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One of the most fascinating things about bicycles and bike riding as an activity is that there are so many different ways to experience bikes, and so many different types of bikes to choose from. A person might find their way to bikes because they want to partake in a sport like hardcourt bicycle polo or freestyle BMX. Or maybe they just want a green and affordable way to get to work, or a fun way to lose weight, or maybe an exciting way to travel across their home state (or country!). Truly, there is no wrong way to come to bikes and bike riding and for every person, there is an ideal type or style of bike, and for you, that ideal style might be what is called a "fat-tire bike".
A fat tire bike is, as you would probably guess, can be any bike that boasts fat tires. That said, fat bikes is also a phrase used to describe a certain style of bike and bike riding. To understand this and why you might choose a fat tire bike, requires a look back at where they come from and why people fell in love with such bikes:
A Quick History of Fat Tire Bikes
To go back to that first use of the phrase, bikes with fatter tires have been around since the early 1900s when bicycle tire manufactures started experimenting with different sized tires. However, fat tire bikes as a more cemented style and one in which people started actually including them for their inherited benefits didn't start until the end of the 20th century. This true start of fat tire bikes happened during 1980s and revolved around bicyclists who were tackling two extreme terrain types: snow and sand.
The first person, and the one credited with creating the first true fat bike, was Steve Baker of Alaska's Icicle Bicycle. Baker wanted a bike adept at trekking across ice and snow and so started experimenting with unique bike geometries and components. He eventually decided upon welding two rims together and mounting them with two tires of the same brand and size to essentially create one double-wide tire that was just over four inches wide. He then designed and welded a bike frame to fit those tires and ta-da, the first true fat bike was born. Upon seeing Baker's bike, another Alaskan cyclist and machinist, Simon Rowaker, saw the potentiality and created the ultra-wide SnowCat bicycle rim which would go on to become one of the most popular bicycle rims in the early 1990s.
Across the country, really the continent, another adventure-minded cyclist by the name of Ray Molina had started falling in love with the sand dunes and gullies of New Mexico and Arizona. Molina took those aforementioned SnowCat rims, welded two together, slapped a 3.5" tire on it, and started tackling the sand dunes of Chihuahua, Mexico. The extra-wide rims paired with the tire enabled him to smoothly ride over the sand. These successful adventures across sandy terrain helped to inspire the extra-fat tired beach cruisers so many love today. Molina's production rims, the Remolina rims, officially went for sale in 1999. Just one year after that, in 2000, cyclist Mike Curiak won Iditasport's 1,100-mile snow and ice-filled adventure across Alaska's insane wilderness in a record 16 days. His finishing was six days faster than the race's previous record holder, and he credited his accomplishment to using the Remolina wide rims. That accomplishment proved to the bicycle industry that fat tires, previously thought as slow, bulky, and thereby generally useless, offered some incredible advantages. A fat tire revolution was born and by the end of the decade, several bicycle manufacturers were busy fulfilling bike shop orders for their exciting new frames built specifically for pairing with fat rims and tires.
Understanding More Specifically the Benefits of Riding Fat-Tire Bikes
We certainly hit on some of the unique benefits of fat tire bikes and the reasons why you might buy one, but let's look more specifically with a top-down list of why you should consider adding such a bike to your stable:
1. Take you on terrain most bikes can't dare to go (or feel extra sketchy if you try).
The number one reason to get a fat tire bike is that, as our look at their history undoubtedly showed, you can take these bikes across all types of terrain. Including terrain that would cripple other, more traditional-styled bicycles.
The secret to this fat tire sauce is stability. Fat tires with wide treads and a more robust construction are capable of verifiably gliding over rocks, stones, snow, and sand. Or, more simply put, truly fat tires can handle just about any terrain you throw at them, This is because the wider they are, the more they are able to spread out their point of impact.
Another way of understanding why fat tire bikes are so adept at handling bad terrain is to consider snowshoes. Stepping on a pile of snow with just a normal shoe will result in you falling through and getting your whole foot wet and cold. But if you wear snowshoes, you are stepping on the snow with a larger surface area. That larger surface area switches the physics of things as now instead of just the small amount of snow directly beneath your feet working to support you, you have the larger surface area of the snowshoe and all the snow beneath it supporting you. This elevates you.
Similarly, wide tires on sand, loose gravel, uneven, rocks, and snow all equate to a larger surface area below supporting you. Loose rocks and gravel are less likely to shift, making these bikes more accomplished in mountain biking. Likewise, try riding across a beach on a road bike with road tires. You'll likely skid out on the many grains. But do so in a beach cruiser with fat tires and the wider point of impact means more sand supporting you with every push of the pedals. Thus, instead of sinking or skidding out, you can ride across with ease.
2. It's not just the terrain, fat tire bikes also deliver a fantastic ride in inclement weather.
Physical terrain is just the start. In addition to being able to take cyclists over all sorts of less-than-ideal ground, the fat ire tike can likewise deliver an enjoyable riding experience no matter the weather. Rain, sleet, snow, wind, and heat are no match for the fat tire cyclist.
The reason these bikes do so well in inclement weather is twofold. First, that extra wide profile that helps ensure the rider can tackle loose rocks, sand, and snow, also results in great traction in slick conditions. Wider and more tread translates to better grip and better grip translates to greater stability.
The second reason why fat tire bikes are so useful in bad weather, especially windy weather, is due to their weight. While there are some lightweight road and track bike frames designed to outfit wider rims, they are the exclusion to the rule. Most bike frames built to accept wider rims are going to be heavier mountain bikes, cruisers, or very beefy hybrids and specialty touring bikes. The nature of their weight combined with wider tire profiles result in a bike capable of resisting stronger winds, keeping the rider biking safe.
3. Enjoy an ultra-comfortable riding experience
One of the questions we see a lot of people new to fat tire bikes ask is why so many of these style bikes don't have suspension frames. They are mostly mountain bikes after all. Well, the answer to this is that fat tire bikes don't need another suspension system as they already have one integrated right into the tires.
Yes, for the fat tire bike, the tires themselves, due to their unique large build, serve as all the suspension system most riders will need. You can even easily adjust that suspension by simply adjusting how much air you keep in each tire. Fat tires work fantastically well even when you have the tire pressure set low, as low as 15 or even 10 PSI. What happens when you reduce the pressure in these tires is that they become squishier and the elasticity of the rubber then absorbs the uneven terrain, taking in any shocks or jolts the rider might otherwise feel. The result, even in bad terrain conditions, is a smooth and comfortable ride.
4. Better balancing feel for beginner or otherwise non-savvy cyclists.
A big reason why our team at sixthreezero got into the bike manufacturing and selling business is because we are passionate about seeing more people on bikes. You can see this whenever you visit our website and browse our inventory as just about every bike we have is designed with two key things in mind: Comfort and ease of use. Because if a bike is not comfortable and does not inspire confidence, then newcomers to biking or casual bicyclists aren't going to consistently choose their bike over other options. And we want people to consistently choose biking.
Fat tire bikes naturally fall right in line with our mission statement because of a lot of the aforementioned reasons -- comfort and ability to ride across various terrain and weather -- but also because they are easy to ride even for those who are new to riding altogether. The wider profile of these tires means more contact with the ground, which translates to a better balanced bicycle. So if you are learning to ride a bike, or if you are a bigger person and feel like skinnier bikes feel excessively wobbly, then you will love how balanced you will feel riding a fat tire bike.
5. Most fat tire bikes are low maintenance by design.
This big benefit is true for most all fat tire bikes, but there will always invariably be one or two outliers that don't' fit the mold. That said, all of the fat tire bikes sold by our team at sixthreezero are designed to be easy to maintain and care for like many fat tire bikes are supposed to be.
The reason why fat tire bikes are generally low maintenance by design is because their beauty has always been in their simplicity. Remember, their tires are their suspension system and so most of these bikes aren't going to be built with another fork suspension system. Rather, they will boast a simple rigid frame design.
Additionally, many fat tire bikes are built either as single speed bikes or will only have one set of either front or rear gearing. This reduces how many shifting components you have to care for and maintain. And yet, the more minimal gearing won't feel limiting for most riders due to how easy fat tire bikes take on most terrain. This is especially true if you are buying a fat tire bike primarily for use around town, beach, or easier biking trails.
Learn More About Fat Tire Bikes and Pick Out Your Favorite at Sixthreezero
Our team could probably wax poetic about fat tire bikes all day long, but the best way to actually see why these types of bikes and these types of rims and tires are so great is to get on an example bike and take off. We offer all of our customers what we call the 365-day Test Ride for standard bikes. And a 90 day test ride for electric bikes.
While most of our bikes don't boast the extreme fat tires you will see on more niche fat bike models, we do like to include fatter, wider tires than you would typically see on any competing bike. You can also ask us about larger tires when putting an order in as most are equipped to handle fat tires as replacements for what we have on as stock. So, what are you waiting for? Check out our inventory today!
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