In the past few years, fat biking has gone from being a movement on the fringe of the cycling industry to a well-established cycling discipline.
Motivations for buying a fat bike are many, most importantly extending the riding season by opening further riding opportunities, such as riding in winter conditions where regular mountain bikes will struggle in deep snow. Fat bikes are also great for bike packing, where the extra high-volume tires provide higher traction than other types of bikes.
The large tires also provide a degree of comfort that makes it possible to forgo suspension for a simpler and more reliable go-anywhere setup.
In this article we present some of the best fat bike offerings in 2021.
Framed Minnesota: Best Fat Bike Under $1000
The Framed Minnesota has a 6061 aluminium alloy frame and fork, and comes in four frame sizes and two paint options: black or grey. Gearing is a 1x10 wide-range system, with a Shimano M6000 rear derailleur, Sunrace 11-42 cassette and a Suntour crankset with a 28T chainring. The Minnesota rolls on Framed’s house brand 26” fat tire rims and 4” tires. Braking duties are handled by Avid’s simple yet proven BB5 mechanical disc brakes. Framed offers a 3-year warranty on all its fat bike frames.
Mongoose Dolomite: Best 'Cheap' Fat Tire Bike
The Mongoose Dolomite is a great entry-level fat bike that offers great value for riders on a tight budget who want to dip their toes in the fat biking world without breaking the bank. The Dolomite has a lightweight steel alloy frame, and comes with a 7-speed drivetrain and front and rear disc brakes.
Sondors X: Best Electric Fat Tire Bike
E-bikes (also known as pedal-assist bikes) are becoming increasingly popular, and the introduction of fat e-bikes certainly adds to their versatility in certain situations, such as hauling cargo or pulling bike trailers.
The Sondors X is a fat e-bike with a 48V 17.5Ah Li-ion battery and a 500-watt motor that allows it to reach speeds of up to 20mph. Keep in mind that Sondors X’s massive battery takes the entire space in the front triangle, leaving no room for frame bags. With the additional pedal-assist torque, however, you can tow a cargo trailer!
Sixthreezero EVRYjourney: Affordable Fat Tire Cruiser Bike
The sixthreezero EVRYjourney has an aluminium alloy frame and steel fork, 7-speed drivetrain and dual disc brakes. The relaxed geometry and cruiser style handlebars offer a very upright and comfortable riding position. There are rack and fender mounts for added versatility, too.
Micargi Slugo: Affordable Fat Tire Beach Cruiser
The Micargi Slugo offers a stylish-looking chopper-style steel frame, cruiser handlebar, comfortable dual-spring saddle and the simplicity and low maintenance of a singlespeed gearing with a 44t crankset and a chain guard, making it perfect for spins around the neighbourhood
Micargi Seattle: Best Fat Tire Stretch Cruiser
Stretch cruiser style bikes like the Micargi Seattle are certainly visually appealing, and the Seattle Beach Cruiser from Micargi is quite the looker! This steel framed fat bike comes with a singlespeed drivetrain, sturdy 36-spoke wheels and a coaster brake. The curvy matte black steel frame with polished silver parts is guaranteed to be a head turner.
Salsa Beargrease Carbon XO1: Best Full Suspension Fat Tire Bike
Salsa is one of the pioneers of the fat bike movement, and the Beargrease is one of the staple models in its lineup. The Carbon XO1 version of the Beargrease is a high spec version, coming in a lightweight carbon fiber frame with an eye-catching purple/pink fade paint job. The fork is Salsa’s carbon Kingpin Deluxe with several accessory mounts and dynamo hub wire routing for maximum versatility. The Beargrease carbon XO1 rolls on a 27.5”x3.8” wheels and tire combination. The Beargrease Carbon frame has narrow fat bike Q-factor (the distance between pedal attachment points on the crank arms) cranks to ensure a comfortable fit, and is compatible with internal routing dropper posts.
Trek Farley 7: Best Hardtail Fat Bike (Suspension Fork)
Fat bike purists will often argue that the extra volume of fat tires makes suspension unnecessary. Granted, that may be true on snow and sand, but on rowdier terrain the extra cushioning of a suspension fork will certainly be appreciated by many riders. Trek calls the Farley 7 a “mountain biker’s fat bike”, and the build spec shows it. The Farley 7 has a lightweight alloy frame, and suspension is provided by a Manitou Mastodon with 80mm travel and beefy 34mm stanchions . If you feel 80mm is too little, the Farley 7’s frame accepts forks with up to 100mm of travel. Drivetrain duties are provided by a mix of SRAM’s SX and NX 12-speed parts, and the cockpit is a solid assortment of Bontrager (Trek’s components brand) parts. The Farley 7 sits in the middle of Trek’s three-model fat bike range, between the carbon-framed Farley 9.6 and the entry-level Farley 5.
Diamondback El Oso Nino 20” Fat Bike: Best kids’ Fat Bike
Now little riders can get in on the fat tire fun! The Diamondback El Oso Nino is the smallest size fast bike in this list. At four inches wide, the monstrous tires on El Oso Nino are anything but small. El Oso Nino (Spanish for “Little Bear”) has a high-tensile frame and fork, and comes in a bright green color that amps up the cool factor. It is equipped with a 7-speed Shimano grip shift drivetrain, mechanical disc brakes. El Oso Nino 20” fits riders 4-9 years old or up to 54” tall.
Cannondale Fat CAAD1: Best Lightweight Alloy Fat Bike
Cannondale is a company known for innovation in the cycling world. The Fat CAAD1 from Cannondale is a lightweight fat tire bike with an alloy frame and fork. The Fat CAAD1 comes with a Shimano 11-speed wide-range drivetrain, Tektro four-piston hydraulic brakes and 27.5” wheels wrapped in Maxxis Minion FBR 3.8 tires. Fat bikes have a reputation for being a bit portly, which is to be expected given the larger tires and stout frames and wheels. The Fat CAAD1 breaks that stereotype weighing in at 13.2kg (29.1lbs), which is indeed rather lightweight by alloy-framed fat bike standards. The Fat CAAD1 comes in classy grey color and is offered in four frame sizes.
9zero7 Lynx Carbon: Best Fat Bike for Winter Bike Racing
The 9zero7 Lynx Carbon is a high-end fat bike that comes in three build options topping out at the cost-is-no-object $7199 Lynx XX1 Eagle. The Lynx Carbon offers fat bike racing enthusiasts an aggressive geometry that resembles fast XC racing mountain bikes, with the added versatility of a wide array of fender/rack and accessory mounts (which 9zero7 dubs BPI, or “Bike Packer Integration”). With dropper post and dual wheel size compatibility (26” and 27.5”), the Lynx Carbon can double as a winter racing rig and an adventure bike, all in one well-rounded package. 9zero7 offers the Lynx Carbon in 5 colorways and four frame sizes. There is also a $2899 frame-only option for those who desire to start with a blank slate for a custom build.
Fatback Skookum: Best Progressive Geometry Fat Bike
As the name suggests, Fatback is a company that exclusively offers fat tire bikes. Based in Anchorage, Alaska, the company has the prefect proving grounds for its various fat bike products. The Skookum is a fat bike with a very progressive geometry, coming with a 67.5-degree head angle (which is rather slack by fat bike standards) and designed to run a 120mm fork, the Skookum is intended for hard trail riding. Bike packers and adventure riders will want to look elsewhere, though, as the Skookum doesn’t come with rack/fender attachment points or much room for frame bags. The Skookum comes in four build kits, two colorways and can run 26” or 27.5” wheels.
Norco Bigfoot 1: Best all-around fat bike
Canadian bike manufacturer Norco named their fat bike offering after the mythical snow-dwelling creature. The Bigfoot 1 is a very balanced bike from a geometry and component selection standpoints. Unlike some of the more progressive geometry bikes featured in this list, the Bigfoot’s geometry is more traditional, putting the rider in an upright and rearward position for better traction on snow.
The Bigfoot comes with 1x11 wide-range drivetrain, SRAM hydraulic disc brakes and massive Vee Rubber 4.5” tires which are studdable for additional traction.
The low stand-over height will be appreciated by riders who often venture out in deep snow, while still leaving room for a frame bag.
Kona Woo fat bike: coolest fat bike paint job!
The Kona woo ticks many great mid-range fat bike boxes: wide-range 12-speed drivetrain, lightweight 6061 frame and a carbon fiber fork, mounting points for bike packing gear, tubeless ready rims all at a very competitive price point. The coolest thing about the Woo, though, is the purple-blue prism paint job! It is such a unique colorway and certainly stands out from the growing fat tire crowd.
Things to understand before buying your fat tire bike
Fat bikes aren’t just for snow: while one of the primary motivations behind fat bikes is winter riding, they’re also great as beginner mountain bikes and cargo haulers. They’re comfortable and fun to ride for a wide spectrum of riders. Fat bikes have come a long way in the past decade. Bike have manufacturers put more research and development into fat bike frame design and materials and managed to dramatically reduce total bike weight, while making more frame clearance for even larger volume tires.
Wheel size and rim width
Some of the most significant improvements have taken place in wheels. The rotating weight of rims and tires has one of the most significant effects on how quickly any bike accelerates, holds momentum and its ability to roll over obstacles with ease. Fat bike wheel diameters are either 26" or 27.5". Fat wheel rims come in widths from 50mm all the way to 100mm (or more!). Matching your tire widths to the appropriate rim width is important. For tires around the 4" width, rims between 50-80mm will work well.
Suspension: do you need it?
For many riding scenarios where fat bikes would excel, suspension is often not necessary due to the additional traction and cushioning that big volume tires offer. That being said, fat tires are not an alternative to suspension, and there are many riding scenarios where suspension will make a good fat bike even better. Many manufacturers now are now offering fat bikes with suspension forks, and even full-suspension fat bikes are now no longer a rarity. Keep in mind that suspension components, with all the additional moving parts, require more frequent maintenance compared to a fully-rigid bike.
Tire width: how fat do you want to go?
Fat bike tire widths range from 4" to just over 5". Narrower than 4” and you’re technically looking in the plus bike territory. If your riding is done mostly on groomed snow and light trails, you probably won’t need to go wider than 4”. Unless your riding will be mostly on deep sand or snow, you don't need to buy into "bigger is better" mantra when it comes to tire volume. Remember: a bigger tire generally means a heavier tire, and a heavier bike will feel more sluggish and not as sprightly as a lighter one.
Tubeless and studded tires, and a final note about frame tire clearance
If you intend to run a tubeless setup, make sure your tires have a tubeless-ready casing. If your fat bike riding is done in heavy snow or icy conditions, you might want to consider studded tires (note: studded fat tires are pricey, with good studded tires often costing $200 or more!). Maximum tire width is an important consideration when shopping for a new bike, and it is recommended that you buy a frame/bike with enough clearance for the largest volume tires (at the chosen wheel size) you intend to run to future-proof your new bike purchase.