After selling my full suspension 29er, I have been riding my Sarma-equipped fat bike as my main ride for quite a few months now.
The On Review article is pretty thorough, so have a look at that for details, and read on here for my continuing impressions after months of running them over dry Colorado singletrack.
When I roll up to the trailhead with my lime green Fatback equipped with 4.7″ tires, I get all kinds of reactions from other riders. People typically ask things like, “How does that handle on singletrack?” “Aren’t fat bikes really heavy?” “What about those wheels, the rotational weight must be awful!”
To all of these questions, I just roll the fat bike over and have them lift it. People are typically shocked to discover that in most cases it weighs less then whatever trail or AM bike they brought. If there is further interest, I have them take a spin on it, and they always bring it back grinning, and surprised at how easily it pedals.
This is all a direct result of installing the Sarma carbon rims, and of course switching to tubeless.
Out of the box, with its alloy frame, alloy rims, and 3.8″ Surly tires with tubes, my Fatback weighed 30lbs on the nose. Not a bad starting point for a fat bike, but the cumulative effort required to turn the wheels was very noticeable when the trail turned uphill. I knew I needed to reduce rotating mass, and so jumped at the chance to try out the carbon Sarma rims.
Other upgrades to the bike include a short stem and wider bars, but these did not result in any weight reduction, so the current weight of 28 lbs means all of the reduction, two whole pounds, was rotating mass! Due to the Fatback frame design, I was forced to reuse the stock hubs, so the weight reduction is where it counts: close to the outermost edge of the wheel.
How do they feel?
The 80mm Sarma rims with generic spokes and OEM Fatback import hubs come in at 2,150 grams. That is lighter than the wheels that ship on lower end regular mountain bikes and right in line with a typical set of alloy enduro wheels. It is absurdly light for a fat bike. While the 1200 gram Vee Tire Snowshoe tires are about double the weight of a typical XC tire, they are still a few hundred grams lighter than original Surly tires. Each.
I said all that to say this: the Sarma / Snowshoe tubeless combo feels like a regular set of wheels, on a regular bike. Acceleration is decent, the “gyro” effect at high speed is gone, catching air feels normal, and longer rides with serious climbing no longer make me want to cry.
How do they look?
The Sarma rims have an understated matte finish without flashy graphics. Most people don’t even notice that they are carbon unless I point it out. Now some riders like their component upgrades to have bling commensurate with the cost, but with these it’s all about the function, not the flash. These rims are designed to make your bike ride better, not just make it look better. Personally, I kind of like the “stealth” aspect of having them on my bike.
While winter snow riding is pretty tame and there is not much potential to damage rims, summer riding is, well, just as hard on fat bikes as it is on regular bikes. I have experimented a lot with tire air pressure for summer singletrack, and in so doing have dinged the rims a couple of times. However, I’m pleased to report that the rims are undamaged and other than a fine patina of dust, look as good as the day they were mounted.
In the On Test article, one commenter called out the extra spoke holes as a potential point of entry for sand into the double wall portion of the rims. Despite miles of dry, dusty, and sandy singletrack I have not found this to be an issue. Also, my test set are drilled for either offset or symmetric mounting, thus the extra holes. If you don’t have an offset Pugsley, then just order the standard drilled rims and there will be no extra holes.
You’ll recall my comments on how difficult it was to mount tires on these rims, but on the flip side, I have had zero bead issues, regardless of how silly I got with low tire pressure. They simply do not burp, slip, or break the bead seal. Ever. This is especially key for winter riders looking to go with super low pressures in the 2-4 psi range.
It’s been said many times before, but it bears repeating: rotating weight is the best possible place to shave grams and will do the most to improve ride quality. Now instead of grams, take off pounds, and the difference is dramatic. If you currently have a fat bike with heavy wheels and tubes and you want to extend its usefulness into the summer months or perhaps even make it your only bike, then this is a very sensible upgrade, even with the
$1,550 $1,100 price tag for a complete wheelset. I would also posit that for a new purchase, going with a decent alloy frame and swapping in these wheels might be a valid option compared to a carbon frame with lesser wheels. Again: rotating weight savings.
However you slice it, these wheels are not a trivial investment, but the initial quality, demonstrated durability, and dramatic weight reduction all combine to make them a solid value. Get a pair–you won’t be disappointed!
Thanks to Dmitry at Sarma Bikes for sending over the Naran 80 rims for review, and be sure to check out the new 29+ and 100mm rim options, as well as their just-released Shaman all-carbon frame!
Last updated by Greg Heil on 02/03/2016 at 11:45am MST.