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The Beginner’s Guide to Fat Bikes for Mountain Biking

Fat Bike Beginners Guide

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Fat tire mountain bikes provide extra stability and comfort that opens off-road riding to more people. These plus-sized models get their name from the ultra-broad, chunky rubber contact patch. The wide tires feature low pressure cushioning that smooths out impacts over roots, rocks and uneven trail features. This prevents the jarring that can deter tentative beginners trying skinny-tired mountain bikes.

Fat bike frames also boast burlier construction and a centered, upright geometry allowing riders to float across variable terrain. The natural stability invites larger cyclists needing more support than traditional triangle frames can offer. The durable build and hearty components instill confidence in new riders hesitant to encounter rocks or take spills.

Rather than getting hung up on labels like “beginner bike,” realize fat models remove limitations so anyone can start sampling trails at their own pace. Their unflappable nature rolls over sandy ruts, snowy patches, slick rock and other conditions stopping regular mountain bikes. Feel empowered to stray off beaten path, make your own way. Let’s explore why fat tire bikes can unlock adventure for any aspiring rider.

Stepping Up to a Bigger Bike

Casual cyclists may feel apprehensive when first trying true off-road riding. Images of daredevils leaping obstacles or bombing downhill can intimidate. Typical skinny-tired mountain bikes do demand developed balancing skills to handle technical features. But plus-sized models flip that script using natural stability so anyone can start sampling trails.

Their ultra-wide tires act like a roll cage, forgiving wobbles or leaning too far. Low pressure cushioning also forgives impacts over bumps that jolt normal bikes. Durable fat frames shrug off scrape scrambling up rocky ledges. And the centered riding posture feels secure swinging around switchbacks or through bomb holes. Ultimately fat bikes do the hard work so you can simply enjoy peaceful forest cruising.

These bikes open up adventure because given a little space, they’ll roll over nearly anything. Float through sugary sand pits, grind up slick slope or plow fresh snow path. Having fun tromping places other bikes can’t go. Feel empowered to stray off beaten paths, make your own way. Want to bring along camping gear or tackle serious distance? Big volume tires eat up miles, ready to bike pack anywhere.

Dialing In Your Fat Bike Fit

Perhaps you’ve been reluctant to hit trails unsure if cycling was really your thing. Or not having luck finding a mountain bike that actually fits right for fuller figures. Understandable when much of the industry still gears towards traditional demographics. But the recent fat bike craze is flipping scripts. These plus-sized rigs aim to invite anyone into off-road riding.

Frame designers offer proportionally appropriate reach, standover height and weight capacities to suit riders of all shapes. Custom touches like shorter crank arms, mega wide bars and adjustable stems further tune handling. Cushy, supportive seats in versatile designs withstand long days bouncing down trails. Ask shop staff to properly measure your contact points and preferences when test riding different model options.

Pay attention to howrelaxed your posture feels standing astride the frame. Lift front wheel to check ample clearances smoothly swinging leg over. Reach forward; are controls within easy access without overextending? Frame sizes come smallest, small, medium, large to extra large. So definitely possible to get dialed fit.

Developing Handling Techniques

Once outfitted with a properly fitted fat bike, now focus on fundamental riding skills for controlling these more elongated, heftier machines. The basic body position sticks pretty centered over the frame. Standing pedals level ground across uneven terrain. Sitting allows using saddle as a third point of support dropping downhill. Let those big tires do their job chewing up obstacles so you stay relaxed.

Quickly gain confidence in the stability fat models provide. But don’t cling white-knuckled to the bars. Grip firmly but keep elbows, arms loose to suspension impacts, especially descending chunky terrain. Light hands also necessary for effective steering inputs. Quick flicks initiate lean angle change. Exaggerated counter-steering starts swapping directions.

Practice braking early and gradual with even pressure on front/rear binders. Let fat rubber compound that drag, slowing speed smoothly without skidding out. Core strength keeps rider weighted properly when stopping abruptly. Don’t be afraid to dab foot for added stability when needed.

Optimizing Your Fat Bike

Beyond quality assembly and tune-ups, consider potential custom upgrades to optimize performance. Swapping in higher-end components like lighter cranksets, derailleurs and pedals reduces weight for easier climbing. Wider handlebars and knobby tires suited to local conditions improve overall control and grip.

An adjustable suspension fork also helps smooth the ride, allowing arms and hands to stay fresh on long outings. Custom seating like cushy saddles and suspension seat posts increase comfort over rough terrain. And accessories like bottle cages, fenders and rear racks equip your fat bike for adventure riding and packing gear.

Maintaining Your Fat Machine

Like any cycle, fat bikes need some mechanical attention to avoid issues, keep things operating smoothly for maximum fun out on trails. After wet rides thoroughly clean drivetrain removing gritty mud and grime so it shifts cleanly. Apply fresh lubricant to the chain, derailers preventing corrosion.

Check tire pressure before each ride. Ultra-low PSI maximizes traction but too squishy risks rim strikes on corners, flat landing jumps. Inspect knob condition, replace worn rubber for continued braking, grip. Monitor brake pads as they wear down. Change out before gone entirely. Bleed hydraulic fluid keeping calipers strong clamping force.

Give bolts a check with Allen wrench ensuring connections remain snug particularly around handlebars, suspension components. Listen for any worrisome creaks that could indicate loose part. And keep on eye on hub, bottom bracket bearings for smooth rotation without grinding sensation.

Finding Your Niche in the Fat Bike Community

See, purchasing proper equipment is really just the starting point to discovering fat biking. You’ll quickly meet passionate enthusiasts eager to welcome newcomers no matter their current skill or fitness level. Groups organize scenic group rides accommodating all abilities from family-friendly pace to advanced challenges. Seasoned riders freely share tips adjusting bikes for optimal comfort, handling traits.

Veteran fat bikers relish modifying gear, testing products and debating nuances. Soak up their technical knowledge if desiring to wrench your own bike. Or lean on their experience for trusted upgrade recommendations. Ask about local trails conditions, events and other regional riding perks.

While races, bike packing adventures offer long-term goals, mainly focus enjoying journeys of personal growth built on accomplishments. Graduating to that evasive tricky rock section. Adding few extra miles to your regular loop. Conquering whole trail without having to hike bike. Bringing along friend to share the stoke. However you define success.

Pushing Limits on Fat Rubber

Eventually fat bikes may feel almost boringly simple to ride as technique improves. Tires hook up tacky climbing ledges that once seemed impossible. Step down drop offs without a thought. Carve corners railing loose over hardpack. Start eyeing up spicy lines as the ride becomes second nature.

Don’t worry – the fat bike has your back. Specialized frame geometry gives inherent nimbleness traditional mountain bikes can’t match. Ultra-wide stance increases high speed stability, traction when really rallying. Durable componentry withstands heavy impacts punishing terrain dishing out. Now ready to push pace into expert zones.

If desiring to shred more aggressively, consider converting tires to lower profile plus-sized range. Trims rotating weight while maintaining cushion and grip at lean angles. Swap suspension fork up to 120-140mm travel gobbling big hits faster descents. Upgrade to 12-speed drivetrain for easier spinning steep pitches. Dial in cockpit for greater aerodynamic attack position. See your fat bike transform into a whole new shred sled!

Yet even while you progress to gnarlier riding, remember the joy and comfort that first attracted you. Pay that feeling forward helping other hesitant newbies get rolling. Emphasize fun over fitness when leading group rides. Take a pal out for their first off-road experience. Stop along the way to session tricky sections. Remind yourself and others the real reward of fat biking is sharing awesome rides with great people.

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