Review: Gravel NS Host Wheels
You know, there’s always something you want but might not necessarily need. In the end, the decision generally comes down to how many dollars you’re willing to part with. If you want to shell out your hard-earned pennies on something, wheels are arguably one of the best upgrades you can give your steed. NS Carbon aims to balance the debate by offering a good carbon wheelset at a reasonable price. Hailing from Aotearoa, the brand’s MO is to make carbon wheels more accessible. And, more importantly, they’ve just dipped their toes into the ever-growing gravel market.
Fortunately for us, they wanted to sling a few pairs of the Gravel NS Host wheels our way to review. As the late summer months turned on splendid sun - and some heavy storms - we thought these conditions would be ideal to test them out. There’s no doubt that upgrading a wheelset can inject some serious new life into a road or gravel rig. There are many improvements they can make to your ride, including better ride quality, faster average speeds or just a lower weight – something which helps with both acceleration and deceleration. The switch to tubeless tyres and disc brakes has undoubtedly shaken up the market. Nowadays, wider rims support even wider tyres but also improve aerodynamics by smoothing the interface between the tyre and the rim.
The Gravel NS Host wheels are 700C carbon fibre and are 35mm deep with a rim width of 30mm. For the hubs, NS Carbon uses DT Swiss 350 Straightpull Centerlock (Disc Brake), 12x100mm / 12x142mm Through Axle (standard). They weigh 1648 grams and come nicely boxed and ready to roll, so to speak. They’re clincher tyres ready, which essentially means tubed tyres. The wheels don’t come ‘tubeless ready’, so you’ll need to set this up if you want to run tubeless tyres. For me, this is a must these days as I run tubeless tyres on gravel wheels. I easily switched over the DT Swiss Hub from Shimano to SRAM, tool free.
On the road - well, gravel road that is - the wheels felt great, initially. The DT Swiss 350 hubs engage well and are superiorly smooth. The DT Swiss 350 hub has always been a solid option for gravel riders due to its reliable design, tool-free maintenance, and proven Star Ratchet engagement system. I have used them and still do on a lot of wheelsets and have never had any issues with these hubs in multiple years of harsh rides. The wider width of the rim was ample enough to support my 42C tyre I was running. Which meant in the corners on loose gravel - which is often dicer due to leaning more - they gave me confidence. I didn’t have them set up as tubeless so needed to run a higher tyre pressure but, with more time, I would set them up tubeless just to get a lower tyre pressure and rolling resistance. There are multiple options of rim depth in the market for a wide array of riding. However, for a gravel wheelset, my opinion is that the sweet spot is 40mm and under. The Gravel NS Host wheels are 35mm deep and enhance the all-round performance. They’re not the most brutally stiff wheel under power (or through turns) and pick up is slightly slow, but I found these wheels didn’t get blown around in strong winds - especially one day when I was riding in a severe storm. However, I am a heavier rider and do have a bit more power to keep the bike upright.
In the testing period, I found the wheels were swift, reliable, and accelerated well. They deserve your attention if you’re in the market for a new wheelset, and will make a great addition to any gravel rig. Not to mention, they’ll leave you with some money left over to pay the mortgage.
Web: NS Carbon
Review: Liam Friary
Photography: Cameron Mackenzie