Gone are the days of beach cruisers, BMX, and mountain bikes dominating the two-wheeled scene, now there are fat tire bikes, and they are here to stay. Providing a wider wheelbase, fat tire bikes are better for trekking off the beaten path and in all weather conditions. But they can be on the more expensive side when it comes to pricing.
Are fat tire bikes worth it? If you are the adventurous type looking for a new two-wheeled ride, a fat tire bike is exactly what you are looking for. But, casual riders should weigh the cost of the fat tire bike with a regular bike before purchasing.
While cost is certainly a significant factor when it comes to the fat tire bikes, there are plenty of other factors to look into with these bikes. There are plenty of different options to choose from as well, so trying to narrow down which brand to buy, which custom options you need, plus the places you can go on a fat tire bike are all necessary to think about.
What is a Fat Tire Bike?
A fat tire bike is a specially designed bike with a custom frame and forks that allow for thicker, wider tires to be attached, thus giving the bike more maneuverability in off-terrain areas. The frame, tires, forks, handlebars, gears, and braking systems are all custom-made for fat tire bikes because of their unique shape and the weight that the bikes have.
There is a big difference between “fat tire” bikes and “plus tire” bikes. Fat tire bikes typically have their tire width exceed 3.5 inches and have an internal rim width of 60-100 mm. Plus tire bikes have a tire width of 2.5-3.25 inches and an inner rim width of 50 mm.
Fat tire bikes are great for those looking to take on a new adventure on their bike. Unlike a standard mountain bike or beach cruiser, the wheels are much thicker, as noted above, which allows for the fat tire bikes to easily maneuver across all terrains. The fat tire bike has been used in a variety of ways to trek across previously unthinkable terrain by bike.
From the South Pole to the Sahara Desert, fat tire bikes have taken extremists across impossible terrains. With the fat tire bikes, the broader wheels allow for more traction and grip on surfaces other bikes might have issues with. It also allows for a smoother ride because they can disparage shock across a broader range of surface area with the tires.
Fat Tire Bikes vs. Regular Bikes
Fat tire bikes are a relatively new phenomenon in the biking world, and if you want to be a part of the craze, checking one out is a great way to get some more information about them. Comparing them to regular bikes like mountain bikes, beach cruisers and BMX bikes can give you a clearer picture as to which provides you with the best option.
The fat tire bike in comparison to a mountain bike is actually a very similar comparison. The mountain bike frame is usually made out of the same materials the fat tire bike is, but on a lesser scale. The tires are generally about the same, with the apparent size difference. Both of the tires usually have the deeper treads to be able to grip more and help with off-road biking.
The most significant difference between the two bikes is that the fat tire bike can go further off-road than a mountain bike can; this, plus the fat tire bike provides a more comfortable ride because of its wider wheelbase.
For a beach cruiser, the fat tire bike comparison is very much different. The elements of a beach cruiser are made for a bike that does not go off-road too often, with stability being the name of its game. The fat tire bike can go on the sand as well as a beach cruiser can, usually the harder the sand, the more comfortable the ride. But, the beach cruiser is definitely more of a pavement bike that can go with ease while the fat tire bike requires a bit more strength to push it along.
The final bike to compare a fat tire bike to is the BMX bike. These two are the most opposite of bikes, and it starts with their size. BMX bikes tend to be the smallest of the bunch, and they are designed that way so riders can move about them and move the bikes about to perform tricks and stunts. They are incredibly lightweight and generally do not go off-road—the exact opposite description of a fat tire bike.
Why Are Fat Tire Bikes So Expensive?
From everything written so far, fat tire bikes may seem like a good substitute for a regular mountain bike because of the versatility you get with the fat tire bike. But, the prices of the two types of bikes vary wildly, depending on some of the features of the bikes.
For fat tire bikes, they can range from the cheapest at $400 to over $3000. The reason they cost so much is because of the different customizations companies have to do to create the bikes. Things like the frame, tires, and gears and brakes are all specially made.
First, the frame needs to be custom made to fit the larger sized tires. This, along with larger forks (where the tires connect to the frame), is a reason why the bikes can be more expensive. Plus, fat tire bikes have the reputation of being able to handle all conditions, so the frames are usually made out of steel or durable aluminum, which can be more expensive to purchase.
The tires themselves are also more expensive than standard bicycle tires. Obviously, they are bigger than the average bike tire, so the cost to manufacture is already higher in that aspect. Plus, the tires on fat tire bikes generally have deeper treads or are custom-made to allow for more grip means that the cost drives the price of the bike up.
Finally, the gears and brakes need to be specially made for fat tire bikes. The gears and brakes need to be a little more robust than the ones on regular bikes because of the size and the weight of the fat tire bike. Brakes especially need to be a little bigger than usual because they have more weight they need to effectively stop; this can increase the price of the bike.
Other little things can also be necessary on a fat tire bike than on standard bikes that can drive up the price. The chains on fat tire bikes, some of which can be rust-proof, can also lead to a more expensive bike along with the handlebars and the seats.
Where to Buy Affordable Fat Tire Bikes
Since fat tire bikes are a bit uncommon, more so than regular bikes, you may have some issues just walking into a big box store and finding the best models. A little digging into local bike shops and online places might show a more extensive selection of fat tire bikes.
That being said, Walmart does offer a vast selection of fat tire bikes from numerous brands and at different price points. These are all online at Walmart.com, so you do not get a chance to try out the bike in person before purchase, but the store does offer a return policy you should check it out. I do not believe your local Walmart, unless you live in a well-populated area, will have a large selection in-store. So, online shopping is probably your best bet.
Amazon is another excellent place to find a wide selection of fat tire bikes. The best part about Amazon shopping is that the bikes usually have a great description, including their wheel size and other measurements in the name, which can significantly reduce the time searching.
The last great place to find fat tire bikes would be to go to the manufacturers’ websites and search for fat tire bikes. Companies like Mongoose, Trek, Diamondback, Nakto, and so many more offer a wide selection of their version of the fat tire bikes that you cannot go wrong just going to their sites and finding one for yourself. The sites are also great stops for any other gear you might need for when you go out on your fat tire bike adventures.
Recommended Affordable Fat Tire Bikes
Fat tire bikes, like the rest of the regular bike categories, come in different shapes, sizes, frames, colors, etc. The difference in the fat tire bike categories comes down to the frame size and material, the size of the tires, and of course, the additional features one bike might have versus another.
Bike Smarts did a great review of five different styles of fat tire bikes that were on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Their list is compiled below:
- Gravity Bullseye Monster Five X w/ Disc Brakes – This is the best bang for your buck when it comes to fat tire bikes. There are four different frame types/sizes, which allows you to get a little customized with your seat/handlebar location. Plus, this bike comes with 4.9 inch-wide treads, which is thick even by fat tire standards. It also has a ten-speed gear and weighs in at 35 pounds, which is on the lighter end of the spectrum.
- Framed Minnesota 1.2 – This bike comes from a company known for their BMX bikes, so it has a more free-flowing feel than perhaps other fat tire bikes. With a rugged look, thanks to the flat, wide handlebars, this bike is excellent for those wanting more adventure in their lives with more control of their bike. It has a five-speed shifter and is angled so that the rider is more upright than any other fat tire bike. It also is priced out at less than $1000, so you are getting a lot for your money.
- Trek Roscoe Six Mid Fat Tire Bike – Trek came into the fat tire business looking to bring a brand name to the table, and their fat tire bike is excellent. It looks almost like a standard bike with a slender frame, but it includes a wide range of sizes for the frame and handlebars. A 10-speed shifter allows for great control on trails, and at under 34 pounds, it is a feather in the fat tire bike division.
- Mongoose Dolomite – Mongoose brought their A-game, and a bottom-dollar fat tire bike, into the industry. Most bikes sell for $1500; cheaper bikes can go for $800-1000. The Dolomite is selling for $400-500! But does low price mean a cheap bike? In some cases, yes, but if you are new to fat tire bikes, this is a great way to be introduced to the world on a budget. The Dolomite can tackle any reasonable terrain (hard sand, light snow, small mud puddles, etc.), but it lacks the customization that the other bikes on this list offer.
Can a Fat Tire Bike Be Your Only Bike?
Fat tire bikes are an excellent investment for those who want a little more adventure with two-wheels. But because they are so expensive, the question becomes: can they be your only bike? In short, yes, fat tire bikes can be your only bike. But there are a few caveats to take into consideration before you go all-in on a fat tire bike.
The first one is the price of the fat tire bike. If it is going to be your only bike, you definitely want that bike to be as comfortable to ride on as it can be. Customization options with fat tire bikes are aplenty, but they come at a pretty penny. Finding the right frame of the bike to match the length of the distance between the seat and handlebars can be difficult, along with so many other factors.
Then there is the actual ride of the fat tire bike. For all of its glory of handling the great outdoors and every weather pattern Mother Nature can throw at it, fat tire bikes are not necessarily the best ones for everyday pavement riding in the neighborhood.
The tires, the frame, the brakes, the entire bike is almost built just for going off-roading. While you can take it to the streets and enjoy a comfortable ride, the fat tire bike can almost feel lacking when you do so. Plus, the weight of the bike can make for a difficult time trying to climb up steep hills and other inclines, and the weight can cause trouble just trying to get the bike out and going.
There are positives of making the fat tire bikes your own, though. The first would be: if you go all-in on one, customize it to your needs, and take care of it, then the fat tire bike can be a very enjoyable ride on any surface. This, and you are not limited by the seasons as to when you can ride your bike. No more waiting until springtime to dust off the saddle, you can continue to ride your bike year-round.
Another positive is that the fat tire bike can bring a lot of attention to you because of the uniqueness of the bike. If you want to show off what you got, the fat tire bike is a great way to do so in style.
Fat tire bikes are a great investment if you want to take new adventures on two wheels. But, the only drawback can be the price for which you have to pay for the fat tire bikes. Because of their uniqueness, the price point is higher than a regular bike, which can be a turnoff.
But fat tire bikes are great for adventuring out on rougher bike trails, or in the wintertime, on snowy paths that other bikes and vehicles might have a tougher time trekking through.
Be prepared to spend $1000 or more on a quality fat tire bike, though, as most start at that price for a basic package and then increase in price as you add more features and attempt to make the bike more custom fit to you. While there are fat tire bikes you can find for cheaper, they may not have the same custom-feel as the more expensive ones.
Overall, a fat tire bike is an excellent investment if you are willing to spend the money and find yourself taking on new trails and new adventures outdoors.