Fat bikes are quickly becoming a great alternative to buying and using mountain bikes, but before you rush out and buy one, there are key differences between the two types of bikes to consider.
Primarily, fat bikes allow the rider to go places on terrains that other bikes simply cannot cope with, such as heavy snow areas and icy floors.
Of course, we all want our children to be safe, and when we’re out riding with them, we don’t want to have to give up on the ride because the terrain has changed.
Therefore, it’s important that we understand the differences between fat bikes and mountain bikes, along with what their capabilities are and why we might choose one over the other.
What Is A Fat Bike?
Fat bikes are essentially bikes that are used for off-roading in extreme conditions. While they share many of the properties that a mountain bike has, fat bikes have much wider tires and a frame design that reflects these tire sizes.
Indeed, even the pressure of the tires runs at a much lower PSI than mountain bikes do in order to allow the rider to progress over difficult terrains. It does this by reducing the ground pressure.
Where mountain bike tires would sink in these situations, fat bikes will glide over them. Therefore, fat bikes can ride in heavy snow, boggy areas, and places with lots of sand.
The tires can also respond well to rocks and other things that can appear on the ground whilst riding, preventing “bouncing,” which can help to keep the rider safe if they come into contact with these things.
Alongside your traditional fat bikes, it is also possible to find folding fat bikes and even electric fat bikes!
How Does A Fat Bike Differ From A Mountain Bike?
As we said, the primary difference between these two types of bikes is the tires’ size- but this means that the bike’s overall design must also accommodate these tires.
However, despite larger tires – not all fat bikes have larger rim diameters. In fact, some can be smaller than common mountain bikes.
What is important to note, though, is that the tires need extra clearance, so the wide tires don’t rub – so the forks are made to be much wider.
On top of this, fat bikes have wider rear hub spacing, wider crank spindles, and wider bottom brackets.
Finally, as mentioned previously – the PSI on fat bike tires is run at a lower pressure than that of mountain bikes. Typically, fat bikes run at about 5 to 14 PSI, whereas mountain bikes run at around 22 to 25 PSI.
Tires At A Glance
It’s worth looking at the tires in slightly more detail for each kind. However, it’s important to note that these measurements may be smaller for kids’ bikes.
These measure in at about 2 to 2.6 inches in width, and rims are around 25mm internally.
These measure in at about 4 to 5.5 inches in width, and the rims are around 50mm internally.
This is a new size category, and they measure in at about 3 inches wide with an internal rim width of 40mm.
Why Use A Fat Bike?
There are a few great reasons why you and your kids may decide to use a fat bike instead of a mountain bike. These are the following:
As we said before, one of the biggest positives of using a fat bike over other bikes is the fact that you can use them in almost all types of terrain.
If you’re expecting a lot of snow or sandy conditions when you’re going to be out on your bikes, then, of course – these are the types of bikes you want to be looking at.
Due to their design, the lower PSI, and the wider tires, many riders will tell you that the ride is a much smoother one than that of a mountain bike.
As you have a larger contact patch with the floor whilst you’re riding, the traction from a fat bike is much better than a mountain bike.
As with all bikes, fat bikes are excellent vessels for exercise. However, exercising using fat bikes is likely to yield better results because it requires a lot more effort to ride fat bikes.
Due to the larger tires and reduced PSI, moving across the ground will need much more power – so you’re likely going to burn far more calories than you would if you were riding a mountain bike.
When Is It Better To Use A Mountain Bike?
There can be some limitations when it comes to fat bikes, including some of the parts that you may need to find for replacements.
Mountain bikes not only have more replacement parts options but are also much lighter and easier to maneuver – making them better for traveling at faster speeds.
This can be great if you and your kids enjoy fast-paced rides in safe areas, but of course – you’ll need to remember your surroundings, such as the conditions.
Therefore, if you are not expecting difficult conditions such as snow, sand, or lots of mud, choosing a standard mountain bike for you and your family might be a better option.
In reality, it all depends on your personal circumstances and preferences.
You may also want to learn more about the differences between mountain bikes and road bikes.
How Would I Choose The Best Fat Bike?
Choosing the best fat bike for you and your kids may be a little tricky. However, we recommend heading over to our top fat bike picks and reading some of our advice.
The Bottom Line
Mountain bikes and fat bikes have their own pros and cons and have their own designs specifically for their purposes. If you think these purposes are right for you and your family, be sure to check out our advice!
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