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What is a fat bike?


Fat bikes with an electric motor (also known as fatbikes or fat tire bikes), are designed to ride on terrain with snow, mud, sand and / or loose rocks that would be difficult or impossible to ride on other types of bikes (even with a mountain bike). ). In recent times their popularity has grown rapidly and it is not uncommon to find them on trails formerly dominated by mountain bikes.


Although some bikes were built with fat tires in the early 20th century, the first modern fat bike was built in the 1980s to traverse the Sahara Desert. This bike used prototype tires / tires made by Michellin.


However, the development of fat bikes occurs thanks to two parallel stories. In the late 1980s, several frame manufacturers in Alaska began developing bicycles that were capable of riding in the snow. In the beginning, these bicycles used wheels made by welding 2 or 3 rings.


Meanwhile in New Mexico, Ray Molina commissioned the manufacture of wheels with 3.1 ″ rims, 3.5 ″ rims, and frames to support these wheels. He wanted these bikes for his tour company where he planned to offer desert rides.


In 1999 Mark Gronewald of Wildfire Design Bicycles, a company from Palmer, Alaska started making fat bikes using Molina’s wheels after meeting months earlier during the Interbike expo. Thus begins the history of these bicycles.


Electric Fat bikes characteristics

The frames of the fat bikes are based on those of the mountain bikes. Its geometry usually has a sloping top tube to allow the rider to flex his knees and have better control during jumps on an uneven road. The difference from MTB frames is that both the fork and chainstays have more clearance to support the wider wheels. The frames can be found made of aluminum or carbon fiber and it is possible to find some made of chromoly steel. Fat bike frames may or may not have suspension, just like mountain bikes.


Rigid – without suspension

Hardtail – front suspension only

Full suspension – with front and rear suspension

Handlebar / handlebar

In order to have good control and good visibility on uneven roads, fat bikes use straight or double height handlebars. This type of handlebars allow a semi-upright posture ideal for this type of road.




Today the vast majority of fat bike wheels are built with 170mm hubs (other sizes used: 160mm, 165mm and 190mm). The hoops are usually 26 ″ and are usually 35 – 103mm wide. The tires are regularly 64 – 130mm and being designed to be used on loose terrain, they have tread patterns to improve traction. Using such wide tires / tires can inflate at low pressures, typically between 5 – 30 PSI.



These bikes are equipped with wide speed ranges, with rather low ratios. This gives them the ability to tackle any type of terrain, especially if it is loose terrain filled with logs and loose rocks. Normally they have 2 to 3 plates and 8 to 9 pine nuts, although they can be found with cassettes of up to 11 steps.


Advantages and disadvantages of fat bikes

fat bike in the snow


You can use them on difficult or impossible roads to travel with other bikes

Its geometry and fat tires make it quite comfortable

Its tires will allow you to pass over any obstacle


Fat tires make them heavier than other bikes

They are slow on paved terrain

Wheels generate more inertia so you need to use more of your body weight to change direction

Who are fat bikes ideal for?

Kid with fat bike on the beach

Fat bikes are super fun bikes, ideal for those looking to get off the beaten track and explore new horizons. They are especially good on muddy roads, sand, snow, and stony roads. Its wide, low-pressure tires offer great grip and absorb much of the road’s vibrations very well.