It wasn’t all that long ago that fat bike tubeless was sort of unexplored territory. Those who dared try to set up their tires tubeless risked a lot of tubeless sealant, and time struggling with straps, a number of hands, and even fire to try and get the floppy tires to seat on gargantuan rims. As fat bike popularity has grown, so too has the rise of fat bike tubeless with new tires and rims surfacing on a regular basis. Compared to regular mountain bike tires, fat bike tubeless offers even greater benefits with increased traction and decreased rolling resistance thanks to the absence of a giant tube. 45NRTH says you can lose over 300g per wheel by ditching the tube, not to mention the lower potential of flats.
But, thanks to the comically large fat bike tires and wheels, tubeless has been harder to come by. It was only a matter of time until someone introduced the first fat bike tubeless tire and rim system, and it seems Whisky Parts Co. and 45NRTH beat other companies to the punch. Their new No. 9 carbon rim and Vanhelga tire means QBP is essentially offering the ideal duo for tubeless fat bike shredding.
Details, actual weights, and more after the break…
It may be hard to believe, but at this point QBP has over a decade of fat bike experience. From rims to tires, their brands have seen it all and have played a huge part in the growth of the category. In the design of the rim, Whisky worked directly with Thor form Surly due to his extensive experience in the fat bike rim department. Whisky’s first fat bike rim is a double wall carbon design that is built with unidirectional fibers with an additional 6k weave along the spoke bed for improved strength.
This isn’t an ultra wide fat bike rim – in fact, it’s only 70mm external and 65mm internal. The thought being that this is the sweet spot for year round shredding. Sure, wider rims may give more floatation, but speed and inertia were important facets of the design for a fast wheel all summer long. Whiskey intends for the No. 9 rims to run 3.8-4″ tires, but mentions that 5″ tires are not a problem.
Of course a big part of the story is the tubeless ready capability – something they worked directly with 45NRTH to develop. The rims have a tubeless ready bead channel that has been specifically designed to work with the new 45NRTH Vanhelga tire. That isn’t to say it won’t work with other tires, but when paired with the new 45NRTH rubber the pair work in harmony for a nice, air tight fit.
Offered only as rims for now, complete wheels will be offered in the future. We’re told that when building the rims into a wheelset, no special treatment is needed so they build up like a normal wheel. The photos above show Gorilla tape being used, but Whisky recommended their own blue tubeless tape which is similar to many other sealant tapes. The rim is designed so that the tape is just to seal the spoke holes, and the rim profile itself allows the tire to easily seal. For our initial set up we were able to seat one tire with a floor pump, while the other required a compressor. In all fairness, considering how easily both tires went on the rim, they seated much more easily than expected. We sealed both of our tires with Orange seal, though we’re told Stan’s will work just as well.
Since the rims were built into a wheelset with Industry 9 hubs, we couldn’t weigh the rims which are a claimed 575g a piece. The complete wheels however, came in at 957 for the front, and 1098 for the rear with tubeless tape and valves. Whisky says they weren’t aiming for the lightest wheelset, rather they were looking for a set of wheels that provided a superior ride quality that could be thrashed like any other mountain bike rim. These aren’t just meant for riding in soft snow, but for crushing trails strewn with rocks and roots.
The rims will be offered in 32h, non offset drilling only, and will be shipping out of QBP this August for $599 retail each which includes a 5 year warranty.
The other part of the tubeless equation is the new 45NRTH Vanhelga tire. Designed as a 26×4.0″ tire, Vanhelga represents an aggressive fat bike trail tire that is meant to interface with the No. 9 rim. What does that mean? Basically that the tire bead and and the bead shelf were created with very precise dimensions so that the tire wouldn’t burp or roll when running extremely low pressures. You can still run any other tires or rims, but the two were designed together to create the best combination. This tight fit results in the bead snapping into place, and the tires airing up without a ton of fuss.
Working pressure range is said to be the same as tubed fat bike tires at the low end, to 30 psi at the high end. In order to ensure the tire stays in place and holds air, the Vanhelga bead is more of what you would find in a modern tubeless mountain tire. Basically it has a tubeless bead, and a casing that requires sealant.
In addition to the tubeless aspects of the tire, the tread pattern has received a lot of attention in order to make it a true all around performer. Extra siping, including triple siped corner lugs allow the tire to better conform to rocks and obstacles on the trail. The tread patter is also quite wide and open to shed deep mud and snow when riding in fat bike conditions, while the side knobs are supported deep into the side wall for added support. Officially, the tread blocks are 6.5mm tall meaning they should penetrate deep into the soil for insane grip, especially since the tires are a bit more rounded when mounted to the No. 9 rims.
The 4.0″ tires mounted to 65mm internal rims resulted in 98.41mm (3.87″) wide tires measured at the outer lugs. According to David Gabrys of 45NRTH, the primary purpose of the tire is traction in loose conditions, with the triple siping providing additional grip when things break free. To provide additional grip and durability, the Vanhelgas offer a dual compound tread pattern with a 62 durometer in the center for better wear, and a 52 durometer on the edges for better grip.
Since one tire was already mounted, we were only able to weigh a single tire which came in at 1354g. As you probably know, the variance with fat bike tires can be fairly great so tires may weigh slightly less or more than pictured, but the weight gives us a good idea of what to expect.
Vanhelgas will be sold in 60 or 120 tpi versions for $125 or $155 respectively a piece. Expect these to be shipping out in September.
This wheel and tire combo is being mounted immediately to our 9:Zero:7 Whiteout test bike, which we’ll report back on soon!