
Rotors: SRAM Centerline Centerlock
Wheelset: NoTubes Grail Mk3 alloy, 20.3mm wide, Centerlock
Tires: Donnelly X'Plor MSO 700c x 40mm tubeless
Handlebar: Unbranded alloy, 44mm
Stem: Unbranded alloy, 90mm
Seat Post: UDC carbon, 27.2mm
Saddle: Prologo Nago Evo 142mm wide, Ti rails
Weight: 18.7 pounds without pedals (18.9 list), 10.8 pounds without wheels
More info: noble-bikes.com