Quick Review: Bontrager Flashcharger + 45NRTH Vanhelga- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Quick Review: Bontrager Flashcharger + 45NRTH Vanhelga

    A bit of background:

    Though I have loved the studs on my Dillinger 4's this fall, they have wept sealant since installation on my Hed rims. I attribute this to their relatively wimpy bead and the slight imperfections in the HED beads where the four quarters of the rim are joined. Typically, this has not posed a problem, and prior tires, including Bontrager Hodag and On One Floater, have been quite reliable even to low psi. The Dillinger's broke my heart recently after breaking new trail on a tough (winter) climb and flatting in the rear. We also got a big dump of new snow recently with cold temps in the forecast. It was time to say goodbye to the transition season studs and relatively minimal pattern of the Dillingers.

    I had the opportunity to visit a bike shop recently while out of town that had an impressive selection of fat tires in stock to hold in hand. I was extremely impressed with the tubeless ready bead on the Vanhelga's, plus the tread seemed the largest and most aggressive that I could fit in the rear of the Beargrease carbon. The casings were also super supple, even on the 60tpi tires. I was in x 2.

    Since seeing the Bontrager flash charger advertised, I was intrigued. I have never had much of an issue seating 29er tires with a floor pump, but the HEDs have nearly killed me more than once. And many attempts have ended with a trip to the bike shop to use the compressor. Thankfully, they have always been extremely gracious in that regard. Still, the last attempt nearly crushed my soul with the dillingers. The HEDs have a great bead shelf that is more than secure enough for my needs, but the actual rim channels where the "inflatobands" sit are relatively loose: too loose in my opinion. In any case, I have, in the past, had to resort to gently lifting the bead of the tire as much onto the bead shelf with a tire lever to get some seal started, even with a compressor.

    Could the flash charger be up to the job of a small and extremely floppy motorcycle tire? I nearly bought a compressor, and, as many have pointed out, you really could for the cost of the flashcharger. Still, the portability, quiet, giant rush of air were all appealing. I saw a few videos on youtube of fat tires being successfully inflated with a flashcharger. I figured that if I could have success sometimes with just a floor pump, the flashcharger had to increase my success ratio. So, I picked one up a few days ago.

    I was initially quite impressed by its heft, but after getting it home, I found that any time I got up into the green, it would leak out of a seam on the air tank. So, I returned the original to the bike shop in exchange for a working model.

    Today was the day of truth. The ultimate test. Well, sort of. The flashcharger does have some things going for it. First, I was using a true tubeless-ready advertised tired with a baller of a bead. Second, I was using a supposedly easy-to-inflate rim, but see my comments above on that one.

    Attempt #1: Front tire. Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to film this attempt. However, it was nearly a miracle. Pump into the red, pull the intoxicated lever. Bam, bam, bam...seated. Add sealant, pump back up...done. Brilliant.

    I did however call in the camera crew to film attempts 2, 3, and 4.

    Attempt #2: Rear. Fail.


  2. #2
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    Attempt #3: Rear. Fail.


  3. #3
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    Intermission and distracted camera woman, while I lifted the beads gently onto the shelf for maybe half of each side.


  4. #4
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    Attempt #4: Authoritative Success.



    Overall, thus far I am quite pleased. There was a tiny bit of sealant leakage at either a fold on the front tire or from near a front rim joint. I will report back with a more full review of the Vanhelga's soon. For now, they did fit with ease on the beargrease, clearing my 2x10 drivetrain with room to spare. They look beefy as all hell. And they appear to be quite round in cross section. I am hoping for minimal or NO self steer.

  5. #5
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    That first attempt would have been successful if you had first wet the tire sidewalls with soapy water.

  6. #6
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    You can make a similar device at home for dirt cheap.
    I'm a mountain bike guide in southwest Utah

  7. #7
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    Alright folks-

    Wanted to share a bit of an update on the Vanhelga's in real world use.

    But first to respond to the prior two comments:

    That first attempt would have been successful if you had first wet the tire sidewalls with soapy water.
    I disagree with this notion. It is possible, but unlikely. The rim was already pretty soaking in Stan's from the last tires. In my experience when air is leaking from a fat setup, it is leaking through large gaps. Now perhaps that extra lubrication could have been enough to push parts of the bead up onto the shelf, but I don't think so.

    You can make a similar device at home for dirt cheap.
    This is true. And I even acknowledged that compressor could be cheaper than the pump. I was looking for a compact, ready-to-go solution, and this was it. I was hoping to make my life easier, not add one more project. I work a lot, so time to ride or do anything else is pretty sacred.

    OK...onto the review of the tires themselves. Now remember these are setup tubeless on HED 82 mm rims with about 5 oz of Stan's. We have been absolutely blessed with lots of consistent snow and cold temps lately. Honestly, it is some of the best fatbiking conditions I have ever seen here in Montana. More than that, it is the exact kind of conditions for which the Vanhelga's are supposedly built.

    I will start this by admitting that I have never ridden Bud and Lou, nor have I ridden 100mm rims with any tire. I have ridden a lot of fat tires though, including: Endomorph, Larry, Nate, Dillinger 4 - studded and unstudded, Hodag, On-One Floater. I think I have a pretty good basis for comparison. I also would not claim to be an Iditasport or Arrowhead kind of guy, but I have been riding fat bikes for 6 years now.

    Enough background, onto the review itself.

    Tubeless:
    After mounting the tires, they wept some sealant for about 30 minutes and then remained bone dry since. I will comment on one incident with some leaking below. The long and short of it is that they have been quite reliable tubeless. I have been running them 2-3 psi front, 3-5 psi in the rear. Seen temps as low as 0F. There was one incident, probably the second or third ride, when we were breaking track through deep, unconsolidated sugar snow. I lowered the pressures to very, very low with the front palm test going to rim with minimal resistance. On the descent, I stopped briefly, happened to press the front and found that it was basically flat and heard a bit of hissing and saw some sealant leaking at one of the HED rim joint areas. I shook the rim, pumped up the tire a bit, and that was that. Rode home never to have an issue again.

    Traction:
    With regard to their performance, I have been very pleased. Like I said, I have never ridden Bud or Lou, but I think that the Vanhelgas probably max out the capability of the beargrease carbon. By the way, even after stretching, they still fit with ease on a 2 x 10 setup. The Vanhelga’s power up loose sections with surprising aplomb. With the rear reversed, I would say that they have a bit more go juice than Nate’s. Where the Vanhelgas shine is in their predictable, progressive nature. They tend not to just let go suddenly at their limit. Also, when you are fighting to stay on a narrow packed-in track, they are the first tire that I have ever ridden that will fight back onto the track with the front tire after falling off into unconsolidated snow.

    I don’t have occasion to ride with other fatbikers much, but there are quite a few around here. I know that I am likely to incur the wrath of the Bud/Lou jihadists, but I will say that I was able to complete several climbs on which I saw all other comers turn around including Bud/Lou tracks. Now maybe the snow or temps were better on my day, but this happened multiple times. Bottom line: I am super impressed by the snow traction, and the Vanhelgas have really been challenged by the conditions here lately. On packed, firm snow, they have more grip than a 29er on loose over hardpack. I will post some pictures below as examples of our conditions lately. They are not a 5.5 inch tire, nor are they a snowmachine, but they are damn good.

    Rolling resistance:
    They roll surprisingly well. Initially, I had them both setup with the V’s facing forward, and I was really surprised by how fast they were. I did end up switching the rear around for just a little more bite, and I do notice more noise and resistance coming from the rear. Noticeably faster than a studded Dillinger 4 on pavement. Definitely faster than On One Floaters and Nates. Not quite as fast as a Hodag.

    Self steer:
    The Vanhelga’s also have *ZERO* self steer. We are talking world’s apart from a Dillinger 4 or even a Hodag. With this tire on the front, even at low pressures on pavement, it just steers like a normal bike. Simply wonderful.

    Ride quality:
    Simply the best I have ever experienced with any tire. These things are buttery supple. Even at higher pressures, they absorb bumps more effectively than any fat tire I have ridden. Really class leading in this regard.

    Quick Review: Bontrager Flashcharger + 45NRTH Vanhelga-img_2458.jpg

    Quick Review: Bontrager Flashcharger + 45NRTH Vanhelga-img_2470.jpg

    Quick Review: Bontrager Flashcharger + 45NRTH Vanhelga-img_2505.jpg

    Quick Review: Bontrager Flashcharger + 45NRTH Vanhelga-img_2524.jpg

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