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fat tire bike

Fat Tire Bikes or Mountain Bikes – The Great Debate

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, the debate between mountain bikes and fat tire bikes has risen to a colossal level. Which one do I ride when? Do I need those oversized tires? Which is better? These questions, as most of this type, are loaded with opinions. We’ll stick to the facts and boil each down to exactly what you need to consider for both, because let’s face it, we love them both!

Fat Tire Bikes

Conceived in the worst conditions. Deep snow and sand are its home. Oversized tires, wide rims, and the mammoth stance of the frame form the anatomy of the fat bike. Modern versions of the fat bike were designed back in the mid-1980s but became commercially popular in the mid-200s with companies like Surely and the Pugsley frame. Aside from looking indestructible, what is the point of a fat bike and can this be an everyday rider?

Fatbikes’ frames are built around wide forks, which accommodate larger wheels and tires. These larger tires allow the entire bike to “float” in snow, sand, mud, or anything you might encounter on the trail. They come in sizes up to 31 inches and nearly 4.8 inches wide. They are absolute beasts for bike tires. Don’t think that fat bikes are only designed for deep snow and sand. You can ride these anywhere you would normally ride any other bike, some places more or less comfortably than others.

Advantages

  • Low tire pressure, sometimes as low as eight psi, gives you more traction and more “squish” on rough terrain. So much so that fat bikes do not come with front suspension.
  • The ultra-wide tires give you more grip in slippery conditions.
  • Larger wheels and tires allow you to “float” through sand and snow.
  • No end to riding season!

Disadvantages

  • Heavier than most mountain bikes. You can buy lightweight, carbon fiber models but be prepared to drop enough money to buy a used car.
  • They are harder to pedal. With the oversized tires, paired with fewer gears in less expensive models, makes for a workout when traversing snow, sand, and steep hills.
  • They are more expensive than a standard bike.
fat tire bikes

A fat tire bike makes ripping around the beach a breeze.

Mountain Bikes

The quintessential camping bike. Agile and lightweight. Take it through steep mountains or down a bike path. The mountain bike is comfortable anywhere. If you have a need for speed and cornering into tight turns gets your heart pumping, you’ve come to the right place.

Several technological advancements make mountain bikes simply wonderful to ride. First, the suspension system of modern mountain bikes absorbs the majority of the bumps you run into on the trail and do a fantastic job at keeping the front tire on the ground; increasing traction and mobility. Secondly, the lighter frame of the mountain bike is easy to handle and maneuver around tight turns and on complex trials. Lastly, modern mountain bikes are equipped with some seriously impressive gear systems that allow you to have up to 30 gears; enabling you to go up and down the steepest hills you would ever want to climb.

Advantages

  • Proven technology that makes riding easier and more comfortable including shocks, a less severe head angle, and a comfortable seat angle and height.
  • Less expensive than comparable fat bikes.
  • The excellent gear ratios make mountain bikes adaptable to nearly any condition or terrain.

Disadvantages

  • Skinny tires sink into mud more quickly and are an accident waiting to happen on snow and ice.
  • Seasonally limited by snow. This might not be a big deal if you live in a warm climate (we are jealous) but if you have snow in the winter, mountain bikes are tough to handle.

The Verdict

We love fat bikes. We also love mountain bikes. Coming from Minnesota, we feel the pain of anyone who lives in a colder climate. With our fat bikes, we can ride all year but we also have a special place in our hearts, and garages, for a mountain bike… or three. They are incredibly nimble, and the gear ratios make for tremendously comfortable riding. Here is the bottom line: If you want to get there fast, ride a mountain bike. If you want to travel to places you never thought a bike could reach, and the trip there is the adventure, ride a fat bike.

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