At A Glance
Stalwarts of the mountain bike wheel scene, Stans have been rolling out hoops for a long time and have always been at the forefront of rim development. Their Flow rim was wide and strong ahead of its time and their development of tubeless setups has been hugely important for mountain bike development.Buy Wheels on
Their main range of rims can be simplified to three key products, the Crest, Arch and Flow, each wider and stronger than the last. The Crest focuses on cross-country duties while the Flow is going to appeal to those looking to push some limits. The Arch, therefore, sits into that easily pigeonholed but hard to define 'trail' category which can mean many different things to different riders. All these rims are available in either The Mk3 or S1 versions.
Having tried the Arch Mk3 previously, we took delivery of the S1 version, which aims to keep costs down and performance high. A swap to 6061 aluminium and an increase in depth and overall width means the rims are heavier but maintain durability and performance. They keep their 26mm internal width and to the untrained eye look the same as the Mk3. Rims are pre-taped with their namesake tape and are ready to roll by adding a valve and some air.
The hubs remain the same Neo hub, which won't set anyone's pulse racing but have a six pawl system engagement with a 36 tooth ratchet ring to create 72 points of contact and a five-degree engagement. End caps can be swapped for boost or non-boost or even quick release if you like.
Stans like to match wheels with tyre widths and their WideRight system they suggest that the Arch is best suited to 2.25 to 2.5-inch tyres, but we all know how varied tyre measurements can be, so who knows exactly. It does seem about right for the 26mm internal which is probably a bit narrow by current standards even on a trail rim but a 2.5 could well be too much.
Built for maximum durability and affordability, the Arch S1 comes in at $499 which is an impressive price for a brand of this heritage and a solid set of wheels.
On the Trail
Let's start with mounting tyres, and yes, they mounted easily with no fuss, which is what's expected of a product from Stan's No Tubes! The preinstalled tape is some of the best and works very well. Once mounted, it's clear that a sub 2.5 tyre is probably best to get the ideal profile and not get too unpredictable in the handling. Despite the WideRight system showing a 'lightbulb' profile if the tyre is too big, I feel this is precisely what happens on an Arch with a modern 2.5 such as the Maxxis Wide Trail.
The Neo hub engages well and gets on with the job quietly and efficiently. In the past, I've had some issues with the Neo, but this time things have all run smoothly and bearings are still running true.
The overall wheel package doesn't instantly transform a bike and pick up from the hub is ok but not high speed. They are not the lightest but offer a pretty stiff and robust setup, and would be a good upgrade for an entry-level bike. Despite this, I felt that I could ride as hard as I liked without any undue flex or noodly feeling from up front, but I would prefer a wider rim for the 2.5 tyres I was running, which would give more support to the tyre. In terms of strength, they have survived without any dents, which is impressive for a trail rim at this price. They do share a very similar profile to the Flow rim, which explains the strength and resistance to straight-on hits.
For riders looking to run high volume tyres the wider Flow rim would support a wider tyre better and square off the profile. That is not to say Stan's WideRight is incorrect, it's just 2.5 from certain brands can be pretty big and need a wider base. The Flow S1 adds 150g to a set of wheels, which is a small amount, but as this is in the rim, can be felt more. If the Arch could stretch a few mm without much weight increase, that would really help to create a great trail rim.
For modern hard hitting trail bikes, the Arch S1 gives a good balance of strength, weight and value. If you are happy running 2.35 tyres, then these are absolutely ideal, but I feel a wider rim is needed for 2.5 rubber.
A great budget option of trail riders and beyond. The Arch rim is hard-hitting but a little on the narrow side for modern preferences and the latest crop of high volume tyres. The package can't be knocked on price and produces a budget-friendly upgrade for those moving on from their first set of wheels.
This review was in Issue 55 of IMB.For more information visit Stans NoTubes
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.