Although the term “fat tire bike” has been around for more than three decades now, it’s only until recently that it became more prominent in the biking world. Manufactured to tackle the treacherous Alaskan terrain, fat-tire electric bikes prove to be a practical tool for adventurous bikers.
Amid the electric biking craze, fat tire e-bikes continue to gain more popularity thanks to their diverse applications. But it’s easy to confuse an electric mountain bike with extra-wide tires for a fat tire e-bike. Then there’s this other confusing term- “plus-size tires”- all these confuse people as they are similar.
So, what exactly is a fat tire electric bike?
Simply put, a fat tire e-bike is any electric bike fitted with tires 3.5” wide or more. Most fat tires fall within the 4” range, although some can be as wide as 4.8” and these are called the “super-fat tires”. By contrast, a regular tire typically measures between 1.95” and 2.6” wide. Some tires can be wider than conventional tires but not as wide as fat tires. You might hear people call these the plus-size tires and usually range between 2.7” and 3.5” in width.
How Did the Fat Tire Trend Begin?
Fat tires are an innovation that adventurous cyclists looking to ride on tricky surfaces more easily. Mountain bikes used in muddy and snowy terrains were the first to showcase that there was a need for wider tires that give more stability on such terrain.
In no time, 2" tires that were put side by side on separate rims had to become the 4" wide tires, as this was obviously more safe and you cannot ride with multiple tires side by side.
How Do Fat Tires Work?
Unlike ordinary tires you'd see on electric bikes, fat e-bike tires can roll comfortably at different pressure levels (psi). Typically, fat tires are inflated to between 5 and 30psi. This allows you to switch up the pressure of the tire depending on the terrain that you are biking on.
For instance, a 30psi inflated tire does the job best on a tarmacked road whereas softer surfaces such as snow or wet sand require lower psi. This is all in the service of greater surface area, which will keep your tires on the surface, instead of in the terrain, sinking.
You’ll find multiple variants of fat tire e-bikes out there, which means there are many styles as well. There are models with folding frames, there are models with step-thru frames, but you can also find fat tire eMTBs. No matter which one you choose, pay attention to the tires separately.
The larger tires mean larger rims are used on the model, which adds approximately 4 pounds to an average electric bike. Luckily, the motor assistance on e-bikes negates this extra strain and keeps you riding smoothly.
Ultimately, fat tire bikes weigh more compared both to regular bikes and other e-bikes. While the motor makes sure the extra weight is no issue during riding, the problem arises when you have to haul the bike into your truck or upstairs for storage.
Are There Advantages of Fat Tire E-bikes?
Fat tires are becoming a more common sight nowadays and there are definitely valid reasons for that, especially if you ask adventure cyclists. To begin with, the larger footprint of fat tires results in a greater contact area when the bike is moving.
Because of this, you enjoy a stable ride with the increased traction, which allows you to take on different kinds of terrains with relative comfort. Whether you want to cycle on sandy beaches, gravel grounds, or hard pavements, nothing will slow down a fat tire e-bike.
The whole idea of wider and sturdier tires originated from a group of adventurers trying to maneuver snowy terrains. It makes sense that fat tires are so efficient on soft surfaces, right? Snow and sand can be tricky to maneuver with regular tires. Because of their larger contact area, they can glide on top of the surface without cutting into it and moving into its depth.
This concept is referred to as floatation and works remarkably with fat tire e-bikes. Ideally, it is achieved when you switch the pressure to about 5psi. In that particular situation, the bigger tire footprint helps to spread out the load over a broader area on the ground, making it possible to ride on tricky terrains that ordinary e-bikes could not.
Fat tire electric bikes can also glide on icy tracks and negotiate corners without skidding off as a regular e-bike would.
Riding over rocky surfaces and roots is a nightmare for any rider. Even mountain bikers struggle to cope with the constant rattling. However, this type of ride is totally different when you are cycling a fat tire e-bike.
The fat tires do a great job of soaking in the bumps, making you feel just as comfortable as when riding on fairly level ground. This is probably one of the best reasons why extreme expedition riders love these fat tire electric bikes! They want to move through complicated terrain, and the style of the bike lets them do that effortlessly.
When you get a fat tire e-bike and use it for your daily commute, you will have a much safer ride by the road. Because you have the big tires, everyone will notice you and take care of you in the traffic. Furthermore, most fat tires out there come with reflective elements that keep you safe from drivers.
Overall, the best fat tire e-bikes have a universal application that allows you to get the full utility of the bike. Whether you want to go on a cycling adventure in the woods, take a laid-back weekend cruise on the beach, plow through inches of snow, or commute to work on the paved roads, you can always count on a fat tire e-bike to have your back.
This also means that you can ride the bike all year round, as long as you manage to keep it functioning optimally.
Lastly, fat tire e-bikes come with a “wow” factor that allows you to stand out in a crowd. Riding a fat tire bike in the neighborhood will surely turn heads your way and attract curious onlookers. This is especially true for non-cyclists who have never seen such a bike before. So, if you don’t mind some attention, try investing in a fat tire electric bike.
What are the Downsides of Owning a Fat Tire Bike?
Although fat tire e-bikes are very useful, you need to be aware that there are disadvantages that you ought to know before getting one. For starters, they can be quite heavy, especially for those designed to be eMTBs. Typically, their weight can range between 60 and 80lbs, and this can be almost 20lbs of extra luggage on the weight of an average electric bike.
This heavy weight comes from the overall rugged build of the bike. From the heavy-duty frame to the great mass of rims and tires, the strain will be more noticeable when you have a hill to climb without help from the motor. This is to say that you shouldn’t risk having the battery run out on you in the middle of the trail. It could easily turn out to be an unpleasant journey back home.
The other issue with weight is that it makes it hard for you to carry the bike up/down the stairs. You might also have trouble loading it onto your truck without an extra pair of helping hands.
Another negative aspect is that when you’re rolling on reduced tire pressure, the heavy frame of the fat tire e-bike causes increased rolling resistance, which slows down the ride. This may not be a problem with a motor to boost your efforts but it will be a drag if you decide to use standard gears to move the bike, more so on uneven terrains.
Furthermore, fat tire e-bikes can pose quite the challenge to navigate on some gravel roads, especially if the manufacturer of the tires did a shoddy job on the treading and sidewalls. The larger surface contact areas increase the likelihood of destabilizing the tire when it hits the gravel, with small stones acting like rollers or bearings that decrease friction.
We’ve already mentioned the concept of floatation as one of the advantages of fat tire e-bikes when riding on soft ground like snow and sand. However, this can also work against you in some cases. For instance, riding in muddy environments tends to reduce the grip of the tires, which compromises the stability of the ride.
Lastly, fat tire e-bikes are not the most common design of e-bikes in the streets. Riding one will likely attract attention towards you, which may generally be a good thing. However, it has the potential to attract the wrong attention and make you a target for thieves and vandals. This ultimately puts your safety at risk when riding the bike.
What are the Different Formats of Fat Tire E-bikes?
The nice thing about e-bikes with fat tires is that you can get various models, which helps to break the monotony of a homogenous product. Some of the most popular designs you’ll find in shops include step-thru, folding, and mountain bikes.
Step-thru Fat Tire E-bikes
Fat tire electric bikes sporting a step-thru frame are generally the least prevalent but still quite popular with some enthusiasts. The convenient design of the frame significantly reduces the stand-over height, which makes it easy to get on and off the bike.
It makes step-thru fat tire e-bikes a great option for shorter riders and those with bad knees.
Fat Tire E-mountain Bikes
These are essentially fat tire e-bikes you'll see in most stores, as they are a favorite of adventurers who like to venture into remote and rugged terrain. They come with the standard build of mountain bikes, including an aggressive frame, straight handlebars, and front shocks.
The major differentiating factor from ordinary eMTBs is the noticeably enormous rollers. Some of these are equipped with hydraulic disc brakes and full-suspension frames to offer the rugged performance desired.
All-round Fat Tire Electric Bikes
The all-round fat tire electric bike is primarily designed for riding on the road. But it will have no problems plowing through off-road terrains like sand, snow, gravel, or dirt. Overall it offers a versatile setup that you can use for your daily commute to work or run errands with in town.
Similarly, you can also take it for an adventurous ride in the more rugged off-road trails over the weekend if you wish.
Now that you know what a fat tire e-bike is and what it can do, it shouldn’t be so hard to decide whether to get one or not. Overall, it is versatile for bike enthusiasts who like to take on challenging landscapes that a normal e-bike will have trouble venturing into.