New Easton ARC Plus Rims: ARC 45 Long-distance Review
In August 2015, I was lucky to get my hands on one of the first pairs of pre-production ARC 45 rims. Easton’s design team let them slide with the promise that I’d get some photos of them in use, in the wild. I was never expected to write a review, but after almost 4000km of hard, loaded riding, I feel compelled to do so. Its combination of features, size options, and a competitive price, sets the full ARC rim series apart as a potential “staple” mountain bike and bikepacking rim.
Review by Skyler Des Roches
On February 25, Easton finally announced the release of three new wide ARC Plus aluminum rims. Building on the highly successful ARC 24/27/30 rims, Easton has expanded the ARC rim offering with the addition of the ARC 35/40/45 rims in both 27.5 and 29 wheel sizes. The number indicates the inner rim width. Outer widths are 4mm wider, so the testedthe tested ARC 45s measure 49mm on the outside and offer the same proven plus-sized support as Surly Rabbit Holes and WTB Scrapers.
Easton’s take on the role these sizes may play?
“The ARC 35 blurs the line between the wide mountain rim and Plus rim, test riders on both plus bikes and regular mountain bikes riding larger volume tires have been very happy with the riding characteristic and performance of this rim. The ARC 40 is a true Plus size rim and was the rim of choice for the recently launched Santa Cruz Hightower 27.5+. The ARC 45 is on the wider side of plus rims and provides the option for riders looking to maximize tire volume and traction on their plus bikes.”
A New School of Wide Rims
My own opinion is that a a 45mm internal rim width provides the best support for aggressive riding on a full 3.0” tire. That said, the step down to 40mm doesn’t, in my experience, come at a cost of more than 1-2mm in casing width, making a rim equally suited to a 3.0, 2.8, or 2.3 tire. This allows the flexibility that many people may desire for long trips on Plus bikes, in case of tire failure. As a full convert to the “new school” of wide rims, I consider a 35mm rim to be an ideal width for making the most of 2.4” tires, and a perfect size for anyone riding conventional tire widths for anything but XC racing.
I usually build my own wheels, and upon first inspection, it was immediately apparent that the ARC 45s were going to be a joy to work with. First, an accurate ERD, a measurement that too often requires digging through third-party resources to find, can be read plainly on the decal. More exciting, however, was the discovery that the spoke holes on all ARC rims come drilled on an angle, pointed at their corresponding flange. This means nipples sit flatter against the rim and are less prone to breakage. A certain satisfaction comes from staring through a spoke hole and seeing the hub flange as if in crosshairs during the already-meditative act of wheel building. Paired with butted Sapim Race spokes and brass nipples drawn to 115kgF, the result has been a wheelset that hasn’t required a moment of attention since they left the truing stand.
Other notable, small details include drain holes in the outside of the rim to release water that inevitably works its way around the spoke nipples during river crossings, and easily removable vinyl decals on the brushed, black anodized rims surface – a nice touch for those who prefer a stealthy, unbranded look.
What makes the ARC Plus really stand out over other plus-sized rims I’ve used, which includes Velocity Duallies and Surly Rabbit Holes, is their tubeless compatibility. Of course, Velocity touts their Duallies as “Tubeless Ready” while Surly makes no such claims. But, those that have struggled to set up a tubeless system on either of those rims can rest assured that Easton’s promise of Tubeless Ready holds more sway. Using a properly Tubeless Ready tire, such as the 60TPI Surly Dirt Wizard or the Maxxis 29×2.5” Minion DHF II, a single piece of tape to seal the spoke holes and a few strokes on a floor pump is all it takes to set the beads with a resounding “POP!…POP!”. I’ve also built and set-up tubeless tires on ARC 30s and found the WTB Trail Blazer 2.8” and Panaracer Fat B Nimble 3.0” – the latter not Tubeless Ready (TR) – to set up with similar ease.
The rim bed features bead-locks to prevent burping, and a center channel shape that makes a loosely-mounted tire ‘grab’ air and snap over the bead locks. The latter is the key to their ease of tubeless tire installation, and something I had never considered before using these hoops. I don’t doubt that with a proper TR tire, I could remount a 3.0” tire using my Lezyne Microfloor HV pump.
Using non-TR tires, my results have been mixed. First I tried the $30 Gravity Vidar 29×3.0” (made by Innova and found only on Amazon.com), which shares the same bead as 27TPI Surly Knard and the same paper-thin casing as the 120TPI version. To make up for the loose fit from the Innova wire bead, it was a matter of adding two layers of full-width tape (Gorilla Clear Repair Tape or standard black Gorilla Tape work well). Then the Vidar aired up using a floor pump, with the usual ease.
The non-TR Maxxis Chronicle 120TPI EXO tires I unwittingly ordered, not knowing a non-TR version even existed, required only a single layer of tape, but their textured bead made them a real struggle to air up with a floor pump. I succeeded with one tire with vigorous pumping on the floor pump – shirt off and sweat spraying while I jack-hammered like a mad-man. The second required two sets of hands to pull the bead 75% of the way onto the bead-seat while I performed Saint Vitus’ Dance over on the floor pump. Once snapped into place, the Chronicles held air for 30 minutes without sealant (compared to 12hrs with proper tubeless WTB tires on the ARC 30s). Those same non-tubeless Chronicles have held air without incident or attention for 1400km through the Chilean backcountry on 4oz of Stan’s each. I don’t think I’ve added air in several weeks.
- Weight (29+ ARC 45 as tested) 24.3oz (690g)
- Rim Material Welded Aluminum
- Spoke Holes 32
- Rim Depth 20mm
- Internal Rim Width 35mm/40mm/45mm (tested)
- External Rim Width 39mm/44mm/49mm (tested)
- Price $129.99
- PLACE OF MANUFACTURE Taiwan
- CONTACT Easton Cycling
After more than 4,000 kilometers with a bikepacking load, the wheels spin true. I’d expect as much from almost any hand-built wheelset, and especially one using a Rohloff rear hub (symmetrical spoke lengths and tension) and a near-symmetrical Boost 110 front. More interesting, perhaps, is that they’ve performed admirably as both a robust, reliable touring rim, and are sufficiently stiff and light for lapping more challenging purpose-built trails. I’ve managed to slightly dent the rim lip with hard rock strikes, on two occasions. But the dents have been small and localized – easily fixed with pliers – and have not resulted in wider flat-spots, as I’ve done to many other rims. At 680g per rim on my scale, they’re no carbon race bracelets, but they do tip the scales a few grams lighter than their closest tubeless competition, WTB’s Scrapers, and are about the same weight as Velocity’s 38mm Dually.
To me, Easton’s addition of three mid-fat sizes to the ARC rim series is exciting, not because they offer something that can’t be found elsewhere, but because the ARC series offers a lot choice in a dependable, no-nonsense package. They promise all the features and tubeless reliability that one could hope for from a top-of-the-line aluminum rim at a price slightly lower than similar rims – $100 for the 24/27/30, $115 for the 35, and $130 for the 40 and 45. Rather than agonizing over trade-offs between price, size, and tubeless reliability, you can just agonize overver rim width for you next build. I’d be quick to default to ARC 24s on a commuter bike, or ARC 35s on an enduro bike or ARC 40s for touring overseas on a mid-fat bike, or ARC 45s for my only bike – a dedicated plus-sized hard-tail for hard mountain biking and bikepacking alike.