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Initial Report – Borealis Carbondale and Industry Nine Wheelset

This “out of the box” review is a two-fer because Christmas came early for me this year. Recently a box showed up on my doorstep containing a pair of forest green Industry Nine hubs laced to Borealis Carbondale rims. It was especially festive because of the Christmas color motif once I put the wheels on my bike!

Christmas Colors!

Lets just get this out of the way. This obviously not an “everyman” wheel with a retail cost in excess of two grand. This is beyond topshelf and we are getting into the bartender’s secret stash. Love it or hate it, the fat-bike world has moved beyond just being 30+ pound bikes and there is some seriously nice hardware being made for fatties.

The hubs and nipples are a gorgeous dark forest green. They really hit my color sensibilities because they are dark enough to look black with a quick glance but then the light hits them and they have a deep but vibrant green that really stands out. The unidirectional carbon of the rims has that subtle shine/texture that also seems to just get more beautiful in the light. All in all, this wheelset doesn’t scream bling but is very beautiful in a subtly manner.

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My setup consisted of a 135mm, 15mm thru-axle front hub with front-spaced disc tab spacing and a 170mm rear hub with a standard quick release. The wheel build is fairly conservative with Wheelsmith DB14 spokes (2.0/1.7/2.0) in a 3 cross pattern with alloy nipples. With this setup the front wheel came in at 992 g with tape and valve stem and the rear came in at 1,114 g (also with tape and valve but no quick release) for a total wheelset weight of 2,106 g.

To give some perspective to all these weight numbers, a fairly stock Holey Rolling Darryl wheelset will weigh around 2,750 g. Based on that you are saving approximately 1.4 pounds with the Borealis/I9 wheelset. You then also need to consider the weight saved by their tubeless setup. I used two 2 scoops of sealant (about 80 g/tire) and when compared to even light tubes (QBP Ultralight Q-tubes are about 260 g/tube) and a stock Surly rim strip (80 g/wheel) you are looking at taking off another 1.2 lbs. This may be an expensive wheelset but dropping 2.6 pounds of rotating weight is going to be something you are really going to feel.

The build quality was very good with spoke tensions being very consistent and just above 120 Kgf on the rear drive and front disk sides (other sides were slightly lower because of the dish of the wheel). The trueness of the wheel is right in the ballpark for fat bike wheels at +/- 1 mm for vertical and lateral and within 1 mm of center on dish. When I went through the normal detensioning steps there were no pings or other signs of spoke wind-up. All signs are that Borealis did a top notch job building up these wheels. This is only going to be a couple week test but I will be curious to see if there are any changes in any of the above measurements after the break in period.

DSC_0096 copyThe hubs are absolutely magnificent in their precision, design and feel.  Industry Nine uses their stock bearings which are rated down to below -50º F and roll exceeding smoothly with little seal drag. Their Torch freehub has 120 points/3º of engagement so it feels nearly instantaneous. There are subtle design cues such as the asymmetric disk bolt mounts tabs that hint at the engineering involved with getting a set of hubs like this down to 182g (front, claimed weight) and 320g (rear, claimed) while maintaining the long-term durability that Industry Nine’s hubs are noted for. The freehub body a beautiful bit of machined and anodized alloy. Sometimes having an aluminum freehub body can have issues with singlespeed cogs biting in and gouging the splines so I am going to throw on my Gates belt drive for a portion of the test to see how it holds up. This is the first time I have had any extended time with Industry Nine hubs and my initial impressions are that they are equal to the quality of the best hubs available.

DSC_0101 copyIn talking with Industry Nine it sounds like they are going to support just about every imaginable hub configuration. In a lot of cases this just involves different end caps for different axle standards but they are also onboard with supporting 190 mm rear ends and different brake offsets. With hub standards not really settled yet in the fat bike world, it is really nice to know when dropping some serious coin for hubs that you have a lot of future options for reconfiguring them. They have a ton of different colors available and production is up and running so lead times are fairly short to get whatever hub setup you can dream up.

The rims are a double wall construction with spoke holes all the way through both walls. This means you can use “normal” nipples and wheel building techniques (nothing proprietary) but will need tape to seal the rim when running tubeless. Speaking of which, the wheels came with tape and valves already installed. The outer rim dimension is 85 mm and the inner width is 78 mm. For comparison’s sake, a Surly Rolling Darryl has an exterior dimension of 82 mm and an inner of 77 mm so when it comes to inflated tire dimensions, the Borealis rims will produce almost identical results. To confirm this I mounted up a pair of Husker Du tires I have been using and cracked out the calipers. They measured identical in width to when they were on my Darryls (99 mm).

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One of the big promises with these rims is a tubeless setup that doesn’t involve trips to the hardware store to get Gorilla Tape and foam or other crazy setup steps like igniting things to get the tire to seat. The general rim shape has a moderately deep well in the middle with a smooth rise to the bead shelf. The center diameter is small enough that tires can be put on and taken off by hand but the bead shelf is nice and tight on the tires I have tried so far.

DSC_0094 copyThere is a bead channel which should give some extra security for keeping the bead in place at really low pressures. This is a feature that is very near and dear to me right now after peeling a tire off a rim without a bead channel while in the lead of a recent race (just to clarify, this rim was NOT a Carbondale). The rims have printed on them that they have a minimum pressure of 6 psi.

Another very interesting feature is the pronounced hook to the bead hook. With some rim manufacturers going to straighter bead “hooks” or reducing their profile I was surprised to see a very well defined and sharply overhanging hook. Speaking of bead hooks, they look to have reinforced the bead area against impact strikes by including woven carbon fiber in the bead area whereas the rest of the rim looks to be unidirectional carbon. I have been socked in with snow since I received these wheels so there isn’t a great chance that I am going to be able to test their impact strength here in the land of sand and roots (aka the lower peninsula of Michigan) during this test.

DSC_0089 copySetting these wheels up tubeless went very well using a pair of Husker Du tires that have been run tubeless for the last few months. I used an air compressor and the beads snapped right into place without using soap, straps, fiddling with the bead… I literally mean snapping because I got that reassuring snap sound as the beads popped into place indicating a nice tight bead/rim interface. I am guessing it would be doable to use a hand pump to set these up tubeless but you may need to seat one bead using a tube and then use soapy water and a strap/tube around the outside. I have two scoops of Stans in each tire and the tires have been sealing up really well inside at higher pressures. On the trail I have been having issues with slow leaks at the bead on the first couple rides but I will sort that out shortly and probably says more about my setup process than the gear.

I have started riding these wheels with the Husker Du tires to get a feel for a “racey” setup. I am sure we are going to get a big dump of snow sometime during the test period and I will then throw on a pair of Bud and Lous to see how they set up on these rims. I also hope to get in a short race with these to see how they do when really pushed hard.

After only a couple rides I am very impressed with the feel/weight of the wheels but it has been tough to discern too much else about them because all of the riding has been in fresh snow so far. They certainly spin up quickly due to the low weight of the rim and tubeless setup. I will be actively seeking out as varied of terrain/conditions as I can possibly find over the next couple weeks to test these wheels out and look forward to reporting back after some additional ride time.

For more information about Borealis visit – http://www.borealisbikes.com/

For more information about Industry Nine visit – http://www.industrynine.net/

 

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