NoTubes is well known within the race scene as makers of some nice light weight race wheels, and we were excited to mount up a set and put them to the test. Our Crest ZTR's were the 29" flavor, set up with front 15mm thru axle, and both thru axle and a standard QR on the rear wheel.
There is nothing overly proprietary here. NoTubes has a proven rim profile, but aside from that, we didn't feel there was anything crazy about them. Overall, they're constructed out of good parts that are readily available and laced to the super light Stan's 3.30 hub and swapped out with an XD freehub. Claimed weight on a set is at 1590g per set.
While there are definitely lighter wheelsets out, the NoTubes hit a great price point at $615.00 - a great price for a hoops of this sort. It's worth keeping in mind that spokes, bearings and even replacement rims are easily available from the major distributors or the NoTubes site, which is an added plus if you plan to travel and race with them.
The Crests came preinstalled with Stan's yellow rim tape which made setting up tubeless ready tires almost fun (we tested with a number of tires from Kenda). Naturally, we set the wheels up with the NoTubes valve stems, and shot them full of sealant (also the Stan's variety) with their Injector. To our surprise, the tire bead was set with a floor pump. Normally, this process requires the air compressor, a set of earplugs, and safety glasses.
Plus one for NoTubes here.
We've put these wheels through plenty of training miles, as well as some brutally demanding races, like the True Grit Epic 50 mile. Immediately, the wheels are noticeable. They have a compliant feel to them that dampens trail feedback and actually feels more like a carbon rim than an alloy one. Trail surfaces felt smoother and faster. Even on the extremely rough course of the True Grit, the wheels rode well, and handled in a straight line and gentle corners like a good wheel should. We noticed no rim deflection - that weird sensation of bouncing off of rocks and trail. They spun up to speed well, they climbed well, and they cornered decently.
That's not to say that these wheels don't flex. They certainly do. The lighter the wheel, the more flex is going to happen. How much is the question. The side-load on the wheels during hard corners is felt, but predictable. We never felt like the wheel was going to blow out. The flex isn't overly obvious, but it's there and we noticed it, especially when on the rear of a suspension bike, which already has movement happening. A little flex is ok, and to us, these wheels are in that category.
What we didn't care for are the hub endcaps. The front caps didn't fit on snuggly to the hub and fell off easily when the front wheel was removed. Not a major issue, but something we need to keep an eye on when traveling.
The Crest ZTR is a race worthy wheel set for most riders - especially those that don't want to drop thousands of dollars on carbon wheels. But aggressive, heavier riders beware - we didn't find these to be stiff (our test rider was 160lbs). These are the next best thing to carbon at the fraction of the price. At MRSP of $650, you'll get a hard season or two out of these, and maybe more if you keep them as race only wheels.