First Look: Atomik Carbon Brings Affordable New Tech to Carbon Mountain Bike Rims

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Atomik is an upstart with a unique take on carbon mountain bike rims that not only introduces new tech, but brings it in at a comparatively affordable price.

They’ve partnered with a Taiwanese manufacturer that produces parts and frames for some of the world’s largest, best known brands. Atomik won’t disclose who, but say they’re Tour winning brands.

The rims are claimed at 33mm wide on the outside and 24.5mm on the inside. What sets them apart is the difference between those two, creating a very thick sidewall and bead hook. Co-founder Wayne Lee says that’s the part of the rim that takes the impact, so they wanted to build it stronger without affecting how the tires sat on them.

The wide bead hooks aren’t the only difference. The secret ingredient is a “bed” layer that makes it ride smooth…

UPDATED: Corrected rim pricing and complete wheel prices added.

THE BACKSTORY

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On his tour of bike shops throughout the southeast, Lee swung by our office to show off Atomik’s parts and lend us a 29er wheelset to try. Lee was the co-founder of the Jamaican Fat Tire Festival, where he met a lot of folks in the industry, including some of today’s top “enduro” and freeride mountain bike pros. That got the bug in him to grow his involvement in the industry.

He’s been working on the product for the past year. Lee approached Light Bicycle about distributing products in the US to handle warranty and sales. The deal was almost done, but after a little checking around, said things weren’t quite what they seemed with LB. Then he found the factory that produced for them and wasn’t terribly impressed.

Despite those setbacks, Lee really wanted to do something with carbon parts in the US. So he found that aforementioned high quality factory. In Taiwan. And things started moving quickly. They developed a proprietary rim profile and layup for their mountain bike rims and sourced a few existing parts to round out the launch lineup.

ATOMIK MOUNTAIN BIKE RIMS & WHEELS

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The profiles show the width of the sidewalls, a massive 4.25mm at top of bead hook. The center channel has a nice, rounded and smooth profile to help the tire slide up and seat easily. Our test set of wheels already had tires on them, so we didn’t have to set them up from scratch, but we pulled one off for width measurements and it seated right back into place with only a floor pump.

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The tech secret is a sandwiched layer of vibration damping material. They won’t disclose what it is or how it’s placed there until the patents are done, but they say it helps smooth the ride and improve impact resilience. Like most brands, woven carbon fiber is used at the spoke holes to maintain strength when drilled, but the rest of the rim construction uses unidirectional fibers.

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Actual weight on a production rim was 431g. That’s inline with the 420g +/- 15g claimed weight, but these preproduction (and very thick) decals likely added 10-15g. They’ll have sleeker, lighter and much better looking graphics when they ship to shops/customers. And the “carbon” part of the logo will be gone, just a cleaner Atomik branding will remain. And probably in a more muted tone.

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Widths were spot on at 33mm external and 25mm internal.

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Not sure what’ll be included with the rims, but these tubeless strips/tape were pretty slick.

Spoke holes are drilled directionally to put less stress on the spokes. The AM 29er rim, tested and shown here, are 32 hole front and rear. They’re also working on an AM27.5 with the same width and features.

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I had the wheels for a few weeks, during which Mother Nature and the powers that wield the trail closure gates only allowed for a few good rides. First impressions are good. The wheels were provided with Hope EVO II hubs set up for thru axles on both ends. Trading between bikes with alloy wheels, the difference was stark. The Atomiks had better precision when cornering hard, and made more definitive movements when navigating rooty, bumpy sections. The fat Specialized Captain 29×2.2 tires seemed well rounded and hooked up very well with about 24-26psi. The front held air fine, the rear had a slow leak, but Lee had forewarned it might be low on sealant. When we pulled the tire off to measure widths, it was all but dry.

Compared to other carbon rims, it was really too short of a test to put any hard opinions out there. They’re laterally stiff, and they held the tires well, even when the rear dipped precariously close to single digit psi’s. The vibration damping layer is a neat concept, but with huge tires and low pressures, I can’t honestly say I’d feel it. But, I do appreciate the line of thinking, and anything that reduces vibration, however slight, will lead to a better ride. Take that away and you still have a seemingly solidly built carbon rim that’s massively wide and respectably light. At a retail of just $350 $375 each with a two year warranty, they look all the better. Especially without these decals.

Complete wheels will be offered with the Hope EVO II hubs ($1,450) and a higher end Profile Elite subset ($1,700). Pricing on those is TBD. It’s worth mentioning that there was noticeable drag on the rear Hope hub. Could be that they were still being broken in – the wheelset was brand new. This was my first time on Hope hubs, so I can’t compare to past experience. Lee says the Profile hubs are pretty stellar, so might be worth the upgrade. If pro endorsements are the type of thing that sway your purchase decisions, they’re working with an undisclosed top name athlete to test them. Look for names to be made public soon enough.

ROAD RIMS, COCKPIT PARTS & FUTURE PLANS

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At launch, road and mountain bike handlebars will also be offered are focused on shape and weight.

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Mountain bars should be around $110, road compact drop bars around $160. Prices should be finalized by end of March, and products should be ready to deliver in April.

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The shape of the drop bars was very nice, with well thought out ergonomics and cable management.

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Road rims are also on tap, but the designs are not entirely their own. They come from the same engineer, but they’ll have sole U.S. distribution rights. A 50mm deep road rim is being tested in cyclocross applications now, and they’re confident it’ll prove super strong. Road rims are $425.

They’re going after the independent bike shop rather than direct sales. Lee believes the products’ benefits should be properly conveyed to the consumer, and the local bike shop is the best entity to do that. They have a shop demo program, providing wheels built with Hope EVO II hubs and tires preinstalled, they’ll just need to add rotors.

Atomik could end up being more than just a cycling products brand. They’re looking at hockey, lacrosse and other sports, too, but for now, bikes are the focus. Both Lee and Atomik co-founder Kevin Lineberger are passionate cyclists.

Wanna try them for yourself? They’ll be at the SE Bike Expo this weekend in Conyers, GA.

AtomikCarbon.com

Comments

planB - 03/12/14 - 3:46pm

Never heard of these wheels and they look okay, but I didn’t like the preemptive jab at his biggest competitor (LB). I’d like to hear more about why exactly his deal with LB fell through… The rim strip pictured looks like a Bontrager unit. The “smooth and rounded” surface of the rim bed won’t really matter in tire inflation when it’s covered with a strip or tape. The Specialized 2Bliss tire you used also easily airs up with a floor pump on LB’s wider carbon rims with a wrap of Gorilla Tape.

dullknives - 03/12/14 - 3:55pm

1. those bead hooks look nasty. in a time where the hook is being used less and less and proven to not even be necessary, they just look odd.

2. that rim strip looks just like the bontrager strip i have in my duster rims.

Yourface - 03/12/14 - 4:11pm

That looks JUST like a bontrager rimstrip (a tour winning wheel, ahem). You can add another 45 grams to the rim weight because of it.

BT - 03/12/14 - 4:52pm

I’m going to demo a set of these in 27.5 soon…curious to see how they feel.

Chris - 03/12/14 - 5:12pm

@yourface, bontrager carbon rims are made in house by trek in Wisconsin, not Taiwan. That and they are referring to carbon…

I’m more inclined to say giant or meridia is making these rims

Brendan - 03/12/14 - 5:51pm

These are lighter, wider, and way cheaper than Enve’s 29AM rims. I’ll definitely keep an eye on them.

aaron - 03/12/14 - 6:18pm

in MY opinion these look like the only non-usa manufactured carbon rims that may be worth a closer look. Please make the logos subtle and removable (stickers) PLEASE do not make logos permanent and then claim it saves a couple grams. follow enve’s lead on non permanent logo application on their rims.

Adrian - 03/12/14 - 8:26pm

They’re going after the independent bike shop rather than direct sales.

This is Huge for me. Having worked for independant’s for years and now, from the industry side, sell to them, this is really important. Support good distribution and your dealers and the brand could definitely make inroads.

That is, of course, if the product is up to par. From what I see, they’re worth keeping an eye on, Bontrager rim strip and all. That PRICE is an eye catcher. Compare these to the Cole rims that PinkBike just broke. I’m looking forward to reading a long term review.

Boobie - 03/12/14 - 9:36pm

You have to be kidding me; they aren’t even making the wheels in 26??? That’s a joke, 90% of the market has that wheel size. God damn this onslaught of marketing to sell 27.5 and 29 inch wheels.

PROEDGEBIKER.COM - 03/12/14 - 9:42pm

Price is just right for carbon wheels & thank god the decals will be getting an upgrade. Great job Wayne! Looking forward for the final product.

muf - 03/12/14 - 9:49pm

wait $450 per rim, add up, spokes, etc.. how is that “affordable”? its going the same as everyone else (‘xcept the chinese), 2K or so for a pair of wheels..

Greg - 03/12/14 - 10:17pm

Nice looking rims Wayne, and glad to see you making an inroad to cycling. I am excited to see the final consumer available wheelset and other components.

Rich - 03/12/14 - 10:34pm

@Chris: Bontrager wheels are made in the Formula wheel factory in Taiwan. Bontrager=made in Taiwan.

26IsForBeachCruisers - 03/12/14 - 10:47pm

@Boobie: 90%? You been reading 90′s Bike Action mags?

26IsForBeachCruisers - 03/12/14 - 11:00pm

Boobie: 90% You been reading 90′s Bike Action mags?

K11 - 03/12/14 - 11:05pm

@rich. you are wrong, i just saw an ad in a current bike magazine for bontrager carbon rims made in waterloo, wi USA. Rich may want to check your facts next time.

K11 - 03/12/14 - 11:29pm

at least some of the models are made in USA, but not all.

Mike - 03/13/14 - 12:59am

WHAT? Those stickers look rad! Don’t change ‘em. In fact, advise the tour-winning factory to immediately start applying the current decals BEFORE the final clear coat so that they don’t get abraded off when the rim impacts debris out on the trail. As passionate cyclists looking into selling hockey and lacrosse gear, you of all people should know about synergizing your brand image in the market space. Do this by aligning the goals set by Atomik’s development of anti-vibration rim bed & thick bead technologies with durable logos capable of withstanding the wear and tear an AM 29er wheel system will encounter on course. Why go through all the effort of having an independent bike shop properly convey the benefits of your product to the consumer only to have the logos peeled off so easily? Seal in the radical red or blue freshness of Atomik Carbon with layers of epoxy now.

mateo - 03/13/14 - 7:35am

@Boobie – You tried selling high end 26″ wheels to anybody lately? Lots of guys with bigger names than this are jumping off the 26″ train right now.

Motivated - 03/13/14 - 9:20am

Those rims are a marketing gimmick – seemingly designed by an errant bot, not an engineer. The wall thickness at the high stress areas is quite low. A vibration damping layer for a rubber tire – won’t work and I wouldn’t even want it? The bead hook is so extreme – looks like it will cause the tire sidewall to fail. The weight and price are nothing special. The news here is that carbon rims are hot and everyone wants in.

RyanC - 03/13/14 - 10:55am

For what it’s worth, Zipp has been using some sort of elastomer in their wheels for years for the same reasons stated above:

From the Zipp website:
“VCLC™ (Visco-Elastic Constrained Layer Control)
Visco-Elastic Constrained Layer Control (VCLC) uses a vibration-absorbing material sandwiched between layers of rigid carbon laminate in the rim. When the wheel receives an impact from the road, much of the shock is absorbed by the VCLC system, delivering a 10% reduction in vibration. “

AC - 03/13/14 - 6:06pm

So Stan’s goes to tiny bead hooks, and it pretty much works. Spec and the China copies go to no bead hooks and it works. Yet these wheels have larger, accentuated bead hooks? For what benefit? The jab at LB is a turnoff to buying from this guy (YaMon from mtbr?). The price point is good, for a company with QC, a US presence, and a meaningful warranty (hint, a startup with big claims doesn’t give me confidence you’ll be here in two years to backup that warranty).

Just a matter of time before Whisky does mtb rims too and puts these guys in a world of hurt.

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