Seen a good looking bike with oversized tyres of late & wondered what it is? Or you’ve known that it is a fat bike but why are the tyres so over sized as if they carry the strength of the bull? Or you think itis the mighty Hulk who rides the bike. Well, let us answer all these questions & clear your doubts on not just what fat bike is but also on the inside out knowledge of it in entirety.
What is a Fat Bike?
So, coming to the basics first, a fat bike or fat tyre bike is a bicycle with thick tyres which might give you a midway between cycles & motocross bikes. The tyres are so fat that you can love them, hate them but simply can’t ignore them. However, these grow up babies aren’t just for fashion but rather for making things easy on tracks were normal bikes would fail to move even an inch. They are for off-road bicycling experience with tyres that are not fully inflated ever & continue to be as thick as 3.8 inches & even more. The rims are 2.16 inches wide. When coming to the inflation pressure on the tyre, it can vary with the range as low as 340 hPa or 0.34 bar (5 psi) to allow an easy ride over rough or even amorphous obstacles. The normal range for a majority of riders is 550–690 hPa, 0.55–0.69 bar (8–10 psi).
So why this low tyre pressure & fat tyres? How does it make biking on abnormal surfaces an easy thing. Coming to the answers, the science is simple. It is simply the magic of pressure & surface area. Remember the primary school lessons where the pressure increased with decreasing surface area? The example of surviving in quicksand where instead of standing upright, you should try to lie flat if you don’t want to sink? The same thing happens here. When the tyres become fat, the surface area of contact increases. With low pressure, when they press against the surface, not only do they spread around because of being half-inflated but also exert less pressure over the surface. This makes the bike stand its ground & move forward instead of sinking in to the surface. It is for this reason that fat bikes can go where normal bikes would have to be taken by you instead of them taking you to your destination.
However, fat bikes sound like easy picking but aren’t so easy. It is not just a fun way to let you explore winter biking or dessert biking or biking in mud piles during monsoon, but also has various other advantages as below:
- Your Key To FitnessThe best thing about winters is that they don’t make you go to the gym so you can stay indoors & eat. But wait! Isn’t that wrong to spoil the body you burnt a lot of calories for? As a matter of fact, fitness & winters don’t go well together. Fat bikes are your key to some good outdoor exercise as it gives you tough workout sessions of cycling if done well enough. If you’re looking to burn up to 1,500 calories in winter, it is just an hour in soft conditions. The main advantage is that you’ll recover faster than what you’ll take for an hour-long run.
- Mountain Biking All The Way!Fat bikes are specifically made for snow & sand but unlike its counterparts, it can be ridden everywhere. You can ride it on roads or on mountains. Majority mountain trails don’t allow biking throughout the year due to snowfall, rain, etc. It is specially in these regions that mountain biking has taken a shift from a four-five months to an all year long stuff thanks to fat bikes. From only countable regions for year long mountain biking, to any mountain trail being accessible year long, the game has been changed by fat bikes in true sense.
- Peace of Mind, Om Shanti…Mountain biking is more of an activity to show ourselves superior as compared to those who are similar to us. Instead, it should be about enjoying the fun & embracing it with open arms, it should be all about chilling around while biking with the loved ones. Involving in happy times together by camping, cycling, spending a night under the sky singing songs around bonfire with some beer is the idle idea of enjoying biking amidst nature. Even you can go for a solo date with nature & some music in the earphones. That’s peaceful too.
- Riding Through The UnknownThe possibility gates get opened from all directions once you are riding a fat bike. Not just snow, if your heart calls for something new, you can take out your bike on a desert tour as well, or a muddy terrain in the rainy season. It’s all on your choice once you’ve a fat bike. What else works? You can run it on the road too. Fat bikes are the all-rounders in the team who can do everything & anything with utter ease. They’re amazingly adjustable.
- The Natural SuspensionWell, you could have sensed this one coming your way. Fat bikes have low tyre pressure & there is no tightness in the tyres. Quite naturally, the shocks get absorbed by the half inflated tyres automatically because the compression of tyres & the shapeshifting due to looseness eats it up to a major extent. This makes riding through uneven surfaces easy too.
- Low MaintenanceFat bikes are a friend from budget perspective too. They might be expensive when bought, but, they are an investment that you won’t need to make again & again. Probably the best one for those who are afraid to spend too much on fat bikes. Since these bikes don’t go too fast, there is clearly the low-maintenance plus point. Apart from this, they are more durable & lasting compared to mountain bike & road bikes.
How To Choose A Fat Bike?
With the rise in popularity of anything in the market, the varieties start coming in & sois the case with fat bikes which now come in many variants making it a slight task at hand for a consumer before he/she gets to take his fat bike. We shall help you here with the basics so as to minimize the confusion but, always go to a shop where you see an expert as they guide very properly with the features you’re looking for. Besides, the stores give you a “try before you buy” experience since the bikes are an expensive investment & not a trial pack of a new chocolate.
The main things to be kept in mind while choosing a fat bike are as follows:
Frame capability – Think about how much “flotation” is needed. There are two sizes: those that accommodate 4 inch & those for 5 inch or wider tires. If the trail is a groomed one, then it is the 4 inch variant. However, for sandy surfaces & desserts or non-trails, the 5 inch will be the starting point.
Rigid frame or suspension – Most fat bikes come as rigid frames due to the tyres having low pressure fill up the suspension void. However, many come equipped with a suspension fork. In case the terrain is tough & impenetrable with rigid frame, the suspension option should always be opted for else the problems of back pain, sciatica, hemorrhoids, etc. are sure to bother.
Frame size – this is a universal law be it road bike, mountain bike, e-bike or fat bike. The bike fit is surely the most important thing any day in cycling. It is always necessary to have a proper bike fit for maximum efficiency. Most frames are set up with similar geometry to a mountain bike. This makes them suitable & comfortable for rough terrain & stability.
Tyres – tyres always come in a variety of design options. Be it road & mountain bike or fat bike, tyres can come in a variety of designs. They can be tubeless or the same old school tubed ones. They’ll come in a variety of sizes. The general size is 3.8 or 4 inches approximately, but, smaller & larger one are available as well depending on the terrain you want to ride on. Also, the lugs on tyres vary as well where some might have many lugs while other might have lesser number of lugs. More the lugs, more is the traction & surface contact.
Brakes – comes without saying that these form an important part of your cycling basics. For zones that are snowy & freezing, the basic mechanical, cable-actuated disc brakes are recommended. Hydraulic disc brakes should be opted for when you’re sticking to warmer climates as mineral oil can easily freeze & stop your brakes from working properly causing you enough trouble in controlling things your way in snow despite having a bike that runs on snow.
From the perspective of the main purpose of making fat bikes,we have listed down a few precautions which are a must. Though fat bikes make riding on snow a possibility but that doesn’t mean you’ll go out & play it on as if it is your backyard. There are certain things that need to be taken care of initially & are follows:
1. Don’t leave a rut
The first rule that forms the foundation of fat biking is the rule of fat biking on groomed fattrack which is – “never ever leave ruts in the trail.” Always keeping looking behind while riding to see if you are leaving a rut behind yourself while biking. In case it happens, stop immediately & turn around. That day is neither yours nor anybody elses for biking.
Freshly-groomed trails are those who are fresh & have been worked upon to soak in. Riding immediately on them is a sin & is bound to invite ruts which freeze soon & then turn troublesome for riders behind you. The time required for a trail to set itself up is dependent on many factors like temperature, humidity, etc.
- 3.8” Rule
For riding on snow, tyres at least 3.8″ wide should be chosen. The wider it is, the better it gets in terms of cycling. The Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) states that “larger riders should run minimum 4.5” tyres since tyre width should be proportional to the weight of the rider.”
3. Tyre pressure & the conditions
Another thumb rule- “the softer the surface conditions, the lower the air pressure on the tyres.” this will prevent to minimise the pressure exerted as well as increase the surface area of the tyre on the unstable ground. But, if the rider is a bit bulky or healthy, air pressure can be increased a bit owing to the heavy weight of the rider. Expert organisations related to fat biking recommend around 1-4 psi for a “soft surface” & 6-8 psi for “hard surface & base.”
- Avoid thawing conditions when the weather warms
Trail conditions become more variable as the weather changes. When the temperatures sore above freezing, one shouldn’t ride.
Also, such conditions leave scope for ruts. Riding early in the morning when the trails are still frozen is a good hack. Though the effects aren’t immediately visible, one should plan accordingly.
5. Never ride on wrong trails
Snowy regions have biking trails as well as the ones for snowbikes, skiing & dog-mushing. Always check the signs & trailhead kiosks if you’re unsure regarding the type of trail. It is necessary always since your mistakes might cause problems to other riders & tourists too.
6. The perfect kit for Snowmobile trails
It is always necessary to ride with care on snowmobile trails since they are quite fast. As a matter of safety, wearing a blinking tail light & reflective clothing alongside other safety gears is always a plus. Avoiding to ride on the centre of the snowmobile trails will be a safe & intelligent move too.
We hope that the information above is aptly framed so as to give you the perfect idea on fat bikes – what they are, their purpose, the precautions, the techniques & necessities, etc. these things when followed would lead to a memorable experience of the cycling chapter in life. Although, we would also reiterate that a specialized store should always be visited & help from the salesman must be sought to keep things sorted & clear as they have the experience & precision to clear the doubts & advise the absolutely correct.