Sunday, January 8, 2017

Not fat, just big-boned

Recently I was advised to try out a fat bike. On the surface, it sounds like a good idea. I'd like to try to ride in sand, mud, and snow. We don't actually have snow where I live, but if I wanted to ride in it, there's some just a few hundred miles away.

So I went to a local bike shop that carried the Salsa Fargo with 27.5" by 3" tires. I was able to ride it in the street, and I have to say it was pretty nice. It took me a bit more effort to get it up to speed than it takes with my bike with its measly 2" wide tires. Once it got going, though, it rolled pretty easily. And the SRAM drivetrain is as nice as you might expect. The handling was outstanding; it took me a minute to get used to it, but somehow it felt far more stable than a lot of the bikes I've taken for test rides. The bike was incredibly comfy, too.

When the crew at the bike shop asked me how I liked it, I said that it was pretty good for my first experience with a fat bike. That's when I found out that the Fargo is not really considered a fat bike.
C'mon. what's not fat about this?
So what is a fat bike? According to Wikipedia "A fatbike (also called fat bike or fat-tire bike) is an off-road bicycle with oversized tires, typically 3.8 in (97 mm) or larger and rims 2.6 in (66 mm) or wider, designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs and mud." Of course, Wikipedia is quoting someone, and people are opinionated. But it is also true that almost every bike I've seen advertised as a fat bike comes with at least 3.8" wide tires.

So...according to the criteria laid out by the source of all Internet knowledge, the Fargo is not a fat bike. The bike shop folks told me it was a "mountain bike that can be ridden on pavement." Well, if they say so...

I can find a fat bike at my local REI. But the REI is in the middle of the city -- and it almost feels wrong to ride a device intended for mud and snow in an urban environment; particularly near my local REI, where the traffic is so dense (and the drivers so entitled) that a small misstep can turn a bicyclist into roadkill.

Probably the best place to test a fat bike right now is in Minnesota, especially if I want to ride it in a snowier environment. Or maybe I should just rent one, load it in my car, and take it to the mud. We've had so much rain recently, mud shouldn't be hard to find.

I can't say that I'll ever own a fat bike. My resources are limited, and a good road bike would be a far wiser purchase. (And decent fat bikes are expensive as <expletive deleted>.) But I sure have a craving to try a couple now.


  1. Have you considered outfitting the Fargo with some 27.5 x 3 wheels/tires? While technically not "fat," they offer a lot more flotation than standard 29er wheels/tires.

    1. Good to hear from you. The Fargo I rode did have 27.5" tires. I expected them to roll much less easily than the 700c tires I'm used to, but that wasn't the case. And yes, technically not fat, but still pretty cool. Not a bike I would use every day, but I'd sure like to have one in reserve for the odd trail ride. Or just because it's really comfortable. :)