By : Jesse LaLonde
I don’t recall a time in my life when the weather was ever an issue. In fact I tend to welcome the extreme with hungry lungs and an open mind. I’ll be the first to admit that this mentality can lead to a sink or swim situation but that’s the type of shit that inspires me. In fact the fat bike infused polar vortex of 2015 cemented a grin on my face that could only be penetrated by the first signs of spring. Yes, it was that epic and while the weather was a reliable ally the true enjoyment came from riding/racing some of the best fat bike product around. More specifically that of the rotating persuasion.
Enter HED cycling. Located in beautiful Shoreview, Minnesota, HED hq, is a quick 20 minute drive across town from me. Rolling into the parking lot I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride knowing that my wheels were being made right here in Minnesota, by folks who ride the same trails I do. Upon entering the building I was greeted by Tucker the shop dog, followed by Paul, an old friend from my Trek days. Paul walked me back to the build floor where the harmony of spoke wrenches on nipples and the aroma of oil filled the air. I was introduced to Dan who was finishing up my hand selected build which consisted of the HED Big Deal rims, Industry nine hubs, and Sapim CX Ray spokes. Straight from the truing stand these speed circles tipped the scales at 784g for the front and 922g for the rear putting them at 1706 grams for the set. For reference that’s 1000 grams lighter than the ultralight 45NRTH tires we were about to mount up!
For those unfamiliar with the big deal rim, it is a single wall 85mm full carbon tubeless ready platform. The unique design of the rim does not require levers to install or remove the tire which is a bonus for in the field repairs. After some minor prep which included a layer of Gorilla tape over the spoke bed to prevent sealant from leaking I was ready to mount my brand new 45NRTH Hüsker Dü on the rear. Paul explained that pre mounted tires are sometimes easier due to the fact that they have better “form” but today we went the ambitious route and the tire mounted immediately with a little help from HED’s industrial size air compressor and 3 cups of sealant.
On the front I chose a prototype Dillinger 5 which measures in at 4.6″. Because of the larger volume I used the “inflatobands” which fit into the rim channel and minimize the gap between the tire and rim allowing air to inflate the carcass. With a little fanagling and the removal of the valve core for maximum air flow it mounted with success. One last trip to the scale and I was set to ride. The tire/wheel 4819 gram reading put me in stoke coma that could only be cured by ripping freshly groomed trail.
Once back at Twin Six HQ the first thing I noticed was the drop in air pressure which happens every so often during initial set up. As I headed out I performed the ‘ever trendy’ lift test, which quickly exposed a noticeable weight savings. A few miles down the road I dove into a fast section of single track and immediately went into race mode. Without thinking, my machine was taking me where I wanted to go with quicker steering and a precision that it lacked prior. By the time I reached the highest point of my ride it was apparent that the climb which once felt like a steel toe kick to the teeth was now a warm caress to my face.
Over the course of a week I explored the spectrum of air pressure without any hiccups. Running as high as 15 and as low as 4psi the pressure stood it’s ground from day to day even in a cold garage. At one point I swapped my rear Hüsker Dü for a Dillinger which resulted in having to completely deflate the tire and use man hands force to break the seal which inspired “no burp” confidence.
The true test came at the Frozen Forty, a 40 mile single track event North West of the city. After a winning effort I was sold. Sold on the whole experience, the product, mother nature, and more importantly the weight savings. The act of gorging pounds out of my current ride changed my whole perspective of racing fat bikes. In fact calling my rig a fat bike has now become paradoxical. Of course there is always a price tag associated with weight savings and Yes, the Big Deal rims are not cheap. In total, over $2000 for my current set up. Worth it? Yes, absolutely. It’s a bargain considering what you could spend on a frame/set or parts to loose only a fraction of the weight and technology these wheels provide.
Our initial report about the Hed Big Deal can be found here – http://fat-bike.com/2013/12/a-visit-to-hed-hq/
For more information about HED Cycling visit – www.hedcycling.com