NoTubes 355 / Hope Pro II Wheel Review

Andre Shoumatoff helps with sales for www.uintabicycles.com, a Ventana and Turner local bike shop and custom builder in Northern Utah. He has been into 650b since ’07 and has time on 29er, 26er, and 650b in both hard tail and full suspension.

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In the last couple months I’ve been running two sets of 650b wheel sets on my 5” travel Ventana appropriately called the El Bastardo.

The first 650b wheelset I rode was a set of Hope Pro II / NoTubes 355 rims with DT Swiss SuperComp (triple-butted 2.0-1.7-1.8 spokes). They weighed in amazingly light at 730g front and 830g rear weight to a total of 1560g, nearly a ½ to 1 lb lighter than any other wheel set I have ever owned.

I only rode this wheel set for about 5-60 miles I figure over the month, but that said I put this wheel set through hell, riding the hardest trails I regularly ride around here in Northern Utah including a trail we call “Jackie Chan.” It got this name by requiring serious body English about every minute or two for 2-3 hours straight (so it is a real ass-kicker), and there are lots of 1-2 foot drops all over the place.

While this wheel set was light and surprisingly strong, I’m 6’5 and weight 225lbs and this with my 30 lb bike and 10lbs of gear yielded too much weight for them. After about a month on these I came to a cross roads where I decided I was either going to keep them or maybe build them up a little stronger with thicker spokes. Particularly when climbing I noticed a lot of wheel flex in the rear and a little in the front. Unfortunately it made my strong XC/AM Ventana feel a lot chincier than it should have. But those wheels sped up quickly and like any wheel set there are compromises. When they are really light weight they don’t feel strong and stable and planted like most AM-oriented wheel sets should probably feel. Because I was actually looking for more weight related to this, I decided to scrap the plans and build up a new wheel set from scratch. In general, I really liked this wheel set though despite the flex. At first the noise of the Hope hubs got to me, it almost added a little level of paranoia to down hill riding but I really quickly got used to them and started really liking them when people would clear out of the trail or when another rider slowed down around a blind corner that I happened to be hauling ass around, it would have been quite a wreck! And they are loud but not that loud, not unbearable.

A note about the Stan’s 355 rims:
These are an interesting hybrid, basically a slightly lighter NoTubes “Arch” rim that is really popular with the 29er crowd. They are 24.4mm wide but are nearly 19mm wide on the inside, making them feel/act/handle like a wider rim like a 28mm rim. The other two 650b rims currently available are both wider but have similar inside diameters: the Hayes Sun Ringle EQ27 (27mm wide) and the Velocity Blunt at 28mm.

I have a friend who is my height and nearly my weight and with Chris King hubs and 1.8 spokes he has no complaints. These are also Mark Weir’s go-to rims on everything he rides including AM. Despite their weight they very-much embody Stan’s reputation for producing, in my opinion, some of the best, strongest, and lightest rims around, besides that he really has tubeless down.

With the Pacenti NeoMotos, I ran them both tubed and tubeless. Tubeless worked well but with my weight I was having burping issues so I switched back to tubes. For anyone over 180lbs and running this setup tubeless (which does work well), I would recommend using their Olympic rim strips which only weight 40g each so there is really no reason not to use them. This probably would have gotten rid of my burping issues but I never got a chance to find out before moving onto wheelset #2.

Besides the wheel flex, I really wanted a wheel set that I felt was more representative of the bicycle itself, which it a set-and-forget universal platform, something I could hammer for a week in Moab and then come home and run the XC trails. If you have been to Moab before, it is just hell on bikes (and you) and I figured it would be better to err on the side of caution (beefiness) in a wheel set than to use something that will save me 1lb but that could potentially leave me high and dry and broken down in Moab.

Stop back for a review on wheelset #2!

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