Fat Bikes: Be in the Know
In the past there were only so many surfaces fit for biking, such as roads and select trails. However, since the rise of fat bikes that has changed. Fat bikes allow their users to bike on all sorts of previously inaccessible terrain, like snow, sand, and bogs. They’re a great investment for those who would rather have one all-purpose bike rather than multiple different bikes for different situations.
How Do They Work?
Fat bikes get their name from their fat tires, which are generally between 4 to 5 inches wide. This gives the tires of fat bikes far more ground contact than that of a normal bike and even a mountain bike. The increased amount of ground contact lessens the impact rough surfaces have so that the fat bike can simply roll over it with minimal effects.
The tires of fat bikes run at a lower pressure than traditional bikes, and this gives the tires even more surface area than they already have. Low pressure also means that the tires of a fat bike are able to shape itself to the surface it is on, and therefore be impacted less by the terrain it is on. Actually, the main reason fat bikes are able to travel on surfaces such as snow and sand are because of the lower pressure the tires are run at for they allow the tires to “float” where other tires would sink.
What are They Good For?
Fat bikes are a worthy purchase for a number of reasons, but their claim to fame is their ability to traverse difficult terrain. These hardy vehicles can travel across snow, sand, rocks, logs, and even glaciers. For avid bikers who wish to extend their biking season or for daring adventurers who wish to expand the number of trails they can explore, a fat bike is a must.
Though they excel when it comes to crossing challenging turfs, fat bikes can absolutely still be used as normal bikes. One would only have to change the pressure of the tires to fit the surface they plan to bike on. Fat bikes can be taken to park trails or even just driven around a local area. Something to note is that fat bikes are heavier than traditional bikes because of their frames, so those biking to work out can work out a bit extra in the same amount of time. Fat bikes provide a slower ride than that of a regular bike, which is a plus for those who prefer traveling at a more relaxed pace.
Buying a Fat Bike
Depending on how often the fat bike will be used and what it will be used for, purchasers of a fat bike will have to make decisions ranging from tire width to suspension to frame material and more.
While the defining feature of fat bikes are their fat tires, the ideal tire size for a fat bike is not always the widest. The recommended width is 4 inches for the complete fat bike experience, but for those who plan to mainly use their fat bike for snow and sand, widder tires for more float might be preferred. Rims should be matched with tire width. For tires that are 4 inches, rims around 60-80mm are suggested, and for tires that are 5 inches rims that don’t exceed 100mm are suggested. Weight wise, it is not the brightest move to opt for the lightest tires because they will be prone to wobbling and might even contribute to bobbing. Regarding pressure, that will largely depend on the type of terrain the bike is being taken out on, but 8-10 psi is a good starting range.
A full suspension bike is not an absolute must for a fat bike unless the surface the bike will be riding on is especially rough or the fat bike is intended to be the primary bike. Otherwise, a rigid fork fat bike is the more cost-effective option.
- Frame Material
The typical frame materials for fat bikes are aluminum and steel. However, fat bike frames can also be found in titanium and carbon. Carbon frames are ideal for those who want a lighter ride.
- Other Noteworthy Features
Fat bikes are obviously more than just a frame and tires. There are hubs, bottom brackets, and also brakes to think about. As it stands there is not much standardization for hubs and bottom brackets, so at the moment when purchasing consumers should just be aware that the stance width of cranks is often increased on fat bikes because of their wider rear hub spacing. Those who might have an issue with this should consider purchasing a fat bike with a narrower bottom bracket shell. Brake wise, some fat bikes have cable disc brakes, but if possible, consumers should get hydraulic disc brakes.
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