Fat tire mountain bikes are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to regular mountain bikes to ride on rough terrain. Fat tire mountain bikes come with various features to allow for a pleasant ride but are they better than mountain bikes?
This article will discuss what you need to know about fat tire mountain bikes vs. regular bikes. Read on to learn more.
What is a Regular Mountain Bike?
Ever since the 1978s, when the mountain bike was first introduced in Marin County, California, they have been incredibly popular with cyclists who wish to ride on rugged terrain, with 40 million people from the United States taking part in mountain biking annually.
Mountain bikes are sturdier and can ride easily on rough terrain due to the bike’s traction, which allows the riders to maintain control of the bike.
A mountain bike is classified based on the suspension of the bike:
- Rigid bike (no suspension)
- Hardtail bike (suspension fork)
- Full suspension (rear suspension and suspension fork)
Mountain bikes are then divided into categories:
- Cross Country: Used for fast-paced riding
- Enduro: Used for uphill and downhill riding.
- Trail: Used for uphill riding and general terrain.
- Downhill: Used for racing downhill at high speeds.
What is a Fat Tire Mountain Bike?
A fat tire mountain bike referred to as a fat bike, uses fatter tires, usually around three to five inches wide.
Fat tires have better traction due to their wider tires which usually run at a low air pressure or around five psi.
The low pressure allows the tires to deform around any obstacle, like rock, ice, and potholes, instead of bouncing off the obstacle.
The wide tires distribute the bike’s weight over a larger area, reducing ground pressure and allowing the rider to ride on rough terrain smoothly.
With increased technology, the fat tire bike is becoming lighter and comes with many features, especially with the introduction of electric fat tire mountain bikes.
Fat Tire Mountain Bikes vs. Regular | Differences
While both bikes are used for the same purpose, there are significant differences between fat-tire mountain bikes vs. Regular bikes.
Some of these differences are summarized in the table below:
|Regular Mountain Bike
|Fat Tire Mountain Bike
|Harder tires with more pressure of 25 to 35 psi
|Softer tires with less pressure of 5 to 25 psi.
|Can’t ride in snow or rain (mud)
|Can ride in diverse weather conditions
|Can ride on mountain trails and off-road surfaces. Suitable for difficult terrain
|Can ride in snow, sand, or mud. Suitable for challenging terrain.
|Less traction and rough ride (bouncy).
|Less traction and rough ride (bouncy).
|Better traction and a smoother ride.
|Good technical skills
|Poor technical skills.
|Replacement parts are easy to find.
|Replacement parts are difficult to find.
|Variety of option
|The force needed by the rider
|Tire pressure check
|Checked before a ride
|Checked and adjusted before every ride.
|Less durable and more prone to damage.
|More durable and less prone to damage.
|Tire width of 1.9″ to 3.”
|Tire width of 3.5″ to 5.2.”
Below is an in-depth comparison of some differences between fat tire mountain bikes vs. regular.
Cost and Replacement Parts
Fat bikes are less common than regular mountain bikes, so finding replacement parts for fat-tire mountain bikes
These bikes are also more costly than regular bikes due to the specially-made tire, rim, and hub.
As the name suggests, the fat tire mountain bikes have wider tires made from more materials, resulting in greater weight.
Generally, a fat tire mountain bike weighs around 40 pounds while a regular mountain bike weighs much less, approximately 30 pounds at most.
Fat tire mountain bikes have lower tire pressures compared to regular bikes. This allows the fat bike to absorb the shocks and morph according to the terrain.
The fat tire mountain bike has fewer gears than a regular bike. Fat tire mountain bikes have around ten gears: one chainring and 1x drivetrain.
Regular mountain bikes generally have over 20 gears, with a 2x or 3x drivetrain.
Regular mountain bikes are considerably faster than fat tire bikes. This is because they are lighter and have a higher tire pressure, resulting in a flatter tire.
Terrain and Weather
Fat tire mountain bikes are more weather friendly than regular bikes. You can ride them in sandy, snowy, icy, or uneven terrain.
Regular mountain bikes are primarily suitable for trail riding where the weather conditions aren’t as harsh.
Fat tire mountain bikes have remarkable traction. The soft tires and slow speed result in a less bouncy ride than a regular mountain bike, especially on slippery terrain.
Fat tire mountain bikes offer a higher level of comfort due to their shock absorption and slow speed, while regular mountain bikes give a harsher ride.
Nike riding technical skills include balancing, gear use, hoping, braking, corner cutting, and many more. These skills are tougher to learn on a fat tire mountain bike.
Tire Size and Bike Rim
Fat tire mountain bike’s tire size and wheel rim width can vary.
A wheel rim width of 65mm comes with a tire width of around 4″. A wheel rim width of 80mm comes with a tire width of between four to five inches. A wheel rim width of 90mm comes with a tire width of around five inches.
Regular mountain bikes can come with a rim width of around 30″ and a tire width of between 1.9 to 2.6 inches.
Regular mountain bike tire pressure ranges from 25 to 35 psi. The Tire pressure of fat tire mountain bikes varies according to the terrain.
A tire pressure of five to eight psi is needed for snowy or sandy terrain. A tire pressure of ten to fifteen psi is required for the general trail. A tire pressure of 20-25 psi is needed for hard pavement.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Fat Tire Mountain Bikes vs. Regular Bikes
The pros and cons of using fat tire mountain bikes vs. regular mountain bikes are detailed below.
Advantages of Fat Tire Mountain Bikes
1. Best for Difficult Terrain and Extreme Weather
Fat tire mountain bikes can ride on loose, sandy, muddy, and rugged terrain. This is possible because the broader tires have less pressure and can mold according to the surface. Additionally, the wider tires allow for better traction.
Since the tires put less pressure on the ground, the bike rolls over the snow and mud instead of sinking in. This allows you to ride the bike in any season.
Due to better traction and a better grip on the ground, the fat tire mountain bike offers excellent comfort. The soft tires absorb most of the impact from obstacles on the ground and prevent bumps along the way.
The fat tire mountain bike frame results in a better sitting position, resulting in less strain on the back and neck.
The fat tires act as shock absorbers, resulting in little impact on the rims and spokes. Additionally, the rims are sturdier than in a regular bike with a shorter diameter.
Since fat tire mountain bikes are slow and offer better traction, you can easily maneuver the bike on unexpected terrain and are less likely to fall and get injured.
Additionally, since fat tire bikes are highly durable, the chances of an accident due to worn-out parts are less likely.
Disadvantages of Fat Tire Mountain Bikes
1. Difficult to Find Replacement Parts
Fat tire mountain bikes are less common and use non-standard components. If any components get damaged, it will be challenging to find a replacement part.
While you can find these parts in developed cities of the USA, such as California or New York, they are considerably harder to locate in rural areas, such as Central Alaska.
2. Require More Energy
Fat tire mountain bikes are heavier, typically weighing around 40 pounds. Additionally, the wide, low-pressure tires create a rolling resistance as more rubber contacts the ground, increasing friction.
Furthermore, the wide tires create a lot of air resistance. All these factors result in the bike slowing down and requiring more energy from the rider to maintain speed and even more to speed up.
3. Result in Poor Technical Skills
Riding a fat tire mountain bike is like biking in easy mode since the bike does most of the work and reduces the need for the rider to learn how to ride on trails with obstacles such as roots, rocks, branches, etc.
This results in the rider not having to learn how to avoid the obstacles or hit the brakes before them. Hence, many fat-tire mountain bike riders find it difficult to ride regular bikes.
4. Causes Knee and Hip Pain
Fat tire mountain bike pedals are further apart to maintain a straight chain line, and the rider needs to position their feet further apart.
Fat tire mountain bikes generally have a wide Q factor of around 200mm. The wide Q factor creates more strain on the knee and hip joints.
Advantages of Regular Mountain Bikes
1. Easier to Find Replacement Parts
Regular mountain bikes are standard in the biking industry, and you can find replacement parts wherever you go. The ease of finding replacement parts depends on the wheel size of your regular mountain bike.
2. Higher Efficiency
Regular mountain bikes create less rolling resistance and require less force from the rider to speed up or maintain speed. This is because there is less contact between the ground and the tire.
Additionally, regular mountain bikes weigh less, around 25 to 30 pounds, and have narrower tires. Hence, it takes less energy to ride a regular mountain bike.
3. Technical Skills
To ride a regular mountain bike, the rider must be adept in riding techniques to avoid obstacles and accidents.
Riding a regular mountain bike allows the rider to experience balancing, braking, corner cutting, ascending, and descending the bike.
Disadvantages of Regular Mountain Bikes
Can Only be Ridden on Specific Terrain
Regular Mountain bikes do not perform well on rough, snowy, sandy, or muddy terrain. This is because they put more pressure on the ground and can get stuck in the snow or mud.
Additionally, there is less contact between the tire and the ground, and riding on slippery terrain after rain or snow can lead to accidents.
Harsher Ride and Damage
Regular mountain bikes are not as comfortable as fat tire mountain bikes. Regular mountain bike tires aren’t good shock absorbers due to higher tire pressure and lower tire volume.
The bike and your body absorb the shock of hitting a bump or an obstacle, resulting in a rougher ride.
Due to the shocks, a regular mountain bike is more prone to damage, especially on the spokes and the rim.
Require More Skill
For a beginner mountain bike rider, riding a regular mountain bike is more arduous and requires more technical skills. These skills often develop over time and experience, so the rider needs to be extra careful.
Fat Tire Mountain Bikes vs. Regular | Which to Choose?
Fat tire mountain bikes are generally used by riders who spend more time riding off-trail than on it. Additionally, if you live in areas with harsher climatic conditions, you should go for the fat tire mountain bike.
Fat bikes are also a good choice for beginners who are not very skilled or familiar with mountain bike riding, as they offer easier riding over obstacles. Furthermore, they require more energy, so they are better for exercise, as they burn more calories.
Riders generally use regular mountain bikes for commuting or trail riding. Additionally, they are cheaper and easier to find replacement parts for.
Comparing fat tire mountain bikes vs. regular mountain bikes will allow you to make an informed decision on the type of mountain bike you should get.
While both types have pros and cons, you should pick one better suited to your requirements.
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