STAN’S NOTUBES AVION DISC PRO – A GOOD BUT NOT STANDOUT ROAD DISC WHEELSET
With so much cycling gear available, I try hard to find the distinctive performance characteristics that separate one product from another. Design specs are good to know, looks are nice to see, and some get excited about a company’s or product’s back story. I can’t ride those things so don’t weight them in my evaluation.
For Stan’s NoTubes Avion Disc Pro wheelset, my effort to find distinctive performance qualities came up empty. It’s a solid wheelset but I couldn’t find anything about its performance that sets it apart from others to the point I would say “buy it if you want this or prefer that.”
That was disappointing for me as I spent several months riding these wheels in different types of terrain and road conditions and with different tires to try to find a sweet spot. The wheels also look great (IMHO), as though they were made for my Parlee frame (see photo above), but of course that doesn’t make them (or me) perform any better while riding them.
Stan’s is perhaps best known to roadies for their tire sealant and their support of all things tubeless. As tubeless tires have been slow to catch on amongst road enthusiasts and amateur racers, I wanted to see how well the Avion Disc Pros rode with regular tube and clincher tires, something that the wheelset’s feature list promotes as an option. And since this is a mid-depth wheelset (41.6mm deep by my measurement), I wanted to try a tire that would measure narrower than the wheel’s outside width to maximize its aero performance.
My benchmark 23C Continental Grand Prix 4000S ii measured 0.5mm narrower than the Avion’s 27.8mm outside width but was stretched too round across the 21.8 mm inside width of these wheels to provide a good sidewall shape. The handling and compliance was awful with this combination.
The 25C version of these tires made the wheels handle much better and were more comfortable though not nearly as comfortable as I like on 50 mile/80km and longer rides with the range of good and uneven pavement I typically ride through, even at low tube and tire pressures for my weight (80-85psi).
Setting up the Avions tubeless with Schwalbe Pro Ones at 25C (Stan’s minimum recommended width) was a no grunting, no mess, normal vigorous manual pumping non-event. The wheels come with stems that have removable cores making it much simpler and cleaner (for tubeless) to get the sealant in the tire.
Regrettably, the sealant didn’t stay in the tire as well as other tubeless wheels I’ve run. Within a couple of rides, it was weeping out multiple spoke holes on both wheels and even along the junction between the tire and rim on one of the wheels. I cleaned it all up and expected the sealant to dry in those spots and that would be the end of it. Unfortunately, I see leaks at the spokes most every day and it was a bit embarrassing to show up at a group ride one Saturday and have a fellow rider point out a fresh white streak of sealant across the rim of my rear wheel.
The wheels rode much more comfortably tubeless at 70-75psi than with the 25C tube and tire clincher set up described above. But dropping the pressure 10psi or so on a tubeless tire below where you would run it on a tube and tire combo will make most every wheelset more comfortable.
Anyway, lesson learned. Run Stan’s NoTubes wheels with no tubes! I’m a tubeless troglodyte for not starting there.
With tubeless tires in place, the handling was very confident rounding corners going fast down 6-8% and higher grades. The wheels were a little buzzy on downhills and riding the flats however, regardless of whether I had the Contis or Schwalbes on for reasons I can’t explain.
The Avion’s stiffness and acceleration was good going uphill and on the flats but didn’t stand out or compare favorably to some of the best road disc wheelsets on these performance criteria. The test set measured 1494 grams on my scale, as good as the first generation ENVE 3.4 as the lightest mid-depth carbon clincher disc wheel I’ve weighted but they didn’t feel as light and lively as the ENVEs going uphill.
I also found that they didn’t hold their speed or momentum particularly well on the flats, perhaps owing to the inflated width of the 25C tubed clincher (30mm at 100psi benchmark) and 25C tubeless tire (29.7mm at riding pressure of 70-75psi) being wider than the Avion rim width (27.8mm) or to other factors in the hubs or rim shape.
The best mid-depth and aero wheels do a better job of quickly deflecting the crosswinds than what I experienced with the Avions. While manageable, at 150lbs (68kg) I found myself getting pushed around a good deal more than I would have liked or experienced with the best wheelsets in the 10-15 mph April winds I experienced for many days during my testing.
The hubs engage quickly, ride smoothly and give off the classic rear wheel ratchet sound like what you hear when you cast a fishing line. My personal preference is for a quieter hub but if you like your hubs audible, the Neo Ultimate will identify you and tell fellow riders in the paceline that you are coasting behind them or slowing without you having to say a word. The Avions come set up to attach to the Shimano standard centerline 140mm disc rotors and all the hardware to go thru axle or quick release.
At USD$2250/€2400 MSRP and several hundred less from stores with high customer satisfaction ratings that have them in stock at the best prices (Amazon, Bike24), they fall in the mid-price range alongside road disc brake wheels like those from Reynolds 46 Aero, Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL C and Zipp 303 Firecrest. I haven’t evaluated the latest versions of all these wheels but compared to those I have and those in the slightly lower priced carbon road disc wheelset neighborhood (Reynolds Assault SLG, Shimano Dura Ace C40, Fulcrum Quattro Carbon), the Avion Disc Pro is a good performing road disc brake wheelset but doesn’t set itself apart from the others.
For those of you who like to take the occasional ride off road, I also found these wheels very surefooted on dirt and gravel trails. Dropping the tubeless tires down to 35psi or so gives you a set of wheels you ride can comfortably and capably with some of the alternative set and probably on cyclocross circuit. Again, the same can be said for several of the wheelsets mentioned just above that are tubeless and other, more expensive ones like the ENVE SES 4.5AR or 3.4 disc that are just as wide as the Avions and are also fast road performers.