As the world of drop-bar bikes evolves, so do the wheels they roll on. Long gone are the days of rims with narrow 15mm widths. In their place have come a new, wider standard that would’ve even been considered wide for mountain bikes. Recent research and technology around higher air volume relative to speed are to blame, and it is vastly contrary to the trends of just a few years ago.
The relationship of the two has led tire, bicycle and, most apparent, wheel companies to develop rims that embrace wider designs that deliver safer, faster and more compliant results. Two of the brands that truly represent evolution and innovation in modern wheel technologies—Stan’s NoTubes and Boyd—are pushing the limits and helping make the transition seamless.
STAN’S GRAIL CB7
When the history books get around to documenting the evolution of tubeless technology, Stan’s NoTubes will rightly have a chapter dedicated just to them. Stan’s, named after Stan Koziatek, is one of the pioneers of not just tubeless conversion kits but modern tubeless wheelsets as well. At only 1267 grams (with tubeless tape and valves installed), the Grail CB7 Pro wheels push the limits of what a wheelset can weigh. They use Stan’s very own Neo Ultimate hubs and Sapim Laser spokes to hold the (claimed) 300-gram carbon rims together. There are end caps and hub-body options for nearly any specification or build. The 19.3mm-deep rims have a 21.6mm internal width with a 26.4mm external width. There are 24 spokes up front and 28 spokes in the rear with a max rider weight limit of 190 pounds.
The South Carolina wheel shop, founded by Boyd Johnson, first introduced a hookless 650b version two years ago, and with the Pinnacle, a 700c version has arrived. The hookless wheelset (there is no bead hook but instead a consistent thickness, relying on diameter to hold the tire in place) consists of a 36mm-deep rim that has an internal width of 23.5mm and external width of 29.2mm. The shape of the rim is also offset 2.8mm to help balance the spoke tension. On the front wheel the offset is on the brake side, while on the rear it is on the drive side. Boyd uses their Quest hubs with 24 spokes in the front and 28 in the rear. The rear hub has six pawls on 36 engagement teeth for a tight 5 degrees of engagement. There are easily swapped end caps and hub bodies for any build and specification. The pair of wheels weigh 1670 grams with valves and tape.
The first thing you notice about the Stan’s hoops is how incredibly light they are, which translates into very low rotational mass. This, of course, translates to faster accelerations and braking, as well as very light steering. The hub engagement in the rear is quick and quiet. There is a level of compliance in the wheelset that adds to the compliance you get from a large-volume tire. We tested the wheels with large 40mm tires, as well as 28mm road tires. On-the-road cornering was light, but you could feel the added compliance of such a light rim. The internal width suits a large range of tires, and with the added weight of the 40mm tire, we felt like the combination is perfect for long adventure and gravel rides.
The first thing we noticed on the Boyd Hookless is the nearly instantaneous rear-hub engagement. It is very quick and makes for a perfect match when powering through off-road technical sections or accelerating out of turns. The wheels feel stiff but not harsh like some of the other hookless offerings that are mountain bike hoops laced with different hubs. Because of the hookless construction, there is a tight tire fit once on the bead. It also offers a stronger rim-bead construction because of its uniform thickness in case of impact. It should be noted that hookless is specifically for higher-volume tires and shouldn’t exceed around 75 psi no matter what tire size. Our 28mm tires measured just under 30mm, and we ran 62 psi in the front and 68 psi in the rear. Cornering performance was stiff and responsive, and this would be a great wheelset for most any riding that would suit tires between 30mm to 45mm.
Setting up both wheelsets was very easy and could be accomplished with a regular floor pump, but a booster canister or air compressor makes things much quicker. Both of these wheelsets are designed for higher-volume tires but the Stan’s are designed to fit narrower tires that require higher pressure because of their traditional hook-bead design as long as an inner tube is used above 75 psi. These are the wheels for anyone looking to drop weight and who might opt for running narrower tires.
The Boyds are a very robust and stiff wheel that boosts a tire’s volume and relies on proper pressure for any compliance aspects. Owing especially to their wide internal width, they are geared for the gravel set.
- Lightweight kings
- Built-in compliance
- Wider than they are deeper
- Nearly instantaneous hub engagement
- Built to withstand off-road abuse
- Don’t even try those skinny tires
Weight: 1,267 grams
Weight: 1,670 grams