Skip to content
Home » Bikes » Fat Bikes » Are Fat Bikes Just For Snow?

Are Fat Bikes Just For Snow?

Biker Overlooking a Valley

This page contains affiliate links, and I may earn a commission if you use them. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Fat bikes are getting more popular by the year because they are so capable. These bikes have wide tires and thick frames and are able to handle riding just about anywhere and have opened up new riding experiences to new and old riders alike.

Many people think that fat bikes are meant just for riding on snow. They do handle snow really well, but they are incredible in so many other terrains too.

Fat bikes (sometimes called fat tire bikes) have tires typically around 4 inches wide that can gain traction in all kinds of terrain. They are great at riding on the beach, but they are also great at riding on rocky trails. The tires have lower pressure than the normal width tires so they cushion the rider from the rocks but are able to grip well.

How Fat Bikes First Started

The first fat tire bikes started in the 1980s when cyclists wanted to explore Alaska wilderness but had trouble getting traction on standard tires. These were all custom-built bikes and the tires were actually only around 2 inches wide (about half of what they are today). More and more riders started building these and soon manufacturers took notice.

Once a specialized bike that wasn’t common, today many brands offer fat-tire bikes, and even electric fat bikes. They are pretty mainstream today.

Fat Bikes on the Snow

Fat bikes are known by most people to be able to ride on snow because normal bikes just can’t get enough traction to be ridden on snow safely. Let alone on ice.

Fat tire bikes, however, do amazing on snow and ice due to the width of the tires and the low pressure so it has a good traction footprint. The larger contact patch distributes the weight so the bike won’t sink in snow as easily either.

In fact, many ski resorts have added renting fat bikes to their equipment because many people really enjoy riding in the snow and doing it pretty easily. It really is unique if you have a chance to try it.

Fat Bikes on Other Terrains

While fat bikes ride on snow like they were made for it, they are also incredible in other terrains that you wouldn’t expect. They are incredible riding on the beach during the summer, and they are better than you would think going through mud and rocky trails.

Sand and Beach Riding

Fat bikes are a special treat when you are down at the shore during the summer. They are actually able to ride on that loose sand that is hard to walk on. But these bikes make riding on the loose sand easy. It lets you ride along the beach and enjoy the coastal scenery in a whole new way.

Many of the coastal towns have realized this and offer fat bike rentals for tourists to really enjoy the coast scenery. Anytime you go down to the shore you see these bikes all over the place and the riders really enjoying themselves.

Aside from that, it’s actually probably among the most enjoyable forms of exercise. Bright sun, nice winds coming along the coast, and amazing scenery. All while you are burning calories too.

Muddy and Wet Conditions

One thing that most people don’t think about is that these fat bikes are also amazing riding on the wet and muddy trails. The wide tires are able to gain traction far better than normal bikes so they don’t sink into the soft mud.

For spring and fall when there is more rain, these bikes can handle all of those trails that most people aren’t riding. It does take a little skill since the mud is still slippery and the fat tires gain better traction but never complete traction. Once you get used to it, it’s a bit of fun and plenty of mud-covered clothes.

Rocky and Technical Trails

Fat bikes are surprisingly good on rocky trails. You’ve probably been on those trails where you have the small rocks coming out of the dirt and if you hit it with your tire it deflects your front tires. You get used to it, but the fat tires are wide enough they sort of envelope the rocks and with so much air in the tires you barely even notice it.

It’s like a steam roller as a tire and it really boosts your confidence as a rider. The tires take a little more power to roll but it’s also far more predictable.

It is very capable but stay on the trails as these tires can take out plant life easily as well.

The Health Benefits of Fat Biking

Beyond the riding, it turns out that fat bikes can actually have some real health benefits. We’re talking both physical and mental:

Low-Impact Exercise

Fat bikes take a little more effort to spin the tire, but due to the increased stability and traction people of all ages and fitness levels can ride them at the beach and on lots of trails and even in the city. Fat bikes are very stable and surprisingly easily to balance so many new riders take to them very well.

The tires absorb the impact of rocks and such on the ground which means you don’t get the jolt in your joints and muscle. So this is a very accessible form of exercise for many riders that is very enjoyable at the same time.

Full-Body Workout

Riding any bike provides a full-body workout. Your arms, legs, core muscles, all of it is worked as part of a ride.

Fat biking works the body even a little bit more, but it’s still all of the same muscle groups. It helps improve cardiovascular health and strengthens muscles. And the best part is that it’s so much fun with the scenery and fresh air that you don’t often realize it.

Stress Relief and Mental Well-Being

Bike riding itself has a lot of positive effects on your mental well-being. Whether you are riding on a nature trails or just out in the country, it really reduces stress and helps to clear the mind. You focus on what you are doing and tend to forget everything else that has been going on and it’s a great way of letting go of those worries for a little while.

Fat biking can also be social in that many gyms and such have bike groups that sometimes will ride together at the gym, and sometimes they go riding together through nature trails. The social activity has a positive effect on the mind and lifts the spirit.


Fat bikes have really come a long way since they were first invented to ride in the Alaskan snow. While they are unbeatable for riding on snow, they are just as amazing riding on the beach along the coast or on trails through the mountains and hills.

Whether you’re new to mountain biking or you think you’ve done it all, if you haven’t tried fat biking then you have a whole new world waiting for you. The wide tires gives you a cushioned ride and amazing traction to handle a wide variety of new trails.

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