Video: Tom and Matt's Arctic adventure, part 2

Plus, we sit down with Sarma Bikes CEO Dmitry Shindyakin for an insight into the new kids on the fatbike block

You've read the snow race feature in issue 315 (haven't you?!), now watch the video. Matt and Tom bring you the second part of their Rovaniemi 150 experience (click here if you missed the first one). Turn off your heating, open the windows and sit in your pants in front of an open freezer for an immersive movie experience!

Sarma Bikes interview

If you're a mountain biker living in the wilderness of Siberia you've no option but to ride in snow. And if you've got years of aerospace engineering experience, you might as well use that expertise to create the ultimate fatbike! That's just what the founders of Sarma Bikes decided to do, and they're making a big name for themselves with their innovative carbon frames and rims. Following on from Tom's successful completion of the Rovaniemi 150 on a Sarma Shaman, we caught up with company CEO Dmitry Shindyakin to quiz him on all things fat.

MBUK: Dmitry, can you give us a brief introduction to Sarma?

DS: Sarma Bikes are an international company, but we're strongly influenced by the riding in Siberia, where several of our founders grew up. Siberia is the best place for fatbikes, with the average winter temperature being well below –18°C. We collaborate with engineers who develop composite materials for the Russian aircraft industry and we use their knowledge to design and develop all our products. In short, we’re cycling enthusiasts and engineers inspired by our Siberian location.

Why did you decide to specialise in fatbikes?

One of my close friends was the very first fatbike rider in Russia and I fell in love with fatbikes from the first ride. During very long winters with lots of snow fatbikes have a big advantage, but things have changed fast and fatbikes are already not just for snow and sand. By offering our carbon products, we're trying to expand the potential of fatbikes for everyone.

Tom rode the Sarma Shaman in the Rovaniemi 150. What makes this a great bike for this sort of challenge?

The Shaman is a bike designed specifically for racing. Its geometry is optimised for fatbike or even cross-country racing.

What would you say are the three most interesting features of the Shaman?

First, the geometry was conceived with the idea of this bike being a race bike, not just a weekend cruiser. It's got a 170mm rear end, is compatible with RockShox's Bluto suspension fork and combines a slack (for a fatbike) 69-degree degree head angle with ultra-short 445mm chainstays. 

Second, it's lightweight. Top components from SRAM, super-light cranks and a carbon fork, handlebar and seatpost make for a complete bike weighing less than 10kg (22lb). It’s a fatbike but without the heft of a traditional steel or aluminium bike. It’s close in weight to a standard 29er, but with all the fatbike advantages.

Lastly, it's for more than just riding on snow. We have two wheel options for the Shaman – the carbon, 80mm width fatbike rim and the 29+ Naran rim. With the 29+ wheels your bike can become a 29er with many of the advantages of a fatbike. Both versions can be run tubeless with perfect acceleration and the feeling of a fatbike.

Tom marvin riding the sarma shaman in the rovaniemi 150: tom marvin riding the sarma shaman in the rovaniemi 150
Tom marvin riding the sarma shaman in the rovaniemi 150: tom marvin riding the sarma shaman in the rovaniemi 150

What makes carbon fibre the right material for your fatbikes, and what challenges does it throw up?

I’m from Irkutsk and we have a huge aircraft plant close to my house. Most of my neighbours and friends work there. Good connections in this field helped me find top specialists with corresponding expertise. That’s why it was easy for me to start dealing with carbon. Everyone knows that carbon is lighter and stiffer than aluminum. The major challenge at the beginning was to find the optimal geometry and best design for the products. We were one of the first companies to make carbon rims for fatbikes. Then we made the first carbon 29+ and 100mm wide rims. Our engineers researched which materials to use and designed the unique carbon layouts, the geometry, look and weight to make sure we got the best product at the end of the process.

Can an adventure bike be built for speed or have you had to make compromises?

I believe the Shaman is perfectly suited for most adventure races where you don’t need to carry bulky luggage. Building a bike is almost always a compromise – for example, do you choose a carbon handlebar or a more affordable alloy one? The point is to find the best solution or compromise among all those details.

How do extremes of temperature affect the carbon?

Composite products aren't affected by cold at all. They could be damaged by overheating, but only if you left a black frame for a very long time in very, very hot weather. It’s not impossible, but I believe that in 99% of cases it wouldn't happen.

Fatbikes are creating a real buzz in the UK right now. Why do you think this is?

That’s great! They're a lot of fun and you can ride where others can’t!

What do you see as the advantages of a fatbike over a traditional mountain bike?

You can ride where other people can't! You can ride on frozen lakes, rivers and so on, but the advantages aren’t just on snow. The big tyres work as a small amount of suspension so they give a reassuring feel and a huge level of grip and confidence on sand, rocks, roots, rough trails and anywhere where conditions are loose and rough. The major advantage when you're riding a fat bike is fun.

Is this going to be a passing fad or is there a genuine future for fatbikes?

Fatbikes have already carved out a niche but I don’t know how big it’ll become. It probably won’t be the biggest segment in cycling, but as a niche it'll live for a very long time.

There are several fatbike rear hub sizes and BB widths. Do you think we'll see increasing standardisation, and which 'standards' do you think are best?

This is a very interesting question for bike suppliers and customers. Having lots of different standards is confusing because it’s complicated to figure out the suitability of each component. 

Let’s talk about forks first. The post mount front brake standard is already the default. More complicated is the issue of front hub width – 135 or 150mm? I believe 135mm is better – it’s a bit lighter and has better torque rigidity. RockShox will have a big influence here though. The Bluto is 150mm so this dimension will be the default for a lot of new designs.

Rear hubs are interesting too – 170/177 or 190/197mm? The advantage of 170mm is torque rigidity and weight. The advantage of 190mm is the ability to use wider tyres, but then you need cranks with a wider Q-factor and/or frame designs have to change.We use 170mm hubs for the Shaman because this is a bike for speed.We use 190mm hubs for the Vortex, which is more for fun riding, where the ability to ride in very deep snow is more important than speed.

We're looking forward to seeing what Sharma come up with next. In the meantime, check out their website at www.sarmabikes.com.

Tom marvin riding the sarma shaman in the rovaniemi 150: tom marvin riding the sarma shaman in the rovaniemi 150
Tom marvin riding the sarma shaman in the rovaniemi 150: tom marvin riding the sarma shaman in the rovaniemi 150

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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