Trail Tested: Stan’s NoTubes ZTR Valor Wheels

Valor 1

Stan’s NoTubes was slow to the draw when it came to producing a carbon-rimmed wheelset, and in some aspects it’s not surprising. The company’s range of tubeless aluminum rim and hub combos has been among the best available. Personally, I’ve been using various builds of the brand’s offerings on my own bikes for years and have never felt pressed to want a carbon version. That was until I finally saw and rode the ZTR Valor carbon wheelset.

Part of the delay, according to Stan’s, was that they wanted to make sure the carbon wheels were true to the NoTubes design in every aspect, including low sidewalls and an internal rim width that matches the aluminum ZTR Race Gold at 21.3 mm. Another major priority was that the carbon rims have NoTubes’ patented Bead Socket Technology, which is a short inner sidewall and shallow drop channel that’s the same shape as the tire bead to lock the tire onto the rim. Experience with this on the ZTR Race, Crest and Arch aluminum wheels has shown it to be one of the most effective tubeless systems in existence. The rims are built to reliable 3.30Ti hubs front and rear, which have easily interchangeable end caps for nearly every axle type.

Valor 2

The look of the carbon lay-up is outstanding and, like all NoTubes wheels, they came taped up with flashy red valve stems installed. Tire installation was a breeze, requiring just a floor pump and a little soapy water on the sidewall and tire valve to snap the tire into place. Weight for the set (with an XD freehub) came to 1,350 grams with valve stems. It’s interesting to note that these weigh nearly 90 grams less than the premium Race Gold set, which has a recommended rider weight limit of 170 pounds, and nearly 280 grams less than the Crest, which has a 190-pound recommended weight limit. In comparison, the carbon Valors have a 230-pound rider weight limit.

As expected for a wheelset this light, the Valors felt quick and snappy. While certainly laterally stiffer than their aluminum counterparts, which is readily felt during hard cornering, they aren’t overly stiff or harsh like some carbon rims can be in jarring, rough terrain, transmitting vibration to the rider. Obviously some resonance is absorbed through low tire pressure (low-20s psi). NoTubes did a great job refining the ride quality. After a full summer and early winter of abuse, the rims remained scuff free and the hubs maintenance free.

For cross-country riding and racing, the Valors are at the top of the carbon-wheel heap. The increase in recommended rider weight limit matched to a decrease in wheel weight compared to the rest of the Stan’s NoTubes line is an impressive feat. While these are my current go-to cross-country wheels, there is one question that may come up: At a retail price of $1,900 are they $930 better than the lower cost Olympic and World Cup–race proven NoTubes ZTR Race Gold wheels? If ultra light weight, increased rider weight limit matched to carbon’s resistance to bending and coming out of true is what you’re after I’d say the answer is yes.