Carbon may still be hogging the spotlight these days, but aluminum rims have never gone out of style. Whether you're an enduro racer who simply can't afford to risk having a broken rim dash those podium dreams, or a non-competitive type who's unable to justify purchasing pricey plastic, a durable aluminum wheelset makes a lot of sense.
Stan's Flow EX3 wheelset is aimed at enduro and DH riders, with a new design that combines the elements of the previous Flow EX and MK3 rims. During their in-house testing, Stan's found that the older Flow EX rims were withstanding impacts better than the MK3 rims, despite the fact that the MK3 rims used a stronger 6069 aluminum alloy. Further investigation led them to the conclusion that it was the Flow EX's Tiebeam, the internal bridge that runs between the sidewalls, that was helping the them perform so well.
Flow EX3 Wheelset Details
• 29mm internal rim width
• 6069 aluminum rims
• Neos Durasync hubs, 10° engagment
• 27.5" or 29" options
• Sapim D-Light spokes
• Weight: 2,150g (29") / 1,000g F / 1,150 R
• MSRP: $699 USD
The new Flow EX3 rims are made from 6069 aluminum and use that Tiebeam design, along with a thicker spoke bed, to help them withstand all the pummeling that aggressive riders can dish out. The 29mm internal width is designed to work best with tires from 2.35” to 2.8”.
The rims are laced with 32 J-bend Sapim spokes to Stan's own Neo OS Durasync hubs. The freehub body has 6 leaf-spring-loaded pawls that all engage simultaneously with a 36 tooth steel ratchet ring, which equates to 10-degrees of movement between engagement points.
Available in 27.5” and 29” diameters, the wheelset retails for $699 USD. There are 12x148, 12x142, and 12x157mmm rear axle options, and all 15x110mm front hubs also include 20mm end-caps.
Stan's Neo Durasync hub uses 6 pawls and a 36-tooth steel ratchet ring.Ride Impressions
The Flow EX3 wheels come pre-taped with tubeless valves already installed, which made getting them ready to roll a quick and easy procedure. I've had multiple tires on these wheels over the course of testing, everything from DH-casing Maxxis Minions to Michelin's Wild Enduro tires, and in all cases they sealed up and popped into place with a floor pump and minimal effort.
The wheels have also seen a wide range of riding conditions, including laps in the Whistler Bike Park mounted on a DH bike (props to Specialized for giving the new Demo 12x148 spacing), and lots of long, non-lift served rides on a trail bike. The wheels have a solid and comfortable feel to them; this is the kind of wheelset that fades to the background once it's installed, despite the fact that it's not exactly the lightest option out there. They never felt harsh, but they're also stiff enough to avoid any unwanted flexiness or vague handling.
I'd classify my riding style as relatively smooth rather than smashy, but I'll usually still end up with a few dents and dings in a set of aluminum rims, especially if I've been riding the bike park. That wasn't the case this time, and after more than four months of riding both rims are still running true and dent free. They have required a couple trips to the truing stand to add more spoke tension, which is something to pay attention to, especially if you're putting in a bunch of downhill laps.
The Neo hubs have held up much better than the last set
that I spent time on. The bearings are all still running smoothly, and there haven't been any disconcerting pops or noises when cranking up steep climbs. Yes, there are faster engaging options out there, but 10-degrees between engagement points is still relatively low, and I never found myself thinking, “I could totally clean that section of trail if only my hubs engaged quicker...”
Durable, DH-worthy rims+
No proprietary or straight pull spokes+
Very easy tubeless tire installation
Not the wheels to choose if you're counting grams-
Need to pay attention to spoke tension