When you think of fat bikes, you may not think about them being light, but manufacturers are pushing the envelope in design and construction, with some complete bike build weights dipping down into the low 20’s.
Wheels are a big factor in any weight reduction effort, and of course shedding rotating mass is always a good idea. Based in Siberia, Russia, the guys at Sarma Bike agree, and they have been hard at work designing the Naran 80 double-wall carbon fiber rim. They were kind enough to send over a pair for me to test on my Fatback Deluxe 170.
As the name implies, the Naran rims are 80mm wide. The double wall construction provides ultimate stiffness and torsional rigidity, and the beadlock design means they are ready for tubeless.
But the most important feature by far is the offset spoke drilling. That’s right, these are the first-ever carbon wheels that are compatible with Surly’s offset fat bikes! They are also available in standard symmetrical drilling, however the offset, or “universal” drilling, will work with either setup.
Sarma is working on lining up US dealers, but if you purchase a pair right now via their website, they’ll come by EMS from their factory in Asia. The packing and protection were superb, and my rims arrived in pristine condition.
Before putting these on the bike, of course they needed to be set up for tubeless. The good news here is that converting these to tubeless is ridiculously easy. At first I tried some of the super-wide Stan’s tape, but… it didn’t work. Gorilla Tape to the rescue! Because of the way the rims are built, it literally takes a single strip of 2in-wide tape to cover the spoke holes, install some valves, and bam… tubeless! If you purchase a complete wheelset from Sarma, they will come tubeless from the factory.
Getting the tires on is a whole ‘nother thing, though. These were hands-down the hardest to mount tire/wheel combo that I have ever encountered. I opted to go with a new set of Vee Rubber Snowshoes, and the supple 120 tpi sidewall construction definitely helped, but it still took both tire levers, soapy water, major elbow grease, some cursing, and a bit of luck to get these bad boys mounted. And then… the tire beads were stuck down in the center channel. It took more soapy water, an air compressor with my Presta chuck, and removal of the valve core to get them up over the shoulder and into the bead lock. Phew, it was a chore to say the least! The good news, though, is that no matter how low the pressure, they are NOT going to burp or slip on the rim. Ever.
With the tires mounted, the 80mm rim width gives the 4.7in tires a very nice profile, and they fit comfortably in my Fatback frame.
Out on the Trail
At 650 grams each for the rims, and a fully built weight of under 2,150 grams for the pair, these are very, very light for fat bike wheels. By comparison, that is lighter than some downhill wheels and most low-end regular wheels.
The massive reduction in rotating weight is instantly noticeable. Acceleration is snappier, steering is easier, and it reduces the gyroscopic effect exhibited by most fat wheels at higher speeds. With these wheels, my Fatback rides and handles like a regular hardtail XC mountain bike. When paired with the 4.7″ tires at low pressure, the result is a ride smoother than any rigid bike has a right to be.
So far, the Naran wheels are holding up great, and it appears that they will be a solid piece of gear for the long haul. Since I live in Colorado, my fat bike riding is a mix of snow, singletrack, and paved bike paths, and the Naran wheels handle them all with ease.
As already mentioned, these wheels are a real pain in the patooty to mount tires on. My only other complaint, and this is really just personal preference, is that the double wall construction means that there are no cutouts. I really miss the look of the reflective tape from my stock Fatback rims. These are both pretty minor complaints, and are by no means showstoppers.
$1,200 a pair ($1,550 for a built wheelset) $750 a pair and $1,110 for a built wheelset these are definitely not for everyone. However, if you’re looking to shed some serious weight off of your fat bike while also totally transforming the ride and handling, then these are definitely worth a look. If you want to retrofit your Surly Pugs or Moonlander to carbon wheels, these are currently your only option.
Keep an eye here on the blog for the final review of these wheels, as well as an upcoming review of Sarma’s next generation 100mm wheelset!
Thanks to the folks at Sarma for sending over the Naran 80 rims for review.
Last updated by Greg Heil on 02/03/2016 at 11:43am MST.