Project Fatbike: White Brothers SnowPack Fork and Paul Components Whub
It’s only January, yet Interbike 2011 feels like a distant memory. It was there on the show floor that we first laid eyes on the carbon monster that is the White Brother SnowPack. Pictures don’t do the thing justice, its 34mm carbon stanchions are simply massive yet, pick it up, and it feel like nothing is there. Even though we didn’t have a frame yet, we knew we had to get it on a bike to test it out along with the accompanying Paul Components Whub.
Fast forward to the present, and both the SnowPack and the Whub have shown up at the Bikerumor office for some abuse, er, testing.
Find out how the SnowPack came about, as well as full specs on both the fork and the Whub after the break!
We were told back at Interbike that the SnowPack was a collaboration between White Brothers and Chain Reaction Cycles, so to get more on the partnership I went to MRP/White Brothers’s marketing guy Noah Sears, for the answers:
“Chain Reaction Cycles (Alaska, not UK – parent co. of Fatbikes.com and 9:zero:7) really got the ball rolling on the Snow Pack project. They gave us the short-list of features and specs they wanted to see and we took over the project’s design from there. We definitely want to give them kudos for recognizing the market demand for a carbon “fat” fork – they’ve been well ahead of the curve of the “fat” bike trend in general. White Brothers has always been keen to partner with innovative partners and get in on the ground floor of “niche” markets – which was the case with the 29er, then 650b, and now “fat” bikes.”
This resulted in what you see here, a massive but extremely light fatbike fork that looks as capable as any. In order to accommodate different frames, the SnowPack is offered in both 450 and 468mm axle-to-crown lengths, both of which have a 42mm offset. The stock Pugsley fork’s axle-to-crown is 447mm, making the 450mm SnowPack the right fork for for the job.
Currently, the SnowPack is only available in a 1 1/8 straight steerer tube, which is fine since most fatbikes still have a straight head tube. That’s not to say tapered head tubes aren’t coming (or already here in the case of FatBack who also has a sweet carbon fork now). The steerer is attached to a burly one piece crown which has been relieved underneath to cut any unnecessary weight. From there, the 34mm carbon stanchions extend to the dropouts where they are capped with the aluminum dropouts. For those curious about tire clearance, the inside width of the fork legs is a full 5 inches. While we don’t have a 100mm rim and a 4.7 BFL to test it out, I’m fairly certain you could run it with no issues. Currently, I have an 80mm rim with a 4.0 tire that has plenty of room. More on that in the upcoming Origin-8 Devist-8er 2 tire post!
As people have already pointed out in the last post, the SnowPack utilizes a front disc brake spacing which means it is only compatible with 135mm hubs with front disc spacing (without an adapter). Above on the left, is the SnowPack with a Paul Whub which is compatible with the fork. On the right is the SnowPack with a Shimano XT hub, which is not compatible with the fork – note the difference in rotor position.
Unlike other forks in a similar boat, the SnowPack is a Post Mount brake instead of IS, which means you can’t just use some washers to space out the caliper about 5mm to use with a rear hub. So technically, there very few hubs on the market that are compatible, namely the Paul Components Whub and basically a custom hub from Phil Wood (that has massive flanges). Why not build the fork to accept rear spacing so you can use more hubs? Well, if you are building a non-offset fork, you won’t be switching your wheels back and forth. If you’re not switching your wheels back and forth, there is no need to accommodate a rear hub so you can take advantage of the Whub’s truly dishless build that the evenly spaced flanges provide. A dishless wheel is a stronger wheel, which is the reasoning behind fatbike frames that use a 170mm rear hub instead of an offset 135mm hub.
However, White Brothers clearly sees the need to be able to run a rear spaced hub up front, especially if you already have one. Which is precisely why they have created an adapter that will be shipping later this month. The adapter simply bolts in place and spaces the caliper far enough to the right to use a rear spaced hub. With the addition of the adapter, the Snowpack can use just about any 135mm hub. All of this awesomeness doesn’t come cheap however, as the SnowPack retails for $445.
Paul Components WHUB
For our build, Paul Components graciously provided a fresh black Whub. Beautifully machined in their Chico, CA machine shop, the Whub is built just like their disk Fhub, only 135mm wide. Inside you will find Enduro 6902 2RS bearings which are easily adjusted with the Paul adjustment ring (loosen ring cinch screw, turn ring with fingers to proper adjustment, tighten ring cinch screw). The Whub was initially designed with the help of Jeff Jones who is known for his SpaceFrames and Truss Forks that have the option of running a fatbike wheel up front, and it compatible with forks from White Brothers, Jones Bicycles, Vicious Cycles and others that use 135mm front disc spacing. Pricing for the Whub is $165 for the black or silver anodized, and $170 for the high polish.
I should note that building the Whub into a wheel with a Vicious GFS rim and WheelSmith DB spokes, was one of the smoothest wheel builds I have done to date. I’ve built a lot of wheels, but this was certainly one of the easiest.
What good is a carbon fork if it’s not light, right? Fortunately, the SnowPack delivers, coming in around 890 g or 1 lb 15 oz. Pretty good considering White Brother’s claimed weight is 919 g for the 450mm fork, and 932 g for the 468mm fork. At the other end, the Paul Whub weighs only 212 grams without skewer (yes that is a one, not a seven. Note to Park: make your scales easier to read). Together you have quite the weight savings for the front of your fatbike.
All of this isn’t just for weight savings though, as after years of riding an offset Pugsley, it will be interesting to see what a completely symmetric front end will do for the Pugsley’s handling (I’ve ridden non-offset bikes before as well, and I do like them a lot).