I sell fatbikes. But more than that I am a fan. I love winter riding and rode my bikes thru the cold months anyway. Many frozen beach rides. Like 15 years of it. A good winter is awesome in my book.
Most of the time it was on an old MTB. There was a spell where I would put 40c tires on a old cross bike. Our winter rides were mostly road overall anyway.
So when the fatbike thing came along I was pretty much already there. Today everyone is amazed at being able to ride into the winter. To us here its old hat. But I will say the fatbike changed things quite a bit. Of course you can ride in deeper snow. Or really where ever the float of those tires can get you, which is more than we could before.
Ive always posted stuff on about fatbikes now and then. More so in season. For the most part Ive tried them all. Ive rode many rim sizes. 47, 65, 80 and 100mil. Tires starting at (non fat) 3 to the normal 3.8, 4 and 4.8. Ive rode on the symmetrical block Surly Knard to the Vee Mission to the robust Surly Nate. And now Bontys Hodag. Of course back in the day it was Larrys and Endomorph tires to start things off. Being a dealer I usually end up riding two separate bikes over the winter, maybe keeping one over the summer.
Of course Im not saying I know everything about fatbikes. But I’ve ran the stuff. Fat to skinny. Steel to Aluminum to carbon. Rigid to now suspension. Here are some of my opinions:
- A 4.8in tire on the same rim is bigger, but not that much bigger than a 3.8in. The difference in float is not a huge one. Every time I swapped tires I always went back to the smaller. And Im 250 pounds. The smaller tires handled way better on the hard pack which is what we rode the most of.
- Ive installed many driveline configurations and theres just no reason not to do a one by eleven. Eliminates several chainline issues. Less to maintain. Unless you live in the mountains. Then go for the lower ratio. Whats next for me in driveline you ask? 1 by 11 XTR Di2. Yes, I will go there.
- Hydro brakes. I hear people saying hydro does not work in cold temps. I can understand the issue of frozen seals leaking. But last year I had XT hydro on my 9zero7 all year with no issues. And I decided to leave it on top my car one nite when it got down to -5. And rode it at 9am at 9 degrees. No issues. Most higher end bikes are now hydro.
The wonderful thing that is coming about is all the rec and cross country ski areas that machine groom winter trails specifically for the fat bikes. The number of machine groomed trail this winter will double that of last. You have the big players like the guys in Marquette, MI and Cable, WI down to the small city or county parks across the State.
I really think this is the future of this bike. Initially we had to blaze out own trails. With the Moonlanders going first thu the woods with the biggest footprint. In that respect you can see how the bigger tire\rim combo looked advantageous and maybe it was.
But today we are ripping it up on machine groomed trails. Smooth as glass and fast as summer.
This past Sept I did the shorter race at Chequamegon. It was about 14 miles long. But it also was in the same area that the Fatbike Birkie was run(the shorter one also). I remember doing some of the same hills on the Birkie ski trail. After I did the summer race I compared data to the winter race. Average speed was almost identical. Within two tenths.
I think a lot of riders are going to the biggest tire just because they can. Thats what I did when I got the Moonlander. But those big tires where a bit much on the hardpack. Compared to todays bikes like the Farley that thing handled like a tank.
But again, Im comparing bikes from 5 years ago and in the fatbike industry that might as well be 20 years ago with how fast things are moving here. Two years ago we had 5 choices for tires. Now we have 20. Fatbike manufacturers now also number over 20. They have hit the scene so fast they are mainstream and obscure at the same time. Its now a bike with many uses. MTB geometry and suspension forks have them ripping it up on summer trails, the fattest tires have them plowing thru the deep snow. Smaller tires and rims along with lots of carbon have them flying on the machine groomed trails.
Take your pick. Options are always a good thing. To each their own!