What is Fat Biking—and Why Should You Try It?

Big tires, a big frame and big rewards come with riding a fat bike

Each winter cyclists around the world reluctantly give in to inclement weather and either put their bikes into storage or mount them on the dreaded trainer for some stationary practice. Most of them would rather brave the elements and enjoy the outdoors, but some bikes don’t ride well once the snow begins piling up.

That’s where fat bikes come in. Made for soft, uneven conditions, the fat bike is perfect for taking on snow, sand and even some dirt trails where you might need extra grip. The defining feature on these bikes are the over-sized tires, which allow the rubber to float over obstacles or unfavorable conditions on the ground.

The large fat bike tires can be used with inflation pressures as low as 4 or 5 psi, though a common psi reading is closer to 8 to 10 psi, depending on conditions. Fat bike riders adjust the psi based on the conditions for the perfect ride—soft snow means a lower psi and hardpack means a higher psi. For comparison, regular mountain bike tires usually hover around 30-50 psi.

The fat bike phenomenon has taken hold in the past few years, prompting mainstream bike companies like Trek and Mongoose to start manufacturing models of their own. Today, most bike shops carry fat bikes and the fat bike has it’s own internationally recognized day—December 7 is Global Fat Bike Day. Add to that the Global Fat Bike Summit and it seems these big wheel bikes are here to stay.

It seems these fat bikes are more than a passing trend, but why should you try one out?

For those who already love cycling, fat bikes can help extend your riding season well into the snowy months, whether you choose to bike commute or hit the trails. Fat bikes give the rider a different feel, making it easier to power slide corners and providing an exhilarating feeling at any pace. Crashing usually doesn’t hurt as much in the snow and fat biking is a great option for staying in shape and enjoying the outdoors in the winter.

Most of all, fat bikes are versatile and lots of fun to ride. They may look a little funny, but give one a try and you might just be hooked.