More and more people are now using fat-tire bikes, or more commonly called fat bikes.
They’re a huge head-turner because of their hyper-wide tires similar to the tires of a highway cruiser motorcycle.
But what is a fat bike made for? Are they just for the sake of aesthetics and style? Or do they serve a much deeper purpose and function for cyclists and commuters?
That’s what this article will talk about. Here, we’ll discuss what fat bikes are made for, their pros and cons, as well as answer common questions about these bikes.
What are fat bikes made for?
Fat bikes are specifically made for riding on sand and snow. Fat bikes have “fat” tires which are why they’re called like that in the first place.
Budget fat bikes can easily be ridden on loose sand and snow without you worrying that you’ll slip or get stuck in. The wide tires won’t easily sink into the sand or snow because they are wide enough to resist the bike’s weight.
However, many people are now using fat bikes on mountain bike trails and even paved roads. Although they still do well on these kinds of terrain, they won’t perform that well compared to mountain bikes and road bikes.
How thick are fat bike tires?
A fat bike tire measures around 3.8 inches to 5.2 inches in width. These come with a rim width measurement of 50 mm to 100 mm.
Meanwhile, the mountain bike wheel’s diameter is usually 27.5 inches. But there are still smaller 26-inch wheels out there, which are cheaper. Furthermore, the rear hub spacing is around 170 mm to 190 mm and 135 mm to 170 mm upfront.
Compare that to most mountain bikes which have standard mountain bike tires measuring 1.9 inches to 2.2 inches for cross-country variants and 2.3 inches to 2.5 inches for enduro and downhill bikes.
Rim width is around 25 mm to 35 mm, and wheel size is usually 27.5-inch. However, larger wheels with a 29-inch diameter are becoming more common these days because they provide a better bike riding performance.
Benefits of Using a Fat Bike
One of the biggest reasons why fat tire bikes are becoming more popular these days is because they are comfortable to ride on. This is because they absorb the vibration from the ground pretty well thanks to their fat tires.
Fat bike owners and fat bike advocates also like the fact that their tires also don’t need to be inflated that much because they do well even in low PSI or if they’re ridden on soft surfaces. This means that their tires act as an additional suspension system which makes them more capable of riding through rough roads.
Its PSI can even go as low as 10 and 15 PSI upfront and at the back respectively.
Another nice thing about fat bikes is that they don’t require much maintenance. Compared to a regular mountain bike that usually has a full-suspension system. Fat tire bikes don’t have any shocks.
In fact, they’re rigid. This means that they don’t have a suspension fork and a rear shock to absorb any bumps.
Aside from that, most fat bikes don’t have any linkage system that you need to service regularly and ensure that it’s always lubricated. The chances of parts or sections being damaged or needing repair are just very low, especially that repairs cost a lot, such as in suspension forks.
Grippy on slippery surfaces
A fat bike provides excellent traction on slippery surfaces because of its wide tires, unlike normal bikes. This makes it ideal for beginners who aren’t still very good at off-road cycling or riding through muddy or wet roads and trails with narrow tires or off-road tires.
Works great on sand and snow
Fat biking is what you need if you live in a place where there’s a lot of sand or snow. The fat tires of these bikes help you easily glide through grains of sand because it doesn’t sink.
You also don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the snow because the knobby tires simply flick out any snow or debris that’s on their way.
Disadvantages of Using a Fat Bike
A fat tire bike is a heavy bike because they have big tires and rims, unlike most cruiser bikes. Regular fat bikes with fat wheels weigh around 30 lbs. to 40 lbs. There is even a fat tire electric bike that’s heavier than that! Compare that to a regular bike which is around 25 to 30 lbs. Some high-end carbon cross-country bikes even weigh as low as 20 to 25 lbs. You’ll just have a hard time riding a fat bike on rough terrain with your own riding style.
Fat bikes have more rolling resistance because they have wider tires with low tire pressure. This means that they don’t easily move on their own.
You need to pedal harder with a fat tire bicycle to make it move. Low PSI wide tires give you soft tires that will just slow you down especially if you’re riding on pavement or dry trails and bike paths. You’re just going to spend more time on your saddle.
Many fat-tire bikes have heavy and bulky tires which makes them less maneuverable and responsive. It then makes it harder for you to navigate technical terrain. The oversized tires might give you a comfortable ride and improve ride quality but it’ll just slow you down on uneven terrain.
It’s just like bringing with you a huge tractor instead of a sports car. That’s how it feels. This is why other people have a bike rack installed so they don’t have to pedal their bike with a wide tire width in the front wheel and rear wheel to the bike shop.
A fat tire bike is downright inefficient. Some might disagree with this, but that’s what we have observed over the years of riding a mountain bike.
There’s just too much contact between the tire and the ground for many fat bikes. And this contact isn’t really that necessary because you can just learn how to balance and play with your maneuvering skills on your bike.
You are just spending more energy to overcome that resistance even if you choose the best fat-tire bikes. Not to mention that these bikes are heavier (and also ugly) compared to standard mountain bikes!
Fat tire bikes are useful for riding on snow and ice because they prevent your tires from sinking and slipping off slippery sections.
But aside from that, there’s really not anymore any real practical benefit you can get from it. Unless of course, if you just like to stand out from the crowd with your chunky tires.
If you don’t always ride on deep sand or snow, then better get a proper mountain bike. Don’t worry about having a harder time learning how to balance. Because you can easily learn that and have fun riding if you just ride your bike often.