Sarma is newer company to the fat-bike scene but they bring to the table many years of aerospace composite experience along with a strong interest in fat-bikes. In addition to a fat-bikes frame (the Shaman), they also have a line of fat-bike rims called the Naran. The 100mm Naran was the first 100mm carbon rim on the market and was followed by an 80mm version. Sarma has put a great deal of research into the Naran rim design and there is a lengthy, and very impressive explanation of the rim’s development process on their website. The Naran’s utilize double wall construction, which Sarma claims achieves the optimal balance of weight, stiffness, and durability. The rims are manufactured in one of the leading carbon fiber production facilities in China and the process is directly overseen by Sarma. In the USA, the wheelsets/rims are sold and hand built by Sarma USA out Grand Rapids, MI.
The Sarmra Narans are available in both 100mm and 80mm widths with drillings for use in both centered or universal (for offset frames) applications. You can also order them as a mixed pair (one of each). The Naran’s are tubeless ready with the addition of tape and a valve stem. Claimed weight is 750g/rim for the 100mm rim and 650g/rim for the 80mm. I wasn’t able to weigh just the rim, but the wheelset came in at 2514g (1190g – 135mm front/1324g – 190mm rear) including valve stems and rim tape. This wheelset was what Sarma calls their V-Pro build, which upgrades the spokes to Sapim CXRay for further weight reduction.
Overall, the wheelset has a very nice build quality. The beads and finish of the rims were perfect. Graphics are subdued enough but still noticeable (they match the Specialized Fatboy Expert they were on perfectly). All the spokes were properly tensioned and the wheels were true. The hubs roll smooth on sealed bearings and the skewers are nothing fancy but did their job. The only nit pick I had was that the rear hub is loud. I mean LOUD to the point that other riders commented on the noise.
Tubeless set up was fairly straightforward. The only issue I had was getting the tire on the rim. The last bit of bead was a tricky but with a little Uncle Dick’s Bead Slip, and making sure the rest of the bead was in the center channel, that final bit slid on with a little muscle behind it. After the tires were on, they aired right up. I even seated one of them with a floor pump. I let the air out of them and tried to break the bead. It wouldn’t budge. I had to stand on the tire bead to get it to break loose and even then it was a chore (when I took the tires off at the end of the review they were even harder to remove due to the sealant). Those beads aren’t going anywhere once they are seated, which is what your want, especially when running fatbike tires tubeless at low pressure. On a side note, during testing, my front tire lost air during a ride and wouldn’t seal (I got a puncture and hadn’t added enough sealant to coat the inside of the tire AND seal the puncture). I was able to ride all the way back to the car with very little/no pressure and the bead still didn’t break loose.
OK, lets face it, outside of the ease of tubeless setup, the main reason to drop the cash on carbon wheels is weight savings so I’ll just cut to the chase – by swapping these wheels out on the Fatboy Expert, I dropped 1196g** ~ 2.6 lbs (595g front/601g rear). 2.6 lbs . . . And that’s pretty much all rotational weight. However, this weight savings included the heavy Specialized tubes. If you take the tubes out of the equation, weight savings came in at only 208g for the wheelset (106g front/102 grams rear) over the Specialized wheelset. As you can see, the tubes were really the bulk of the weight reduction – 988g worth (2.2 lbs). Sure you could get nearly the same weight savings by setting up the Fatboy rims tubeless but there is no way they will be as hassle free to set up and have the rock solid bead lock of the Narans. Having to not jump through hoops (get it!) to get a solid tubeless setup may make the price justifiable to some.
Out on the trail, the loss of rotational weight was immediately noticeable. Those big tires spun up with just a little more pep. The big difference in ride quality was the switch from tubes to tubeless. I was already really impressed with the Specialized Ground Controls to begin with but set up tubeless, they got even better. And with the solid, worry free bead lock of the Naran’s, the transition to tubeless was that much better. As the temps dropped and the snow fell, I lowered pressure down to as low as 3.5psi and I could still ride with confidence that I wasn’t going to roll the tire off the rim (as has happened to me on Rolling Darryl’s set up tubeless at low psi/temps). Once seated on the Naran, the tire isn’t going anywhere.
The only issue I had was some very annoying creaking coming from the rear wheel, especially under torque. The first wheelset Sarma sent Fat-Bike.com to test also had this issue. The wheelset was returned to Sarma and was supposed to be rebuilt with the correct nipple washers. Unfortunately, the rear wheel still had the same problem even after the alleged rebuild. Upon further inspection, the build stickers on the wheels seem to indicate that the front was rebuilt after it was returned but the rear wheel was not. This explains the continuing issue with the creaking on the rear wheel. Sarma states on their website that the Naran’s require special Sarma nipple washers (provided with the rims). When built with the correct washers the wheels did not creak, but we felt that we should include this information to alert consumers about the importance of using the correct washers, when building up a set of these wheels.
Overall, I’ve got to say I was pretty happy with the Naran’s. The weight savings may not be huge, but the ease and reliability of tubeless setup makes these rims really attractive. So much so, that it’s got me thinking about a new, lighter, tubeless wheelset for my bike.
As tested, the Sarma Naran 100mm V-Pro wheelset retails for $2,204. The Naran 100mm rims retail for $1,200/pair (recently reduced from $1,500/pair) and the 80mm run $1,200/pair.
For more info on the Sarma Narans visit http://us.sarmabikes.com/
*Includes valve stems and tape
**Includes 4 oz of sealant, valve stems, and tape