Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fatbikes: Just What Are They For Anyway?

My Mukluk: It's more than just a "snowbike"
I was riding my fatbike home from work yesterday when "it" happened......again....for the umpteenth time. "Hey! What kind of bike is that?"

(Or variations upon that theme including questions about the tires, and where I got them, etc.)

So, I figured a lot of you folks visiting here probably are shaking your heads wondering what in the world all the fuss is about these enormously tired bicycles. I know this is true because of the questions I get all the time, and the fact that "non-endemic" media is coming around asking a lot of the same questions.

So I figured I would put this little ditty together for all of you that do not quite understand what all the fuss is about.....yet. Hopefully you will understand a bit more after this.....

  • Fatbikes are not just for snow: This was something I used to think, and it held me back from getting one sooner than I did. I was stupid. Don't make the same mistake I did. Fatbikes are imminently capable mountain bikes. I like to call them the "Human powered two wheeled ATV". 
  • Fatbikes Are Not Slow: The tires and rims on these bikes are really big and heavy looking. Yes- they weigh more than most bikes, but many bicycles on bike shop floors weigh more than, or similar to a fat bike, and you never hear folks complain about them. The perception is those wheels must be cumbersome and slow. Nothing could be further from the truth. They take more work than some bikes do, but the pay-off is well worth the extra efforts. 
  • Fatbikes are not for shy, introverted people that do not like fun: Seriously, if you are a curmudgeon, or if you can't stand being the center of attention, don't buy a fatbike. You will hate life with this sort of bike. If, however, you are a gregarious, outgoing fun-hog, you really are wired for a fatbike ownership. Get one and watch the attention come in like waves on an ocean. You will love it! You also will have so much fun riding a fatbike you might get giddy and laugh out loud. Really!
  • Fatbikes like to run in packs: It's kind of like magnets to steel, or white on rice, but these bikes seem to like getting together and rumbling together. The riders seem to just come along with it. If you like doing things with other people and making car tire noises on gravel, or floating over snow, or if you veer toward mad creek riding adventures, you will find other fatbikes will want to come along for the fun of it. 
  • Fatbikes take you to places you can't get to on other bikes: This should be obvious, but those "ATV-like" wheels can float over sand, chunky rock, woodland debris, snow, mud, and other surfaces that trip up an ordinary mountain bike. Road bikes? Whatever.  Let them have the pavement- fatbikers will go where cars can't even go! Want some solitude after all the group riding and attention whoring? A fatbike can crawl back into places no one else will ever look to find you, if you want to go there.
  • There are lots of choices in fatbikes now, they are not all "Pugsleys": Used to be that the only turnkey fatbike choice available to the general public was a Surly Bikes Pugsley. They pretty much dominated the scene unless you happened to know the inner circle of Alaskan based fatbikers that knew about Wildfires, Fatbacks, 9 zero 7's or a few others. But the times have changed and now you can easily get your hands on Salsa Mukluks, Surly's newer models, the aforementioned Fatbacks and 9 zero 7's, and now On One is coming out with a fatbike. Tire choices have also ballooned, (no pun intended), in choice over the original Endomorph fatty tire.
  •  And yes.......they are good on the snow!: Of course, the fatbike excels at riding over soft surfaces, including sand, mud, and snow. In fact, the bikes were pretty much evolved from the desire to race bicycles on snow. Yes.....racing on snow. There is a great series of fatbike races in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, plus the long running races on snow like the Arrowhead 135 and Triple D events. 
The bottom line is that these bikes are a fun way to get around. They may seem weird and unnecessary, but don't judge them till you've tried them. I can go on and on about these rigs, but most of the time it takes a personal experience on one to get the "light bulb" to turn on, and trust me- If you try one, that light bulb will turn on!

Oh, and that question I got? I stopped and answered it. The entire time I spoke with the gentleman who was asking me he was fixated on my front tire, ignoring the wails of his toddlers coming through the front door.

Never underestimate the power of the fatbike! 


coastkid said...

Great post!

Indeed most folk cannot take their eyes off the tyres when talking to you!

I was grinning just reading this! -:)

Unknown said...

Dear Ted,

You are overlooking another major benefit: some folk cycle to stay fit, keep the weight off. With a fat bike you don't even need to ride it, just standing near one makes you slim.

Yours sincerely
Charlie the bikemonger

Steve said...

I want one...and you just increased that factor by 10. Thanks :)

The DC

mw said...

it's been my go-to bike for night riding. darn, i slammed into that large object i couldn't see! you can barely tell what you're riding over, nor do you need to care.

MrDaveyGie said...

Great post

RANTWICK said...

I hope the increasing popularity of fat bikes continues, because I really want one but can't really justify springing for one... perhaps if they get popular enough, prices would come within reach.

My dream FB would have studded tires to boot...


Doesn't seem likely though. Bummer.

Guitar Ted said...

@RANTWICK: The aforementioned On One model is about the best deal on the planet right now on a fatbike @ $1300.00. Unfortunately the numbers don't justify mass production on such a scale that prices could be lower.

Same with studded fat bike tires $250.00each is steep, but reasonable seeing how the market is vs the quality of that tire.

MG said...

I agree with everything you've written... I smile more, and love cycling more, now that I ride my fatbike the majority of the time than I ever have. After 22 years of racing bicycles, the fatbike has been a rebirth of sorts for me.

On a ride last night, MW and I were absolutely amazed once again at the stuff we were riding over without disruption of momentum. Roots, small downed trees, rocks, washboarded-out roads... We just rolled smoothly over it all.

Fatbikes rock.

Guitar Ted said...

@MG: Right on, Brother! I am stoked to know that you and mw are still energized by fatbiking and are enjoying cycling again like we all did when we discovered mountain biking.

I was riding in the Green Belt,(similar to what Wilderness must be like for you guys), and it was wet, muddy, and a blast to be out riding in the night. Just like I felt back in '89 when I started. So fun!

Ben said...

Nice post GT. We were discussing them on "Just Riding Along" last night. FullFace Kenny is all over the Beargrease and I tried to convince Andrea, but I don't think she is buying in....yet. http://www.mountainbikeradio.com/just-riding-along/

I look forward to "The Guitar Ted Show" Thursday night!

sdm said...


How do fatbikes climb steep slopes?

Are they better for climbing up a fire trail than say your average XC Hardtail?

Guitar Ted said...

@sdm: Climbing is a mixed bag. On the one hand, (if you use the right tire), the traction is amazing and you can climb up features previously unrideable. On the other hand, you are dealing with a bicycle that, (in most cases), weighs more than an XC/Trail hard tail and that weight will have to be dealt with going up.

So if you have the leg for it, yes- the fatbikes can climb well. Mostly due to the greater amount of rubber hitting the trail which increases grip tremendously.

Tim Shuman said...

Great post GT,

I just built up a Necro in FLA. ( will never see snow, might see beach once a year, but will see swamp. )
Couple questions if you will;

What pressure do you run on XC?
Is there a pressure guage that Fatties use?
Front tire pulls to left when hit the brake. Is that normal? ( M Lite )
Considering Lefty fork, any thoughts?
Any steps to remove the grin form your face when you get out off the bike??

thank you for your time