The first time I saw a fat tyre bike was a few years ago when I was at the Coed y Brenin Mountain Bike Centre in Wales, I had got to the end of one of the trails and I had just stopped where most of the other trails also finish and a guy with a fat tyre mountain bike was proudly showing it off to plenty of other interested riders. I must admit it wasn’t with an eye of envy I looked over at his bike with, I just thought, “Why?” Subsequently, I’ve seen fat tyre bikes, or “fat bikes” as they now often get termed, almost everywhere. I’ve seen kids riding them along the pavement, and I’ve seen adults riding them along the road, as well as out in the countryside and along the beach as well.
So what is a fat bike? What are its advantages? Should you get one?
From what I can tell fat bikes were first developed in the USA (no surprise there) for cycling trails in the snow. The problem with a standard mountain bike is that on any unpacked surface like snow, loose gravel or sand you start to lose traction and it becomes very hard to pick up any speed. You have to put in a lot of effort to get nowhere fast. It’s exactly the same when you try and walk in such conditions, you find yourself losing grip and sinking at every footstep. So fat bikes were designed with wider tyres (like the tennis racket-like snowshoes) to have a wider surface area for more grip.
Because of their wider and deeper tyres, the forks have to be wider and longer, and usually, the frame shortened to accommodate that. So fat bikes tend to look out of proportioned compared to bikes we’ve got used to. At first glance of a photograph of one, you may think you’re looking at a child’s bike. Since their popularity has increased extras have been added to some fat bikes to increase their uses such as suspension and gears. Really they don’t need as much suspension as a skinny bike because the deeper tyres absorb shock and can be under-inflated to compensate further, but if you plan to hit a mountain bike trail then full suspension always comes in handy!
The weight of a fat bike tends to be heavier than a comparative specification bike because the tyres weigh more. But they’re not as heavy as you suspect because they are often stripped of suspension forks, and the higher end bikes have carbon fibre frames.
Electric Fat Bikes
An issue with fat bikes is that they tend to be harder to ride, because you have to put in more effort. That’s why monster trucks have bigger engines! They often have tyres which weigh around 1.5kg each, so you’re driving an extra 1kg forward between your two tyres than a standard cyclist. If you’ve ever ridden a mountain bike on a road thinking you were going fast and then had a road cyclist fly past you, you’ll know what I mean. So this is where fitting a motor and battery to a fat bike comes in handy! With pedal assistance, you suddenly have a bike which can take on most terrains, and a pair of legs assisted by a motor that can get you there. You might be frowned at by a seasoned mountain biker, but if you’re new to mountain biking and want to have fun while you learn, an electric fat mountain bike could be the answer.
My first review of a fat bike was the Richbit RT 012 so please go check it out. We’ve also added a Fat Electric Bike Category to the Electric Bike Awards this year, identifying some of the best fat electric bikes available on the market.
Preview Fat Tyre Electric Bikes available on Amazon below: