The most important product I saw at Dealer Camp in Park City, Utah, was an aluminum rim. Stan's NoTubes was trying to solve the problem of mounting huge tubeless tires to fat bike wheels and in doing so, invented a totally new rim design. The Hugo 52 rim separates the tire beads between a tubular central structure in the rim which carries all the major bending and torsional loads forces. The tire beads are mounted on tiny low-flange wings that extend from either side of the tubular structure. Hugo 52 rims and wheels are designed for mid-sized "Plus" fat bikes, but the ramifications of the design are certain to cross over to all clincher-type wheels.
Meet Hugo 52, you may be seeing a lot of him in the future. And if not, he will have inspired us to look at rim design in a whole different way. - Stan's NoTubes photo
A cross-section of the 52-millimeter-wide Hugo rim shows the tubular core, flanked by lowered bead wells for each side of the tire and the bead locks which capture the tire against the rim's flanges. The tire is installed by slipping it over the outside of the entire rim, and then popping each bead into the Hugo rim in the conventional way.
The raised central tube and the rim flanges are designed at the same height, so if the tire is flattened against the rim by an impact, the force of the blow is distributed across a wide area. Theoretically, that will reduce or nearly eliminate pinch flats and carcass bruises. The fact that each tire bead has its own "rim well" allows the beads to sit exactly where they need to be to air up without trouble. Finally, the locking section that is built into the rim flanges retains the tire should it go flat. To further stabilize a flat or low tire, the center of the tread is supported by the raised rectangular spine in the center of the rim. While the Hugo 52 rim is far from a fully developed concept, it could be the most important development for the bicycle wheel for the past 100 years.
Stan's NoTubes designed the Hugo 52 rims radical profile to solve the difficulty of mounting up fat bike tires in tubeless configuration. The width of conventional fat bike rims allows the jumbo-sized tires to flop around the well in the center of the rim and prevents the beads from spreading out towards its raised edges, where the beads can begin to seal. The Hugo rim's central rectangular tube naturally spreads the beads apart and forces them to remain in an optimal position for inflation. Once the tire is inflated, the beads are fixed in place by locking ridges. Spoke holes in the rectangular section can easily be sealed with Stan's standard-width tape, and its shape helps to direct sealing fluid to the tire's sidewalls and tread crown.
Bead-seating ridges, in combination with wider flange spacing and the rim's raised rectangular spine, all work together to keep the tire on the wheel should it go flat or soft. If a bead is forced off of its locking ridge, it will be guided by the central spine to remain in place, which should greatly stabilize the tire and help to keep it on the rim, instead of wadding up in the frame or fork. Finally, the raised center section can be exploited to support the center tread area of the tire when a flat occurs in the same manner that the inner liner of a run-flat automobile tire does.
Niner's latest steel hardtail, the ROS-Plus, is based upon the 29-Plus rim and tire combination that the Stan's Hugo 52 was designed for. The mid-sized tire rolls faster on hardpack and pavement, while approaching the cross-terrain capabilities of the more massive fat bike.
Because the spoke holes penetrate the raised, tubular section, the Hugo 52 rim can be easily sealed with a single wrap of tape, used for conventional-width rims. On the bike, the Hugo 52 rim looks deceptively thin, because its support structure is internal. There is no missing the fact that the Hugo wheel is a radically different concept when you see it mounted up to a tire. At present, Stan's NoTubes has no immediate plans to scale the Hugo 52 down for conventional-width tires, but the future applications are definitely being discussed. I believe that the first step for the Hugo design would be a downhill racing wheel. Aaron Gwin's manly, but heartbreaking ride down the mountain on a bare wheel was, in my opinion, yet another display of how foolishly inadequate the present clincher tire and rim interface is for DH competition - or for any type of off-road cycling, for that matter. Meanwhile, the mountain bike industry continues to feed and breathe life into a dead body while its children are starving for a real solution. The good news is that Stan's apparently has invented one. - RCStan's NoTubes