Review: Stans NoTubes Flow MK3 Wheels

by
July 12, 2017

After Stans NoTubes redesigned the venerable Flow rim last year, we got in a set of the new Flow MK3 wheels for testing

Brand: Stans NoTubes
Product: Flow MK 3 Wheelset
From: Paligap, paligap.cc
Price: £520
Tested: by Wil Barrett for 3 months

In Issue #112 of Singletrack Magazine, we tested, reviewed and recommended the latest Flow MK3 Wheelset from Stans NoTubes

The Stan’s NoTubes Flow rim is a product that has gained legendary status over the years. As an early proponent of tubeless technology, the original Flow delivered reliable performance in a wide alloy rim that was popular with everyone from elite World Cup DH athletes through to hard-hitting trail riders.

stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112
The Flow MK3 is available as a rim on its own, or in Stan’s own complete wheelset.

Last year, Stan’s No Tubes announced the third generation of the Flow rim. Alongside the lighter-duty Crest and Arch rims, the Flow MK3 brought forth a new rim profile that promised more width, fewer grams and increased lateral stiffness. Sounds familiar huh?

stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112
Stans NoTubes completely redesigned the Flow, Arch and Crest rims last year with an all-new profile that promises more compliance, greater lateral stiffness and lower weight. Sorcery? Our thoughts too.
stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112
The Flow is Stans most burly rim option in the MK3 line, and is a regular choice spotted on the UCI Downhill World Cup race circuit – often with the logos removed.

Available in 26in, 27.5in and 29in diameters, the Flow MK3 can be had as a rim-only, or in a complete wheelset, which I’ve been testing. The Flow MK3 rims sit at 29mm wide internally, which Stan’s claims will suit tyres up to 2.8in wide. Our wheels feature 32-hole drilling and are laced with Sapim double-butted spokes and alloy Secure Lock nipples. Using a regular three-cross lacing pattern with standard J-bend spokes, it’s both a durable and easy to maintain design.

stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112
Stans wheels are built upon its own Neo hubs, which are heavily underrated.
stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112
There’s 36 points of engagement inside the rear hub, though a 6-pawl ‘Ultimate’ freehub body can be added to double engagement.

Likewise, Stan’s own Neo hubs feature large diameter cartridge bearings that are well sealed, though easily replaceable when the time comes. Numerous axle configurations are available, along with both Shimano and SRAM xD freehub options. Having previously tested the Valor Pro cross-country carbon race wheels that were built with the Neo Ultimate hubset, I can attest to both the durability and ease of service of Stans own hub design. Everything slots together nice and snugly, and the tools-free end cap system is easy to swap around if you need to adapt the wheels between quick-release and thru-axle setups. Unlike many other brands hub end caps however, the Stans Neo ones aren’t so loose that they don’t just fall out onto the trail on their own whenever you remove the wheel – it takes a good tug to pull them off. Hmm…

Out of the box, our set of Flow MK3 27.5in Boost wheels came in at a lick over the claimed weight at 1,827 grams. That includes the wheels with tubeless tape and valves installed.

stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112
The Flow MK3 rim measures just 16mm tall, giving it a very shallow rim profile that helps to improve vertical compliance.
flow-mk3-rim-section-3
The Flow MK3 rim is made from 6069 alloy, and uses a double-walled extrusion with more material concentrated around the spoke bed.
stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112
Although it measures at 29mm internally, the Flow MK3 rim has very short BST sidewalls, which emulates a wider rim by not pinching the tyre as much as a rim with taller and thicker bead hooks.

As you’d expect from a Stan’s rim, tubeless set up is dead easy. The rims come pre-taped, and along with the supplied valves, it takes very little effort to get the tyre beads popped into place. I used numerous WTB, Maxxis and Schwalbe tyres up to 2.5in wide on the Flow MK3 rims, and got each one set up tubeless without hesitation or swearing. The tubeless tape does need occasional refreshing, but it’s cheap and easy to replace. Stans recommend a max tyre width of 2.8in, but if you’re looking specifically for a plus wheelset, consider the wider Sentry S1 wheelset with a 32mm internal width, or the 35mm wide Baron S1 wheels.

stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112
All Stans complete wheels come pre-taped with its own yellow tubeless tape.
stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112
The tubeless tape is light and effective, but it does perish over time, and particularly if you regularly change tyres.

The first thing you notice about the Flow MK3 wheels is that they’re unnoticeable – in a good way. They’re smooth, quiet and highly comfortable to ride, especially compared to stiffer carbon rims. In back-to-back testing with carbon wheels set up with the same tyres and pressures, the Flow MK3 wheels were significantly smoother, with less surface buzz being transferred up through the bike’s contact points. The result is a calm and controlled ride that proves stiffer isn’t always necessarily better.

stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112 wtb ci31
Part of the test involved back-to-back riding with carbon fibre rims, including Giant TRX and WTB Ci31 wheels.

Despite this smoothness, they still offer excellent handling. Stan’s quotes a 25% boost in lateral stiffness over the previous Flow EX rims, and while the Flow MK3s aren’t quite as point-and-shoot as carbon hoops, they’re darn close. James has previously spent some quality time testing the Stans Bravo Carbon wheelset that is basically the carbon version of these, and the Bravo rims are definitely more sharp when it comes to threading through squirrelly singletrack at speed. Though the Flow MK3’s are not far behind at all.

Strength-wise, the very short sidewalls are highly resistant to dings, as there’s simply less leverage to fold them over compared to rims with taller sidewalls. Unlike carbon rims, damage is also much more visible if you do encounter a heavy rock-to-rim impact. And in all but the most terminal of cases, you can usually bend back the sidewall and continue riding.

stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112 van singletrack whyte t130
The Flow MK3 wheels ride smooth, light and fast. Compared to most carbon wheels, the Flow’s are significantly smoother with less buzz coming through the bike’s contact points.

Total rigidity is sound, and combined with the smooth rolling hubs and 36-point engagement, the Flow MK3 wheels feel faster underfoot than the weight would lead you to believe. For riders who have bought a new bike that’s burdened with a heavy stock wheelset, the Flow MK3s would make an ideal upgrade to add an injection of speed.

stans notubes flow mk3 wheelset issue 112
The performance of the new Flow MK3 wheels makes the extra cost of going to carbon very, very difficult to justify.

Overall

The Flow MK3 wheels are tough, durable and easy to live with. With stiffness in the right directions, and comfort where it counts, the Flow MK3 wheels will make it very hard to justify the extra cost of going to carbon – they are that good.

Review Info

Brand: Stans NoTubes
Product: Flow MK 3 Wheelset
From: Paligap, paligap.cc
Price: £520
Tested: by Wil Barrett for 3 months

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