The 27.5 fat tire selection continues to expand and this is the second tire that 45NRTH has offered in the 27.5 size (the other being the Dillinger 4). For those of you not familiar with the 45NRTH line of tires, the Van Helga is their more aggressive 4″ tire that is designed for “all-round mixed conditions” riding. They come in two flavors of casing, 60 tpi and 120 tpi with the listed retail cost of $90 and $115 respectively.
Here are all the nerdy details for the 120 tpi 27.5 x 4″ Van Helga:
- Tire width on 70 mm inner width rim: 3.8″ casing, 3.7″ knobs (freshly mounted and @ 8 psi)
- Diameter: 770 mm measured (freshly mounted and @ 8psi), 45NRTH list it at 772 mm
- Bead-to-bead: 238 mm
- Center knob height: ~5 mm
- Intermediate knob height: ~5.5 mm
- Side knob height: ~5.5 mm
- Weight: 1,405 and 1,420 g (published weight 1,410g)
These are rated as being tubeless compatible and they have been great in this regard. I have taken them on/off a couple times and they pop right into place and hold air well even without sealant. They also do not seem to be excessively tight on the rims so they are not too big of a pain to take off.
Unlike the Terrene and Maxxis 27.5 x 3.8/4″ tire options, 45NRTH hasn’t tried to make a super low profile tire. The stated rationale for the lower profile tires is that they ride more like “normal” MTB tires with less bounce. The flip side of this is that they are smaller in overall diameter and therefore lose some of their roll-over ability and float. Regardless of where theory meets dirt or snow, these are about 20 mm bigger overall diameter than the Maxxis 27.5 x 3.8 Minions, Terrene Cake Eaters, Bontrager Hodag… Measure your frame before ordering to make sure these tires will fit your bike. I am hearing that some fat bikes that were sold as “27.5” are not fitting some of the bigger diameter tires that are now coming out.
From what I can tell, the tread design is the same as the 26″ version of the Van Helga with all sorts of siped and braced lugs. The 26″ version has a great reputation for being really grippy in a wide variety of conditions and based on the few rides I have had in everything from dry dirt, to mud, to 5″ of fresh snow it seems like the 27.5 version will add to that reputation.
Cornering traction has been good but drive and braking traction have been what has impressed me the most so far. I have spent most of the time riding these tires in slippery conditions (lots of leaves, mud and snow) and have been able to claw my way up stuff that my riding partners have really struggled with. The tires also have been clearing well which helps in the sloppy conditions I have been in recently. This is likely due to the open tread design but also the many of the knobs being slightly ramped on all sides has to help also. More riding impressions to come.
I also plan to weigh in more in a mid-term report about the taller profile of these tires compared to many other 27.5 fat options. I have been bouncing back and forth between the Cake Eaters and the Van Helgas and through that am working on a more nuanced perspective on the pros/cons of each philosophy (Cake Eater being low profile and Van Helgas being taller). Early indications are that the lower profile tires are less bouncy and have a more “normal MTB” feeling but also have a much more narrow rideable pressure window. How that all shakes out is still a mystery so more to come on that front!