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12 Reasons Why Fat Bikes Will Take Your Adventure to the Next Level (And 2 Reasons Why They Won’t)

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Fat bikes with oversized tires excel in snow, sand, and loose terrain. They open up winter riding possibilities through unmatched traction and floatation. However, drawbacks like sluggish handling on pavement and heavier carrying weight exist. Below are 12 compelling arguments in favor of purchasing a fat bike along with 2 factors that may give pause.

12 Reasons to Buy a Fat Bike

1. Ride Year Round in Any Condition

Fat bikes utilize wide 3-5 inch tires to enable riding in snow, sand, mud and pretty much any condition mother nature can throw at you. The massive flotation from running extremely low tire pressures lets these bikes traverse landscapes that stop wider regular mountain bikes in their tracks. As a result, fat bikes expand opportunities for year-round riding regardless of season or current trail conditions. Exploring winter wonderlands of fresh snow or loose sandy beaches delivers unique challenges simply not available during summer. Fat bikes open up a whole new world of places to explore.

2. Gain Traction on Loose Surfaces

In addition to flotation over soft terrain, fat bike tire tread patterns grip loose ground that causes washouts on narrower tires. The extremely large contact patches made by fat bike tires provide incredible control when riding over gravel, snow, fine sand and other low cohesion surfaces that weave and slip under normal mountain bike wheels. These meaty contacts patches inspire confidence allowing riders to push limits maintaining speed where others are forced to brake and tip toe.

3. Ride Comfort from Ultra Low Air Pressure

Fat bike tires run extremely low pressures, down to just 3-7 PSI on some setups. For perspective, most mountain bike tires need 25-30 PSI to avoid pinch flats and rim damage from impacts. However, the fat bike’s oversized tire volume enables safely running higher pressures for improved ride quality and shock absorption. These extremely soft fat bike tires act as suspension, absorbing bumps and vibration far better than skinny MTB wheels. The resulting ride feels cushier without sacrificing the responsiveness critical for technical handling. With less body fatigue, riders can push distance to explore further or ride longer.

4. Customizable Performance With Tire Swaps

One of the best features of fat bikes is the ability to customize performance for conditions by swapping tire treads. Aggressive winter-specific tires with deep knobs excel on snow and ice providing traction to ascend icy slopes that would cause most bikes to slip backwards. These winter wizard tires transform trail riding allowing fat bikes to float over snow and bite slippery corners. Other fast rolling low profile compounds feature tightly spaced shallow knobs that blaze through loose gravel and sand allowing you to fly by others struggling in your dust. Rowdy fat bike tires with tall side knobs and reinforced casing battle rocky and rooted terrain that threatens sidewall cuts on skinny tires. Simple tire changes enable fat bike riders to transform overall traction profile and feel creating a whole quiver of ride dynamics in one bike.

5. Improve Mountain Bike Skills

Riding fat bikes demands finessed bike handling skills to manage loose terrain or slippery off-camber pitches. Their ultra wide tires require choosing smart lines while floating through corners to carry momentum. Precisely weighting and unweighting the tires becomes critical for maximum control. Riders learn to pump terrain features to maintain speed through otherwise sticky areas. These core technique breakthroughs transfer directly improving handling aboard regular mountain bikes. The challenges of smoothly linking turns or holding line choice on a fat bike at speed pays dividends for riders of every skill level.

6. Burn Way More Calories

The added weight and rolling resistance of fat bike tires forces much harder efforts from rides yielding vastly superior calorie burn compared to rides on standard mountain bikes. Their oversize low pressure volume contact patches also require extra muscle stabilization and core engagement when attacking technical terrain. This full body workout pays dividends for improved overall cycling fitness able to crush trails later aboard any bike. Expect heart rate elevated up to 30% higher and legs feeling appropriately smoked after just an hour bouncing a fatty around. But you will emerge stronger for it.

7. Explore Untouched Terrain

Drifting sideways through fresh snow around an off-camber corner or bouncing down bumpy frozen rivers brings adventure beyond normal dirt paths. A fat bike serves both as lift ticket and powder ski allowing you to enter snow covered zones previously unrideable. Their capabilities unlock new vistas and challenges as you seek out undiscovered routes off trail. Exploring these places within your own power unlocks supreme rewards found nowhere else.

8. Ultimate Multi-Surface Commuter

Outfitted with racks and fenders, many fat bikes excel as a rugged all-season vehicle for commuting or running around town. They confidently navigate snowbound streets to the coffee shop in winter before tackling rooty singletrack on a short cut home from work. The go anywhere traction of fat tires paired with a comfortable cushioned ride from low pressures optimizes both safety and comfort cruising mile after mile. Both bike commuters with 20+ mile daily mileage and inner city dwellers portaging home groceries benefit from the utility of a properly equipped fat bike.

9. Unique Custom Build Options

The most versatile fat bike frames accommodate multiple drivetrain, wheel, and even front suspension setups to match the unique needs and riding style of different owners. Single speed setups strip away complexity for snappy acceleration while retaining the cushion and bump taming abilities of fat tires. E-Bike motor systems enable extending range deep into distant valleys. Split pivot or eccentric pivot designed full suspension fat bikes add rear travel for charging more aggressively down variable snow conditions. Internal frame storage enables bikepacking excursions deep into the wilds. These options let imagination drive possibilities wide open when building up the ultimate fat rig.

10. Lift Access Snow Sports Conditioning Tool

Floating up boot packs using snowshoes or skinning back country ski touring equipment certainly enables great powder turns but takes much more time and effort compared to riding lifts. Meanwhile hundreds of ski resorts now allow fat bikes on lifts during summer operations. A fat bike enables efficiently riding up the empty groomers to rapidly tick off short laps in sandy corners or on flow trails once requiring long hikes. Carving telemark arcs or slashing surfy drifts lines on a fatty brings thrill seeking adventure as you drop in to play on frozen precipitation. The perfect way to scratch the powder day itch mid summer.

11. Traction to Climb Impossible Slopes

Mashing up loose steep pitches often ends in wheel spin and stalling out forcing dismounting to push or carry your bike on regular mountain bikes. However fat bikes power up sandy chutes, loose gravelly goat paths, or off-camber lava rock stacks appearing impossible on a skinny tired bike. Their traction stemmed from ultra wide tire contact patch lets you climb terrain previously unrideable aboard less voluminous wheels. The confidence to stick a seated grind up slabby rock bands or gritty ridge lines without fear of rear wheel slipping out provides immense satisfaction.

12. Monster Truck Dominance Over Terrain

Fat bikes handle obstacles like a monster truck dominating a mud filled arena pit. Their giant meats crush smaller bumps and square edge hits which force harsh impacts with less suspension travel on traditional mountain bikes. Sections of jumbled rocks and tight technical rock gardens seem to shrink beneat these mega-wide tires. The grip and cushion they supply inspires confidence to charge harder getting truly gnarly. Any terrain feature seeming intimidating on a normal width mountain bike transforms into a fun pump roller or launch ramp aboard an appropriately set up fatty.

2 Reasons Not to Buy a Fat Bike

1. Slower Acceleration and Climbing

The major downside of fat bikes becomes apparent while popping hard accelerations, short punchy sprints, or extended climbing efforts. Their heavier overall bike weight stemming from the oversize tires coupled with higher rolling resistance reduces snappiness compared to lighter trail or cross country bikes. Racers and exceptionally strong climbers focused on shaving every second or generating quick bursts in power over short durations may find themselves frustrated by the somewhat muted acceleration response compared to throwing down watts while riding a XC whippet. However, proper gear selection, smoothly leveraging momentum, and extending above previous cardio limits largely overcomes this relative disadvantage of fat bikes across most conditions.

2. Cumbersome Handling on Smooth Pavement

While fat bikes feel planted and at home on loose or technical terrain, their vague handling proves more compromised at higher speeds on smooth paved tarmac. The tall flexible tread squirms exiting high speed corners or when attempting to hold an aero straight line over broken expansion jointed payment requiring more focus and bike handling adaptations to control compared to mountain bikes with narrower tires. Lower tire pressures exaggerate this characteristic further absorbing big hits but sacrificing some responsiveness due to the folded tread response. However, strategically running higher tire pressures personalized for smooth surfaces or choosing fast rolling tread compounds optimized for pavement alleviates most handling quirks stemming from fat bike meat.

Is A Fat Bike For You?

In the end, fat bikes open more riding possibilities through incredible traction, unmatched flotation, and ultra cushioned comfort. Their capabilities enable accessing amazing terrain often unavailable under prime riding conditions. Committing to an appropriate modern frame design equipped with ideal component specification for planned riding minimizes any potential downsides stemming from weight or rolling resistance making fat bikes the ultimate year-round adventure machine.

For skilled riders keen to expand their adventures beyond traditional trails to seek out new challenges, fat bikes deliver unmatched versatility. Simply put, their prowess casually floating through deep snow or aggressively charging blown out sandy corners where skinny tires dig in brings huge thrill and satisfaction opportunities. Fat bikes shine across so much terrain, anyone from hardcore enthusiasts to casual pedalers simply looking to log more year-round mileage cannot go wrong adding one these mega tired monsters to their bike fleet arsenal.

About the Author

Tony K

Senior Technical Writer,

Tony K is a technical editor at He has a focus on downhill bike riding but still loves xc bikes too.

With more than ten years of mountain biking experience and more than 5 years testing mountain bikes, Tony has ridden and tested hundreds of different bikes and products, everything from XC to enduro bikes. Tony regularly competes in mountain bike races while seeing how long those compontents can hold up which gives me a lot of insight.

When he isn't shredding down a mountain or camping out, he is writing reviews for Mountain Bike Experience.

Rides: Surly Lowside, Canyon Exceed