The Fall of Discs: Stan’s Iron Cross provides affordable, race-ready wheel option

The Stan's NoTubes Iron Cross wheelset is an affordable, durable and reasonably lightweight option for disc-enabled ’crossers

Editor’s Note: Disc brakes are here for cyclocross in a big way. Nearly every manufacturer is offering at least one disc-ready frame and many of the sport’s heavyweights are adopting the technology for 2012-13. We’ve been proponents of disc technology for ’cross for years and over the coming weeks, contributor Michael Robson will explore the burgeoning arena of ‘cross-specific disc brakes, from the new gear to tips on getting your disc set-up dialed.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but wheels can be expensive, and great hoops are really expensive. Wheels represent a major investment in cyclocross. For two bikes with two sets of wheels each, which would be the baseline standard for some, the dollar value you can sink into just wheels can get out of hand quickly. The guys at Stan’s NoTubes, with the Iron Cross wheelset, are bucking the status quo by offering a race-ready wheelset that won’t melt your credit card.

This doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for the New York-based wheel builder. Stan’s has produced solid, reasonably lightweight and affordable tubeless wheels for years. The 3.30 hubs featured on the Iron Cross are taken directly from the NoTubes mountain bike stable and drilled for 24 spokes in the front and 28 in the rear. These hubs are reliable workhorses with 15mm axles and readily available bearings. Stan’s website even offers a hub and parts kits page.

The spokes are DT Supercomp in a two-cross pattern with alloy nipples. The new Iron Cross rim even looks like a page out of the Stan’s handbook. The trademark triangular rim profile is 23mm wide for a little extra rigidity and is 20mm inside the beads so tubeless ’cross tires mount up nicely and handle well at low pressures.

There is not even a hint of a brake track; these hoops are disc only. Naturally, the rim incorporates Stan’s BST (Bead Socket Technology), so almost any tire you want to run will work well set up tubeless. I put on Stan’s own Raven tires and the Clement PDX and rode them down into the high 20-pound range with no problems.

So how about some numbers? First, 1520: The weight of the set, as advertised on the Stan’s website and verified to the gram by my trusty Feedback Sports scale. This is a respectable weight for affordable alloy clinchers.

Next, 550: This is what you can expect to pay for your very own pair. That means you could put together a quiver of four sets of the Iron Cross for about the price of one pair of the anticipated disc-equipped Zipp 303.

Another important number is 200: Two bills is the recommended rider weight limit. With lower spoke counts and lightweight alloy rims comes a certain level of reduced durability. If you are a clydesdale or tend to ride like one, you might want to keep looking or keep a spoke wrench handy. I found the wheels to be about average for stiffness, but the light rims meant they accelerated well.

And finally, one: As of now, the Iron Cross wheels are out of stock for a month, but will be shipping again by mid-to-late October.

As is to be expected from Stan’s, the wheels come taped up for tubeless mounting, with valve stems installed. The Iron Cross wheelset easily straddles the territory between reliable performance for training and competent, fast race wheels and at Stan’s prices, it’s a great way to start building your quiver.