Cycle Life

Fat bikes are breaking out of the snow niche. Need proof? Check out this first-ever tubeless-ready, carbon-fiber fat bike rim.     Photo: Citizen 4474/Flickr

First Look: Whisky 70W Carbon Fat Rim and 45NRTH Vanhelga Tire

The flood of high-end parts for fat bikes not only makes big wheels more fun, it also signals that this is a movement that’s here to stay.

Whisky Parts Co., the boutique carbon bike and accessories manufacturer under the QBP umbrella, today unveiled the first-ever tubeless-ready, carbon-fiber fat bike rim.

The 70W No.9 Rim uses a double-wall construction for durability and ease of sealing, and a recessed channel to keep the rim tape clear of the bead hook for a clean seal. The 70mm-wide rims are optimized for tires between three-point-eight and four inches, though Whisky says they will work just fine with the biggest tires on the market.

Whisky teamed up with winter bike accessory specialists 45NRTH to craft a compatible tire. The result: the Vanhelga, a four-inch-wide folding tubeless-ready tire with chunky knobs, extensive siping for traction, and tighter bead tolerances to ensure a leak-free seal with the new rim. There’s also a new flat edge along the bottom of the bead, which creates more contact with the rim shelf.

Courtesy of Aaron Gulley

We received a test set of the rims laced to Salsa hubs, and the setup couldn’t have been easier. Included in the kit were valve stems and lightweight rim tape, and after we dumped in four ounces per wheel of sealant, the Vanhelga tires set up onto the rims with reassuring pops.

Many racers have already been running their fat bikes tubeless, but the broad range of rim and tire combos, plus the wide tolerances in tire production, has made sealing tricky and burping air common.

The fact that Whisky and 45NRTH have built these products in tandem should ensure that they provide better tubeless performance than anything else on the market. You can run these tires with as low of pressure as you want and not have to worry about blowouts or losing the bead from the rim.

Though the 70W should provide a suppler ride than comparable aluminum rims, the biggest advantage will be weight savings. We swapped the new wheels onto a bike that came equipped with Surly Marge Lite rims and Nate tires to shave exactly two pounds off the bike. That’s a massive savings in rotating weight.

Whisky isn’t the only company entering the tubeless-fat-tire market. Last week, Stan’s No Tubes announced the 52mm wide Hugo, an aluminum rim that marks the company’s first foray into the fat bike world.

The profusion of parts and bikes for the fat market shows that the trend continues to mature and catch on. In the last few months, RockShox debuted the Bluto, the first fat bike suspension fork, which was the precursor to Salsa debuting its sexy Bucksaw, the first production full-suspension fat bike. Both are good indications that fat biking is moving beyond just the snow and cold-weather niche. 

The 70W No.9 Rims will sell for $600 apiece and will be available this fall. Whisky also plans to announce complete wheel builds soon. The 45NRTH Vanhelga tires will come in two models, 120tpi for $155 and 60tpi for $125, and will go on sale in September.

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