I had never heard of fat biking until I started doing some research for a bike rack for a truck. One of the search results was a bike rack that can carry a fat tire bike. Apparently, fat bikes or fat tire bikes have become quite popular, and I never got the memo:). So, after reading a number of articles, the idea of a bike that lets me ride year round, in the snow, mud, sand has become more and more appealing.
I am still a beginner on this subject and do not own a fat bike yet, but I am very much interested in saving money to buy one. I wanted to share my reasons, that way maybe I can answer some of the questions you might be asking if you are a newbie like me.
What is a fat tire bike?
A fat bike or a fat tire bike is an off road bike (looks like a mountain bike) with oversized tires and wider rims. These tires are designed for low ground pressure which allows you to ride on soft terrain such as snow, sand, mud. If you have any friends who are into jeeping, rock crawling, you know how they adjust the tire pressure based on where they are driving. A fat tire bike allows you to do that. It is almost an all-terrain bike.
Image by Dustin Gaffke
How wide are fat bike tires?
Fat bike tires are typically 26 x 4.0 inches, however, most are 26 x 3.8 or 3.7 inches. A normal mountain bike tire is about 2 inches wide.
The rims are 44 mm to 100 mm (1.74 inches to 3.94 inches). I have even read that there are 140 mm (5.5 inches) rims. Because of the tire size, the frame of the bike is wider as well, especially the spacing for the tires.
There are even 29+ inch tires. I believe these are a cost effective way to turn your winter fat bike which normally uses 26-inch tire, into a summer bike. Although you should make sure the frame of your bike can handle a 29+ inch tire.
How to fat bike in the snow?
The fat tires allow you to use them with low air pressure, which results in the tires to grip more of the surface. Also, because the tires are wider, you get a larger contact patch to the ground. When you combine these two factors, you get a bike that you can ride on surfaces you wouldn’t even consider with your ordinary mountain bike, such a snow. For most mountain bikes the tire pressure is somewhere between 30-50 psi. With fat tires, you can go as low as 5 psi. Most of the time 8 to 10 psi ideal.
Image by Philipp Heck
Obviously, the more experience you have to more comfortable you will become riding in the snow. There are even groomed bike trails that are specifically, well, “groomed” for winter trail riding for fat bike riders. If you don’t have one where you live, maybe you can open one :). There are a bunch of them all over the United States.
Forbes even published an article about it, you can read it here.
If riding in the snow was the only benefit of a fat tire that would be enough for me to consider buying one. But there is more 🙂
Biking in the sand?
The idea of being able to ride a bike on the beach is what really put fat biking on the radar for me. I am not a winter person. Although, I would definitely enjoy riding my bike in the snow around town, especially when everybody is snowed in and I am the only one out there with no traffic, the fact that I can be on the beach feeling the sun, hearing the ocean, the waves, riding, that sounds amazing to me.
Image by Luis Marina
All the benefits of a wide fat tire apply here as well, the low tire pressure with a wide surface lets you ride your bike on sand. I have read from actual bikers that it feels like you are floating on sand.
Imagine yourself in California, North or South Carolina, Florida or anywhere in the world that has beautiful beaches with great sunsets. You and your friends riding, I don’t know about you but that sounds incredibly peaceful to me. You can ride in Alaska, from sand to snow, beautiful sunsets in San Diego (one of my favorite places to visit).
You don’t live next to a beach. No problem, chances are there might be a national park in your state that already has a fat biking trail. Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, for example, allows fat biking, or Ludington State Park in Michigan. Fat biking has become such a craze over the last couple of years, these trails have been popping up all over the place.
Image by Jereme Rauckman
Fat biking health benefits
Other than the obvious benefits that biking in general offers, fat biking specifically provides additional benefits. The first one is the ability to ride year around regardless of weather conditions. You don’t have an excuse anymore, can’t blame the snow for not being active. If you are riding in cold weather you will most likely burn more calories because you work harder.
Fat bikes tend to be heavier than a mountain bike which provides building better muscle endurance. You also will build more mental endurance as well. Riding in snow or sand, especially in the beginning is more of a mental challenge as well as a physical challenge.
Are fat bikes hard to pedal?
As far as I can tell from everything I have read, no they are not. They just feel different at first, especially if you have been riding a road bike most of your life. Yes, a fat bike is heavier, but your RPMs are lower than a mountain bike because of the tire size. Once you get used to how it feels, it is just like riding a bike:), a better workout than a regular bike.
Are they heavy?
Depends on what you want to use them for, how much you want to spend, what brand you buy. I know these are very generic answers but there are so many different frames, light carbon, Chromoly steel you are going to have to do a little bit of research. I may update this blog once I find one I like.
Are they expensive?
Again depends on what you are looking for.
Why do I want one?
There is a bar where I live that stays open even during a snow storm when everybody is snowed in, off work or off school. They encourage their customers to come to the bar wearing swim trunks and bikinis. The first time I went to that bar with my friends (one of them owns a 4 wheeler that can go anywhere, that thing is a beast, he is a rock crawler), first I thought to myself, this is awesome, there is a bunch of people here wearing swimwear in the middle of a winter snowstorm, genuinely having a great time. Second, I thought, I wish I had a 4 wheeler myself.
That bar is actually walking distance away from where I live.
When I found out about fat biking, the first picture that popped into my head was me riding a fat bike to that bar and seeing everybody’s reaction. I don’t even drink, but I just want to do that🙂
Then, like I mentioned above, I found out that I can go fat biking on the beach. I don’t want to spend money buying an all-terrain 4 wheeler, but I can totally see myself buying an all-terrain fat bike. I don’t know what your personal reason may be, or what pops into your head when you think of owning a fat bike, but I bet whatever it is, it is not boring. I bet it is quite the opposite. Fun and exciting!