Reviews / Wheels
Stan's have been doing the tubeless thing for some time now, and their range of products for keeping air in tyres without tubes is well developed and widely used. Their wheelsets have been well received and used throughout mountain biking, from XC to downhill and everything in between, always being ahead of the curve.
We are in a period of rapid change in the world of mountain bike tyres and rims, with new widths, depths and profiles coming at us left right and centre. With the advent of plus sized tyres, and now with the addition of 2.6 coming fast this year, rubber is getting complicated. Add into all this a desire for wider and wider rims; we now have a complex combination of tyre and rim sizes.
When I first spoke to Stan's about a set of wheels I was convinced I needed a set of Flows, as I have used these previously and thought them to be the most robust for my rocky trails and occasional lack of finesse. As always Stan's had been developing the new Mk3 range of their popular wheelsets and had other ideas about what I should be running. A quick chat about tyre sizes, and it was suggested that for the 2.35 tyres I would be using, then the Arch would perhaps be the best option for my Nukeproof 290.
The new range has taken the Arch up to 26mm internal and has a depth of 16mm making them a very low profile, and substantially wider than previous models. The Flow is now up to 29mm and recommended for tyres up to 2.8 as part of Stan's WideRight system, which aims to make sure the correct tyre width is paired with the right rim width. This avoids tyre profiles such as the 'lightbulb' and the 'bell', which represent a rim too narrow or too wide for the chosen tyre.
The wheelset weighs in at 1770g and works on Neo hubs with a 6 pawl and 72 point engagement. The hubs are available in the full range of axles and options but this test was on classic 15mm non-boost front and a 12mm by 142mm rear.
Swapping out from my previous set of wheels was a revelation. I knew they were a potential weak point in my ride, but wasn't ready for the transformation. Admittedly the result is in part to the flexibility of my previous hoops as well as the increased stiffness of the Arch wheelset. Running a 29er that likes to be pushed hard means that those big wheels get some big forces through them and if flex can be found somewhere, then it'll be on a wheel.
Rewinding slightly to the installation, it's an absolute pleasure when wheels come set up and ready to go with proper tape and valves. Plenty of wheels say 'tubeless ready' but anything from Stan's truly is, and within moments they're up and ready to go with a track pump and some new Stan's Race Sealant.
Back on the trail things have been running sweetly, with the rapid engagement of the hub adding to the energising feel of a new set of wheels. Over the past three months they've been given a particularly hard time, especially as in my head, I still thought I should be running Flow rims and needed proof they would survive. However, the way the rims are designed, the profile of the Arch and Flow are very, very similar only differing in width, so I was reassured that they would hold up.
Holding up is something they certainly have done, and my usual trick of denting rims has been mysteriously absent. That is not to say I haven't hit them; it's just the relatively straight sided Bead Socket Technology means the rims are tough when it comes to straight-on hits. Tyres do help protect rims, but I've run Nobby Nics, Magic Mary's (Super Gravity and normal) and a Vee Flow Snap, and still the rims have been left unscathed. The number of spoke adjustments made has been the very easy to count, being zero, and only now as I give them an inspection do they feel like a general tighten up would be good for them.
Tyre profile is good, and with the 2.35 or 2.4 sized tyres they've looked good, and lacked any tyre roll associated with narrow rims, and neither have they been so wide to make the tyre look odd. I've used tyres I know well, and performance has been as good as always.
The Hubs have held up well too, and with no previous experience of these, I have been pleasantly surprised. As mentioned the engagement is crisp and firm, giving access to pedal strokes quickly and easily. The front hub is still running smoothly and back isn't far off, just feeling a little bit stiffer on the bearings but still spinning well. The freehub has been solid, and apart from the normal scores on the body from the cassette is still fresh.
There is a fashion for wider rims, and paired to the wrong tyre can give a pretty wonky experience. Stan's seem to have it about right with their WideRight system, and keeping tyre profiles right is critical. The Arch is now a much tougher rim than previous versions and is well up to the job of surviving enduro levels of abuse. Unless you want full on downhill strength or tyres above 2.5inch, the Arch is probably the Stan's rim of choice for almost all riding.
By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.
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