Fat Bikes: Yay or Nay?

Whenever I give my kids a choice between a bike ride or a walk on the trail, they always choose biking. It is their absolute favorite trail activity. We invested in some quality bicycles for the whole family a few years ago. Little did we know that there are several kinds of bikes for various purposes.

Mountain Bike Meets Snow Tires

What is a fat tire bike? The concept of a bike with a wider fork and large, low-pressure tires originated with a group that attempted to bike the first 200 miles of the Iditarod course. That’s a level of crazy that I can’t imagine. However, one cyclist’s crazy is another man’s treasure because it created an awesome product.

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Typical mountain bike tires are 1.9-2.6 inches wide. Fat tires measure 3.8-5.2 inches. Designers widened the frame and fork to accommodate the tires which gives these bikes an overall beefier look. Hence the name Fat Bike.  

The purpose of those wide tires is to distribute weight over a broader surface. That allows the rider to glide over unstable surfaces like snow, sand, and mud without sinking in as a typical mountain bike tire would. They also perform well on slick surfaces like ice and loose gravel. 

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The second profound difference between fat tires and mountain bike tires is the pressure. Regular tires run at 22-25 psi. Fat tires run extremely low at 5-14 psi without bottoming out or hitting the rim over obstacles. These tires are voluminous and squishy enough to float over obstacles like rocks, roots, and branches. 

Why use a fat bike? We can significantly extend our biking season in the northeast with fat bikes. The first snow cover on the trail typically marks the end of our ability to take the bikes out again until spring. 

Fat Bikes for Kids

Fat tire bikes have been on the market long enough that manufacturers are making kid’s versions. Usually, children’s bikes don’t have suspension, so a fat bike gives them a smoother ride than a standard bike.

Is It Worth The Cost?

You may wonder if investing in fat bikes means every family member will have two bikes: one standard and one fat. That is a possibility. However, most of us don’t have the money or the storage space for that. We are a family of five, and our shed needs to fit more than bicycles.

Another great thing about fat bikes is their versatility. Just because they are made for snow, sand, ice, and mud doesn’t mean they don’t work well for trail riding. Unless you are an aggressive mountain biker on the black diamond trails, a fat tire bike can serve as your everyday trail or commuter bike. 

You also don’t have to invest in replacing everyone’s bike in one budget-crunching swoop. Kids grow, which means we naturally replace their gear over time. When you have a kid whose knees are knocking the handlebars, replace his standard bike with a fat bike. I recommend going to a local bicycle shop rather than a big box store. You’ll get professional service from someone who knows the product inside out. You can test any bikes they have in stock, and they usually give you a trade-in value on your old one. 

Fat bikes for kids and adults range from $300-$2000. I always recommend a middle-of-the-road strategy for gear. We don’t usually go for the lowest-cost item unless it has stellar reviews. We also know we don’t need the high-end product. Somewhere in the middle is usually where you find the best value per dollar.

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Categories Gear, Gear guide, hobbies, Rail Trail, WinterTags , , , ,

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