This article is part of the Fat-bike 101 series and is intended to help new fat-bike owners, and potential fat-bike owners, with some of the questions they may have about fat-bikes. In addition, it is a chance for experienced riders to add comments to help our new brethren enjoy all that fat-biking offers. Consider these articles as conversation starters, not exhaustive explanations!
Just like the development of fat-bike tires, fat-bike rims began with a few soft-condition riders looking for a wider footprint for their bike tires and not finding any thing commercially available. Early fat-bike rims were actually a pair of rims welded together to create a wider platform for the custom tires folks were making. Eventually the 44mm SnoCat rim (still available!) was produced as a way to give MTB riders of the time the widest footprint possible in a conventional MTB frame.
With the introduction of the Surly Large Marge, a double wall, 65mm rim, the tire/rim combo became too wide for conventional MTB frames and, building on an idea from the early days of fat-bike builders like Mark Gronewald, the Surly Pugsley became the first commercially available fat-bike sporting those same 65mm Large Marge rims. We’d still consider the 65mm rim to be the “standard model” as far as rim width goes allowing a wide variety of fat-bike riding in lots of different conditions with both narrower rims and wider rims trending towards more specialized needs.
Large Marges were the standard of the fat-bike industry for a few years but today’s fat-bike riders are looking for lighter weight in all fat-bike rim applications. You will see lighter, singlewall rims like the Surly Marge Lite, Fatback UMA 70 that shave several hundred grams off your wheel set. Wider rims like the Rolling Darryl, Uma 90 and Clownshoes also adopting lighter, singlewall construction.
With more and more people riding their fat-bikes year ’round there has been a resurgence in narrower rims that can still run the fat-bike standard 26 x 3.8 tire. Sandman uses the 47mm Trialtech rim, Schlick Cycles developed the 47mm Northpaw-S rim and 616 partnered with All Weather Sports to offer complete wheels built with SnowCat rims and (44mm). The narrower rims certainly reduce weight and still offer much of the benefits of the fat-bike tire.
Frankly, I did not want this to become a history lesson or a chronological listing of the development of the fat-bike rim, or fat-bikes in general for that matter, although that would make for a good article! The main point here is that, depending on how you ride your fat-bike there is bound to be a rim that will suit your needs. In fact, many fat-bike riders I know have two wheelsets so they can choose the set that will work well on a given ride!
What’s up for the future?
Well, we’ve heard rumors of fat-bike rims getting as wide as 160mm but at some point the size constraints of a conventional drivetrain will be reached.
On the narrower end of the fat-bike rim spectrum, 44mm is about as narrow as you can go and still run a 26 x 3.8 tire. Narrower than that and you are simply running a wide MTB rim/tire combo but we think there will be more players on the 45mm-50mm range as fat-bike riders turn on to all-season fat-bike riding!
Here is a listing of rims we know to be currently available and that are intended for the fat-bike market from narrowest to widest.
- Snowcat (44mm)
- Schlick Northpaw-S (47mm)
- Trialtech – available in Europe – (47mm)
- Surly Large Marge (65mm)
- Surly Marge Lite (65mm)
- Fatback UMA 70 (70mm)
- Vicious Cycles Graceful Fat Sheba (80mm)
- Surly Rolling Darryl (82mm)
- Surly UnHoly Rolling Darryl (82mm)
- Fatback UMA 90 (90mm)
- Surly Clownshoe (100mm)
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