The best way to incorporate fun into life while getting health benefits is to ride a bike. Given the need and demand for the same, you can easily find different varieties of bikes available in the market. But do you know which bike will be suitable for use all year long?
Well, fat bikes are reliable purchases to ride throughout the year. It is especially becoming more and more popular these days. Even if you haven’t heard of fat bikes, you’ll recognize them when you see them.
The purchase of fat tire bikes will be a great choice especially if you intend to take up bicycling as a hobby. However, there remains a lot of confusion about what fat bikes are or how they are used.
If you too are wondering what fat bikes are good for? Or what are they? Then this detailed guide will be helpful for you to get familiarized with fat tire cycles.
An Introduction to the Thrills of Riding — Fat Bike
If described in simple words, a fat bike is a cycle that comes with wide tires, the width of which can be between 4 to 5 inches. This bike provides a powerful ride that everyone can enjoy.
I honestly believe that it is the sturdy and strong construction combined with the features that make it one of the best bikes you can buy.
While talking about the fork frame and wheels of this bike, are specially designed for wider tires. The goal of the tires here is to ensure the bike weight is distributed and the rider has got a larger surface area than a typical bike tire.
This works well for reducing the ground pressure, so the rider will be able to float over even on unstable lands, just like the mountain bike tires would.
And its low-pressure tire has the advantage of deforming the obstacles without getting caught up and bouncing. Hence, smooth rides are achieved through the reduction of vibration and bumps.
A Detailed Look at the Fascinating History of Fat Bikes
Fat bikes date back to the early 1900s. It wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that modern-looking fat bikes were introduced. Before this, bikes had 2-3 wheels, which were cleverly arranged side by side in an effort to increase the contact area.
A specialized bicycle frame was released in 2005 by Surly Bikes – based in Bloomington, Minnesota. A design of theirs was adopted by local bike shops worldwide. For the first time, fat bikes were available commercially to bikers thanks to Pugsley. A number of other bike companies have since followed suit and developed fat bike designs.
Until ten years ago, fat bikes were considered strange and odd. Nowadays, it is more accepted, more common, and even more affordably priced.
As a result of the versatility of the wheels, fat bikes have become increasingly popular around the world. Their ability to ride on snow and mud makes them suitable for all seasons. Hence, the biking season now lasts all year long!
Why Fat Tire Bikes are Ideal for Off-Road Riding Adventure
Fat biking has seen a great demand over the last few years. It ensures a comfortable ride experience, making it best for use throughout the year.
So if you are hoping to purchase a fat tire bike, then you must know it will be absolutely worth it.
Here are the reasons that will help you understand why bike lovers love their fat bikes.
1. Wide Tires
The patent fat bike tires have grown greatly over the years. It has now been increased from 4 inches to 5 inches in some cases.
When talking mountain bike tires, they can only range from 2 to 3 inches. Also, there are the regular road bikes which will have tires of about 1 inch.
2. Fat Bike-Specific Frames
Forks and frames will need space for the huge rubber, and whatever is between them will be moved as well. You will notice that the fattest bike wheels at the axle will be broader.
In fact, the paddles are further apart than the regular bikes. In simple words, they are nothing like mountain bikes, and the frame design is fundamentally different.
3. Wider Wheels
Undoubtedly the wider tires will require a wide rim to ensure the wheels and the tires can stay together. Thus, there will be a wide distance in the center with a huge hub and axle for reducing flex.
4. Allow riding in sand, snow, and mud
The fat tire bikes can be used all across the seasons. This is possible because of the wide tires, which help distribute the bike’s, rider’s, and the gear’s weight across more surface area.
Thus, the fat tires will put less pressure on the ground. It assures the fat tires can easily roll over the sand, snow, and mud instead of getting caught up like a regular mountain bike.
Additionally, extra-wide tires will create a larger contact patch, which will improve traction on slippery surfaces. You won’t slide out when riding a fat tire bike, even when you hit a patch.
It is recommended that you install studded tires if you want to increase your traction on ice. With this, you’ll be able to ride a fat bike tire in places where a regular bike can’t go. As a result, fat bikes are a popular choice among those who live in snowy or arid regions.
5. Offer a comfortable and smooth ride
The fat bike has larger wheels which are much more comfortable, even with low tire pressure. This makes the tire extremely soft, which will help absorb the vibrations and the socks from the dirt trails and roads. Even when you hit a rock in the trail, the tire will easily absorb the impact.
It helps improve comfort while riding through tough terrain. The ride will be much smoother for the fat tire bike.
It should be noted that some fat full-suspension forks further enhance the recreational riding experience. Additionally, the fat bike frame geometry offers a comfortable riding experience while putting less pressure on the neck, back, and shoulders.
6. Help enjoy a good exercise session
The fat tire bikes are specialized in helping the person enjoy good exercise. After all, they require a lot more pressure from the end of the rider. Irrespective of the condition, you are riding in.
But make sure that you are ready to apply the effort, which can be way more than using a mountain bike. This makes them perfect for workout sessions, especially for weight loss.
You will notice that fat biking will actually improve your stamina and strength. Besides that, snowboarders and skiers have found it to be an excellent cross-training activity.
7. Allow for off-trail rides
When you get a fat tire bike, you will not be limiting yourself to the regular bike path. You can now go for your own trail, which can either be sandy beaches, soft snow, or off-trail riding. The fat tire bikes can easily handle all conditions.
Despite handling so much, they required less maintenance. This will help you accelerate faster and enjoy long distances more. By doing so, you will stay active and have a great time riding.
8. Great for beginners to build confidence
It is quite easy to handle fat tire bikes. You can easily navigate the technical terrain by lumbering over rocks and roots rather than steering around them. Even if you hit an obstacle, you may be able to easily overcome it because the wide tires will provide great stability and balance.
Keep in mind that since fat tires provide great traction, they are ideal for handling slippery surfaces like soft snow or sandy beaches without sliding out. The extra grip will allow you to turn, stop and accelerate as required.
This helps build confidence in an entry-level rider, especially when going ahead with off-trail rides or race series.
9. Best for bike packing and expedition
These bikes are specially designed to handle extreme conditions. This is why they are increasingly common in places with harsh weather conditions. That means with a good fat bike you can start backpacking and go on expedition rides.
The bikes can easily handle stream crossing, heights, trails, and even sandy beaches. You will have good gear on a fat bike which will ensure a comfortable experience.
10. Safer option
A major benefit of investing in bigger tires and a good fork is that you will have good stability. In short, fat bikes can help you stay protected even when doing winter riding. Hence it is a safer option than traditional bikes.
11. Require little maintenance
Normal bikes are superb machines to lose some extra pounds but it’s very tough to maintain them. And on top of that they require frequent chain lubrication to make the bike function efficiently. But when you ride on fat bikes you don’t have to worry about such factors. Because they don’t require such high maintenance to work optimally.
In simple words, you do not need to spend hours cleaning each and every part of your bike regularly. Plus fat bikes are quite tough which means your components will not die soon. So, you can save a lot of money here in comparison to other bikes.
12. Can handle more weight
With traditional mountain bikes, you have a hard time balancing gear and rider weight. However, fat bikes have an easy time balancing heavy weight thanks to wider wheels and a stiffer frame that can handle the load. Plus-size riders who struggle to ride traditional mountain bikes will find fat bikes an absolute godsend.
13. Fit all your needs
A fat bike can be used in quite a wide range of terrains and weather conditions.
In my own experience, I have seen people who own more than one bike for different purposes, which makes bike maintenance really challenging. Moreover, this is completely out of reach for some people because of budget issues.
Fat bikes, however, solve this problem completely since they can be ridden in snow, sand, trails, or even on your way to or from work.
14. Fewer broken spokes and cracked rims
There are very few cases of broken spokes and cracked rims with fat bikes, which is what I really like about them. Now the reason for this is shock absorber high volume fat tires. As a result, your rims and spokes don’t get impacted by any bump or drop on the way.
15. Can run at incredibly low air pressures
Low pressure makes fat bikes run very smoothly. For example, when riding a fat bike in soft conditions, you can run it with as low as 5 PSI. Logic dictates that high-volume tires cannot easily damage the rim at low pressure.
Furthermore, you need not be concerned about flat tires. Because most fat bike tires today are tubeless in comparison to tubed.
When riding fat bikes, you need to take into account the surface you are riding on. The ideal pressure for soft surfaces such as sand and snow is 5 – 8 PSI (.34 – .55 bar). A pressure range of 8 – 12 PSI (.55 – .83 bar) is best for general trail riding.
If riding on solid trails or rocky terrain, fat bikers may need to inflate their tire to 12 – 15 psi (.83 – 1 bar). In order to ride on pavement, you should air up your tires to 20 – 25 PSI (1.38 – 1.7 bar).
1 – 2 PSI can be reduced if the ride feels too bouncy. Whenever you feel like you are slipping around, let some air out. It may be possible to increase the pressure a bit when riding on a hard surface.
The models of fat bikes are more adaptable than you might think, given how widely they are used in tough terrain. The majority of fat bike riders ride their bikes all year round. It’s even possible to bike pack with some of them.
Note: It’s important to remember that fat bikes offer progressive forks and geometries that enhance their versatility for trail riding and winter rides.
A Guide to Entry-Level Fat Bike Components
Fat bikes can be found in different shapes, wheel sizes, materials, and a lot more which will surely make things confusing. If you are hoping to get a new fat bike, then here are the things you need to look for in its components while choosing one for yourself.
1. Frame material
You will see that most fat bike frames are generally made up of steel or aluminum. However, there are many other bike makers who use carbon fiber or titanium for the frames. The demand for fat bikes has grown greatly. Thus, there are bike production companies producing carbon fiber options too.
Each bike material comes with its own pros. So it will depend entirely on your preference and the price while making the purchase. No doubt, aluminum is a cost-effective material that offers a great strength-to-weight ratio. But it will be a bit heavier than the carbon frame, however, the price will be lower.
In contrast, the carbon bike provides a high strength-to-weight ratio and will be lighter with responsive frames. Although the cost of carbon fiber frames can be high, it will be worth investing in them.
As you already know, fat tire bikes have now become more mainstream. So steel is now a preferable material for frame production. It will be expensive and will offer a comfortable ride quality. The only drawback here is that it will be heavier than aluminum and carbon fiber.
2. Rigid or No suspension
Fat bikes are now becoming a major segment of mountain biking sports where no-suspension bikes are popular. But there is still a tendency to use rigid frames.
The majority of fat bike riders now choose to ride on smooth snow or dirt in which suspension is not needed. But you must understand that suspension components can significantly add to the fat bike costs.
3. Front Suspension
Riders often add good suspension forks as an aftermarket purchase. There are a lot of sellers providing better forks for fat bikes. Adding some front suspension will help you get a better grip when riding a fat bike in less ideal conditions.
It will be an added advantage for those riders who use the fat bikes for different conditions and technical terrain. The front suspension will help increase the fat bike’s versatility, especially for riders who use the bike all year long or go for regular mountain bike trails.
This is why you will see most fat bike riders generally look for a good front suspension. You must, however, make sure that the suspension is suited to your frame and component or not.
The fat bike tires are the main feature that can range in width from about 3.8 to 5 inches. Generally speaking, when the bike has a wide tire, there will be better traction. So if you are exclusively riding a bike on dirt or snow, then fatter tires surely are a better choice.
Also, you must know that fat bike tires can be found in a huge variety of trade patterns that suits rider preference. Most fat bike tires will be suitable for Icy conditions and sand.
5. Rim width
Similar to fat bike tires, you will see that the rims can also be found in different widths. Most fat bike rims typically range in width from around 65 mm to 100 mm. The narrower rims will not be suitable when you are hoping to use your bike in snow or sand.
When you match the rim width and the tire, it will ensure that the tread profile of the tire will be effective. This will also decrease the likelihood of blowing off the tire when running under super-low pressure.
6. Tube or tubeless
Just like the modern mountain bikes tire, you will see that the fat bike’s tires can also be tubeless. When you choose to get a tubeless setup, then it will improve your ride quality and reduce the chances of putting excessive weight on the bike.
The fat bike tubes generally are large, and the weight will be insignificant. So removing them from the bike will result in reduced weight. But before you go ahead with the same, make sure that both the tires and the rims are tubeless compatible.
Many fat bikes come with 27 to 27.5-inch wheels. This is due to the large size of the tires mounted around them, which increases the wheel size’s diameter. The companies typically choose the wheel size that they think will be suitable.
However, you must know there won’t be much difference noticeable in size but considering a larger diameter will provide you improved rolling resistance.
Most fat bike tires are suitable for usage in snow, sand, and tough terrain. This is why they typically have lower gearing to compensate for the increased drag, which will be created by the heavy weight of the bike, the surface condition, and the tire’s contact patch.
Mountain Bikes vs Fat Bikes
A fat tire bike is specialized for off-road biking. It is meant to fit extra wide tires to easily handle extreme weather conditions. The mountain bikes are also meant for off-road, but the fat bikes have wider tires.
So, fat tire bikes are meant for soft surfaces, while a mountain bike is good for handling harder surfaces. The details here will help you understand the major differences between the two.
A major noticeable difference between the mountain bike and the fat bike is its tires. Typically, fat bike tires are 3.8″ to 5.2″ wide.
On the other hand, mountain bike tires will range in size from 1.9″ to 2.6″. This clearly states the major difference between the bike tires.
This is why you will notice more fat bikes have wider rims. Also, the fat bike tire pressure can be as low as 5 to 14 PSI. But when talking about mountain bike tire pressure, it will range between 22 to 35 PSI.
A lower tire pressure distributes the rider’s weight and the bike’s weight more evenly. So the bike won’t shrink in snow or sand.
The fat tire bike, because of the wider tires, requires more frame space to accommodate the big tires. This is why you will see fat tire frames are designed with wider flaring seats, forks, chains, etc.
Without these modifications, there will be a natural limitation on how you can run a fat tire bike. In contrast, you will see that a mountain bike is built with a lot more traditional frame design.
Mountain bikes generally have got suspension which allows them to maintain the grip of the terrain and absorb the bumps easily. But you must know not all suspensions can handle hard terrain.
The fat bikes are suitable for soft surfaces as they have fat tires. This means they don’t generally require a suspension fork for better rides.
The pedals are known to be the Q factor of the bike. In the case of a mountain bike, you will see the pedals are more in line with the hips.
However, they stay apart in case of a fat bike. It might cause certain discomfort in the hips and the knees over time.
You will see most fat tire bikes and mountain bikes have disc brakes. This offers better-stopping power in tough terrain and allows better protection than a regular break.
Generally, they both have flat bars as well. However, in some mountain bikes, there can be very aggressive geometry. This is not the same in the case of the fat bike as they have got more relaxed and upright geometry.
Fat Bike vs Mountain Bike — Size and Component-based difference chart
|3.8” – 5.2”
|1.9” – 2.6”
|5- 14 PSI
|22- 35 PSI
|Front or/and rear suspension
|33 to 36 pounds
|28 to 34 pounds
|170 – 190 mm
|Typical Q Factor
What Sports/Events Can Be Enhanced by Using a Fat Bike
Almost all fat bike-based competition takes place in cold and chill weather when people enjoy being part of the snow.
One of the first major fat bike races in the country, the Alaskan Iditabike Race has had a significant effect on the creation of other fat bike races across the country, some of which have become official qualifying events.
I have listed a few of the most popular fat bike competitions and events below for your reference.
|No. of Competitors
|The Snowbike Festival
|The Fat Bike Birkie Race
|The US Open fat bike Beach Championships
|North Carolina, USA
|The Substance Projects Fat Bike Series
|South Dakota, USA
|Borealis Fat Bike World Championships
|IDITAROD Trail Invitational
The Ultimate Investment: Invest in a Fat Bike for Maximum Adventure!
No matter if you are looking for a fat bike to race on or just to ride around, it can fulfill it all. However, you need to know that the cost here will be a major factor that will determine if you should buy the bike or not.
You will have to decide how much you are ready to spend on a fat bike before you start the search so that you do not regret spending too much on the purchase. The cost of your fat bike greatly will depend on the brand and the type of features you are looking for. So being clear about things will help you choose the perfect option for fat biking.
For instance, you must specially consider your riding season, the bike rack, rear rack, suspension, etc., and compare it with the other fat bikes. You will see the fat bikes offer great quality and features over the other bikes. But make sure you are aware of fat bike costs for better analysis. This will help you buy a budget fat bike with all the extra features.
If you wish to buy entry-level models then, you can expect to spend around $500 to $1000 to get a quality fat bike. It will come with lighter accessories and moderate components. However, if you wish to get the top-notch components like the full suspension bikes, the cost will go up, up to $2000 or even beyond.
No doubt fat bikes can easily handle trail obstacles better than regular bicycles. But remember, it will require some extra spending to get better options for general trail riding.
Who should ride a fat bike?
People who enjoy cycling, off-road riding, snow riding, or beach rides should consider fat bikes. The tires will easily float over the surface without sinking and provide a better grip.
The fat bike happens to be a wonderful choice for the beginner cyclist. It will inspire confidence in them. The fat bikes can handle obstacles in technical terrains and offer better comfort than mountain bikes.
Further, they are also suitable for those who wish to exercise as you will be able to burn a lot of calories using a fat bike.
No doubt the fat bikes will have more weight as they are specifically designed for handling the technical terrains better. But they also offer excellent balance, low PSI that can easily absorb impact, and provide a comfortable ride.
However, the fat bike will not be the right choice for commuters who ride on well-built ground. It is a heavy bike, and the fat tire will be unnecessary and inefficient for road riding. Thus you must avoid the purchase of fat bikes as the extra bulk or weight here will make it harder to travel.
Fat Bike Major Cons
1. Fat Bikes Can Be Expensive
Getting a decent fat bike can end up being quite expensive if you don’t find a bargain. Additionally, the wheels aren’t going to be cheap.
It is important to remember that despite their high cost, they still provide significant value for money. It will be worth the investment since they last for years and provide a lot of enjoyment. A financial issue, however, may cause some difficulties.
2. Fat Bikes Can Be Slower
Cycling on the road with a fat bike will be slower than cycling on a road bike. Additionally, fat bikes should not be used for road racing. A fat bike has a larger frame and weighs more.
Fat bikes do slow you down quite significantly, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t ride on the road with them. I am simply saying that fat bikes are not about speed, and once you realize that, you should have no problem riding one.
3. You are Restricted with Tire Options
A fat bike has limited tire options when it comes to actual tires. They are all huge, chunky, and offer a great deal of grip, following the same sorts of lines. Nevertheless, this is partly due to the small number of companies manufacturing them.
Also, make sure you consider the terrain before you ride. The fat tire you choose for your bike will depend on that. Hence limiting your options even more.
4. Hips and knees can be affected by fat bikes
Fat bikes are designed with wider pedals than normal bikes because of their design.
There is nothing you can do about it, as it is to accommodate the wider frame. Some individuals, however, may experience problems with their hip and knee joints as a result of this change in angle.
It is especially important to make sure that the bike is fitting correctly for your height to avoid straining your joints. Having your fat bike measured properly is the best way to avoid this issue.
5. Fat Bikes Are Heavy
It has been mentioned before too that fat bikes have a lot of weight, and that can pose a challenge for some people. Weight can make it difficult for them to move around. This can make some riders feel like they are battling for control of their bike, and that can be frustrating.
This is not to say that these bikes are excessively heavy, but there are noticeable differences between them and a normal mountain bike. The fat bike may be too much for you if you feel you are already pushing your limits on your mountain bike.
6. Fat Bikes Have Fewer Gears
It is hard for fat bikes to offer a variety of gears based on the terrain, so if you like to play around with different gears, then you will likely be disappointed. Fat bikes typically have a single chainring and a 1x drivetrain with up to 12 gears. Some fat bikes, however, have only one gear, so that is something you should consider before buying one.
What are Fat Bikes Risks
There are a few risks associated with fat bikes that need to be aware of to prevent any major problems. Fat bikes generally ride at slow cycling speed so this can be the reason for the disbalance instability. However, with some practice, you’ll get the technique to handle any such scenario.
But still, always make sure to wear protective gear and this becomes mandatory when riding electric-assisted bikes. Moving ahead, another issue with fat bikes is the flat tire case.
I am not saying these bikes frequently face this problem. No not at all however when a flat tire happens it’s way tougher to deal with than normal bikes’ basic tires. Additionally, fat bikes pose a higher risk of falling than normal bicycles due to the conditions you’d usually be riding them in.
Apart from these risks we never know the future. So, be prepared in advance, and don’t forget to wear your helmet.
What are fat tire bikes for entry-level and midrange riders
Trek Farley 5
One of the most affordable fat bikes on the market, the Trek Farley 5 offers great value for the money. With comfortable geometry and a short turning radius, the Farley is reasonably lightweight and efficient on climbs. Thanks to the massive and meaty 27.5″ x 4.5″ Bontrager Gnarwhal tires, it has amazing traction when climbing or descending on snow and dirt.
In terms of component specification, it’s not particularly impressive but gets the job done. This model, however, has a concern with the saddle. All in all this bike is a great choice if you’re looking for a capable entry-level fat bike.
Reasons to buy
- Reasonable weight
- Super wide tires
- Floatation and traction
Reasons to avoid
- Uncomfortable saddle
Surly Ice Cream Truck
Ice Cream Truck is capable of handling it all, whether it’s logs and roots-covered singletrack or powdery snow or sand beaches. If the situation arises, you might even be able to hop over a grizzly bear.
Its short seat stays, long top tube, and 68-degree headtube angle make it fast and maneuverable. In its latest version, the Ice Cream Truck features a more aggressive geometry that allows it to climb and ride trails better than before. From a purchasing point of view, it is worth considering.
Reasons to buy
- Strong climbing ability
- Open up for wide terrain choices
- Fast, especially on downhills
- More-than-adequate stopping power
Reasons to avoid
- Undersized for frame bags
Giant Yukon 2
The entry of Giant into the fat bike market was only a matter of time since the company is one of the world’s biggest bike manufacturers. One of their two fat bikes, the Yukon 1, impressed riders a lot with its well-rounded performance and versatility.
Aluminum-framed Yukon fat bikes have rigid composite forks, which provide predictable and consistent performance across a wide range of fat bike uses. Thanks to its dropper seatpost, this bike climbs well and descends competently. Performance is also enhanced by its quality component specification.
Reasons to buy
- Dropper post
- Nice build
- Great all-around performance
Reasons to buy
- Moderately heavy
To Wrap Up — Fat Tire Bikes
A fat bike ride is worth the effort because of the tires. They will provide you with great traction on the terrain and ensure a smooth ride.
Fat biking will certainly make a big impression on everyone. In case you are a sports enthusiast or love exploring new trails, fat bikes may be right for you.
They will be much safer than other bikes. So why wait when you can enjoy better terrain or lose weight fast with a good fat bike? Get the perfect one today for hassle-free, smooth riding.
Still, if you have any suggestions or doubts or something that I have missed, feel free to drop a comment below. I will be more than happy to assist you with your query. Please follow our Facebook Page for more guides like this.
Fat Tire Bike — Frequently Asked Questions
Can you change a mountain bike into a fat bike?
It is impossible to make a mountain bike look like a fat bike. But you can surely increase the width of the tires to some extent. This will offer you better grip and comfort.
Is fat biking the best?
Fat bikes have received great popularity due to their excellent riding quality. Further, the maintenance required here is low. So the riders choose it for comfort and better quality rides.
How are mountain bike wheels different from fat bike wheels?
Just like the fat bike tires are wider than the mountain bike, the wheels will also be wider for easily fitting the tire. This is a minor difference that might not even be noticeable.
Is it difficult to pedal a fat bike?
A fat bike is generally heavy, but it is not as difficult to pedal as it looks. Remember, fat bikes are not meant for roads, so you will have to put some effort into riding.
How long can fat tires last?
The high-performance fat bike tires can easily last 500 to 3000 miles with normal usage. But make sure you pay attention to your bike for better durability.
How Fat Should My Bike Tire Be?
A fat bike tire usually measures between three and four inches, but some go up to five inches if they’ll be riding on snow. Make sure your tire’s width will fit both cases.
Can a Fat Bike be my Primary Bike?
Fat bikes work really well with loose sand, bumpy rocks, and snow. Nonetheless, fat bikes are unsuitable for smooth trails due to their not-very-ideal rolling resistance on such surfaces.
Can you get electric fat bikes?
Yes, you can get electric fat bikes too. Despite being in a completely different market, you see these bikes quite often. I think they are great for people who want a bit of assistance and fat tires, especially if they are new riders.