For more than a decade, New York company Stan’s NoTubes has been producing tubeless conversion kits, rims, and complete wheelsets but have lagged behind competitors in developing tubeless-ready carbon rims. That’s set to change in early 2014, with the introduction of the Valor wheelset (US$1,900/£TBA).
The Valor wheelset will be offered in 26in, 650b (27.5in) and 29in sizes, and its carbon rims spin on NoTubes’ lightweight 3.30 Disc Ti hubs, which can be converted between all major axle standards except 20mm front thru-axle. The rear hub is compatible with SRAM’s XD driver body.
The front wheel has 24 spokes while the rear ups the count to 28; both hoops use a two-cross lacing pattern. The company has no plans to offer consumers a rim-only option, at least for now.
As with all NoTubes rims, the Valor features the company’s patented Bead Socket Technology (BST), which captures the tire’s bead and increases tire volume by lowering the sidewall height of the rim. Internal rim width is a generous 22mm.
The Valor has additional layers of reinforcement where the nipples sit in the rim. These allow the sections between the rim to be made thinner, reducing rim weight to just below 300g.
Layers of carbon surrounding the nipples strengthen the rim
As one might guess from the low gram count, the Valor wheelset is designed for cross-country use. It is not, however, intended to be a race day-only wheelset, nor does it come with a rider weight limit like some of the company’s featherweight aluminum offerings.
NoTubes claims the Valor rim is two to three times laterally stiffer than its aluminum rims, while offering better radial compliance. This should allow the rims to take the edge off impacts.
“The truth is we could have made a carbon fiber rim years ago,” said Stan Koziatek, CTO and co-owner of Stan’s NoTubes, “but it wouldn’t have been a genuine NoTubes rim.”
In developing the Valor carbon rim the company examined competitor models and found many were lacking. “High spots of extra resin, ragged seams and overlaps, and shape and width deviations have somehow become acceptable on wheelsets costing several thousand dollars,” Koziatek said.
It took NoTubes a long time to find a carbon manufacturer with the knowhow and quality control it was looking for.
First ride impressions
BikeRadar was given the chance to ride a preproduction sample of the Valor wheelset several weeks ago. The company was tight-lipped about any details at the time – we didn’t even know the new product’s name.
Our time aboard the wheelset was limited to one 20-mile ride over familiar terrain. While our testing time was short, we were able to form some early impressions of NoTubes’ first carbon wheelset.
We spent an afternoon testing a prototype Valor wheelset on rocky trails in Colorado
Predictably, setting the Valor rims up tubeless was a completely painless process. With tubeless-ready tires, a dollop of sealant and a floor pump, the tires snapped into place with a reassuring pop.
We shaved approximately 1lb (0.45kg) of rotating weight off our test bike by swapping to the Valor wheelset, a change that we felt within the first few pedal strokes. Thankfully, the weight loss didn’t coincide with any perceptible drop in stiffness.
During our ride we subjected the Valor to rock gardens and high-speed g-outs; it performed admirably for such a lightweight cross-country wheelset. The front and rear wheels tracked predictably through rough terrain and we never experienced any of the strange rebound sensations common to flyweight wheels when pushing the bike through high-speed turns.
NoTubes readily admits that there are stiffer carbon wheels on the market. The design goal for the Valor was to balance weight and stiffness in an XC-oriented package. To that end, we think the company is on the right track.
We look forward to spending more time on a production version of the Valor in order to bring you a full review. Meanwhile, for more information visit www.notubes.com.