While many companies sit behind a desk or send reps out to be the face of the company, owner Wayne Lee and VP Kevin Lineberger are road warriors. I was supposed to meet up with them a few months back at a wheel demo 10 minutes from my house, but the flu kept me home bound. Skip ahead to 2 weeks ago while at a local Enduro which was a whopping 25 minutes from my house. While raising a beer to some friends on the podium, I hear Wayne and Kevin’s name shouted out thanking them for their support… and there they stood. Unless a locally based business, you just don’t see that.
Atomik has been taunting us with their carbon road wheels since last October and now they’re available and priced well within the reach of those with non-dentist incomes. I had been testing a prototype set of their Chubby 27.5+ wheels for some time and soon after we caught wind of the carbon road tubeless wheels, they asked if I could give them some feedback on them as well.
Check out my first impression and why I’m waiting to do a more extensive long term review soon…
Atomik has been busy in many ways this year… actually, the last 2 years since that’s how long they’ve been around. In just a couple of years, Atomik has come out of the gate with strong attention to detail, and not just with their products. In what may seem to be a risk on the surface, Atomik sees the value and importance of a local bike shop’s ability to showcase and market their products. Their online store allows a customer to purchase a product, but they must pick it up at a local dealer. Some would say that this is suicide in today’s click-happy society, but what has actually happened is that dealers are getting behind this program, stocking a few wheels, and when someone calls or places an order on Atomik’s site, often it’s in stock down the road from the consumer.
I’ve been on a prototype set of their 38mm road wheels since January, and while I did find a couple of quirks, the wheels have managed well so far. And to be sure they got some use, I swapped them between my personal bike and a test bike, (because I liked riding the test bike more).
The wheels have a 27mm wide rim with a U-shape profile that has become common due to its performance in both head and cross winds. The wide rim profile makes for a laterally stiff wheel that tracks well and goes right where you point it. To put it into perspective, it makes the bike handle a little more precisely without making it twitchy feeling. That said, these were the shallower 38mm wheels that most would prefer for all-around use as the ride is still rather supple and they perform well in cross winds (compared to a stock aluminum rim). Their 50mm (and surely the 85mm), will likely ride a little harsher and make for a little more complicated ride on a side-windy day, but everybody knows that anybody who is anybody travels with all three sizes (in their 1996 Passat wagon).
The wheels are also full carbon road-tubeless with a bead hook. They sent the wheels with 25mm Hutchinson Intensive road-tubeless tires which were trouble free and weren’t impossible to mount and dis-mount.
There are as many good carbon wheels on the market as down-right shitty ones. Even the cheap Chinese carbon wheels that don’t start splitting after a month or two, (and even some brand name ones), that are structurally sound, skimp on the braking surface hopping that someone makes a pad they can match with it to be “good enough”. I’ve ridden on some of those, and when you have some twisty descents that require a precise combination of braking and control, (especially at 190 lbs), things can get stressful. When it’s wet, you just plan ahead for the safest place to bail in case things go awry.
Atomik worked with the factory in coming up with a proprietary layup & resin for their braking surface and did some extensive testing, (see video below). However, this is where my first quirk came about. Atomik asked me to pay close attention to how well the braking worked. Well, while having a beer at the enduro, they asked me how impressed I was with the braking.
“The braking is okay… slightly better than average at best, but nothing that really stood out”. Well, the look of perplexed surprise on their face was obvious. Immediately they asked what pads was I using… the ones they sent or something else. “I’m using the yellow cork pads you sent with the wheels”….
Well, apparently I ended up with a mystery set of pads that I can only assume may have been a contender early on during the development phase that (for good reasons), didn’t pass. THIS is why I will do a little more comprehensive review soon, so stay tuned!
The front wheel is radial laced with 18 Sandvik straight pull bladed aero spokes, and the rear gets 24 in a cross pattern with an 8/16 split between non-drive & drive side. The hubs use Japanese EZO bearings and have remained as smooth as they were out of the box. My second quirk (which was resolved after 10 minutes on the truing stand) had to do with the rear wheel getting a little out of tru after the first couple of rides. Now, putting a brand new wheel with 24 spokes under a 190 lb oaf that has to do a series of several short climbs out of the saddle straight out of the driveway… okay, a brand new wheel might have to settle in a little, but after a quick adjustment, it’s held it since with many miles.
Claimed weight on the 38C wheels is 1430 grams, and I came up with 1466 grams WITH tape, so that is pretty on par. This is right up there with Zipp’s slightly deeper 303 carbon clinchers, and considering the cost this might be on a few people’s short list.
The carbon road-tubeless wheels come in three depths and you can choose between five decal colors. Atomik also allows you to mix sizes together in case you prefer to go deeper out back. The complete wheelsets ship with tubeless valves, extra spokes, high performance brake pads & skewers, and the best part is that no matter what combination you choose, the wheels go for a respectable $1,549 across the board! (That’s half of what some of the competition’s goes for).