Wide Load: The 5 Best Fat Bikes

The first bicycles – or velocipedes as they were known at their advent in the early 1800’s – were created with wheels that were either metal or wood and were often used as road bikes, meant to clatter along cobblestone streets with a ride so smooth they would delicately jostle your kidneys right out of your body. Since then, much to the thanks of anyone who likes their organs on the inside, there have been immense advancements to the wheels on bicycles, which have culminated in the ultimate wheels created for fat bikes in 1987, which are large enough to be considered full-blown tires.

The reason for the large tires on these bikes is to allow more rubber to hit the road so that riders can traverse ground that was formerly impassable, even by the sturdiest mountain bikes. With one of these 2-wheelers between your legs, you can drift over sandy beaches and snowy hills with equal facility, going over rocky terrain that no other bike would dare to touch since they wouldn’t be able to gain a purchase. If extreme conditions and high adventure on two wheels excites you, then it is time to ditch the slender tires and get one of the 5 best fat bikes.

Framed Minnesota 2 0

Framed Minnesota 2.0

Pro: Affordable and durable
Con: Short body makes long trips uncomfortable

First Fatty: Anyone new to the game has surely found one thing to be true about these beasts of the trail: They’re expensive. You can head off to WalMart and snag one for a few hundred, but you’ll be getting less than you pay for. To spend the least amount and still get a fat bicycle that will stick with you for years, you’ll want to pick up the newest Minnesota from Framed. It has a nice tight cockpit that improves on the 1.0 and gives a better feel for free riders and more control on the trail. The frame and fork are a solid 6061 aluminum that keeps the weight low without sacrificing durability, though you’re still going to be dealing with a 35 pound piece of hardware. As the Minnesota name implies, this is mostly meant for taking on the snow, though it handles just as well on gravel, grit, and sand. A single water bottle cage and the truncated body prove this to be uncomfortable for bikepacking or logging long miles, but ideal for fun in the sun and snow as you learn the ropes. [Purchase: $900]

Borealis Yampa

Borealis Yampa

Pro: Light
Con: Awkward positioning of rear seat stays

Featherweight: A lot of of these bikes are great for going down a steep incline, but if you find yourself muscling the bicycle up a hill, the bigger, beefier heft will leave you cursing the manufacturer. The Yampa from Borealis was made to be manhandled and cuts lbs at every turn while also keeping the true nature of the bike from suffering. It still has big ol’ 5 inch tires and a full drive train to make your ride relatively smooth and easy. Rather than aluminum, this uses the featherweight carbon fiber to make up the body which allows you to grab some sky as you’re rolling through. There are plenty of mounts for racks and water bottles, and the long body is as comfortable for extended rides as a commuter bike which makes bikepacking or trail rides a real pleasure. The one complaint is that the rear seat stays can be uncomfortable, especially when the bike is working at an incline and can also interfere with leaning into turns. It comes in several sizes, so try before you buy. The price below is for the frame only. Expect to spend $4,000 – $6,000 for the whole kit and kaboodle. [Purchase: $1,800]

Fatback Corvus

Fatback Corvus

Pro: Full carbon body
Con: Made primarily for racers

Powerhouse: Fatback is a helluva fat bike manufacturer and one of the first ones to make fatties for everyone and starting the trend. The Corvus is their flagship full carbon model among a jungle of aluminum bodies, and it comes not only with lighter weight than its siblings, but off-the-line speed and power over snow that astounds. Everything about this bike feels more modern than its forebears, and even others on this list. The tapered head tube, directly mounted derailleur, brakes set onto the post, and front and rear thru axles all work wonders while the swooping frame looks fast as a cheetah and elegant as a swan. It can clear 5 inch tires or take something slightly smaller if you prefer, though for heading out over snowpack – and we certainly suggest that you do – bigger is better. You will generally be working with a larger stance due to a bigger Q factor which can hinder you if you’re a narrow individual who going to be taking this over the hill and through the woods. At around 24 pounds all told, this is made for speed as much as endurance. Price is frame only. [Purchase: $2,300]

Surly Instigator 2 0

Surly Instigator 2.0

Pro: Absorbs shock from big air
Con: Barely qualifies as a fat bike

Napoleon Complex: This is either a fat bike with dreams of slimming down to become a mountain bike or a mountain bike that is bulking up to become a fatty. The Instigator is built around the wildly successful Krampus also from Surly, but where the Krampus has 29 inch rims, the 2.0 has 26ers that make it more fun for anyone who wants to do more than ride, but is looking to throw some tricks and hard-core jumps into their routine, while still keeping the fat bike mentality. The 50mm Rabbit Hole Rims can accommodate tires up to 2.75 inches, but you won’t get the big 5 inchers anywhere close to fitting into the fork of this bad boy. The short body gave quick acceleration with just a few pumps for building up speed in a hurry while the hardtail body and 140mm Fox Float fork up front gave a slightly smoother ride than any of the Instigators rigid body cousins. For careening down a hill, this is a helluva ride, but is only marginally better than larger mountain bikes on snow or sand. [Purchase: $2,464]

Salsa Bucksaw 1

Salsa Bucksaw 1

Pro: Full suspension
Con: Shocks could use some improvement

Backcountry Brawler: Does following trails and paths get you down? Do you long to blaze through the forest, across the dunes, or into the alps where most fear to lay their tread? Then you’re going to want to get a Bucksaw 1 toot sweet. First off, it uses a split pivot rear suspension that was created by Dave Weagle who knows how to keep a tailbone in tact even if you take on the toughest terrain. The 6066 aluminum frame is tough as nails, though tends to tip the scales a little further than normal at 32 pounds. Don’t let the weight frighten you though. This can climb hills like a billy goat. You’ll actually have a little more trouble going down than up since the Rockshox at the front and rear are good, not great given the beef of the 4 inch tires. It will also take some time to learn what tire pressure works best, since more isn’t better in this case. Besides that, if you plan on hopping off kickers or kicking off berms, this will make you better, stronger, faster than you were before. [Purchase: $5,000]

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