What are fat bikes?
Don’t be thrown by the name, the only really ‘fat’ things about a fat bike are its wheels. With voluminous tyres up to 5 inches wide these bikes let you ride on a huge cushion of air that makes suspension forks and rear suspension shocks and springs pointless. The high volume tyres can be run at really low pressure – down to as low as 5 psi, so you will simply float over rough trails. Typically they come with rigid front forks and disc brakes front and rear.
What are fat bikes for?
Although Mountain Bikes can go almost everywhere, fat bikes are the true All Terrain Bikes (ATB) as the low ground pressure of their wide, soft, knobbly tyres means that they easily cope with soft ground conditions like snow or sand. In fact, the first fat bikes were developed for racing the Iditarod endurance snow race in Alaska in the mid-1980s, while at the same time versions were being developed for bike tours in the sands of New Mexico.
In many parts of northern America and some parts of northern Europe, mountain biking is not a year-round sport, with snow traditionally stopping play for the winter months. Skinny-tyred MTBs are just no fun and often impossible to ride in snow more than a few inches deep. No surprise then, that fat bikes are also becoming popular in Alpine ski resorts during winter. Swiss resort Gstaad, has even launched Europe’s first winter fat bike festival, the three-day Snow Bike, in January.
Hard-tail mountain bikes have always been easily converted to road touring bikes, with their strong frames and comfort. But you can’t put a rear rack and panniers on a full suspension bike, and you can’t put a load of luggage on a mountain bike with no rear suspension and then ride it off road – unless you want to leave your luggage strewn across the landscape. This is where fat bikes come into their own. Those big tyres give you all the suspension you need to smooth out bumps, and you can load up with camping gear for multi-day off-road adventures. That rigid front triangle means you can use a frame bag to make your ride better balanced and even more fun too.