|Chris King / Stan's Flow EX Wheelset - Review|
Late last fall, Chris King announced that they would be offering complete wheelsets, allowing customers to choose their preferred aluminum rim from Stan's or carbon rim from ENVE and have them laced up to the company's own ISO hubs. Wheels using aluminum rims are laced up by machine and then tensioned and trued by hand, while carbon rimmed wheels are built completely by hand, all of which takes place in-house at Chris King's Portland, Oregon, facility. Once they meet Chris King's standards, the wheels are then delivered a customer's shop of choice within 14 days after the order is placed. The hubs come with a five year warranty, and the complete wheelset comes with a one time, two year crash replacement program, where replacement rims are offered for 50% of MSRP. We chose to have our wheelset built up with a pair of 27.5” Stan's Flow EX rims, with the goal of creating a strong, durable wheelset at a reasonable weight, one that could handle everything from trail riding to DH laps.
• Weight (27.5"): front: 930g, rear: 1055g, total: 1985g
• Sapim spokes, alloy nipples
• 3 cross, 32 hole lacing
• Intended use: all-mountain, enduro, DH
• 5 year hub warranty, 2 year crash replacement
• Price: $1050 USD
| (Top) Disassembling the ISO hubs to swap axles or perform routine maintenance only requires a 2.5mm allen key.(Bottom) Chris King's Ring Drive has 72 points of simultaneous engagement to ensure there's minimal lag when stepping down on the pedals.|
Chris King ISO Hubs
Chris King is well respected in the industry for creating headsets, hubs, and bottom brackets that are designed to last years, not months, a reputation that comes from the company's focus on maintaining extremely tight tolerances and a high level of quality control. All of their manufacturing is done in the United States, and they have gone to great lengths to ensure that their business practices are as environmentally friendly as possible, even going so far as running their machines on soy oil.
The ISO disc hubs are CNC machined from aluminum and use Chris King's Ring Drive system for 72 points of simultaneous engagement. At the core of the system, the helical splines on the drive shell pull a spring loaded drive ring into the driven ring, which means that the harder you crank the greater the engagement force, in theory eliminating the possibility of any slipping or skipping. The buzzing noise that's the hallmark of a Chris King hub is caused by the teeth of the two rings ratcheting over each other. All of the hub bearings are made in-house to exacting tolerances at Chris King's Portland, Oregon, facility, and use a removable split ring over a rubber seal to keep contaminants out while still allowing them to be serviced. Basic service can be performed with just an allen key and a flat head screwdriver, although a full rebuild does require Chris King's own hub tool.
Different axles are available depending on the desired standard, with everything from a 135mm bolt-on option to a 12x142mm thru-axle available. XD drivers are also now available for riders using a SRAM 1x11 drivetrain.
| Low and wide, the Flow EX rims are a good match for 2.3 - 2.5 inch tires. The spoke holes do not have eyelets by design - Stan's says that the benefits of eyelets are minimal, and that with proper lubrication the same tension and strength can be achieved with their non-eyeleted rim.|
Stan's Flow EX Rims
Stan's was an early adopter of the 'wider is better' rim design philosophy, and fittingly the aluminum Flow EX rims have an internal width of 25.5mm, with a total height of only 17.8mm. The rims use the company's Bead Socket Technology (BST) design, which uses a lower sidewall height combined with the wider rim width in order to allow tires to spread out into a rounder profile than what would be possible with a traditional rim shape. The lower sidewall height is also claimed to help reduce the chances of a pinch flat when running tubes, since it takes a greater force for the tire and tube to be compressed all the way down against the sidewall.
| The ISO hub's bearing are made in-house by Chris King, and can be accessed by removing the small small snap ring and dust seal that covers them.|Setup
Using Stan's tubeless rim tape and valve stems the Flow EXs easily accommodated any tubeless ready tire we mounted onto them, and we never had to resort to an air compressor to get a tire sealed and seated. Swapping out axles, say from a 20mm to 15mm thru axle, is an easy procedure as well, only requiring a 2.5mm allen key to accomplish. Ride Report
Our wheelset has seen six months of hard usage, including weathering the rain, snow, and mud that come with a Pacific Northwest winter. Other than an initial tightening up of the adjustment ring after a couple of rides, and then truing the rear wheel once to get rid of a small wobble caused by a hard landing somewhere around the three month mark, we haven't had to touch them at all. Chris King does recommend servicing the hubs at least once every six months, a procedure that takes less than thirty minutes, even working at a leisurely pace. We pulled the hubs apart to see how the grit and mud had treated them, and were impressed with how little grime had made its way inside. The blue rubber seal in the drive shell had done its job, preventing debris from working its way further into the hub. A few quick blasts from the air compressor and a fresh dose of lube and the wheels were ready for another six months of use and abuse.
Out on the trails, the ISO hub's engagement is extremely quick, with a very positive feel – there's none of the popping or skipping that can arise under heavy loads with less refined designs. The buzzing sound that emits from the hub's Ring Drive mechanism when it freewheels was a little distracting for the first couple of rides, but it eventually became just another background noise. There wasn't any undue flexing during hard cornering or landings, and even when running low pressures the tires stayed securely on the rims despite the tacky trails' best efforts to rip them off. Whether it was rocketing down technical downhill runs, or being called into duty for long trail rides, this wheelset never missed a beat, a stalwart setup that proved itself on countless adventures. After being taken on every manner of ride, the rims are dent free, with only a few minor cosmetic scratches to show for the six months spent pinballing through roots and rocks. Pinkbike's Take:
|For a rock solid option that's capable of withstanding multiple seasons of hard riding, the Stan's Flow EX / Chris King combo is a tough one to beat. There's no reliance on proprietary spokes or strange hub designs, just a classic, 3 cross, 32 hole lacing pattern that will have bike mechanics nodding their heads in approval. Sure, there are lighter and less expensive options, but running a set of ultra-reliable hubs laced to wide and strong rims greatly reduces the chances that you'll end up stranded in the middle of nowhere staring at a sub-par freehub body that's been reduced to a pile of shattered pawls and deformed springs. For everything from all-mountain riding to DH racing, this is a wheelset that can get the job done, mile after mile, and won't have you second guessing your wheel choice every time you launch off a drop or go barreling into a rock garden.- Mike Kazimer|
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