Fat Bike vs Mountain Bike
You perhaps have tried adrenaline-boosting activities like ziplining motorcycle racing, rafting, sandboarding, caving, sky swinging, kayaking, skiing, and hiking.
You’re probably looking for another intense adventure that will take your experience to another level. Your long search is finally over with on- and off-road riding.
On-road biking is a fun pastime activity, especially when done during sunrise or sunset. It has a calming effect that will relax your mind.
Off-road cycling can be adventurous, as there are rugged terrains you have to surpass, and it is fulfilling every time you see picturesque views. It is a perfect activity for those who want to unwind and have some fun.
But it is vital to invest in a quality bicycle. If it is your first time looking for a bike, you may be unaware and confused about where to begin.
Knowing some types of bikes is worth your time. Fat and mountain bicycles are the two common names in the industry. Now, which should you take advantage of and try? Don’t worry, as you are in the right place.
In this comprehensive guide, you will know everything you need to learn about fat and mountain bikes. Keep reading for more!
At a Glance
Who wants to ride a bike that does not last? Of course, everyone prefers to invest in an impact-resistant, sturdy, and stylish bicycle.
Good news! Fat and mountain bikes have the durability, corrosion resistance, and style you are looking for.
They are both ideal for off-road cycling. But fat tires, as the name suggests, have an extra-wide wheel, measuring 3.8 inches, while the rims are 2.6 inches.
Mountain bike tires, on the other hand, range from 1.9 to 2.6 inches in width. That’s lower compared to the former.
But do not underestimate mountain bicycles. They are perfect for the roughest terrain. They can dig into the sand and other trails with soft materials without compromising your safety and comfort.
They have limitations, though. Even if they can perform well in loose gravel or desert, they cannot compete with the traction that fat bike provides, making the latter recommended when riding on deep snow.
Since their wheels are extra special, they might break your bank. They are costlier but more versatile and can go beyond your requirements. They can last longer and withstand the elements, helping you cut costs and acquire huge savings.
Now, let’s dig deeper into the differences and functionalities of fat and mountain bikes.
Flat and mountain bikes already have a long history.
Mountain bicycles were the first to conquer the world in the early and mid-80s, and their popularity continues to increase. It is no surprise as the bikes are fun on descents and can deliver comfortable traction.
But in the first Iditabike event in Alaska, cyclists experienced a hard time with their mountain bikes because of the rough trail conditions ranging from soft powder to frozen snow.
For that reason, frame builders started experimenting with different solutions. Some welded two rims side by side, laced them to a hub, installed two tires, and modified the frames, improving traction.
But this invention was not polished. That’s why Simon Rakower refined it, which marked the beginning of SnowCat rims.
In the same year, Ray Molina paid builders to create 82mm wide rims and 3.5 inches tires to take tourists out to explore the breathtaking Arroyo dunes in Chihuahua and southern New Mexico. It’s called the Chevron.
In a 1999 Interbike convention in Las Vegas, Mark Groneweld, a talented bike builder, met Molina and tested one of his bikes, and he was impressed. Then, they started the first production of fast bikes.
Unluckily, it did not have a huge success. In 2005, another reputed manufacturer named Surly launched Pugsly in the market, and it was widely accessible across the globe. It is composed of Endomorph 3.8 inch tires and Large Marge 65mm rims.
Fast forward this 2021, Kona, Trek, Salsa, Giant, Specialized, and other companies add fat bikes to their product lineups.
Ease of Use and Maneuverability
Have you ever used something that is challenging to operate and navigate? You probably did. How’s the experience? It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it?
A difficult to use bicycle will also give you the same experience. You don’t want that, especially when your primary purpose in off-road riding is to have fun.
Because of better traction, people think that fat bike is user-friendly or easy to employ. But that is not the case.
Even if they can plow their way thru any obstacle, that does not mean they are comfortable to ride. The fact that fat bikes have one speed means they can be complicated, particularly to those with entry-level or intermediate experience.
They also lack gears. That’s why you need more muscle power, energy, and patience to move forward. This is where a mountain bike you can count on and trust. You don’t have to exert too much effort to pedal, helping you avoid any pain after a few hours of cycling.
If you use a bicycle for training purposes, you can never go wrong with a fat bike. It will increase muscle strength, improve joint mobility, promote good posture, strengthen bones, and decrease a high body fat level.
Suppose you have easy to utilize bicycle. That’s good news. But that will not be enough if they do not have a good speed.
If you have been into racing, a bike with reliable speed is necessary. Everyone wants to win, after all.
Now, how fast do fat and mountain bike are?
Fat bike, for example, is slower because of many factors, including the wheels and frame. While the tires deliver superior traction, they hamper their speed even if they can move more easily through rough terrain.
Even if they have improved in the past years, the frames still increase the bicycles’ weight, affecting their speed. Although they are quicker compared to older models, they cannot compete with mountain bikes.
On average, mountain bikes can be as fast as 17 mph when on the road. This number will drop to 14 mph on trails because of the hard riding condition.
It is also possible to increase their speed. It is helpful to select the right tire. While bikes with aggressive tires can be tempting to try, consider tires that consist of smaller knobs with closer and narrower spacing.
Every time you ride a bike, make sure to optimize your tire pressure and maximize your riding efficiency. Before each off-road riding adventure, check whether the tire pressure is at the best setting or not.
Keeping your drivetrain well-lubricated is another thing you should not overlook, as it allows your bike to function efficiently. It will also protect the chain, derailleurs, chainring, and rear cassette against some wear and tear.
Proper and regular maintenance can also come into play. Even if a DIY cleaning is cost-effective, nothing can beat the services of a competent professional. But be careful when looking for a technician. Do not be tempted to work with someone that offers the cheapest solution.
Quality fat and mountain bikes are sturdy. But this will decline after some time. The frames may start to rust. The chainsets will be prone to wear and tear. Other hardware will also be damaged.
That’s normal, and luckily, these parts are accessible for mountain bikes. Whether your drivetrain is corrosive or can no longer be repaired, replacements are available in brick-and-mortar stores and online. You also have multiple brands to pick from, making your selection process less stress-free than expected.
Fat bikes are not the same thing, as they use non-standard-sized cranks, tires, bottom brackets, rims, and hubs. When any of these malfunctions or need to be replaced, prepare yourself as looking for an excellent alternative will not be simple.
Sometimes, you might not find the right replacement even if you have visited a number of bike shops. That’s an exhausting experience when you have an off-road riding adventure over the weekend.
Bike shops are more likely not to stock fat bike parts, so you would consider yourself lucky if you find one. That’s why remember to buy and store every necessary hardware. Although you do not need them at the moment, they will be useful in the future.
Ideal for Different Adventures
It is disappointing to purchase a bike you cannot use for whatever kind of adventure you have.
Both mountain and fat bikes, however, got you covered. Mountain bikes are generally suitable for terrains with any loose material, including gravel and sand. Thanks to their wide wheels, aggressive thread, and reliable traction.
Fat bikes, on the contrary, can do more. That’s why they are gaining immense popularity among bicycle tourists and bikepackers. They can specifically allow riders to travel to beaten path places that an average mountain bike cannot.
Equipped with broader wheels, fat bicycles can deal with stream crossings, sandy stretches, and even rocky hiking trails without compromising your safety and convenience.
It is easy to install additional gears on fat bikes, like a trailer, panniers, and other bikepacking bags, depending on your preferences. You can also set a pannier at the back of a mountain bike if you are not an avid fan of heavy bicycles.
Fat bikes are also the number one choice for expedition riders because of their effective and outstanding off-trail capabilities. They are used to ride across Antarctica, the Sahara Desert (Africa), Namib Desert (Africa), Atacama Desert (South America), and more.
Injuries are common when riding bicycles, even if you are a seasoned rider. But using the right bike can reduce that risk, and most companies always design bikes with the user’s convenience in mind.
In mountain and fat bikes, every part is of premium quality. Each is cutting-edge and long-lasting, from the saddle, handle bars, frame, tires, rim, chain, chain ring, cassette to the drivetrain.
That’s good news. But since mountain bikes are fast, riders are still prone to serious injuries, especially when you are a newbie, which is why you have to optimize the braking system. Then, it is important to be alert most of the time. Do not get easily distracted while you are on the off-road terrain.
How about the fat bicycles? While their speed can be an issue for some, it lowers your risk of being injured. Unlike mountain bikes, they turn slow, giving you enough time to think about how to handle every obstacle along the trail.
You may also fall. But again, the likelihood of having severe injuries is lower, as you are not riding the bike fast. Plus, there is no traffic like we typically see or experience on the highway.
There are also other safety precautions you should weigh in mind. Do not forget to wear a helmet. Studies show that using this protective gear can reduce an injury by 70%.
What else? It is always wise to check your bike (chainsets, rims, or tires) before every adventure, install reflective materials, and limit your distractions.
Great for Beginners
What factors do you consider when searching for a bike? While there are several things that run in your mind, your experience level is something you should not ignore.
But regardless of your skills, fat and mountain bikes are beginner-friendly. Many might be afraid of these bicycles as they are heavy because of the wheels and design.
There is nothing to be afraid of, though. Whether you are a starter or an experienced cyclist, you can never go wrong with mountain and fat bikes.
However, looking for one can be complicated. Before you stick to a specific brand, it is time-saving and worthwhile to know your measurements to identify the perfect frame size. If you’re 5’7” or 5’9”, bikes with 17 or 18-inch frame size will be your best bet.
If you are 4’10, bicycles with 13-inch frames are an excellent alternative. You can also read the catalog of every website you visit online. Although it is daunting, all of your efforts will not go to waste at the end of the day.
Aside from the frame size, the saddle is another thing you should direct your attention to. It must be comfy. Similar to the frame, bicycle saddles are available in different components. Common materials are foam or gel padding and leather.
The foam is lightweight and can spring back in shape even after hours of being compressed. It also takes a long time before it gets compacted, keeping constant repair or replacement at bay.
The gel padding is super comfortable. It conforms to your body shape better than foam or leather without a break-in period. Yes, it is instant.
However, gel padding becomes compacted after regular use. It is also heavier compared to foam. All in all, synthetic saddles with gel padding are recommended for beginners.
Leather, on the contrary, is another top favorite for riders. More than the elegance and style, it can take the shape of your back, similar to leather shoes. It is also comfortable, but it requires a long break-in period. That’s not all. When maintained regularly, it can last longer and avoid chafing.
Excellent Traction and Grip
Have you been into on-road biking for months now? How’s the experience? It’s fun, isn’t it? But did you ever come to the point where you felt tired and started looking for something different?
You perhaps do, and it is normal. It’s time to give off-road riding a try. Unlike any road trip, taking a rough trail is intense and can give you an experience you will get addicted to for sure.
Mountain bikes, for instance, have an aggressive thread to provide reliable and effective mechanical grip on soft trails. They can dig into the sand, gravel, and other loose materials to deliver the right amount of traction you desire.
Who would have thought that this traction would be better? No one. But this has become possible with fat bikes. Their wheels are wider, which is why they make a good contact patch with the ground.
Due to the broader tires, fat bikes create friction and increase traction. If you still look for more, you can use the fat tires at a low pressure ranging from 5 to 8 pounds per square inch (PSI). This does not only lead to more tread but also guarantees more traction. This is indispensable when riding on wet rocks, snow, sand, ice, and other slippery surfaces.
Who searches brick-and-mortar and online stores to find something that is competitively priced and of high quality?
Some of you might be like that. Who does not want to save some cash while shopping? All of us like/want that.
If you choose fat and mountain bikes, how much do they cost, you may wonder.
Fat bicycles cost more than mountain bikes. The extra expenses come from many factors like the tires. In many cases, they are costlier than car wheels.
The rim is another contributing factor. Since the tire is already huge, companies try to make the rims lightweight and strong. These materials, unluckily, are expensive.
The rate for mid-range fat bicycles ranges from $1800 to $2200. The best and the highest quality options cost around $10,000 that might break someone’s bank, and not everyone can afford that. But is there an entry-level fat alternative? Definitely! With careful research, you can find one for less than $500.
How about mountain bikes? Unlike fat bicycles, their price is between $1000 to $1500. It may be higher, depending on the quality of bike accessories. You can also find an excellent alternative below $1000. The process would not be trouble-free, though.
One of the most critical parts of a bike is a drivetrain. It is used to transmit power on bicycles from the cyclist to the wheel. It is also incorporated into other human-powered vehicles, such as tricycles and unicycles.
What type of drivetrain do fat or mountain bikes have? Both may be available with a single, multiple, or electric speed.
A single-speed drivetrain is composed of chains and gears. A multiple-speed drivetrain is made up of one or two derailleurs. This facilitates gear shifts to change the times the tires rotate, making pedaling more straightforward.
An electric drivetrain, similar to other fuel cell vehicles, is designed with power electronics, batteries, and traction motors. It requires its own set of management systems and auxiliaries for convenient control.
Fat Bike vs Mountain Bike: The Winner
Both bikes are a good investment. But before you commit to fat or mountain bicycles, it is advisable to determine what you need beforehand.
Whether you have been looking for a more efficient, cheaper, lighter, faster, or more maneuverable bike for days without a good result, don’t look further than mountain bikes.
When they need some replacement, the bike parts are available in any nearby shops. This is perfect for those who have a busy schedule.
Nothing can beat the fat bikes when searching for a comfortable ride, excellent traction, safer functionalities, or a beginner-friendly option.
It is also fun to run fat bike wheels at a low air pressure, giving traction and grip a boost. Plus, the bicycles are great for expedition rides, touring, bikepacking, and other extreme adventures.
Now, what’s your choice? If you prefer a fat bike but are unaware of what to select, here comes the Mongoose Malus adult fat tire bike. It is good for the trail as its wheels are durable and impact-resistant. It has a total of 7 speeds that can exceed your expectations. Its suspension type is rigid, while the design is fun to look at.
In case you do not like a broader tire, this mountain bike from Schwinn got your back. Although it cannot compete with the grip of a fat bike, it has the traction that will keep your off-road riding adventure exciting.
It features an aluminum frame, mechanical disc brakes, and dual suspension. What else? It also comes in different colors, such as blue and matte black.
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