by The CXM Test Crew
Cyclocross, gravel, mountain biking and disc brake pavement pounding are now all possible on one wheelset, and can help justify putting down more of your hard-earned money knowing the wheels could get year round use. In Issue 29, we rounded up many of the latest “do it all” wheels, hoops that promise to handle your rides and races on several different bikes, or in several different disciplines.
And in Issue 30 we looked at the go-anywhere disc brake tubeless wheel options seen here. These wheelsets are easily swapped between bikes or help extend the versatility and performance of a single rig. Want to enter a road race on your cyclocross bike? Or add volume to your rubber for some more gnarly adventures? High pressure-tolerant, aerodynamic or wider rims can help get you there. And of course, they can help you ride lower pressure, flat less and shed some rotating weight come cyclocross season.
Our test crew rode these wheels on trails, pavement, gravel and even up and down stairs to see if they’d remain round, true and burp-free under typical rider use and abuse. Read on to see if there’s a wheel here that’s right for you.
STAN’S NOTUBES GRAIL
If you’re upgrading your wheelset chances are your primary goal is to go faster through riding lower pressure, save rotating weight or gain aerodynamic advantages. NoTubes attempts to help you do all three with the Grail. When released, it NoTubes’ most aerodynamic and also the company’s first wider rim able to handle higher air pressure, narrow road tires. But the gravel/all-terrain category of wheels has exploded since the Grail was released, and now there are lighter, more aerodynamic and arguably more versatile options. Where the Grail shines is in value.
TUBELESS: The NoTubes family of rims, with the exception of the Alpha series, boast the relatively unique ability to easily convert standard tires to tubeless use. A few years ago, this was key because there were so few tubeless cyclocross tires out there. That’s all changed, and at last count there were 15 models available. Now the argument for NoTubes is based on reliability or suppleness. Standard converted clinchers can be more supple than their reinforced and butyl-lined tubeless siblings, and NoTubes rims, with their wide shoulders next to the center channel, and their slightly larger diameter, resist burps for conventional and tubeless tires alike. The downside is that some of our favorite tubeless tires, like the WTB TCS series of tires, can’t even make it on the rim. NoTubes still leads in tubeless reliability, but the gap has closed dramatically.
DURABILITY: NoTubes tends to have some of the lowest dollar per gram products, and the Grail does well in this area. You can easily buy three of these wheelsets for the amount that some of our carbon test wheels cost. If you’re hard on equipment, or value riding time over shop time, it’s worth considering. The ultralight builds—with lightweight alloy rims, light spokes and alloy nipples—will call out for a truing stand and spoke wrench more often than similar weight carbon wheels. But such problems are less of a concern now that the company uses Sapim Secure Lock nipples. Truing may still be necessary after heavy riding though. Most importantly, while the Grail can turn many tires into reliable tubeless setups enjoying low pressure, you run the risk of denting a lightweight alloy rim. We’ve done this a few times, and it makes us wary of remote adventures into the rocky gravel backcountry.
PRICE: $695 USD
WEIGHT: 1,610 grams
OPTIONS: QR or thru axle front via end caps, rear via axle swap
More info: notubes.com