Did you know that fat bikes evolved out of an insane desire by a few extreme cyclists to race the Iditarod Trail? It’s true. The race course meant for sleds and trained pack dogs is what has led to today’s huge amount of interest in fat bikes. Designed for snow, pebbly beaches and soft sand, they are also used on rockier terrain and in all kinds of extreme racing and endurance events. Yet, they are also frequently described as bikes that offer a huge amount of fun and which excel in snow and sand.
Does it mean you can’t ride them on your everyday route to work and back or on your favorite “rail trail”? No, you just have to understand a few of the factors that affect a fat bike’s ride and performance. In this article, we’ll look at all of those factors, but first we want to introduce you to the very best fat bikes on the market. Once you’ve been seriously tempted by all of them, we’ll help you narrow down the choice and pick what’s best for you.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Best Fat Bike of 2020
- 2 Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Bike 26 wheel size 18″ frame Mountain Bicycle
- 3 Framed Minnesota 2.0 Fat Men’s Bike
- 4 BEIOU Carbon Fiber 27.5 Shimano DEORE M610 30 Speed XC/Trail MTB Mountain Bike
- 5 Mongoose Juneau 26″ Fat Tire Bicycle Green, Medium Frame Size
- 6 Diamondback El Oso Nino Fat Bike
- 7 Diamondback Bicycles El OSO Uno Steel Fat Bike Hardtail Mountain Bike
- 8 Mongoose Men’s Malus Fat Tire Bicycle
- 9 Gravity Monster Men’s Fat Tire Bicycle 26″
- 10 Mongoose Argus Comp Fat Tire Bicycle 26″
- 11 Start with Those Tires
- 12 The Weight
- 13 Identify Your Optimal Fat Bike
- 14 A Few Words on Sizing
- 15 In Short
- 16 Choosing Your Bike
The Best Fat Bike of 2020
To help you begin narrowing down the amazing number of choices in the world of fat bikes, we’ve rounded up nine of the best choices for those eager to begin enjoying fat bikes or upgrading to a better ride than ever.
Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Bike 26 wheel size 18″ frame Mountain Bicycle
Described as one of the most enjoyable fat bikes available, it is also a fantastic beach cruiser with loads of clearance enabling it to ride easily on any terrain you might choose. This one is built on a steel MTB frame with cruiser stylings and geometry. It features 4” tires and offers seven speeds with a Shimano rear derailleur, but it can be upgraded thanks to the frame’s design.
With a three-piece crank and front and rear disc brakes, it offers plenty of control. Designed for a comfortable ride, it is easily one of the beefier bikes with the ability to offer larger and heavier riders plenty of comfort. Able to handle more than 350 pound riders, at heights of up to 6” or more, it is a great find. Weighing in at around 48 pounds, it provides larger pedals to help with a bit of extra “oomph” but simply swapping out the wheels can reduce this bike to around 38 pounds.
Designed to emulate cruisers, this bike is a fantastic first-time fat bike. It has a frame large enough to accommodate a swap to heftier tires, meaning you can make it a four-season ride. It is not designed for racking or transport but can be used with a tire-supported rack designed for heavier weights. Good-looking and available in multiple colors, it uses disc brakes for all condition control, climbs hills with ease, shifts seamlessly, and comes with a generously sized sports seat. If you have yet to hop on a fat bike, the Mongoose Dolomite is likely to help you become a fast fan of the sport.
Framed Minnesota 2.0 Fat Men’s Bike
The Minnesota brand is a staple among the budget-minded buyers of fat bikes, and yet this latest addition to their line can easily compete with much costlier options. Similar to the first bike (above), this is a ride designed to appeal to the first-time fat bike owner or rider. It doesn’t throw a lot of confusion or challenges into the mix, and it offers a freerider experience that combines traditional trail riding with the grip and fun of a fat bike. With a frame designed to allow you to switch out to traditional bike tires (to enable easier road and commuting rides), it is also surprisingly flexible for its price point.
The aluminum alloy frame fits wheels from 26″ x 4.8″ to 29″ x 2″, and at a reasonable 35 pounds, it ensures your first experiences are solid and controlled. Oversized, it features an integrated headset, replaceable derailleur hanger, sealed bottom bracket and cage brazeons.
The crankset is a Truvativ 28/38t, 175mm alloy model, with square taper fully-replaceable, durable heat-treated steel chainrings. Your shifters are SRAM X5 2 speed, with 9 rear speed trigger shifters, and the cassette is an SRAM 9 speed 11-34t (all steel). The front derailleur is an SRM x7 x-glide design and the rear is an SRAM x5. Avid bb5 brakes offer mechanical disc brake control and brake levers offer quick adjustments along the lightweight aluminum handle bar.
The Velo plush saddle seat is ultra-comfortable, and this bike’s geometry allows for three sizes ranging from the 16” model for riders up to 5’8”, the 18” model for riders to 5’11” and the 20” model for riders up to 6’3”.
Described by many as the bike that has made fat biking on a budget a reality, it is a great beginner bike or one for those who want good handling on trails, snow or sand. A year round rider when you swap out your tires, it features that SRAM x5 2×9 drivetrain and the disc brakes that offer a super easy, fun and quality ride.
BEIOU Carbon Fiber 27.5 Shimano DEORE M610 30 Speed XC/Trail MTB Mountain Bike
This carbon fiber bike is frequently described as ideal for both beginners and regular fat bike riders, and for cyclists of all kind. Noted for its tremendous value and design, it is sized for adults and meant to offer professional level entry into the world of fat biking.
To begin with, this features a remarkably light weight, even ultra-light frame due to its carbon fiber materials. Weighing in at 23 pounds, it is easily at the lowest weight range for all premium fat bikes. This makes it highly portable as well as durable, and yet it is also a good looking ride with nice design and a more traditional cruiser look.
Another feature of this BEIOU bike that receives great attention is its braking system. It uses 3’10 speed hidden disc brakes that deliver amazing control over the bike and are a preferred option among experienced riders. The disc design is more efficient than traditional braking systems, and most fat bikes should feature this option for optimal safety and control.
With its Shimano M610 DEORE gearing system, this is a higher performing bike than other fat bikes. A 30 speed design means you have maximum control of acceleration and pace at all times, which is not often the case with all fat bikes. This even makes it a good introductory racing model.
The suspension on this bike is the MTB hardtail design, which means your ride is going to be more precise and able to help you improve your riding skills. Designed in two sizes – 17” and 19” – it is not as flexible in terms of rider size. It offers two fork sizes, the UDING DH32 27.5″ Air Suspension Fork or the UDING 29″ Air Suspension Fork, to enable tire swaps, and depending on the size, you receive 27” or 29” tires at a 2.10 size.
With its high cost performance features at an entry level price, this BEIOU bike is a great choice for beginners and more advanced riders. Lightweight and easily interchangeable across the seasons, it can be an everyday rider.
Mongoose Juneau 26″ Fat Tire Bicycle Green, Medium Frame Size
A noted beach cruiser, this is frequently described as one of the most variable of the fat bikes, and able to be used over all kinds of terrain due to its tires that offer so much traction and stability. With an aluminum frame and cruiser styling, it ensures riders take an athletic posture that remains comfortable rather than challenging. The low-rise handlebars are not adjustable, but the shifter design enables plenty of consistency and control.
It has an oversized frame to allow for plenty of clearance and arrives with knobby tires in a 26” x 4” size. Set with disc brakes and three-piece cranks, it is a 21-speed bike with a Shimano rear derailleur and trigger shifters to allow total control at all speeds and in any terrain.
As the ultimate entry level fat bike, this one has a lot to offer riders of all levels. It is perfect for those who are going to emphasize sand and beach riding as that is what it is really designed to master, and yet it is capable of lots of traction. Not ideal for smaller adults or teens, it is still a great performer for those over 5’5” and under 5’10”. You will often find that much taller riders are entirely comfortable with this medium-framed bike because they are using it for off-road and beach cruising, allowing a medium framed bike to be a good fit for their needs.
Diamondback El Oso Nino Fat Bike
As one of the few fat bikes ideally suited to kids, this is a great find. It is a 20” cruiser that features jumbo four inch tires on a steel frame. It comes equipped with a seven speed Shimano grip shift and the drivetrain is designed for ease of use and optimal control. Even so, it comes with disc brakes on its 160mm rotors to give even further control over deceleration and full braking.
As you can see, this packs all of the classic and traditional bigger fat bike features into a much smaller model and is designed to take kids over any sort of terrain, and most obstacles. It has super durable frame and fork. Keeping the tire pressure low ensures kids have total traction and can enjoy a bit of lift when dealing with mud, sand and snow. Weighing in at 30 pounds, it can be challenging for smaller riders, but it is designed to handle kids and riders as much as 200 pounds!
It features Diamondbbak Krakon grips and a sturdy alloy handlebar for the most upright and athletic ride or posture available. On this bike, even less experienced riders are able to make fast turns and stay in control.
Authentic fat bikes, with all of the frame design, flexibility and function of full-sized models are not readily available. While it is possible to find other, smaller bikes with fat tires, they don’t often have the gearing, braking and riding that a true fat bike delivers. This Diamondback model is a true fat bike and it offers cruiser frame geometry, a durable and high riding tensile steel frame, and the kinds of controls that few kids’ bikes offer. It is an ideal way to bring your kids into the fun of fat biking and help them figure out whether they like beach cruising, snowy rides, or all year riding uphill, on packed trails or even paved roadways.
Diamondback Bicycles El OSO Uno Steel Fat Bike Hardtail Mountain Bike
And if you want a Diamondback bike similar to the one you bought for your kids, this is likely to be a great choice. Available in three sizes, this fat bike is often tagged as the one that brings all of the fun. It is super durable and beautifully designed and comes equipped with 26” by 5” tires for extra float over even the softest surfaces, but comes in an array of designs based on the size you choose.
The steel frame and fork lift are stock on all models, as is the Shimano Acera 2×9 drivetrain that lets you enjoy optimal control and ease of use. Some models come with Tektro mechanical disc brakes to keep that same level of control at any speed or condition. And while you can handle almost any terrain onboard this ride, the options vary and include:
16” – Weighs in at 38 pounds and has a steel frame with DB El Oso Custom Rigid Steel fork. The cranks are SR Suntour XCM and the derailleurs are the Shimano MT 400 at the front with the Shimano Acera M3000 at the back. You have Shimano Acera M3000 2×9 shifters and the Tektro Novela mechanical disc brakes
18” – Weighs in at 34 pounds and has an aluminum frame with DB El Oso Custom Rigid aluminum fork. The cranks are FSA Comet Mega Exo and the derailleurs are the Shimano Deore M6020 front; Shimano Deore M6000 Shadow Plus at the back. You have Shimano HG500, 10-speed, 11-42Tshifters and the TRP Spyke mechanical disc brakes.
20” – Weighs in at 35 pounds and has an aluminum frame with RockShox Bluto 100mm travel aluminum fork. The cranks are Race Face Æffect and the derailleur is at the back alone and brings you a Shimano SLX M7000 Shadow Plus. You have Shimano SLX M7000, 11-speed, 11-46T shifters and the Shimano MT500 hydraulic disc brakes.
Mongoose Men’s Malus Fat Tire Bicycle
A perfect choice for the off-road rider, this Mongoose Men’s Malus fat bike offers up a 26”, seven speed ride with oversized 4 1/4” knobby tires. With a sturdy steel frame, it loses a bit of weight thanks to the drilled alloy rims that let you handle whatever terrain comes your way without any worries about damage or too much weight to maneuver. The bike is heavy, coming in at around 42 pounds, but is one of the sturdiest cruiser models on the market.
It features dual disc brakes at the rear and the front for total control when riding or stopping and the seven speed rear derailleur is a great on the fly control. With low rise handlebars and twist shifters, you have no worries even if on super challenging conditions. Meant to offer a stable ride, this bike has a mountain style saddle, three piece cranks and frame offering tremendous amounts of clearance.
A fun and easy to ride fat bike, this Mongoose is remarkably capable in terms of terrain and challenges. Though at a lower price point than many on this list, it still ranks as a real performer. With threadless headset, it adjusts to many heights, and uses that cruiser geometry to allow athletic riding, lots of maneuverability and ample clearance for snow, woodland, trails or beach rides.
Gravity Monster Men’s Fat Tire Bicycle 26″
Before diving into a discussion about this bike specifically, it is important to note that this is one of the few models that has a tremendous range of size options available. It has models ranging from the diminutive 14” all of the way to 22”, but here we are going to look at all of the bikes, since they each offer the 26” super wide tires, with a four inch wheel. This means that it floats beautifully over sand and snow, while offering you grip and traction on almost all other surfaces.
This bike features a lightweight aluminum 6061 frame and durable steel forks. It offers an SRAM X4 2×8 drivetrain to ensure you don’t struggle with climbs or managing acceleration. It provides superior control and stopping power thanks to its Tektro Novela disc brakes and delivers optimal comfort with its WTB Speed V Sport saddle.
A frequently selected model for best-priced fat bikes, it uses premium materials and design. At only 30 pounds, it is an ideal bike for the novice rider or the experienced rider eager to expand fat biking to the road or daily use. You can boost your sand or snow handling by upping the tires to a massive 4.5”, but it is already setup and designed for fun, easy and enjoyable beach or snow riding.
As an excellent ride for most riders, and as a model available in a wide range of sizes, this is a great choice for those who want to buy multiples for everyone in the family.
Mongoose Argus Comp Fat Tire Bicycle 26″
Boasting one of the most stable rides of all fat bikes, this Mongoose uses an MTB aluminum hardtail frame. The alloy fork offers 150mm spacing and a 15mm thru axle for the most stability and flexibility. You will appreciate the Shimano Acera/Alivio 3×9 drivetrain. Offering up Altus shifters for premium gearing option and the safest shifting controls, it comes with sturdy 26”x4.5” tires for nimble maneuvering and that wonderful, floating ride. And while the tires deliver control, the Shimano br-m365 hydraulic disc brakes with 180 mm guarantee optimal stopping power.
Available in three sizes, each provides you with a full allow frame and fork, a Prowheel 951 Triple 3-piece crank, and double butted handlebars all deliver a comfortable and reliable ride. This Mongoose is noted for its maneuverability on trails, making it an out of the box, year-round rider. At just 30 pounds, and with those three size options, it could be a great introductory bike, one for the experienced rider eager to use a fat bike all year, or a great bike to ensure you get started right AND can use the bike all of the time!
So, now that you have nine amazing options, how on earth can you choose? We’ll help you learn about the elements of a fat bike that will impact your riding experience the most, and this will help you choose the perfect bike for your needs.
Start with Those Tires
Naturally, one of the main reasons that fat bikes are called fat bikes are the big, chunky tires they use. And, unfortunately, one of the main reasons they fail to perform well on surfaces like paved roads is that they are a bit under-inflated for them and fail to get lots of grip. By their design and nature, the tires have tremendous “rolling resistance” to enable them to really grab soft sand or snow. When they face firmer surfaces, the consistent grab diminishes.
So, you can use a fat bike for road, uphill and off-road, but you need to know the tire pressures that work best for the different terrains.
Try to also keep in mind that fat bikes are heavier than most other models, and even if the frame comes in at a lighter weight, those tires are often going to really tip the scale. So, if you do a lot of uphill trail riding, or even road riding, you’ll have to keep in mind that it is likely to be harder or slower going.
After all, the standard tires are around 3.8” or bigger and have rims at around 2.16” or more. Wheel sizes vary, too with options from 26” to around 29”, and extra-large wheels at 26” with widths of 2.4 to 4.1” and 3.1 to 4.1” available.
Related: Best Mountain Bike Wheels
Identify Your Optimal Fat Bike
How do you know where to begin in terms of selecting an ideal fat bike for your needs and goals? After all, if you can adjust tire pressures to accommodate different terrains, wouldn’t mean that almost any fat bike is well-suited to someone eager to ride one?
To help with all of this, we are going to look at the many issues to consider and the many factors that affect your ride. These issues focus on the axle spacing/tire width capacity, the drivetrain and your intended usage, the frame geometry, the weight of the bike.
- Tire width and axle spacing – Most people choose fat bikes for their abilities to allow easier travel over snow or sand, and this is possible thanks to the wider tire sizes. With options ranging from 4.8” to 5”, it means that the frames must feature wider dropout spacing. As an example, if you want a bike with tires more than 4” in width, it must also have spacing between the rear dropouts of 150mm for the front fork and more than 190mm on the rear.
- Drivetrain and your intended usage – As noted, one of the key factors in selecting the ideal fat bike is to first figure out just how you are going to use that bike. If it is for something like winter riding alone, you will find you need to choose a bike that is different from one you intend to put to use all year and in all seasons. And this means you have to consider gearing of the bike, too.
Most fat bikes have external and internal gearing options, and single speeds are also available (and there are even some electric assist bikes on the market). And most fat bikes feature a wider than normal range of gears. However, chain line clearance can be an issue, with some models eliminating granny chaining to keep chains from moving to far inward. Pay attention to this, because many fat bike riders end up doing a lot of lower speed riding rather than higher speed sprinting.
If you are opting for an internally geared hub or a single speed drivetrain, it means you have to limit choices to frames built specifically for those options.
- Frame geometry – Because fat bikes are no longer described strictly as snow bikes, it means frames are being modeled for year round use and performance. That means you see a lot of frame geometry (frame angles and dimensions) similar to a trail bike. If you choose the right frame with a properly sized fork, you can easily find a summer and winter friendly ride. Be sure that whatever frame you choose, it is suspension ready or ready to have a suspension fork added at another time.
This means any rigid fork that is a stock design has to have a longer span from the crown to the axle. This enables a fat bike frame to end up more compatible with different tire sizes. For example, a properly chosen frame can be converted from the winter’s 26” wheel to the summer’s 27.5+” wheel. In fact, this is such an important factor for year-round usage that you’ll always want to give attention to the frame geometry and its ability to accommodate different tire sizes for seasonal use.
- Bike weight – Though we did mention electric assist options, few riders are going to opt for this feature. That means you need to give serious consideration to the weight of a bike. After all, at lower speeds there is less momentum, and when it is a hefty 25+ pound bike beneath you, it can quickly become too challenging. Though fat bikes were initially designed to make expeditions and rely on sturdy, utility design, today they need to be a bit lighter. Newer materials and engineering is helping with this goal, and you are likely to find frames made of lightweight titanium, as well as aluminum, carbon fiber and even steel.
Naturally, the wheels are also a part of the weight, so think about your wheel and frame combinations as these can easily shave pounds off of a bike. Just like frames, rims can be made of durable and lighter materials, but you also have to ensure they are strong enough for your intentions. A good rule of thumb is to think of your bike as the sum total of its different parts, AND to start out as lightweight as possible because it can be very hard to shave even a few pounds off of a frame/tire combination that doesn’t allow for much flexibility.
- Pricing? – It is easy to say that you shouldn’t base your choices on pricing alone, but where fat bikes go, you really do get what you pay for, though you also have those other factors to consider.
A Few Words on Sizing
Fat bikes are a lot more flexible where sizing is concerned, and especially if compared to traditional road bikes. Yet, you need to give thought to your preferred riding posture and what you intend to do on the bike. Most bikes come in a range of up to four sizes, or so. Sadly, there are not a lot of models designed for people under the height of 5’ 4”, though premium models do seem to have more sizing options.
As s general rule of thumb, you’ll want to “size upward” if you have a long upper body or legs, or if the bike has higher handlebars. You’ll want to “size down” if your upper body is short or you prefer lower handlebars.
If you want a basic guide to sizing, you can use this recommended range:
- 14″ ideal for 5’4″ to 5’7″
- 16″ ideal for 5’7″ to 5’10”
- 18″ ideal for 5’10” to 6’0″
- 20″ ideal for 6’1″ to 6’3″
- 22″ ideal for 6’3″ to 6’6″
We’ve looked at the key factors, and when it comes to selecting a fat bike, you’ll want to be very serious about:
- Wider tire capability
- Lighter weights
- Suspension compatibility and gearing for your intended use
- Proper sizing for your body and riding style
- How you want to ride (one season, year round, multi-terrain, and so on)
The good news is that there are some amazing options on the market, and we are here to take a deep look at nine of the very best available.
Choosing Your Bike
Now that you know what to look for in terms of design, sizing, and features, you can choose from these remarkably well-priced, high performing and well-made fat bikes. Whether you want a sturdy, winter commuter, a bike to take to the beach or an everyday rider, you’re sure to find several options here…and one for the kids, too!