Stan's No Tubes Factory Tour

Jul 26, 2016
by Brice Shirbach  






Big Flats, New York is not a mountain bike mecca. Let's be clear on that. It's certainly not a place where you might expect to find the headquarters of one of the industry's leading high-end wheel manufacturers, but sitting just off of Interstate 86, and about 15 miles directly south of the Finger Lakes region you'll find the home base of the brand synonymous with tubeless wheel and tire innovations. Stan's No Tubes is celebrating 15 years of delivering game-changing innovations that began with sealants and rim strips and has since evolved into a much more comprehensive range of products for everyone from Olympians and World Cup athletes, to park rats, to your weekend warriors looking to make it back to the trailhead before dark. Founded and owned by Stan and Cindy Koziatek in 2001, the origins of the sealant actually predate its first sale. Stan began experimenting with the concept back in 1998, and even managed to have prototype systems ready for testing at the World Cup level a year later by the likes of Thomas Frischknecht. Sealant bottles and conversion kits were being sold two years later. Stan immediately began working on developing a rim design that would soon be sold as the alloy ZTR. No Tubes athletes saw immediate success on the wheels and using the sealant, taking medals in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

The tubeless innovators would release even more wheel designs for mountain bikes, before eventually forging a path for road cyclists as well. A few years ago, Stan's began producing its first carbon fiber wheel, the hallowed Valor wheel with 'bead socket technology.' This would be immediately followed by the release of both the Neo Hub design, featuring up to 72 points of contact and designed with every possible 'standard' in mind, and the new Bravo downhill specific wheelset, designed with heavy input from the Atherton Racing Program. More recently, a new sealant has been released, featuring the same non-toxic, low viscosity latex blend but with larger crystals designed to more effectively and quickly seal punctures.

Stan's supports several athletes and racing programs today, including Hans Rey, the GT Factory Enduro and DH Team, the Rocky Mountain Rally Enduro Team, Team Stan's NoTubes/Pivot (Chloe Woodruff and Rose Grant), Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team, Stan's NoTubes Enduro Team (Krista Park and Anthony Diaz), the Marin Enduro Team , and the CST Superior Bren among others. These are the relationships that form the backbone of the Stan's Racing Development program, which according to the company, "is the embodiment of all of the time spent determining how to shave tenths of a second from the clock by developing the absolute best equipment that provides our athletes with an advantage on race day." We recently spent some time at both the Big Flats, NY location, as well the State College, PA offices to explore their production and testing facilities, we picked Stan's brain a bit, and sat down with President and engineer, Mike Bush to discuss the past, present and future of the brand.





Stan s Factory Tour
The Big Flats, NY offices.

Stan s No Tubes Factory employees.
Stan's currently has 34 employees, and these are just a few of the hard working people behind the first name in tubeless technologies.

Can you tell us a bit about your job and responsibilities at Stan’s?

Mike Bush: I’ve been the president of Stan’s No Tubes for about two and a half years. I have been with the company for about 11 years. I look over the engineering and product groups. I also look after the sales team. I lay out goals for quality control and fulfillment rates.

Generally, it’s a lot of fun to do this stuff. Making your hobby your job, it’s kind of the dream. I came from bigger companies where you feel like a small cog in the machine. We have a global reach and deal with people from pro athletes all the way down to your local trail rider. It’s really satisfying being able to walk into a shop and see something hanging on the wall that you worked on. It does take a lot of hours to get there. Not everybody is this fortunate. A lot of small companies come around and fail within a year or two. Something like 70 percent of small businesses. To be around for 15 years and push the envelope. We started out doing something that a lot of people didn’t even think was possible. It’s kind of nice being a trendsetter. We do have people nipping at our heels constantly. We have to keep our eyes on everyone.

Stan s Factory Tour
Early 'standards.'

Stan s Factory Tour

Stan s Factory Tour
Even the more subtle nuances of tubeless technologies, such as valve design, have taken a few steps forward in the past 15 years.

bigquotesYou will notice that with tubeless ready tires, the max recommended psi is getting lower and lower, which is something I have been telling them to do for years. They were hesitant at first, and kept saying that the German market likes to run their tires at a higher psi, but I said that they are going to risk blowing tires off of the rims. Now they are all finally coming around. Stan Koziatek, Founder

Stan s Factory Tour
Stan s Factory Tour

Stan s Factory Tour

This is how rim strips are bonded to the wheels using this press.

Stan s Factory Tour

What helped you guys avoid some of the common small business pitfalls early on?

Mike Bush: We’ve been keenly aware of what the consumer is interested in. We want people to ride further and faster, with fewer flats. That could mean a new rim design or a better sealant. All of that back end needs to happen in a timely manner. None of that will happen if we don’t do the R&D. There’s an awful lot of backend work between here and our New York facility. We pride ourselves on a high fulfillment rate. We have very little warranties. When you install our product on your bike, it’s going to work the way you want it to. We check a lot of boxes along the way. Competition drives you as well. We’ve experienced some of the growing pains of being a small business. Someone might come with good funding and a great idea, and that pushes you to ramp up your own time to market without sacrificing the design, the quality control, and that backend support.

Stan s Factory Tour
Listen, there isn't a whole lot to do in Big Flats, so when they need to blow off steam, they get creative with their workspace.
Stan s Factory Tour
They also need to remember to be careful whenever they're coming around the corner.

What are some of the industry-driven advancements that have pushed your own brand forward?

Mike Bush: With plus tires, we saw that coming. Some of our O.E. relationships help us see these things coming. They might be getting pressure from their dealers or markets. So we start looking at plus size tire profiles and shapes. You can take a standard 2.5 tire and stretch it out on a 40 mm rim, but it certainly won’t perform the way you expect it to. The side knobs won’t be in the proper position, the casing is susceptible to damage, and the rolling resistance is going to be greater. We were fortunate to be in the middle of a hub redesign when boost came along. We were able to adapt and be ready for it. We build our hub system in a way that’s very modular. We can easily adjust axle lengths, and our caps can be swapped across models. We built that flexibility in as early as possible. There’s more to come on that. There are always new 'standards,' or maybe specifications is a better word, coming along. It pushes us constantly.

Carbon rim deflection testing with variable load applied and measured with a load cell.
Carbon rim deflection testing with a variable load applied and measured with a load cell.

Stan s Factory Tour

Drop tower for impact testing. Those spotlights to the left are for high speed imaging.
Drop tower for impact testing. Those spotlights to the left are for high-speed imaging.

Stan s Factory Tour

Stan s Factory Tour
Drop test imaging is one of Stan's favorite tools when it comes to wheel design.

bigquotesWe want to see how much movement we can get in a rim with what amount of force and not have it pinch flat the tire. We do not want any pinch flats. We want maximum radial compliance, and the high-speed camera can measure that for us. He uses a scale just off to the side, which is in millimeter increments. When he films it, he can calibrate the rim movement using accurate measurements. Stan Koziatek, Founder

Stan s Factory Tour
Stan s Factory Tour

As far as wheel and hub design go, where’s the next bit of refinement coming from?

Mike Bush: I think we’ll be seeing more and more snappy, mid-travel bikes that are designed and intended to fit both 29” wheels and 27.5+. That’s going to be really popular. Bikes are ridden around the world, and people might like different combinations for different types of terrain. Someone might like a plus tire on the back, and a 29er up front. We need to have the ability to be able to adapt and change. We try to position our rims accordingly. It’s hard to call something cross country or trail when people can interpret that phrase so differently from one another. I think you’re going to see some advancements in tire casings soon. Someone might want that 2.8 tire that doesn’t weigh a ton, but they also don’t want to sacrifice durability. No one wants to be stranded. I think there’s a lot of room there.

Stan s Factory Tour
Stan keeps extremely detailed notes from just his drop test imaging alone.

THE Holland Mechanics lacing machine
The Holland Mechanics Lacing Machine.

Internals of a Holland Mechanics truing robot.
The internals of the Holland Mechanics Truing Robot is a mysterious place.

Views: 6,740    Faves: 5    Comments: 1


What goes into the method you guys choose to present yourself and market your products?

Mike Bush: It’s always changing. Five years ago, the Crest was a pretty new rim. It was our number one selling 29” wheel. It was super successful; I can’t begin to count how many events it won, and the thousands of miles our customers were putting on those. If you ran an ad in the past for that wheel, it was very clearly a cross-country market. Now, it’s tough to run an ad, either in print or online, saying that this wheelset is specifically built for this style of riding. So now we take the Crest, put together three different types of copy and photos for three different media outlets. In the end, we still want to suggest the best possible use for our product, but everything also needs to have some versatility to it. It becomes pretty tricky. You know, 142X12 spacing is pretty cut and dry. The frame needs what it needs. But to define a segment by both duty rating and tire sizes is going to be a bit tricky. We come from a long line of cross country success, and we’ve been really happy with that. The vast majority of riders out there still ride what might be classically referred to as cross country terrain. But, the gravity influence is big and it really helps us push product development. We have sort of seen this unintentional success in World Cup downhill as well. The Flow and Flow EX was never designed to be a downhill rim, but it fits the bill. It’s light, durable and tubeless compatible. It’s been important for us to bring that XC success into other worlds, and show that we can do light really well, but we can also beef things up a bit and size it appropriately for what downhillers want to do.

Stan s Factory Tour

Stan s Factory Tour

Internal shape of the new Mark 3 rims. This is the Arch.
Internal shape of the new MK 3 Arch rim.

Sample of a wheel s electronic QC measuring axial and radial deviation along with tension of each spoke.
Stan shows us a sample of a wheel's electronic QC, measuring axial and radial deviation along with tension of each spoke.

bigquotesEven when they fail, we can see the impact, we can see the crack and we learn that there are different things we can do with carbon. I can make the rim weight the same as it is now and we can run downhill with it. Gee Atherton raced on our Bravos last year with false Flow stickers on them. When Gee sends me a carbon wheel that he has been running for a week straight and it has not failed, that is big for us. Especially considering he usually bends an alloy wheel after two days of riding. Stan Koziatek, Founder

Stan s Factory Tour
The magic fairy dust that gives the new Race Sealant even more effectiveness than the original formula.

Stan s Factory Tour
Bottles of sealant march down the conveyor belt.

Stan s Factory Tour
The liquid formula and powdered formula are added to the bottles separately.

How do you guys utilize athlete feedback? How important is the relationship you guys have with your riders?

Mike Bush: If something new comes along, we’ll do as much testing as we can on the computer before we cut tooling, and we’ll do a lot of in-house testing with drops and fatigue testing. Of course, you need to have various standards for Europe as well. With our local trails here in State College, we can put some really good miles in on prototypes as well. But, the miles that our athletes can put in is so valuable. A lot of them are really in tune with product testing as well and get us some really detail oriented feedback.

We had a good relationship with the Athertons for a few years. They took a wheel that we never intended for downhill use, and asked what would happen if it were a little bit wider. We took their feedback and shaped what was the Flow and turned it into the Flow EX. What a little more time and World Championships, we now have the Flow MK 3. Rider feedback definitely feeds into our design. It’s a long process from start to finish, but we couldn’t do it without rider feedback from that level. Maybe most riders don’t approach that level, but it’s just like Toyota or Dodge being involved in NASCAR; it’s not directly applicable to my 4Runner in the parking lot, but the testing and engineering feedback leads to refinement.

Stan s Factory Tour
Stan likes to stay up to date on his closest competitors.
Stan s Factory Tour
The new stuff is flying off the shelves.

Stan s Factory Tour
The State College, PA location is home to the demo van...
Stan s Factory Tour
...and is in the middle of a mountain biking hot spot.

What is Stan's No Tubes' philosophical approach to growth? Is it a fluid process, or do you guys have a more regimented outlook for moving forward?

Mike Bush: It’s a bit of a combination, to be honest. We have several different metrics we look at, from a financial standpoint and from a product volume and employee headcount. There are certainly long-term benchmarks that we want to be able to check, but with new products coming along and an evolving set of specifications coming from the rest of the industry, we need to be flexible and able to adapt to change. That’s a lot easier to do when you’re small. The bigger you are, the more red tape there is. There's a lot of process and procedure. So in that sense, having the ability to be flexible is extremely important. In a year when maybe the Euro is off 20%, and maybe some markets that are normally good for us are taking some hits, you adjust your expectations and your focus. We stay in close contact with our distributors to see if there’s a product we’re missing, or if there’s a better way for us to deliver them to our customers.

Stan s Factory Tour
Engineers, inside sales reps, demo drivers; all of them call State College home and all of them are ready to ride at a moment's notice.

FEA finite element analysis of a rim section. Engineers use FEA as a computerized method for predicting how a product reacts to real-world forces vibration heat fluid flow and other physical effects. Finite element analysis shows whether a product will break wear out or work the way it was designed..
Engineer and pro rider, Derek Bissett shows us some of the software the team uses for virtual testing. Engineers use FEA (finite element analysis) as a computerized method for predicting how a product reacts to real-world forces, vibration, heat, fluid flow, and other physical effects. Finite element analysis shows whether a product will break, wear out, or work the way it was designed.

Stan s Factory Tour
Mike Bush has several roles at Stan's, including president, lead engineer, quality control, head of sales, etc.

Stan s No Tubes Factory Tour photos
State College is home to some of Pennsylvania's highest rated trails and the Stan's crew takes full advantage of this.

Stan s No Tubes Factory Tour photos
Mike Bush leads the after work ride down some of PA's famously embedded Earth.

Has Stan's No Tubes exceeded the expectations you might have had for the company when you first began working here?

Mike Bush: Oh yeah. When I first started, I came from a pretty comfortable job in the aerospace world engineering helicopters. When I came here as a full-time employee, one of the owners of the company I was leaving told me that he liked bikes too, and if it doesn’t work out, I could always come back in a year. So I had a security blanket, which I appreciated. At that point in time, nobody had any idea where things were headed. A lot of hard work later, it’s panned out pretty well. There are definitely constant challenges, and there will be from here on out. You have to keep over 30 employees happy, 60 something distributors supplied, and people rolling along happily on the trails.

Stan s No Tubes Factory Tour photos
With riders like Derek on hand to help with product testing, gear doesn't have to travel far to get a proper thrashing.
Stan s No Tubes Factory Tour photos
Tussey Ridge is a favorite among both Stan's employees and pretty much everyone who has ever ridden here.

Stan s Factory Tour
Stan Koziatek is a prime example of just how far a bright idea and some fortitude can take you.


MENTIONS: @briceshirbach



Must Read This Week

79 Comments

  • + 132
 "What helped you guys avoid some of the common small business pitfalls early on?"

"Well, we avoided being raped by Specialized, so we were already ahead of 90% of other small bike companies"
  • + 20
 I'm surprised they didn't get sued for having three syllables in a name that starts with S
  • + 23
 Stop clapping and saying, "Stan's No Tubes, Spesh-uh-lized." You all look ridiculous.
  • + 3
 @bentplate: looks like you were the only one that did that. Sooo....
  • + 1
 That happened Late on. Early on they were innovative and plenty successful well before the lawsuit.
  • + 2
 Bro, if i could give you 1000 props-I would.
  • + 39
 Any prototype oval rims in the making?
  • + 35
 I have owned Flow's and Flow EX's in both 26 and 29 and they have ALL been amazing. They have been flogged, beaten and ridden hard across thousands of kilometers and they just keep going. Owe you guys a big one, it's great to be able to rely on wheels so much and have them reward that trust with reliability.
  • + 5
 Same. I've had flow EX's 27.5 on my Enduro bike for about 1500 miles and I wouldn't call myself a smooth rider. Finally snapped when I cased a road gap. Bought the new Flow EX Mk3 and have been even more impressed so far.
  • + 4
 I'm still on a pair of the original Stan's FR rims. They'll finally be retired next month, after 10 years of use on 3 different pairs of hubs. Those rims were way ahead of the rest of the market.
  • + 5
 Flow ex 27.5 on my rig. I beat the shit out of em and zero complaints. Fantastic build quality.
  • + 1
 @chazistic: :-) you can't be so smooth if you cased a road gap 'big grin'.
  • + 3
 My flow EX's have been through the ringer. 'couple tours in Vietnam, a couple rampage events, numerous world cup rounds, I even let eliot Jackson borrow my wheelset for a month...
Jokes aside, my flows have been running pretty damn strong, I definitely underestimated them. I did taco the front wheel in a crash but bent it back in a door frame, now it runs pretty straight but with some really sketchy spoke tensions, that wasn't a joke. (they're my back up wheelset now haha)
The flows are really hard to beat if your trying to have a lightweight rim that will last you awhile, respect stan's, respect B)
  • + 2
 have to be the easiest and quickest rims to setup tubeless. Ive done it across Crests, Arches and Flows on 26 and 29s. So easy.
  • + 28
 Dear Stan,
Please keep making 26" rims...especially the Flow EX.
Sincerely, Everyone
  • + 26
 Big Flats? Tubeless wheels manufacturer? Ok..
  • + 10
 A few months ago they were having a Stan's "blowout" sale on Jenson...
  • + 17
 Nothing flat about this article - it was Stantastic!
  • + 5
 It flowed well.
  • + 4
 I might pinch that flat joke.
  • - 3
 I was thinking the Pun trains had been a little flat lately
  • + 4
 Bravo!
  • - 1
 Now thats a flattering statement to them. But i dont think this pun train will stand the test of time.
  • + 0
 Double Post*
  • + 5
 well spoke-n
  • + 12
 Stan's No Tubes!!!! I deliver their mail when the regular carrier is off!
  • + 6
 Just put a MK3 flow on front of my 26er in place of a 21 mm wide rim .Running a 2.5 Minion at 20 psi it's like a completely different bike. Cornering confidence jumped up . Can't really discern any casing roll. Thanks Stan's and crew
  • + 3
 Yes! That's what I wanted to hear. I should have a set of 26" MK3's in a couple days!
  • + 2
 the new Stans MK3 is pretty unbeatable. The profile of a dh rim and the usual feathery weight of a flow.And im pretty convinced the profile is perfect. Any thing wider i feel is a unnecessary compromise of tire compatibility ( some tires becoming too square ), and anything narrower diminishes the benefit of the improved tire profile that the wider internal width provides. I really think they've made the perfect rim.
  • + 1
 Until you try 35mm internals and you see that this is the real thing you need haha
  • + 1
 agreed. looks similar to Rhyno Lite XL.
  • + 2
 I have run Stans Flow EX's on 4 DH bikes now with great success. Just tried a set of the Flow MK3's and the rear has two dents in the first few rides. No longer able to run it tubeless. Disappointed as I was excited about the extra width. Will go back to a normal Flow EX for the replacement.
  • + 2
 I've been really liking Stan's stuff lately.
Had my first try at tubeless and converted OEM rims from diamondback and haven't had a flat since.

Haven't tried their wheels though, but I'd like to try.

For an AM Hardtail with 140mm fork, and me being a fairly aggressive rider, around 160 pounds with gear, and hiting some small jumps and 6-8 ft drops, should I go for the Arch EX rim which is lighter (I pedal the bike a lot to get to the trails) or be done with it and get the Flows for some peace of mind? What would you guys recommend?
  • + 2
 Go for the Flow cause you just never know.
  • + 3
 Flows are plenty light to pedal and toughness have been proven by DH racers all the world around
  • + 2
 Alright then, thanks! Smile
  • + 5
 Do they have "fluid process" when it comes to growth? Haha...I bet they do. 32 oz at a time.
  • + 1
 Anyone use the Bravo rims?

Are they available as a rim only or just as a whole wheel?

The concept of a carbon hoop that has the same lateral stiffness as a typical carbon hoop but significantly greater vertical flex/deflection capability to limit pinch flats and crushed carbon beads is fantastic. Do they perform well in real life?

I've had great results with Stans aluminum rims in the past. Hopefully the Bravos deliver as well.
  • + 3
 Love your rims but it's a shame your neo hubs are made of old bean tins. Three rides in and the free hub disintegrated.
  • + 0
 I've had no flats in my tubed tyres for probably 4 or so years. I've just bought a new bike, that came with tubeless tyres and 2 months down the line the fucking things are pissing air and fluid out of holes in the carcass. I appreciate tubeless has other benefits and whatnot, but as soon as the slow deflation of my tubeless tyres becomes too much, i'm putting a tube in. No fucking about.
  • - 7
flag mhoshal (Jul 27, 2016 at 3:55) (Below Threshold)
 Tubeless is over rated anyway man. Made for weight weenies
  • + 0
 @mhoshal: Your point would be more valid if tubeless actually saved weight. Usually a tubeless setup is very close to the weight of a tube setup, but you can have more grip and go bigger with fever flats.
  • - 1
 Fewer flats my ass!!!! That's exactly why I won't run tubeless again ever!!!
  • + 1
 @kanioni: depends on luck most of the times. Worst experience i had the first time on tubeless, 5mins into the trail, i flatted both tires. Looks like they ran thru some road spikes....
  • + 1
 @lepak1corner: Ok, I've had opposite experience. Used to get lots of snake bites with tubes, but not with tubeless. Much about luck for sure. For weight saving it still isn't that helpful.
  • + 2
 I'm fine with my tubeless leaking a little air, because it's really tough to flat them outright when riding hard. Not using your bike for weeks then having to use it immediately without pumping up the tires is an unrealistic expectation for bikes. Tubes or no.
  • - 4
flag mhoshal (Jul 29, 2016 at 9:53) (Below Threshold)
 @BizzyBone: your riding hard and my riding hard must be two different things then bud. Judging from your profile you don't do any riding that I can see!!!
  • + 4
 @mhoshal: don't need to be so condescending everyone has different experiences and riding styles. It's not all about you. With tubes I would get about a dozen flats a year. Since I've gone tubeless I've only had one in two seasons. That flat was more due to the cheap flimsy tire that came stock on the bike. I've run WTB's tough casing tires well past the sidewall threads showing with no problems. I have worn through just about every tire before getting a flat. I'm sorry you've had such piss luck with the tubeless.
  • + 2
 I don't understand how Stan can have a patent on such rim design:

velonews.competitor.com/2016/02/news/stans-wins-patent-dispute-over-specialized_394909
  • + 3
 I thought Stan's is a bigger company, anyway I love their rims and sealant. Smile
  • + 4
 Should try and sneak an inner tube in to the factory lolol
  • + 1
 Thank you Stan's for eliminating pinch flats from my life and making great products. Oh and congrats on sticking it to the big S and wow that spoke tension looks like it needs some balancing.
  • + 3
 That was an EASTON rim that I saw on the Carbon rim deflection testing pic, right side?
  • + 2
 Stans Avion Rim
  • + 2
 I thought I saw that too! Probably testing to make sure they're keeping up or surpassing the competition
  • + 4
 I can't say enough good things about my Flow EX rims. Well done Stan's!
  • + 1
 What I wouldn't give to see a bunch of my favorite rims all go through that deflection test apparatus and see a full comparison. All tested to destruction. Oh, that and a solid gold toilet.
  • + 3
 After building 5 wheels today, I'd sell everything I own for one of those Holland Lacing machines. I'm not joking.
  • + 1
 I'll most likely never own a set of Stan's rims due to their rider weight limits. Oh well, I'm perfectly happy with my Eastons.
  • + 3
 I wonder if they carry tubes on group rides?
  • + 1
 Always have a tube just in case.
  • + 2
 that DT Swiss tensiometer... love it.
  • + 1
 "The Flow and Flow EX was never designed to be a downhill rim, but it fits the bill."

Nice to hear.
  • + 0
 Broke my rear flow ex doing something stupid after 9 months of use. Amazing rims and will most certainly buy again as soon as these are toast!
  • + 3
 I'd say broke is toast. Stans Flow FTW.
  • + 1
 @MntnMan: Sorry, I meant my current LB rims.

Agreed, flows ftw
  • + 1
 Clash of Stan's: Spesh tires on Notubes rims
  • - 3
 Why does Bead Socket Technology (BST) still exist? I thought it was a way to help convert non-tubeless tires to be run tubeless. Now that tubeless is basically standard, why do people still buy Stan's rims? There are better alternatives...
  • + 0
 Been using Stans rims since he started. His stuff is good.
  • + 1
 Stan is the man.
  • + 1
 I love you Stan!
  • - 2
 gonna give the MK3 a go....Sounds lyka ironman suit...
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