I have tried many different types of cycling; folding bikes, touring, road bikes, cruisers, bicycle snowplow bikes, and now fatbikes.
What’s all the rave about fat bikes anyway?
If you haven’t tried fat bikes, its a whole different world of cycling. Forget about snow being a problem. Forget about rough grass fields being a problem. Forget about curbs being a problem. Ice is still a problem unless you get spiked tires (haven’t tried fat bike ones yet $260).
In a youtube video I saw a fatbike float in water. I kid you not!
I was waiting for prices to come down below $1000 and when they did, I bought an entry level EVO Brewster fatbike with massive 4.8″ tires. Lowest gear is about 35 gear inches. Top gear is about 99 gear inches which I don’t see being all that feasible unless bombing downhill or being pushed by a strong tailwind. Mostly I stick to lowest gear on rough surfaces anyways.
Some of the big differences between fat bikes and other kinds of bicycles are:
1) tire pressures can be reduced to almost nothing for soft surfaces like deep snow, beaches, mud etc.
2) at very low pressures I find the steering attempting to turn itself sharper (its those massively wide rims). At higher tire pressures I didn’t notice this.
3) was told that 5″ tires get you through loose snow and 4″ tires get you through packed snow. I charged through 6-12″ deep slushy snow before realizing that going faster wasn’t needed. Those big tires just kept rolling over everything.
4) pavement is not required. In fact, you’ll enjoy riding in places that have not been possible to ride before.
5) learning to power wheelie over curbs can be forgotten. Just ride towards the curb and those big tires will roll right over the curb with hardly any kind of sensation. With a normal bike, if you don’t lift the front wheel over a curb the bike will hit the curb and stop dead, possibly causing rim damage as you fall off the bike. No such embarrassment with a fat bike.
6) steering takes longer. Steering those massive tires means steering happens more slowly and surely. This makes fat bikes more stable.
7) fat bikes are longer. If you have had problems with the front tire lifting while pedalling up steep hills, time to forget about it.
8) fat bikes take longer to accelerate than road bikes. Put a road bike and a fat bike on rough or soft terrain however, and the fat bike wins out because it is much easier to pedal.
9) in Alaska, fat bike racing happens every year over very long distances. You’d spend more time walking skinny tired bikes than riding them in deep snow.
10) fat bikes make winter camping fun. A friend winter camps with kids around Lake Minnewanka near Banff. Sounds like fun.
11) you’ll get the hang of fat biking faster if you think of fat bikes as 4X4s. They go pretty much anywhere and like a 4X4 on rough off road routes, they go slower and can go anywhere.
12) you’ll need to find tire gauges that read low pressures. 30 psi is the maximum pressure on the EVO. Most bicycle tire gauges and pumps go over 100 psi and are useless for trying to find out where 2 psi is on their scale.
13) you will need a very high volume pump like a floor pump. These big tires take a lot of air. A skinny mini pump will take all day to fill the tire up to a couple of psi, never mind pumping it up to maximum pressure.
14) Most fat bikes won’t have the means to attach carriers and panniers. The solution is frame bags, handlebar bags, and rear racks that mount on seat posts.
15) don’t worry if the chain rubs against the back tire in low gears. Those big tires often get in the way of chains. I’m adding a chain guide just because I like to keep the chain off so it won’t always be getting dirty. I was surprised after the first rides to find the chain was still clean. Maybe it won’t get as dirty as I think it should.
15) rutted unplowed pathways are not a problem. Just lower the pressure to where the ride is smooth.
16) if you have poor snow plowing on roads and pathways in your area, a fat bike can let you get around. Its the ultimate winter bike.
Fat bikes may be the solution for people who don’t want to bike in traffic. If there’s any bike that allows you to go places where there’s no traffic, this is it!
Bicycle Snow Plowing is a new winter sport!