Whenever a person finds pleasure in experiencing a hobby, they usually find it alluring to enjoy different trends related to that activity. But like everything else in life, every trend has a pro and a con.
The same applies to mountain biking, too.
An appropriate example of a trend like this is fat biking. Initially, some daring bikers accepted them purely out of curiosity, while others didn’t understand the practicality behind the concept.
With time, however, people started to see the utility behind them and fat bikes started to build a fan following.
That said, even today, some people are still apprehensive of the idea. But the ones who have experienced a fat bike have loyal advocates. So the question is, why fat tire bike? Is it a useful purchase?
Let’s start by addressing the what first.
What is Fat Biking?
To put it simply, fat biking combines the frame and look of a mountain bike with fat tires that are at least 3.8 inches wide and can exceed 5 inches in rare cases. However, even though the bike’s frame may look the same, there are several differences.
For starters, a fat bike doesn’t have a suspension fork. Meaning, you’re only going to rely on your tires for suspension while riding.
Moreover, you’re not going to fill fat tires with the same air pressure as a regular mountain bike tire. This decreased air pressure increases your bike’s suspension and comfort while riding.
Another benefit of fat tires is that you can often feel like you’re flying. When you’re riding with soft and wide tires, you get brilliant traction.
This means whether you’re riding your bike in the mud or the snow, the bike won’t slide around as normal bikes do, and there won’t be much discomfort either. The best fat bike can give you a smooth ride on pretty much any terrain.
How Did Fat Biking Get Started?
Fat bikes have a complex history.
Two different places claim to have started fat biking, and both claims have the same timeline, so no one knows who started fat biking.
The bikes started to gain popularity back in the 80s when they were created for people in Alaska to have a reliable transportation method during the heavy snow seasons.
At the same time, these bikes also started to get famous in the deserts of New Mexico since the tires could grip the sand easily, just like the snow. Widespread advertisement popularity took a few more years for the boom.
Surely Bikes was one of the first few companies that started manufacturing fat bikes commercially, calling their fat bike Pugsley.
However, several manufacturers are jumping on the trend and are making different kinds of fat bikes. Now, in the US and the UK, fat biking is one of the most popular trends.
How Does a Fat Bike Work?
Manufacturers of fat bikes suggest that the tires should be filled with air pressure between 25 and 65 psi.
The lower air pressure gets the tire to compress because of the rider’s weight, which increases the tire’s surface area that comes in contact with the ground.
In challenging conditions like sand or snow, the extra width of the tire can let the rider float easily over uneven terrain.
On a snow-packed trail, you can glide through those tricky icy corners that may have sent you hurtling if you were on a regular mountain bike. Moreover, since the tires are soft, the ride is a lot more comfortable, too.
Even though fat bikes can make it easy to ride on snow trails, it doesn’t necessarily mean that riding on snow is easy.
You may be able to stay upright easily, but you’ll still have to muscle your way through the thick sand or snowdrifts. All in all, it’s going to be a workout.
Let’s not forget the weight penalty, too. The larger tires and rims add about four pounds to the bike’s weight. This penalty isn’t too concerning since most bikers are focused on having fun rather than shaving pounds off their bike.
Reasons You Should Get A Fat Tire Bike
They Make It Easy to Reach Your Fitness Goals
Staying fit during the winters can be hard, but outdoor exercise can be an option if you have a fat bike. Not only can you ride them easily, but it’s also going to be a tough workout.
In soft conditions, you can easily burn up to 1,500 calories. But on the other hand, you may recover more easily from a one-hour long run.
Since you’re not bearing weight during a run, the recovery time is less even though you’re using your core strength.
However, if you’re interested in cross-fit training, try riding a fat bike as a cool-down exercise. But it would help if you didn’t think of fat bikes simply as muscle-burners.
Even though most fat bike owners ride their bikes 76 days a year on average, some riders love the suspension and stability so much that they ride them every day throughout the year.
Additionally, some fat bikes can also accept different wheel sizes, so you put a rim with a skinny rubber, and you’ll be fit for the summer!
They Make Exploring Fun
Fat bikes are enticing regular outdoor explorers. Since these bikes have improved grip and traction on the trickiest terrain, whether it’s a muddy path or a meandering hill, you’ll be able to tread anywhere you possibly want to.
Leaving your bicycle locked to a pole and carrying on with the journey on foot is no longer going to be a worry since fat bikes can accompany you everywhere.
Moreover, you can also take them to those hot beaches where mountain bikes don’t fare well since they don’t skid or slip.
Tire Pressure Has Never Been this Low
While novice riders may not understand why this is a benefit, experienced riders know the struggle.
How well a bike rolls through sand or snow is all about your tire’s PSI, and finding the right tire pressure level is all about experimentation.
But when you’re using a fat bike, you’re going to experiment at the low end since you’ll want to keep your tires soft for suspension.
This is what contributes to the bike’s amazing floating feeling. There’s no set formula for figuring out the perfect PSI level, but the general range for most bikers is between 5 to 8 PSI.
However, sticking to a lower tire pressure will be your best bet if your tire is wider and you’re on tricky terrain.
For general trails, however, riders stick between 8 to 12. If you go too high or too low, the bike can get bouncy.
Getting Into Fat Bike Racing Is Easy
The fat bike racing fraternity is one of the most welcoming. There is no heat before the races, just mass starts.
The Fat Bike World Championships that happen annually in January are mostly hosted in Crested Butte, Colorado.
Even though it may sound like a highly competitive competition, the race is unsanctioned, and anyone can register in the competition. This three-day event welcomes hundreds of riders and has elevations of up to 9,000 feet.
On the first day of the event, riders can experience free bike demos, and there’s also a fat bike polo tournament.
On the second day, the race begins, and after the race concludes, there’s live music and free food for the competitors.
As the event ends on the third day, riders can experience a laid-back fat bike ride sponsored by 45NRTH.
The Weather Won’t Impact Your Rides
Some sports fanatics are willing to go to every extent to get their day’s work out. If you’re one of those people, you should consider getting a fat bike. Even if it’s raining, you can go out for your daily trail and burn those extra calories to keep yourself fit.
You can’t enjoy the same luxury on a regular mountain bike. You may even end up hurting yourself!
Low Maintenance Requirements
Everyone in the mountain biking world knows that fat bikes have rigid tires, and the manufacturers don’t put in too much effort on the bike’s frame. Moreover, since the bike has large and soft tires, it also does not have a suspension fork.
So even though a fat bike may cost more than a regular mountain bike, you don’t have to worry too much about the maintenance cost while buying a fat bike.
It Has Better Balance
For a beginner pedaling into the mountain biking world for the first time, the territory may seem unfamiliar. Terrains are rougher than roads, and keeping your balance on such a harsh trail isn’t necessarily child’s play. Consequently, for beginner riders, a fat bike is a suitable option.
The wider surface translates into better balance for the rider. With some practice, beginners can get the hang of it.
Furthermore, since they don’t have a high speed (unless you have seriously strong muscles), you’re less likely to get injured on a fat bike.
A New Way of Riding a Bike
The unique features and look of fat bikes make riding them a fun experience. So if you have one, you can enjoy local trails while also getting a different perspective.
Moreover, the bike’s semi suspension tires also let you explore those areas that can are only rideable with a wide rubber tire.
But on the other hand, a fat bike is also a good way to socialize with new people. Experienced riders often need something to slow them down so their friends and dear ones can keep up with them.
Even though the comical proportions of the bike may easily make you stand out in the crowd, other people can only experience the fun once they ride a fat bike.
Remember, the fat bike experience is more about enjoying the outdoors slowly and less about speed.
Is It Tough to Ride a Fat Bike?
This depends on how you’re riding your bike and where you’re riding it. Fat bikes are indeed harder to pedal when compared to regular mountain bikes, but they are nicer over rough terrain.
If you’re trying to speed your way past a smooth pavement, then a fat bike may not be the best option.
In the case of fat bikes, weight is usually the main culprit that makes the riding experience difficult. Even though frames in the market are made from carbon fiber, these frames cost a lot more than traditional frames.
Furthermore, even the tires on a fat bike weigh more. To ensure the ride is smooth, riders also deflate the tires to some extent.
Moreover, fat bikes also have good suspension so that the rider can have more control when they hit those hard bumps. This heavy suspension and soft tires can also make the bike harder to pedal than traditional bicycles.
But if you’re considered just about the ride itself, it’s mostly about the surface you’re riding the bike on.
A fat bike’s tire is built for swamps, sand, logs, and rocks. If you’re riding on these surfaces, the riding experience can be a lot easier than any other ride you’ve taken on a bike.
The bike will absorb the shocks and go over sand smoothly. But if you’re on pavement, you’ll have to pedal much harder to gather momentum.
All in all, if you’re considering getting a fat bike just for your daily commute, it’s probably going to be a bad idea. But if you’re considering buying a summer trail with your friends, you’re going to enjoy the experience!
How Much Does It Cost?
The prices of fat bikes can vary greatly.
This price easily depends on the features, material, and brand they’re made of. As mentioned before, a fat bike is more expensive than a fixie or a regular mountain bike.
If you want to compare the price of a fat bike with a mountain bike, you’ll have to consider a high-priced mountain bike for equal competition.
Budget fat tire bikes can fall between $500 to $1,500, which is a good number considering they were hard to find when they first arrived and had high prices.
However, if you are looking for a cheaper fat bike, you can look for one at Walmart. That said, these bikes won’t be too sturdy, and you don’t want to ride a weak bike while you’re in the mountains.
If you are looking for a quality fat bike, you should consider the following factors:
- The frame: A light frame is always the better choice, but it’s also going to be more expensive than any other option.
- Tire width: A wider tire is always more expensive. That’s because it has a better grip and is sturdier.
- The brand: Self-explanatory. Even though new brands can give the two preceding features, go for established brands with the budget since their bikes are often the most reliable.
Prices can easily go higher, with some fat bikes costing somewhere between $1,800 and $3,000. The price can depend on how the bike can handle different terrains, the brand, and the materials used to make the bike.
So before you decide which bike you’re going to get, shop around and understand why fat tire bike.
Can You Fit Fat Tires On Different Bikes?
Long story short: you can’t.
Fat tire bikes have 4-inch wide tires that fit into custom-made brackets. These tires won’t be able to fit into any other bike that you may find. You can put typical lightweight tires on a fat tire bike, but you can’t do it the other way round.
The bracket won’t have enough space for the tire. On the other hand, plus-sized tires wider than usual tires but not as fat as fat bike tires are starting to become popular.
So possibly, in the not-so-distant future, you may be able to do this.
A fat tire bike is generally safer than other bikes you can find in the market since they provide more contact with the surface. Since they’re heavier, they can’t be blown away by the wind, and they don’t slip on soft or moist surfaces.
But should you stop riding your daily bike for a fat bike?
No. You shouldn’t. You don’t even have to purchase one since having one is not a necessity.
But for what it’s worth, you should at least try riding a fat bike. If you don’t enjoy it, you cancel out another item from your bucket list. On some occasions, a bike should be allowed to forget about weight, rolling distance, time, or speed, for that matter.
They should be allowed to focus on the experience of riding a bike that isn’t only dedicated to performance. When you find this gap, this unfulfilled need, you expose yourself to a simple pleasure: the pleasure of riding a bike, simply because you love doing it.
I am Michael, an avid rider and bike expert. I am here to provide, biking tips and expert advice on in-depth bike reviews covering features, capabilities, price range, and much more. Specially on electric bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, etc. I will provide honest product reviews, along with expert advice on purchasing, training, and maintenance. Check out my complete profile.