What's your rubber?
As with any mountain bike tyre, there is a huge and ever growing range of rubber to suit all riding conditions and terrains. Surly have a road suited tyre called the Black Floyd, which can be run at higher pressures of up to 120psi. 45NRTH have the Dillinger studded tyres in their range for more extreme (read icy) riding conditions. And there is everything in between at tyre widths from 3.5-inches to 4.8-inches. With the increased popularity comes more choice and manufacturers like Schwalbe, Specialized and Bontrager now have fat bike tyre options in a range of sizes and tread patterns. Wheels sizes for fat bikes are typically 26-inch diameter but in a range of different widths. Obviously the increased tyre height means that you'll be rolling at a similar radius to a 29-er.....
Bikes and frames are available at all price points and in a range of materials, just like other bike types. Typically the more affordable bikes are made of CroMoly steel, with mid-price bikes made of aluminium and bikes at the higher end made of carbon fibre. One consideration for anyone looking to ride around the world or in less developed countries is that steel is much easy to repair than aluminium or carbon fibre. If you crash down a pothole and break your forks in the middle of the night, the local repair shop will be able to help you get back on the road without fuss.
Hard or soft?
Whether you go for a hardtail bike or for a full suspension rig will depend on three things - 1. How technical are the trails where you intend to ride? 2. How deep are your pockets? and 3. Are you looking for a superlight bike? - At present we only know of three widely available brands that make a full suss fat bike, namely, Salsa, Foes and Turner. With prices of between £3000 and £5000 for these bikes, depending on spec, you'll need to be a fully committed, fully fat rider to go for one of these more versatile high spec bikes.
Scope of usability
We read an article last year asking the question - 'Can a fat bike be your only mountain bike?'. The answer, of course, was always going to be 'Yes, but..... '. More tyre contact area means more friction, which means that you'll have to work harder to carry the same speed compared to narrower tyres running higher pressures. The extra mass of the bike will require extra pedalling to get up to speed. And the bikes are definitely more susceptible in windier environments like beaches and open plains. But there is an argument that fat bikes are more relaxing to ride and that just might keep you riding at the same overall speed as you would on any other bike. One thing is guaranteed, a fat bike will take you to places that a trail bike just won't get to. For expeditions and cross continent rides, especially ones off road or on mixed terrain, it will be your perfect riding partner - a go anywhere, haul everything bike. Wherever you go, one thing is for sure, a fat bike will put a big fat smile on your face. These are bikes that are all about fun! Relive your childhood years all over again.