The winter only fatbike realm has long since been left behind-thank goodness. This is not news-most of us who ride fatties, do so year round because they just work…are fun…go anywhere…handle well…go fast? Well, of course, if properly outfitted. Within a short period of time, manufacturers have evolved the stock fatbike into a do everything machine. The distinction between a “normal” mountain bike and fatbike (or for that matter, “plus-bikes”) have become blurred.
So why wouldn’t you want to ride a sweet handling “mountain bike” and have the advantages of a gigabyte of footprint on the trail? “They’re too heavy,” “too slow,” blah blah blah. While the newest crop of fatbikes mostly leave those criticisms behind, there is one upgrade that nukes those arguments altogether-lighter wheelsets.
A winter conversation with Gomez at the Sweaty Yeti race, and one I mentioned in my preview of these wheels, was if you really really wanted the most performance gain on a fatty, a light, stiff set of carbon wheels would be the ticket. So right he was. When the undistiquished cardboard box arrived late winter, with just “Fat-Bike.com” scrawled on it, I figured I could test that theory (in truth, it made total sense of course).
Obviously, there would be a weight savings over my stock wheels, and lifting the Atomik Phatty 85’s from the box was, well enlightening-these would be a treat to bolt onto the Salsa! Partnering with a Taiwanese manufacturer, Atomik is a relatively new American entity producing high quality handlebars, mountain, road and now recently released plus and fatbike “foamcore” wheels. Doubtlessly, carbon hoops will always lighten ones ride, but Atomik also touts an improved stiffness, and the ride quality of their rims as the main benefit.
The initial testing began at the tail end of the snow season in Wisconsin, mounted on my carbon Beargrease-a perfect match! Atomik sent a beautiful build. With Cobalt Blue Industry 9 Torch hubs, they drop close to 2 pounds rotating weight at 1110gr rear and 980 gr front respectively from my stock wheels. On the technology end, the specs on the hoops follow: The Phatty 85s are designed around a 85mm wide, 75mm ID high-modulus blend of Toray 700 and 800 carbon, with aerospace-grade HDP Foamcore. The wheels are tubeless ready “semi-double wall” rims, with a low profile height of just 16.2mm and weighing 570 grams. Extraordinary stuff.
Wanting to get rolling as quickly as possible, I stuffed tubes in the tires and hit the dwindling snowpack at Levis Mound for the last of the groomed trail season. First impression adjectives? Fast- light- accelerate and no high speed “gyro” effect, in other words, the way a fatbike can feel. Okay, these are great. If I can remember back to how a skinny mountain bike feels, this was it. Climbing the steep packed snow climbs on these hoops proved to be much more enjoyable than on my heavier alloy wheels-a blessing for this non- climber to be sure.
Atomik claims the super low profile (.6” height) and minimal surface area (unlike most other carbon wheels) helps minimize impacts and gunk cling-a good selling point and I found this feature to be true. In winter, the slick rims shed what little snow attempting to cling to them, reducing weight. The same was true this summer in muddy conditions-the muck just has very little to adhere to, an aspect of rim design I hadn’t really considered before, but on wide hoops, it makes sense-a brilliant feature.
Fast forward to summer riding where these wheels really shine. With a bit more air pressure, the ride quality of the Phatty’s was more apparent. Although subjective, my impression is that these really are stiff wheels and as Atomik claims, “enhances dampening qualities.” High speed downhills, like my favorite Cliffhanger trail, require precise handling and I found the “85’s” shine there. On my stock wheels, a bit of flex can be disconcerting at the least opportune time, something never considered while bombing on the Atomiks. Warp speed chatter dissipated as well-a result of the Foamcore, semi-double walls? I don’t know, but it works. Oh, and back to the low profile design-they are a much smaller target for sharp rocks, roots and other trail debris to hit, keeping them looking attractive. Although not much of a worry in snow, summer riding can be pretty abusive, especially on the chunky sandstone descents at Levis, but these rims still look nearly pristine-remarkable actually.
Since the Atomiks are tubeless ready, and I happen to have a set of tubeless specific tires in the shop, it was the perfect excuse to see how simple they would be to set up. The Phatty’s have a proprietary angled bead lock hook design, featuring a 3.5mm thickness, making it very strong and durable. Mounting the new tires onto the rim was simple and with a quick fill with compressed air, they loudly popped into place, securely locked into the bead. I added a few ounces of Stans and they have held air beautifully. No tape, no ghetto tubes, just simple and done.
Looks do matter and I’ve grown to really like these rims. There are other gaudy in-your-face neon carbon wheelsets out there, but thankfully Atomik kept things a bit more muted and stealthy in natural carbon and tasteful graphics-very nice.
Atomik offers rims at $625 retail and complete wheelsets starting at $1825. These aren’t cheap, but no quality light weight carbon wheels will be. Knowing the technology behind these Fatties and having the backing of an American company with a proven track record, I expect they will give a quality trouble free ride for a very long time.
For more information about Atomik visit – www.atomikcarbon.com
For More Information about Industry Nine visit – www.industrynine.net