Atomik Carbon is a fairly new brand that is based in Tampa, FL with wheels coming out of a factory in Taiwan. The company started out focusing on tubeless mountain bike wheels and now has recently expanded its product offerings to include road disc wheels.
Cyclocross Magazine has a set of the $1549 carbon Atomik 38C Disc tubeless ready clincher wheels in for testing. Today we're taking a close look at our test wheels and have some initial impressions.
The Atomik 38C Rim
Atomik uses what it says is a proprietary prepreg and layup design with Japanese Toray composite technology in an effort to produce wheels that are precise and efficient. The Atomik 38C Disc has a 38mm deep "wind-tunnel tested Aero U profile." We haven't seen the results of those tests, but the profile is typical of modern carbon wheels—gone are the days of knife-edge V-shape deep-section rims.
While the carbon layup may be proprietary, the shape of the 38C is familiar, with a blunt-edged bullet shaped leading edge that looks similar, at least from a distance, to other 38mm deep offerings from NEXT Cycling and other builders.
The tubeless rims have several features that help make tubeless installation and use easy. First, the rim's deep center channel reduces the number of bloody knuckles suffered from installing tight tubeless tires like the WTB TCS Exposure tire, provided you keep both beads in the center channel.
Second, the reasonably wide shelf along each side of the channel provides a secure, tight fit for your tire's bead. Getting a tight WTB TCS tire fully seated took more air and soapy water than we'd like, but the rim is rated to handle 130 psi and thankfully we didn't need to come close to that limit (and most cyclocross/gravel tires can't handle such pressures anyway). Ritchey tubeless tires took less effort to seat, but held air well and haven't burped on initial rides.
Atomik's carbon rims are made in Asia, like most other carbon rims with the exception of USA-made rims from Zipp and ENVE. Asian-made certainly doesn't mean untested, as Atomik's promotional video demonstrates.
The company also offers a 50mm deep rim, called the 50C, naturally, that is about 100g heavier but retails for the same price.
The Atomik 38C Build
The Atomik 38C wheels come with Atomik's own hubs and a full complement of Japanese EZO bearings and Sandvik straight-pull bladed aero spokes.
Out of the box, the hubs and EZO bearings roll extremely smoothly. It's the first test wheelset that we've spun on our fingers and remarked how long each wheel kept rolling.
The straight-pull Sandvik aero spokes look a bit old school in profile, as they seem more flattened than the ovalized aero spokes of Sapim, but their wind-cheating shape should hopefully keep you out front after that holeshot-winning sprint or late burst for the town line.
Axle options include 12mm, 15mm or QR front and 135x12, 142×12 or QR rear. Out back, switching between the different configurations requires an axle swap, not just a swap of end caps, but it's a far more secure setup. Up front, the 12mm and 15mm thru axle configuration is slightly different. End caps for the 12mm setup press into the 15mm internal width thru axle, while caps for 15mm axle forks sit on the outside and are held in with an external aluminum retainer ring that you can tighten with a micro pin spanner.
The entire package retails for $1549, and that price includes free worldwide shipping, which we imagine could be a tremendous value in some parts of the world. They're covered by a two-year warranty and a $250 crash replacement policy.
Atomik 38C Disc Initial Impressions
After trauma-free tubeless setup, the true test is out on the (gravel and dirt) roads, trails and cyclocross course. We haven't raced the wheels in cyclocross yet, but have we have hit the usual terrain with 34mm rubber at various pressures.
Nice carbon wheels do you no good if you're fighting flat tires, and so far, the wheels have been burp-free on cyclocross-width rubber at 25psi (165 lb test rider). We haven't yet tested with 40mm tires, but suspect as with most other rims, the wider tires will only make for even more reliable burp-free performance at low pressures. Tires have started to get squirmy in corners before we've burped and lost any air—always a promising sign.
During initial test rides, despite some semi-intentional clumsy collisions with rocks and stairs, they've kept straight and true, and the hubs are still spinning smoothly despite a few power washes to spray off springtime mud.
Spend four figures on a carbon 24-spoke wheel, and you'd be forgiven if you expected to save a pound or more over your stock wheels. That's possible if you have some really heavy stock wheels as typically found on entry-level bikes, but the Atomik 38C is not a lightweight champ. Our test set tipped the scales at 1645 grams complete, set up for 12mm front and 142/12mm rear, without tape or valves. That's not heavy, but when there are alloy wheels under a grand that weigh 200g lighter (albeit not as deep, aero or resistant to rim dents), it's something to think about if you're after gram savings.
The rims are built to withstand high road pressures. Although only the heaviest riders on narrow tires should come close to 130psi, the Atomik 38C rims can handle such pressures, making theses wheels candidates to do dual-discipline duty if line up for road races, crits, time trials or triathlons on a road disc brake bike.
Although not specified, we'd suggest staying much lower with fatter rubber—for both ride comfort and safety's sake (higher volume tires put more stress on the sidewall and bead of rims than narrower tires at a given pressure).
Beyond weight debates, we've got two initial nitpicks so far. One wheel had a bit of carbon fragments rattling around inside its rim cavity, likely a remnant from a spoke hole or valve drilling. It's noticeable when you shake the wheel to spread your sealant, but on a normal ride isn't audible.
Our other complaint is mostly academic so far. The included tubeless valves sit quite high on the rim, well above the top of the rim bead. Never get a flat and there's no issue here, but experience a sudden loss in pressure and have to roll a bit on a flat tire? Your valve will be hitting the ground, placing a lot of unwanted stress on the rim by the valve hole. Companies like American Classic offer low-profile valves that stay below their rim's beads, and swapping out these valves for something similar would be our first step after making such an investment.
Carbon has improved greatly as a durable rim material, and we aim to see how durable the Atomik 38c wheels are with our continued testing. Stay tuned as we put the Atomik 38C Disc wheels to the test in cyclocross races and gravel rides and attempt to harness some of its atom-based energy.
See a full photo gallery below the following specs.
Atomik 38C Disc Tubeless Ready Clincher Wheels Specs:
Rim: clincher, tubeless-ready, disc brake only 38mm deep, 24 hole
Rim width: 17.5mm internal width (measured), 17mm listed, 27mm external (max)
Hubs: Atomik with EZO bearings
Spokes: Sandvik aero bladed straight-pull
Color options (rim decal): black, white, silver, red, yellow
Axle options: Front: 15mm, 12mm, QR ; Rear : 142x12, 135x12, QR
Weight: Rear: 880g list, 900g actual; Front: 739g list, 745g actual. 1645g total.
Warranty: 2 years, with $250 crash replacement policy
MSRP: $1549.00 per set of wheels, includes tubeless valves, extra spokes and skewers/axles, and free worldwide shipping
More info: atomikcarbon.com