The Blag Flag Expert wheelset from SUNRingle quite possibly represents the most complete mountain bike wheelset you can buy. With Stan’s Bead Socket Technology (BST) baked in and plenty of options like 15mm and 20mm through-axle configurations, just about the only thing you need to add is air (oh, and of course a tire). The result is a durable, fuss-free set-up that rides like a pure-bred stallion on the trail.
SUNRingle markets the Black Flag Expert as an XC/Trail wheelset so I decided to run these rugged wheels on my week-long Durango to Moab trip over the summer and I’ve been riding them ever since. Compared to the XC-specific wheels I typically ride, I felt virtually zero flex over rocky terrain and was relieved to hear nothing but silence when landing short drops. Twenty-eight Wheelsmith spokes and stiff, low-wall 24mm aluminum rims make this a strong wheel that may not be the lightest out there (1830 grams) but offers a great trade-off between high strength and low weight. (In the last two years alone I’ve destroyed two lightweight 29er wheels from two different manufacturers – and I’m not a heavy guy at all.)
The Black Flag Experts roll true right out of the box and on the trail the overall stiffness allowed me to pick my lines with surgical accuracy. These wheels also get a big boost from the thru-axle configurations available on the front wheel. I went with the 20mm version and I have to say I’m completely sold on the idea of a stiff front end.
One of the things that really got me excited about the Black Flag Expert wheelset is the inclusion of Stan’s next-generation BST which gives the rims a lower sidewall and shape that’s perfectly mated to your tire bead for a tighter tubeless seal. With the rim tape professionally applied and tire sealant and valve stems included, this is a great wheel for riders who are looking to go tubeless (or for those who are fed up with the hassle of converting a wheelset on their own). I have to admit I’m not the most experienced when it comes to tubeless tires (yet) and despite the fact, my installation went without a hitch using a standard floor pump. Stan’s/NoTubes.com is pretty much the gold standard in tubeless mountain bike tires so you can’t go wrong here.
I’ve experimented running these wheels both tubed and tubeless and with different tires and I have to say I haven’t run into any issues. The BST rims do make for a tight fit when running tires with tubes and at times I was frustrated with just how difficult some tires were to mount. But once I was able to get the tires on I really appreciated the tight fit these rims offered.
The SUNRingle hubs included on the Black Flag Expert wheels have held up well over 6 months of abuse thanks to the rugged aluminum shell and Cartridge Bearing system. The audible freehub “buzz” is sorta fun at first but to me the noise started getting a little old after a few rides. Even now I find myself clutching the back brake when I bring my bike inside after a night ride, careful not to wake anyone with the clicky rear wheel. The upshot is the freewheel pawl system offers decent engagement, though you won’t want to use these wheels for low speed trials or freeride maneuvers. For XC training and even racing, the freewheel offers good acceleration and response. The rotor mounts are solid and worked flawlessly with both Hayes and Avid brake set-ups.
The over-sized Black Flag graphics shown above may not be for everyone but the stickers can be removed for an all-black murdered-out look. Black spokes, black rims, and black hubs – these are the wheels Jay-Z would rock on his 29er. The wheels are also available with yellow rims if you’re feeling more like a leader.
The Black Flag Expert 29er wheels from SUNRingle ($480 MSRP) offer the complete package for XC and Trail riders looking for a stiff, durable wheelset that’s up for just about anything. The integrated Stan’s BST and high quality hubs make this a versatile wheelset that will keep spinning for years to come. Available in 29″ and 26″ versions.
Thanks to the folks at SUNRingle for providing the Black Flag Expert 29er wheels for review.