Carbon fiber has come to dominate the high end mountain bike market when it comes to frames and components, and more and more brands are using it in wheels as well. Stan’s NoTubes first molded its Bead Socket Technology design in carbon last year with the cross-country and race oriented Valor wheels, which we were impressed with in our testing. Now the same technologies are being adapted for trail and all-mountain use with the new Bravo model.
With an inner width of 26.6 mm the Bravo rims aren’t as wide as many competitors, but NoTubes points out that bigger isn’t always better. It claims that its sidewall shape offers many of the benefits of the wider rims, specifically increasing the tire’s overall volume, without exposing the sidewalls or deforming them in ways they were never intended to.
Stiffer isn’t always better either, said NoTubes’ Michael Bush. While the concept of “laterally stiff/vertically compliant” has long been a cliche, NoTubes is proud that its carbon wheels offer competitive lateral stiffness while still allowing for up to 10 mm of vertical compliance. This deflection improves ride quality and increases speed, Bush said. The Athertons have been racing the Bravo rim design with a different “team-only” carbon layup this season with good success.
The Bravo rims will be available in complete wheels, built in New York, in July, in 26-inch, 27.5 and 29-inch sizes. The two price points are $1,575 and $1,900 depending on the hub spec.
Also new this year is an all-new hub design that will phase out the 3.30 hubs the brand has used for years. As axle widths and dimensions have expanded and freehub bodies have changed, NoTubes realized it was time for a clean-slate design overhaul.
While the 3.30 hub shells are forged, the new Neo hubs are CNC machined from bar stock for tighter tolerance control and more adaptability—in case someone dares create a 153.5 mm “standard” in a year or two! The front hubs will be available in 100 mm or 110 mm, while the rears will be available in 135/142 as well as Boost and even 157 mm downhill versions. No 170 mm or 190 mm fat bike hubs yet, but it wouldn’t be difficult to do, Bush said. While the end caps are still interchangeable between thru-axles and quick release skewers, the interface has changed for better retention, so they’re not as likely to fall off on their own.
Also new are much larger bearings (6902 replacing the 6802) and a new four or six-pawl freehub body design. The standard Neo hubs use a 4-pawl driver with a 36-tooth ratchet ring for 10 degrees of engagement, while the high-end Neo Ultimate version has a 6-pawl driver for 5 degrees of engagement. All the pawls engage simultaneously for strength and durability, and the two freehub bodies are interchangeable, so you can switch from four to six when if you were to swap to a SRAM xD driver, for example.
The Neo Ultimate also sheds weight with a more heavily machined axle, shell and other pieces, and is available in a matte finish to better match the carbon rims. The freehub body is also silver to differentiate the models.
Both the Neo and Neo Ultimate will eventually replace the 3.30 hubs in all NoTubes wheels later this year.
The internal width of the Bravo rims is 26.6 mm. An earlier version of this post had an incorrect measurement.Tweet Print
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.
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.