Stan’s NoTubes has quickly become one of the most recognized names in the mountain bike world.  Popularized first by their tubeless sealant and conversion kits, which allow nearly any wheel and tire to be used tubeless, it didn’t take long before they came out with more products, including their own line of tubeless-ready rims, and even hubs and complete wheels.  Fast forward to today and they make rims for pretty much every mountain biker, and their rims are the preferred off-road choice for many wheel builders.

The Crest rims are Stan’s lightest rim-only offering for mountain biking.  They are available in 26”, 650B, and 29er sizes, and 28 or 32 hole variations.  The 29er version weighs in at only 385g–one of the lightest aluminum 29er rims available, and in fact lighter than some carbon rims.  Not only is it light, but it’s also wide, with a 24.4mm outer width and 21mm internal width.  There is only one other similar width rim that competes weight-wise with the Crest–the brand new 101 from American Classic.  It’s so new I don’t think anyone’s really had a chance to ride them yet (although I plan to eventually!).  Everything else is both narrower and heavier.

Word to the wise: measure the ERD of the rims before buying spokes. The decal on the rim has a typo, and lists the ERD at 540mm. The NoTubes website lists it as 605mm. My set measured 607mm, another pair I built measured 608mm. Measure!

But are they too good to be true?  Can something so much lighter than the competition really be durable enough to handle real deal mountain biking?  Online reviews for the Crest rims are all over the place.  Some folks love them and have zero issues.  Others have to constantly true them, complain about a lot of unnerving flex, or they folded them pretty quickly.  The general consensus seems to be that for very lightweight riders (under 160lbs) they work okay mostly, and heavier riders should use the Arch EX rims.  I’m about 175lbs, so, would the Crest rims work for me, or would they be too flexy?  There’s only one way to find out, so I bought a pair in the 32-hole variation and built them up.

My Set Up

I laced the Crest rims to an American Classic Disc 225 rear hub and Disc 130 front hub I already owned.  They had previously been used with a set of Stan’s Arch rims which had been trouble-free for nearly three years.  Double butted DT Swiss Competition spokes and aluminum nipples hold it all together.  The very light Crest rims laced to the very light American Classic hubs makes for a silly light wheelset–these weighed in at 1,557g.  The rims carry an MSRP of $90 each and this complete set would retail for about $670–proof you can get custom, high end, lightweight handbuilt wheels for significantly less cash than many off-the-shelf sets.

Building these wheels up wasn’t as easy as building with the stronger and stiffer Arch EX rims.  The Crests are much more sensitive to spoke tension and take more work to keep them perfectly true while building tension.  In the end they did build up straight and round with very even spoke tension, it just took a little while to get them there.  I used a pair of Specialized 2Bliss Ready tires (tubeless of course), and they were hard to get onto the rim, but once on they inflated easily with a floor pump, which is typical of Stan’s rims.

I pulled the decals off for a cleaner look.

On The Trail

I tested the Crest rims on my rigid single speed for a while and raced at the GA SS Championships, then moved the wheels over to my geared hardtail and raced some more, this time at a local CX race.  I put in plenty of other rides too, including the biggest ride I’ve ever done (so far)–an 80 mile day that linked six of our local trails spread out across two states.

I also let my buddy Mark ride them for a while.  He rode them to a new personal best around all six loops at FATS (3hrs and 5mins – haulin’!!).  At no point were they babied or treated as “race day only” wheels, they were simply ridden the way I/we ride.  I don’t buy into the whole “race day only” concept: if something isn’t strong enough for everyday riding, I’m certainly not going to trust it racing.

I rode these wheels just like I'd ride any wheels.

With over 500 miles of fairly hard, fast riding there have been no issues whatsoever.  Both wheels are still perfectly true, and neither Mark nor I noticed any flex.  The Crest rims are pretty awesome–for the right application. I wouldn’t build a set of these for someone who weighed over 200lbs or rode with the grace of a jackhammer.  They’re just too light.  NoTubes has a 190lbs rider weight limit on their complete Crest 29er wheelset, but honestly I’d be hesitant to put anyone my weight (175lbs) or above on these rims without first getting a good feel for how they ride since weight is only one of several factors that comes into play when designing wheels for someone.  I had a college roommate who probably only weighed 150lbs and yet he was able to twist a solid chromoly spindle off some nice 3-piece BMX cranks with bunny hops less than two feet high.  Some people are just harder on stuff than others.

Bottom Line

For XC use under lighter riders who aren’t too abusive, the Crest 29er rims work really well when built properly.  They’re light, stiff enough, wide, and set the standard for tubeless systems (like all NoTubes rims).  I’d recommend using a good wheelbuilder since these would be a tough first set of rims to build yourself.  A poor build is a sure fire way to have trouble with the Crest 29ers–not enough or uneven spoke tension simply will not hold up with rims this light.  And if you happen to be looking for a good builder, (warning – shameless plug ahead) I recently took the plunge and started my own wheel building business, Southern Wheelworks, and I’d love to build you some wheels!

# Comments

  • jeff

    “But are they too good to be true?”

    Great pun!

    You mentioned the rims retail for $90 each and that the wheel set can be built for much less than you’d pay for a complete wheel set. So how much would you say the spokes and hubs were, retail? I definitely think you’re onto something here…

  • dgaddis

    It’s a long explanation breaking the costs down haha. The spokes sell for about $90 for a box of 72. This set uses 3 different lengths though, so if buying them yourself you’d have to either buy multiple boxes or order some individually, then they cost more per spoke. Buying from a wheel builder (from me at least) however you only pay for the spokes used on your wheels, so about $1.22 each, so about $78. The hubs retail for about $160/$250 front and rear.

    Does that make sense?

  • dgaddis

    Oh, and different hubs can drop, or raise, the price by a good bit. They’d weight more, but since the rim is still light the wheels would still spin up really easily. I can do a set fo XT hubs and the Crest rims for about $430, but with the heavier hubs the weight is up around 1800g.

  • mtbgreg1

    $670 for a PAIR of super-light XC wheels? That’s a killer deal, especially nowadays where you can be looking at close to $1000 (or more) PER WHEEL for high-end stuff.

  • GimmeAraise

    I’m getting the rims I decided, but can’t figure out what hubs to use. Are the Stan’s hubs any good?

  • rcraft6826

    I’ve used my set of crest rims with Stans hubs for just about a year now, and I have noticed they do need to be trued more often if your using the normal gauge spokes that they come with. But as long as you stay on top of it and don’t be a genuine retard with these wheels they should do just fine.I personally wouldn’t take the trance truing the wheels yourself as you can stretch the stock spokes pretty easily. Also @GimmeAraise: The Stans hubs are great. Very light with good engagement. There not gonna have as much engagement as say Chris Kings but they do the job quite well. There also about as loud as Chris Kings lol so people know when to get out of your way.

    • dgaddis

      I would agree on the hubs. They work well enough, but there’s nothing fancy or special about them.

      @rcraft – in my mind a wheel shouldn’t require regular truing. That means the wheel isn’t strong enough for you and/or the spoke tension is too low, and broken spokes are in your future. Some folks don’t mind trading some durability for light weight…but I’m not one of those people!

    • GimmeAraise

      can you agree that they are better then my standard specialized hubs on my SJ HT Comp Carbon? I think so! Any other cheap suggestions, as Chris king is way beyond my price range!

    • dgaddis

      @GimmeAraise – There are several better hub options that can bring the cost down, even below the cost of a “stock” Stan’s wheelset. Shoot me an email if you’re really interested.

  • rcraft6826

    Very true, I knew when I bought them that I would probably abuse them a fair amount, but now that ive used them for a long time I don’t think I could sacrifice a stronger spokes for heavier weight. I’ve just been spoiled too much by the sub 1,500 gram weight haha. Also, I recently had them trued by a true professional wheel builder so well see soon enough if longevity of the spokes is an issue.

  • bicycle_pump

    Stans hubs are designed to be easy to maintain and therefore have no bearing preload adjustment.

  • KleinGuy

    I’m looking at getting these rims in 26″ and built with Hope Pro 2 EVO hubs that are straight pull. I’m really looking forward to it!

    • dgaddis

      If you don’t mind me asking, why bother with straight pull spokes? There’s really no performance or durability advantages, they’re about 40% more expensive, and good luck finding a bike shop that has one in stock if you break one. Just some things to consider…

    • KleinGuy

      Yea, I guess I don’t have to go straight pull. I was just looking at weight differences. Not much difference between the regular and SP. The other option would be with Pro 3 hubs which I’m thinking about, just haven’t found much info on the Pro 3 hubs.

    • dgaddis

      Hmm. The only Pro 3 hubs sold as just a hub are for road use (no disc mount, 130mm rear spacing). But I do see their Pro 3 wheelsets, those hubs aren’t available on their own. Pay attention to the rotor mounts, some aren’t standard 6-bolt or centerlock.

  • KleinGuy

    Yea, I was looking at the version for 6 bolt. What do you think? They’re like $98 more and they’re 170 grams/set lighter.

    • dgaddis

      One thing that jumps out at me that I don’t like about them is they’re 24H. The Crest rim is LIGHT and may be a bit flexy with only 24 spokes. Also, that 24 spoke drilling on the rim is custom…you can’t buy a Crest rim in 24H, only 28 or 32. So if you were to toast the rim in a crash or something, getting it replaced may be tough. Hopefully (get it?) you could get another rim from Hope, but that would take a while I’m guessing. If not, good luck finding a replacement, I’m sure there are some 24H rims available, but I don’t know any off the top of my head.

      How much do they cost and weigh for a set?

  • KleinGuy

    I actually emailed Hope directly and got a decent email back. Here are the prices(shipped)/weights:

    Pro 2 EVO Regular: $397.98/1633g

    Pro 2 EVO SP: $446.22/1603g

    Pro 3: $495.11/1463g

    Both the Pro 2’s are 32h.

    • dgaddis

      The Pro3 weight loss is coming from the hubs/spokes, so you’re not going to feel it as much as if it were at the rim. It is lighter though.

      I’d personally go w/the Pro2 w/j-bend spokes. That’s the one that will be the easiest to maintain/repair when the time comes.

  • KleinGuy

    Do you know of any other wheelsets of this quality around this price that are lighter? I wanna go as light as I can, but also want something dependable. I know those 2 don’t really go together, but you know what I mean, right? Haha

    • KleinGuy

      I also like loud hubs like the Pro 2 haha

    • dgaddis

      Light, strong, and cheap…you only get to pick two man! And sometimes just one!

      I don’t really pay a lot of attention to pre-built wheels to be honest. I know I can build you a set of Shimano XT (1,630g) or SRAM X9 (1,600) hubs to Crest rims for about about the same price.

  • Jon29rose

    I’ve had these on my Niner RIP 9 for nearly two years now and I weigh 200lbs the shop actually recommended these over the arch. touch wood they have been great so far. needed tweaking a couple of times but the shop were happy to do that.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.