The Iditasport, a 160 mile (from '87 to '96) winter bike race, provided the original inspiration for Snow Cat rims. The last five runnings of this event have been dominated by riders on our rims. When the Iditasport began (then called the Iditabike) participants went on a mad scramble to find the widest rims and tires that would fit on a bike. In response to this seach for an ever wider platform, Simon Rakower, who was (and still is) the tech support person for the race, started hand making rims for the participants.
By welding two rims together, then carefully cutting out the middle ridge, Simon was able to get a rim that would fit in every frame, but still offer the greatest possible flotation for the riders.
The Original Wide Rim is Born
After the making the first fifty pairs, demand reached the point where it was practical to have our own extrusion.
Thus was born the Snow Cat. Besides, the shop employees were really sick and tired of cutting little sections of rim out of the middle.
The rims are 44mm wide with a single wall cross section. Spoke lengths can be calculated from Sutherlands (they list them under All Weather Sports with a correction factor of -23). If you use spoke length software the ERD is 554. We drill the spoke holes slightly off-center and angled to match the line from hub to rim.
We'll drill them for you in any spoke count or pattern, eg. holes 10 mm off center for dishless rear wheels.
But the width of the rim itself is only half the story. It’s the way a wide rim changes the tire profile that creates the flotation you need on snow. Snow Cats increase the width and volume of tires installed on them. With the right tires and at appropriate pressures, they'll let you ride on trails that are softer, more slippery, or more churned up than you can ride on conventional rims.
To get traction on soft surfaces, we run pressures as low as 5 PSI. Remember to glue your bead to the rim! More typically, we'll run them at 12-20 PSI.
Snow Cats were designed to get the most on-the-ground tire width available with conventional frames and tires. They fit just about about all MTB frames and forks going back to 1990. They fit almost all modern mountain bikes with no frame modifications. Simply swap rims and re-adjust your brakes. They work with most cantilevers, with Maguras (stock out of the box) and of course, with any hub brake. Linear pull brakes can be a challenge to set up with super-wide rims. Some don't work very well; others work but hang out too far and cause clearance problems. V-brakes work, but the arms stick way out unless the brake pad washers are thinned. We can do this for you if you're squeamish about modifying your V-brakes.
We have a quick solution for those of you who don’t want to mess with your existing V-Brakes, and don’t want us to either. We sell inexpensive Tektros that are very adjustable and can be installed "inside out" so they set up and perform like standard brakes on standard rims. If you order them from us, we’ll ship them to you already switched so installation is straightforward.
On our own bikes, we leave cables and housing attached and use a second set of cables and housing on the summer brakes. This makes the spring and fall wheel changes very quick and easy.
Taking the SnowCat Further
In 200X Gary Fisher contacted us to ask if we would be willing to make a set of SnowCats for a new style of mountain bike he was considering building - one that had 29 inch wheels, but was not just a ‘sidewalk bike’. We told Gary “sure”, but we never envisioned anyone else ever wanting a pair.
Boy, were we wrong!
We found that the 29 inch wheels and tires provided a noticeable improvement over 26 inchers for soft snow riding. As soon as the 29ers hit the trails, they gained a loyal following among hard core snow riders.
For smaller snow riders, the 650b (27.5) size can provide some of the benefits of the 29ers without compromising fit and handling. If your MTB frame size is 17 inches or smaller, this new size has a lot to offer. And there’s even a 650b tire that works quite nicely on the snow: The Pacenti Neo Moto.
Still not Convinced?Why Snow Cats?
vs stock rims: better traction and handling in soft conditions
vs DH rims: lighter, rim brake compatible (good for retrofitting older bikes for winter), all drillings available, cost
vs 90mm?? rims: lighter by pounds, lower rolling resistance, buy a wheelset for $100s rather than a new bike for $1000s, keep your normal Q-factor Many 90mm bike owners have a pair of Snow Cats for when trail conditions favor faster wheels.