Friday, February 9, 2018

Fat Bike FakeNews

I’m not going to lie, I’m not a fan of fat bikes.

I had one but I just couldn't drink the Kool-Aid...

Read just about any fat bike propaganda and you’ll see statements like, "and you can ride them everywhere” or “any trail, any time of year.”

You’ll also read that the wider tires float on surfaces where other tires would sink.”

Bicycling Magazine (which is pure drivel), even boasted that "staying fit in the winter is hard, but fat bikes make outdoor exercise possible."

To that latter point, I can only say thank god that fat bikes came long to make winter "outdoor exercise possible." I wonder what all that skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and running was all about...

Anyway, as for RIDING a fat bike on "any trail any time," I reply with a resounding, “meh.”

Maybe fat bikes are better on sand, but if I ever get to the point that I want a bike that I can ride up and down the beach, it’s time to give up mountain biking. Riding the fat bike on regular trail conditions was okay, but far from life changing, and I was spending way too much time thinking about that 1psi difference between riding a bouncy house or a squirm machine. But it's when the snow fell that I was really disappointed. When trying to ride in a few inches of snow, I sunk in and got stuck just like I did on a regular “skinny” fat tire bike (i.e. 2.25ish).

That's when I learned the dirty secret...   these rough and ready bikes are really trail prima-donnas.

After every snow fall there is a flurry of Internet chatter about trail grooming. Apparently, in order to ride the “go anywhere” fat bike in the snow, you need to organize a group of people to go out and first snowshoe the trails to pack them down, and then you need to drag a weighted-down sled around for more perfect grooming conditions. Bonus points if you buy an actual snow grooming machine like the $3000 SnowDog ( Then, after that laborious task, you’ll still need the weather to cooperate… warm weather will still create soft (sinking) conditions and cold weather will create ice, necessitating studded tires. But, if the trails have been manicured to this degree, regular width MTB tires with studs will be fine.

Don't get me wrong, exercise is exercise, and maybe that's what Bicycling was talking about... fat bikes make people go out to groom snowy trails?

With a recent snow fall, it seemed like an army of groomers and packers descended on the trails and then we had rain and a warm spell and when all was said an done, the woods were totally rideable except for all the trails that had been packed down to sheets of ice by all of the grooming. Which, brings me be back to my "skinny" bike with studded tires...

Obviously there are plenty of choices when it comes to bikes, and some people probably think I'm crazy because my go-to bike is my 29+ hardtail/rigid single speed, but I think fat bikes over promised and under-delivered.

Let me bitch a bit more about this particular article promoting their attributes... I already mentioned that Bicycling had the audacity to say that fat bikes make"outdoor exercise possible," but what other bullshit benefits are cited?
  • You've Never Run Your Tire Pressure This Low Anywhere Else--I was literally sitting here thinking, "I really really really wish I had a bike that I could run low tire pressure on... oh please omnipotent bike industry, make my dream come true."
  • It's Easy to Get Into Racing--Yeah, because there are NO mountain bike races or cyclocross races anywhere.
  • It's Like Riding a Bike and a Horse at the Same Time--What? This is where the author gets to geek out on the Q-factor, the distance between your pedals, where wider bottom brackets can get too wide and be uncomfortable. Wait, so this is a good thing? I just remember how many type-A riders would obsess about bike-fit and put 0.5mm washers on their pedal spindles to optimize their Q-factors, but then have no qualms going from a 73mm bottom bracket shell to a 100 or 120mm for a fat bike to accommodate a 190mm rear hub.
  • So Many New Ways to Wear Your Kit--You've GOT to be kidding me. 
I guess because I've never wished for a low-tire-pressure bike/horse fashion accessory, fat bikes weren't for me...

Want more fat bike foolishness? Follow this link: When I first set out to find a fat bike to sell at my shop I had no idea the terrible nonsense that was out on the market...

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