I recently built up a set of wheels with WTB LaserDisc Lite hubs, Olympic Disc ZTR 347 rims, and DT Super Comp spokes with alloy nipples. I was going to wait until I got a few rides in before writing a review, but it's started to rain in Colorado so here's some thoughts on the rims while the build is still fresh in my mind.
I've been running Mavic 717 Disc rims with Nevegal Lites converted tubeless. The initial conversion went textbook and I was able to air both tires with a floor plump. When it came time to replace the Nevegal rear I had a much more difficult time getting the rear to air up even with an air compressor. After much frustration I realized that the new Nevegal tire bead was just a looser fit than the first batch of Nevegals that I had. I ended up running a Velox rimstrip under the original Stan's rimstrip and the tire aired up easily with a floor pump. Being the weight weenie and perfectionist that I am, I started eyeing the ZTR rims since I loved the benefits of running normal tires tubeless, but wanted easier mounting and lighter weight wheels. I managed to convince Stan to sell me a pair of Olympic 347 rims even though they are out of stock since I figured he must have them if they are still selling complete wheelsets.
The ZTR Olympic Disc rims came marked at 352grams. They are 32H center drilled without eyelets. My plan was to run them with the Olympic valve stem and the yellow spoke tape only. I decided to use my existing WTB hubs and opted for DT Super Comp spokes (2.0/1.7/1.8) over Revolutions (2.0/1.5) since I wanted stiffer wheels than a Revo build and was coming from DT Competitions (2.0/1.8). I weigh 155lbs and ride agressive XC on rocky Colorado front range trails. Stan personally advised me to not overtension the spokes - 98kg was the recommended tension. The rims themselves were very true from the start and with some Triflow on the spoke threads and nipples they laced up very nicely. 3X with braking (pushing) spokes on the outside of the flange (heads in) for both sides on the front and rotor side on the rear. Drive side was pulling spokes outside (heads in). This is the lacing pattern Gerd Schraner and DT Swiss recommends for disc wheelsets. The biggest difference between ZTR rims and Mavic rims (that I have the most experience with) in the tensioning/trueing/dishing stage was how easy it was to exceed the 98kg max spoke tension. I normally lace leaving 1 thread showing and then initially tension the side with the most dish (disc side on front, drive side on rear) and then pull the rim back to center by tensioning the other side. With such light rims I initially overtensioned the wheel just by bringing in rough tension (4 turns on the dished side, 2 turns on the non-disc side) and the rim was warped in a wave pattern from too much tension. I backed off the tension and pulled out my dusty Wheelsmith tensiometer which I used carefully during the build to ensure proper tension. Once I got the feel for the rims and the Super Comp spokes (both new to me) the build went smoothly and quickly. The end result was a pair of very true wheels with even 90-100kg tension throughout after numerous stress relieving sessions. I was able to get the wheels so laterally true that the rim sticker would rub the caliper on both sides but nothing else.
Satisfied with the build I began the process of airing up the Nevegals on the ZTR rims. First was the application of the yellow spoke tape. Though this should be really straight forward I watched the installation video on the NoTubes site - glad I did as the tape has a strange elasticity and didn't really stick all that smoothly at the area where it joined. The key step is to air up a tire with a tube to let the air pressure press the tape down to get a nice airtight seal. Once I did this the tape looked perfect with no wrinkles or air bubbles. I read in MBA that soaping the tire beads wasn't necessary with ZTR rims so I just took my front Nevegal (the one's that never gave me a problem), put on the Olympic presta valve, attached my floor pump, started pumping and whaddya know, immediately pumped it up to 40psi with no problems. What was interesting was the loud pop of the beads locking into the special bead hooks on the rim as it aired up. The tire was leaking air, but it took 10 minutes to go to 20psi. I opted to not break the bead seal and just injected sealant using the screw on sealant injector. Aired up and did the rotate, shake and lay flat routine on each side and the front has been totally solid since.
The rear was another story. Amazed at the ease of inflation, sealing with the front, I was expecting smooth sailing with the rear. Not so. Installed the valve and the tire, and started pumping and got nowhere. Couldn't get it to inflate at all. Turns out a loose bead is still a loose bead, and though the ZTR rim shape is optimized for easy inflation of normal tires with a large bead shelf, curved bead hooks and a shallower drop center, if the tire bead/rim interface is too loose it just won't inflate. I gave up after many furious pumping sessions and decided to try again with a gas station air compressor when I was less frustrated in the morning. That night I kept running through possible solutions since I didn't want to have to use an air compressor to mount tires since the whole point of ZTR rims was easy inflation with a floor pump. My experience with the Mavic 717 rims told me that I needed to somehow close the gap between the rim and the tire bead so that the air flow from a floor pump could trap the air in the tire and push the beads to the rim walls. My first attempted solution, sticking packing tape all around the tire/rim was a complete disaster and I was resigned to using an air compressor until I thought, if I could just get the bead to lock into the rim bead hook I'd be set. So I aired up the tire with a tube until the both beads popped/locked into the bead hook. Then I carefully used a tire lever and popped out one bead making sure the other bead remained in place. This is actually really easy since once the bead is locked in it's in there. Pulled out the tube, installed the valve and then started to manually press the other bead back into the bead hook and what do you know...you can press the bead into the bead hook with your hands and even better a tire lever and it'll pop in and stay in place. I went halfway around the circumference of the tire so that it was pretty much in place, attached a floor pump, and it aired up instantly and the remaining bead locked into place. Injected sealant, did the shake and lay flat thing a few times and the tire was perfect.
To make a long story even longer, after this learning experience, I'm confident that I could install and air up any normal tire on the ZTR rims using this technique if needed. This is the unique advantage of the ZTR rims over standard rims. Otherwise you'd have to build up the rim bed enough using layers of rim tape/rim strips to minimize the gap difficult tires, adding weight where you really don't want it.
I'm not going to get into the merits of running regular tires tubeless, but for me I'll never go back to using tubes. With the Olympic rims I've dropped almost a pound off my bike, eliminated flats at 30psi, and can now switch out/replace tires with confidence. I'll post back with riding impressions as soon as the trails dry out.
If you've made it this far you are probably pretty interested in the ZTR rims. Hopefully my experience will be helpful to someone else debating whether these rims are worth the switch.
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