I get it: you see a fat bike and think it’s gimmicky or ridiculous. And while both thoughts may be true that doesn’t mean you should dismiss this (not that new) fad. In fact, you should embrace the fat bike and experience for yourself why it has exploded in recent years. Fat biking is here and it’s not going anywhere; you might as well hop on the (fat) bandwagon and have some fun!
Although the fat bike isn’t new – models and versions appearing in the 80s – it seems to be that the famous Iditarod adventure was the catalyst for further innovation with the 1987 introduction of their then-named Iditabike race. Here, participants learned that to get through the constantly changing snow and ice conditions, they needed to reduce their tire pressure and increase their tire footprint. In 2005, Surley released the Pugsley and this is the iteration of the fat bike as we know it today.
Ok, ok. Maybe you don’t care about the history of the fat bike (but, if you do, I’ve put a couple good links for further reading, such as the “Six Pack” bike which raced with 3 tires on each wheel!). What I really want to do is convince you to at least try fat biking. This post stems from a conversation I had with a friend who’s not really into biking but kind of wants to be but doesn’t want to do anything that hard, technical, or gnarly. Mostly, she just wants to get out for some exercise and have a bit of fun without scaring herself. I tried to convince her to sell her current mountain bike and just get a fat bike since it is absolutely versatile and, arguably, is the perfect bike if you have (or are trying to reduce to) a one-bike quiver. Her reaction was one of disbelief and a fairly common one, at that. I understand why you may feel the fat bike has a reputation of being a winter-only activity (taking the place of skiing) and/or being unrealistic for the average biker and I’m here to let you know that that reasoning is false and a myth. The fat bike is perfect for those interested in learning to ride, those who are seeking something versatile, and for expanding your winter fun!
(And for those of you who are into biking and debating adding to your bike collection, just remember that the number of bikes (n) you should own = n + 1.)
And now, I present to you the argument for why the fat bike is an excellent option and should be your top choice when seeking out a new bike!
Fat bikes = F.U.N!
By and far the most important element in our recreational activity, the fat bike is just so much fun. It is the most common expression you’ll hear amongst fat bikers when asked “Why do you have one?” Whether you’re an expert rider or just learning how to balance, there is something about being on one that makes you smile. The fat bike is not built for speed* and I believe it is the mindset – knowing you won’t be “ripping” – that allows for a person to just enjoy their ride.
They are sturdy.
Do you see how big those tires are? They are wide and, therefore, provide greater stability. You will feel more confident on it and not feel as if they will slip out or you’ll go over. Seriously, they’re huge!
Perfect in nearly all environments.
Designed for (hard pack) snow, the fat bike performs equally well on dirt during the typical biking season. You don’t have to relegate your fat bike to only winter conditions; you can ride the fat bike on beginner and intermediate trails* with your friends. Ever wanted to cruise a beach? This bike lets you! Want to head into town or commute to work? This bike is great all year on the road or back trails (ok, maybe not so great for a super long distance commute but you could go get your groceries or head to a friend’s house on it).
Family (beginner) friendly.
Look at the above benefits – they encourage smiles, reduce fear, and are great in a variety of trail riding environments. This means you can hook up your chariot to the back and hit up the local rail trails, forest roads, or paved bike lanes with the family.
Perhaps a little bit more of an advanced reason to consider buying one but, due to it’s capability, I believe the fat bike is the best option for bike-packing. There is a difference between cycle touring and bike-packing so be sure you know which one you are doing! (FYI: Cycle touring is on paved roads, bike-packing is on a mixture of single track and forest/unpaved roads). I must caveat that I have not yet bike-packed but it would be the bike for trips such as the Kettle Valley Railway, Oregon Trail, or cycling the coast of Alaska (all trips I’d like to do!). Also, the first person to cycle to the South Pole was British adventurer, Maria Leijerstam, in 2013…so I’d trust her set-up (it was a trike!).
In conclusion: buy a fat bike and go have fun!
Ultimately, what I’ve loved about having my fat bike is the option for one more activity. When the snow is great, I go to the hill. It hasn’t replaced my skis but it has encouraged me to get out on the not-so-stellar ski days; isn’t that what it’s all about? Getting out more?
*Yes, of course some people can go really, really fast. And do really, really crazy trails and tricks on a fat bike but, whatever, just enjoy the the ride. It’s not necessary to crush it every time.
Further reading for history of the fat bike: