I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read somewhere or been told by fellow bike riders that the best place to save weight on a bike is on the wheels. Personally I’ve always thought the best place to do that was somewhere in the abdomen region of the bike rider, but theory and practice don’t always match.
I do know one thing though, and that’s shedding weight by buying some of the lightest, blingiest wheels available on the market is a lot easier than not drinking beer, not gorging on cake and sweets, and generally living like a neurotic diet obsessed teenager. It’s also bloody expensive, so unless you’re a money-no-object-must-have-the-best-of-everything type, fancy wheels like these will mainly be of interest to the racier or more performance focused types among us.
The Podium SRDs are Stan’s range-topping XC race wheels. They claim to be the lightest and fastest wheels Stan’s has ever produced, and follow in the footsteps of the acclaimed Race Gold and Valor models. Retailing at a not insignificant £1,650 for the set, they are comprised of the newly developed SRD rims built on Neo Ultimate hubs with Sapim Laser black spokes. Here’s the breakdown of the specs;
Stan’s NoTubes Podium SRD Wheelset
- Superlight XC racing wheelset
- 29in only
- Carbon fibre rim w/BST tubeless compatible profile
- 23mm internal width, 28.1mm external width
- Designed for 2.0in – 2.25in wide tyres
- 18.7mm depth
- Stan’s Neo Ultimate hubs
- Available with Boost or non-Boost hub spacing
- SRAM XD and Shimano freehub bodies available
- Speedsync 6-pawl freehub mechanism delivers 5° engagement
- Sapim Laser double butted J-bend spokes
- Sapim Secure Lock black alloy nipples
- 24h front and 28h rear
- Includes: tubeless tape and valves, spare spokes, hub adapters, quick release skewers, build information sheet, and wheel bags
- Confirmed weight: 1300g (with tubeless tape but without valves)
- RRP: £1650
The rims have an internal width of 23m (28mm external), a very shallow 19mm depth, and come with 24 spokes on the front and 28 at the back. In addition to the wheels, for your cash you also get a Stan’s wheel bag for transporting your precious cargo, and a 5-year warranty and crash replacement scheme. They also have a weight limit of 86kg, so if you’re heavier than this, you should probably think about the beer and junk food abstinence route to weight reduction mentioned above.
You can order these in both boost and non-boost variations. In this case we had the non-boost versions and they came with end caps to support both quick release and bolt through configurations (15mm front, 12mm rear). You can also opt for either a Shimano or XD freehub. The hubs are incredibly easy to disassemble as the axle, freehub and end caps simply fit together with rubber friction seals. This provides for very easy servicing although you do need to be wary of this out on the trail to avoid losing any bits.
The first thing to be noticed about these wheels is how beautiful they are. Yes I know this shouldn’t be a major consideration, especially for performance products, but quite frankly if you’re going to spend this amount of money on a set of wheels then they should look the part, and the Podium SRDs do just that. The combination of the smooth matt finish, the curvy shallow profile, minimalist red and black decals and the classy looking hubs quietly invites knowledgeable bystanders to look and admire without screaming ‘LOOK AT ME!’, meaning you can be that rarest of things; a modest trail-centre show-off. Assuming of course you have a sufficiently beautiful bike on which to mount them, as opposed to the race-battered 6-year old hardtail which I had to hand.
As you’d expect for any wheels produced by the trailblazers of tubeless, setting these up is pretty straightforward. We tried a range of tubeless ready tyres and they all inflated and sealed easily with a track pump. They are optimised for 2.0-2.25in XC tyres, but we tried these with larger tyres without any major issues, other than a single 2.4in wide Bontrager SE4 that Wil managed to blow off the rim at 20psi as a result of sealant residue causing the bead to climb up the shallow sidewall. The lesson here (both for Wil and for you) is to ensure any non-new tyres are clean and stripped of any old sealant or dirt that may have accumulated.
Once you’ve stopped gawping at them and decided to get them dirty, the first thing you notice on the bike is how energetic and lightweight these wheels feel. They are ridiculously light, 1300g for the set in fact (which you’d do well to beat on a road bike), and this lightness injects proper zing into the bike. Not only do they accelerate and climb faster – significantly faster if Strava is to be believed – but they also help the bike change direction more easily due to carrying less inertia.
The second thing to be noticed was how comfortable they are. There’s a load of compliance built into the rims and you can feel it. Having taken off a pair of cheap Chinese carbon rims, the difference was chalk and cheese. The Stan’s have a very rich and connected feel on the trail, and they don’t ping about off of rocks. This is a result of the fact that Stan’s has increased the lateral stiffness by a claimed 15% on its Valor wheels and improved the radial deflection by 11%. They are easily the smoothest and most comfortable carbon wheelset I’ve ever ridden with. Despite the compliance, they still feel accurate and zippy through the turns. Heavier riders will get more flex out of them, but at around 80kg at the time of the test I didn’t notice much.
You’d think for all this improvement in performance, both in terms of speed and comfort that there’d be a trade off in durability. I’ll be honest, even though these were test wheels, I treated them with caution initially. They feel so light and nimble that the sight of any large rocks or drops makes you think twice. This didn’t last long though. The more you ride them the more your confidence grows and any concerns about breaking or damaging them soon disappears. In the six months of riding these it’s fair to say they’ve been hammered on some of the most rocky and techy trails Calderdale has to offer, as well as being raced in both short course and endurance settings.
Wil even performed some ungracious hucking-to-flat while he had the Podium wheels strapped to the Swarf Contour test bike. The Contour isn’t exactly an XC race bike, so it’s fair to say that the wheels were pushed well outside their intended comfort zone;
The end result of this onslaught was no identifiable damage to the rims, and the wheels were still perfectly true with the spoke tension intact. One of the decals is peeling off a bit, but I think I can live with that.
Now, would I ever spend this much on some wheels? Aside from the problem of having the means to do so, I have no idea. I’ve always had the view that when it comes to kit or components, you generally get what you pay for, but only up to a point. On the rare occasions that I’ve splashed out on top-end kit it’s resulted either in crushing disappointment, like the time some £400 carbon cranks fell apart after six months, or smug satisfaction from pointing out to my mates that I’ve never had to replace this or that part on my bike. Given the evidence of the past six months, I’d say these wheels are prime candidates for the latter category.
If £1,650 is too much to swallow though, then it’s worth noting that Stan’s has recently released the Crest CB7 wheelset. Coming in 2/3rd of the price at £1,050, the CB7 is also a lightweight XC wheelset, but it gets a slightly deeper profile and thicker walls for its carbon fibre rims. Along with thicker gauge spokes and the use of standard Neo hubs (rather than Neo Ultimates on the Podium SRD wheelset), the CB7 wheelset comes out heavier at 1452g vs 1287g (claimed weights). Another detail worth factoring in is the rider weight limit, which is significantly higher with the CB7 wheelset at 104kg.
If anyone was to invent Back To The Future style hoverboard wheels for a bike, they’d probably feel a bit like these. The only question is; do you really need them? If you’re a racer wanting to worry podiums, they will undoubtedly provide a marginal gain which your competitors may not have. But that’s not to deny the attraction of these wheels to non-racers of an XC ilk who like riding fast just for the hell of it. One thing for certain though; riding these wheels are definitely more fun than dieting.
|Brand:||Stan's No Tubes|
|Product:||Podium SRD wheelset|
|Tested:||by Daz Hall & Wil Barrett for 6 months|