FATBIKING - WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THOSE BIG TIRES?
If you’ve been into the store recently, you’ve probably noticed that we have some bikes on the floor that have some suuuuuper big tires. If you’re not familiar with them, those are called Fatbikes and they might be some of the funnest bikes around right now.
There are a few common questions most people ask about the category, so let’s get right to it and see how we can help you get your head wrapped around one of our favourite categories of bike.
This is mostly an info post about fatbiking in general, if you're interested in checking out the fatbike models and accessories that we carry, check out this page. Otherwise, enjoy!
WHY ARE THOSE TIRES SO BIG?!!
Okay, so fatbikes have actually been around for quite a while now and frame geometry has seen a fair amount of redesign since the days of the early 2000’s, but the principle remains fairly similar. The concept is that you have a very wide tire and a very wide rim, which allows you to run your tire at low pressure. By doing that, you ultimately end up with a tire that conforms to the ground better while allowing for excellent floatation overtop of soft stuff, like sand and snow!
The beauty of a fatbike is that it gives you the traction and floatation to ride overtop of just about anything. Point it down a hill and having a 4 inch tire in front of you can give you a nice confidence boost to ride a trail you might have had some difficulty with before. Point it uphill, and you have the traction to climb just about anything.
THEY LOOK HEAVY AND SLOW…ARE THEY HEAVY AND SLOW?
They certainly look heavy and slow at first glance, I’ll give you that. But hop on one and within a few pedal strokes your brain instantly stops caring about how fast you’re going and starts wondering about all the new places that you CAN go riding. Plus, I can pretty much guarantee that if you come into the store and pick one up, you'll be pleasantly surprised with the weight.
WHERE CAN I USE THEM?
So, that’s the thing, you can go pretty much anywhere with them! Riding within the city park and ravine systems requires a studded tire when the winter really sets in, but it can be a blast if you have them. Places close by to the city like Durham Forest and Hardwood Hills are doing amazing work by actually grooming singletrack trails for fatbikes, making it even more accessible than ever before. Palgrave and Albion Hills are both good options as well, and are within a 45 minute drive from downtown. If you’re curious though, just come down for a chat and we can point you in the right direction, we also use them to get to work and back!
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING ONE?
In a nutshell, good tires, wide range of gearing and good geometry.
- Geometry is important because in order to accommodate for those larger wheels and tires, the frame has to change significantly. Some brands simply widen the front fork and rear end of the bike and what you end up with is a bike that has big tires but rides poorly. Brands that have engineers and design teams in house that ride bikes, will design a bike from the ground up around a wheel size so that chainline is great, the tire clearance is there and they also come up with some pretty amazing ways to make sure that you have a short rear end, which keeps the bike feeling lively and fun even with those big tires.
- Gearing is important because the winter can throw all sorts of conditions your way. When you try to climb a steep hill with mud or soft snow, even if your tires give you good traction, sometimes that extra range will be the difference in you hiking or riding.
- Aside from bike fit, tires might be the most important thing to consider right out of the gate when you’re shopping for a new fatbike because they are among the most expensive parts to replace (think of how much rubber goes into one tire!) and they can be an immense difference maker between a fun ride and a not so fun ride. Here are some things to consider when shopping:
- Studs? – I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who’s bought studded tires for their fatbike and regretted it, it’s just a question of if you NEED them. Studded fatbike tires can get pricey but if you truly want to make sure you can get out each day, it’s a worthwhile purchase. If you’re exclusively riding on trails like Hardwood Hills or Durham Forest that are groomed and kept in good shape, you likely won’t need them unless there is a significant freeze/thaw. However, if you want to use your fatbike in the Toronto ravine systems or just not having to worry too much about the conditions, studs are usually the way to go.
- Can I make the wheels tubeless? – So, this is something that absolutely will not stand in the way of you having fun with your fatbike, however it’s a nice bonus and can help add to the experience in our opinion. Out of the box, your fatbike wheels have a rim, a tire and a tube inside that inflates to give the tire shape when you ride. Its possible to set it up so that with the addition of a special tape for your rim, a nifty little valve and some sealant, you can ditch your tubes altogether. This allows you to not only run your tires at a super low pressure without the worry of getting a pinch flat, but it shaves significant weight out of your wheels. Those tubes are big…big and heavy, and getting rid of them can sometimes save over a pound per wheel.
WHAT DO I WEAR?
One of the nice things about living in Toronto is that you probably have enough stuff to get started already. As you go through your mental checklist of what you have at home, here are some tips from us:
- Layer. Use as much wool as possible and layer. It’s worth noting that it is very possible to overheat when riding in the winter so it’s good to be able to ditch layers as you warm up.
- Keep your extremities warm. Good waterproof boots, great gloves and great neck and headwear. Out of the gate, the only cycling specific piece that you might need is something warm that is designed to be low profile enough to fit under a helmet.
CAN I TRY ONE?
- We thought you’d never ask! We have a limited number of demos we’re able to rent out, but let us know in advance when you’d like to try one and we can make sure to have your size available. Our favourite option though, is just taking people out for a ride. Come by and chat with us so we can plan some cool adventures!