Stan’s NoTubes ZTR 355 32-hole Rims Review
Weight as built: 2556 grams (full set, with tires, sealant, no cassette, no skewers, no rotors)
MSRP as built: $720.00
Wheel weight only (as quoted): 1420 grams
NoTubes products aren’t new on the mountain biking scene, but they sell one of those product lines that generate a lot of controversy in the cycling universe. Much like all other subjective controversies, you’ll get a different story from every mountain biker you speak to. Some love them unconditionally, talking about their tubeless setup like they witnessed its birth. Others will tell you it’s all hype and you’re wasting your time on a potentially dangerous product. Well, after polling my local group of dedicated bike geeks and digging through other popular (and generally misinformed–no names, not yet) mountain bike product review websites, I’ve concluded that most riders criticizing Stan’s products typically have their wheels set up incorrectly–be it for their weight or for their style of riding. It seems to be a weight saving issue–it’s always the 250-pound rider that wants to sport the Olympic lightweight racing rim, and then bitch when they get a blowout or can’t keep the tire seated to the rim in a tight corner. Does anyone else find it strange that the Clydesdales are always the weight weenies? I’m no scientist, despite holding dual PhDs in Sweet Lovin’ and Good Times, but there seems to be a correlation worth investigating. Also, let the record show that I float slightly above or below the Clydesdale high-water mark of 200 lbs., so I take my weight-to-durability ratio very seriously.
That being said, the 355 32-hole ZTRs coupled to American Classic Hubs with double-butted spokes, are probably NOT the wheel for me. Will they do the job? Sure. Problems? Probably not, but maybe. I had zero issues with durability or the tires holding to the rim on my local test track. Honestly, I found them to be stiffer than my in-laws. I felt no flex in the corners even though I was feeling for it. But lo, I am but a lowly writer/reviewer and must occasionally contend with what I am given; these are not the wheels I would have had built if I were keeping them. They are great though, and I didn’t have any problems, but I would have at least opted for straight-gauged spokes given my weight and usual riding conditions. The discriminating consumer must remember that NoTubes is a company that specializes in CUSTOMIZING a wheel build for a particular rider, they do not crank out a million bombproof wheelsets without rider weight limits, such as Mavic. They make educated choices for their wheel component combination based on the size of the rider, their riding style, and their common terrain. Nothing against Mavic, they make great wheels that hold up through nuclear blasts, but they’re not claiming to be the lightest wheelsets on the planet, nor do they have all the tubeless options that you’ll find with Stan’s.
Tubeless tires have gained popularity because they increase the contact patch (the piece of tire in contact with the ground at any given time) while allowing mountain bikers to run extraordinarily low tire pressures (approx. 15-35 psi), which increases traction. Needless to say, if you’ve been riding traditional tubes for awhile, it’s going to take a little experimentation with a tubeless system before you strike gold. Once you do, I’m confident you’ll be impressed.
So here’s the deal: Unless you’re an experienced wheel builder, call NoTubes and rap with them until you both come to a satisfied conclusion about your wheelbuild. I’ve laced a few sets of wheels, and I have confidence in my ability, but let’s face it, I don’t do it for a living. I’ll trust the pros to put together a solid build for me. The cost-savings is not that significant if you buy the hubs and spokes separately, and it’s doubtful you’ll do a better job than the guys at factory. The 355s were perfectly straight right out of the box and the tension was perfect, all I had to do was get the tubeless tires on there (Ravens, also provided by NoTubes–separate review to follow) and I was rockin’. All that AND they look gorgeous on my hardtail. If you’re considering buying a set of Stan’s wheels, here’s the breakdown of their ZTR rims lineup:
- ZTR Race – super, super, super light, quoted 284 gram rim. Do not buy this rim if you’re looking to huck, or if you are fat.
- ZTR Olympic – still super light, quoted “under” 385 gram rim. I repeat, DO NOT buy this rim if you are fat.
- ZTR 355 – very versatile rim, the only one that you can get in 26″, 29″, 650b, Disc or Rim brakes. You can be a little fat and ride these with straight gauge spokes, but ask first.
- ZTR Arch – without too much weight gain on the rim (approx. 50g heavier), this rim boasts a 25% gain in lateral stiffness over the 355.
- ZTR Flow – The Daddy Mack. I put together a set of these for my Yeti 575, super stiff, and I lost over a pound in bike weight after swapping the Mavic Cross Rides that came with the bike.
Another reason these wheels have received some bad press is because tubeless technology has been around long enough for us geeks to get good at going tubeless, but not so long that installation techniques have become common knowledge to the average rider. It’s not difficult once you get the hang of it, but the first time made me cuss. For the latest compatibility and fit tips visit help.notubes.com. And if you’ve never tried going tubeless before, try watching these videos, it helped me understand the process: http://www.notubes.com/support_movies.php. HOT TIP: Use A LOT of lubrication, i.e. soapy water, windex, etc. when getting the rim to seal, and use an air compressor if possible– no matter what they say, trust me, you’ll be glad you did. Have you ever been in a situation when A LOT of lubrication was wrong? Thought so.
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