Why Buy A Fat Bike? The Truth.
July 27th, 2017
July 27th, 2017
Scott likes fat bikes and bike packing, and generally pushing himself to the limits in cold or difficult situations. All this with a full-time job and fathering responsibilities. We could learn a thing or two from Scott, but just don't leave any cake near him. Seriously.
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Firstly let me say this. I own a fat bike, I have for a few years now, and I love it. I also love all my other bikes as well, from road to BMX. Basically bikes are fun, but what about the fat-hype, and is it hype at all?Yes, there is (still) plenty of hype around fat bikes and a lot of it is deserved, some not so much, and some blatantly fictitious. That is the first statement I will make, and one that may upset some fat-lovers. The second is that they are just a bike, just like any other, they're not some mythical cycling beast. They have advantages and they have disadvantages, and I have experienced both.Let’s talk about why they are here.
Thanks to cyclists wanting to be more adventurous, some fellas (perhaps madder than most) decided that racing across the Iditarod Trail would be a great idea; a race originally for packs of dogs and sleds is brutal enough without attempting it on bikes. Out of crazy adventures like these, fat bikes were born, and they soon became the ideal bike for snow, (soft) sand and pebbled coast lines. At the right tyre pressure they are also pretty handy on rocky terrain too. Personally, I have experienced their advantages when I raced in Finland at the Rovinenmi 150, at Battle on the Beach in Pembrey, and raced the fattie in a a few XC and endurance events around the Surrey Hills (see my story on taking a Spoon to a Gunfight).. Like most mountain bikes, fat bikes are capable of doing most things well, but in the snow and sand, they quite obviously excel, just like a downhill bike would excel on the terrain it designed for; downhill. A fat bike is not the one bike to be all bikes, not if you really want to enjoy all your riding on different terrains, and especially if you are only choosing to own one bike. Why? Fat bikes by their very nature have lots of rolling resistance in their tyres, which means that riding them on the road or fast trail can be boring and slow, or just hard work. Fire roads and hard-packed trails aren’t much more fun either, but can be a little more exciting as the large tyres squirm wildly and that "famous grip" gets squirrelly (often caused by tyres that are under-inflated by riders as there is a misconception that one pressure on a fat bike is all you need for all terrain types). Uphill is another kettle of fat fish too; whilst the traction is great and you can clear most obstacles, they are slow. They are heavier (of course) than most bikes, and even the lightest of fatties will come with relatively heavier wheels than the 'normal' equivalent, unless you pay the readies for a Borealis or something equally pricey like a Specialised S-Works, but even then you still have the rolling resistance.
So, I'm not painting a good picture so far, am I? Now bare with me. Let me reiterate that fat bikes are not substitutes for a full-suspension, a downhill, or a cross-country race machine, they are not all mountain big hitters or hardtail trail slayers. They don’t perform anything like any of these either, nor should you expect one to. So, what are they? Well, ignoring the aforementioned terrain they are perfect for (because many of us will rarely experience the perfect terrain for a fat bike), what else are they good for? Well, the first thing beyond the obvious is... they are FUN. Yes, all capitals.
My fat bike never fails to put a big smile on my face. My hardtail and my single-speed tend to induce searing leg and lung pain, my full-suspension trail bike tends to land me in grazes and picking foliage from helmet and shoes. For a long time I would walk into the garage planning to ride 'bike X' and yet somehow I would end up leaving the garage on my fat bike. Yes, I would ride slower, but I always felt like I was playing around that much more on the trails. It even got me jumping again. If fun is all you're after, you're unlikely to be disappointed.