Long a fixture on the mountain bike scene for its hassle-free tubeless rims and wheels, Stan’s NoTubes recently finally launched into the carbon aero road wheel market with the new Avion range. Just as you’d expect, they’re a breeze to set up tubeless, lightweight, and – at least relatively speaking – a decent value all things considered. Excellent performance at a lower price than the competition? Sign me up.
One look at the Avion Disc Pro’s spec sheet reveals its progressive nature. Internal width on the tubeless-compatible full-carbon rims is a healthy 22mm – wider than just about any other road rim on the market – the new Neo Ultimate rear hub has an unusually quick five-degree engagement speed, and despite having a versatile 41mm rim depth and new-school fat 28m-wide section width, the actual weight for a complete set is just 1,477g (631g front, 846g rear) including the factory installed rim tape and tubeless valve stems. And that’s with the hubs configured in thru-axle guise front and rear, too.
Plumping up your rubber
Numbers don’t always align with how a product feels in the real world but in this case, the Avion Pros perform just as the spec sheet would suggest – which is to say, very, very well.
The blunted-profile rims measure 41mm in depth and 28mm in width (external measurement)
NoTubes proudly claims the rim’s ‘RiACT’ rim design yields a softer ride than comparable aero-profile carbon hoops. That may very well be true on a bench test but on the road, what’s much more noticeable is how the wider rim profile and shallower bead hooks really plump up whatever tires are mounted. For example, a set of 28mm-wide Specialized S-Works Turbo Road Tubeless tires (my current go-tos, by the way) measure a whopping 30.5mm even at just 60psi while offering superb traction, heaps of comfort, and sufficient air volume for hours of off-blacktop riding – all with no tangible hit in rolling resistance or weight, either.
For the record, NoTubes recommends that the Avions be paired with rubber between 25mm and 40mm in width but anything you put on here – tubeless or tube-type – puffs up in similar fashion.
End caps on the hubs are easily interchanged for use with different axle standards
Granted, that characteristic is mostly shared with other rims of similar dimensions. Case in point, there’s not a huge difference in ride quality between the Avion Disc Pros and a set of Bontrager Aeolus 5 TLR Disc 3 wheels (which are just 2mm narrower) but it’s a dramatic change in feel as compared to a more traditional set of wheels with just 15-17mm of space in between the bead hooks. Call the hype police on me if you wish but if you’re still on 15mm-wide rims and 23mm-wide tires pumped up to 110psi, the difference is truly revelatory.
Of course, no review of an aero road wheelset would be complete without some mention of speed but without the benefit of a wind tunnel, it’s impossible to say just how ‘fast’ these are. Are the Avion Disc Pros noticeably faster than non-aero wheels? Absolutely, especially at higher speeds. But are they two seconds faster than something else over 40km? Your guess is as good as mine.
Light and stable
More applicable to most riders’ real-world needs is the fact that the wheels are noticeably light (claimed rim weight is just 415g) and stable enough in strong crosswinds to be used as an all-around aero wheelset. I wouldn’t say the Avion Disc Pro’s blunted profile is quite as immune to gusts as the Easton’s latest Fantom models or the Enve SES 3.4 but it’s still worlds better than more traditional V-shaped aero wheels.
The Center Lock splined interface allows use of Shimano's excellent 140mm-diameter Ice Tech rotors
Here on the Colorado Front Range, early winter conditions are notorious for brutal Chinook winds coming down out of the mountains, directly orthogonal to one of the most heavily trafficked routes out of Boulder. Even on the worst days, the Avion Disc Pros were still quite manageable.
Overall wheel durability has been excellent, too, with no truing required even after weeks of punishment on rough dirt and gravel roads (and yes, even just a bit of singletrack tossed in for good measure).
While the rim profile itself may not shatter any major barriers, the Neo Ultimate hubset certainly bucks the trend in road wheelsets with its unusually quick five-degree freehub engagement. This isn’t a huge boon when riding on asphalt or dirt (or gravel, as the case may be) but it’s a most welcome feature for ’cross, particularly on technical climbs when traction is limited. There’s a bit more seal drag from the rear hub that I’d prefer but it does break in over time and in a month of regular testing – including lots of time on wet, muddy, and slushy roads – the bearings and freehub mechanism have held up admirably.
Details, details: there's a flattened section at the valve hole for the valve stem nut
Perhaps where the Avion Pros are most impressive is at the cash register. They’re hardly cheap but still quite the relative bargain when held against the mainline competition. Those previously mentioned Bontragers share similar rim dimensions and tubeless compatibility but with 170g more weight and almost 30% more cost. Enve’s SES 3.4 Disc is slightly lighter but even more expensive and with a narrower, non-tubeless rim while the Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Disc Brake is about the same price but as heavy as the Bontragers and as narrow as the Enves while lacking tubeless compatibility.
If you’re okay with an extra 100g (and a 10-degree engagement speed), that price gap widens even further with the second-tier Avion Disc Team model.
NoTubes forged its well-deserved mountain bike wheel reputation on smart rim designs and good value, and the company seems to have carried over both to the Avion Disc Pros. If there are any notable downsides, I’m still looking for them.