Can I put fat tires on a regular bike? The simplest answer is yes, you typically can with a little effort, but how much do you know about fat tires? They have become so popular that most mountain bike manufacturers are putting them on their bikes. You can even find them on electric bikes. In this article, you will learn about the what and why of fat tires, including what makes them so great.
What Are Fat Tires?
Fat tires get their name from fat bikes. As the name implies, they are wider and thicker than regular bike tires. The average width of a bike tire is around two inches, whereas, fat tires are usually between four and five inches. They are frequently used for more bumpy, precarious terrains, which makes them popular for mountain bikers that like to go off-roading.
What Makes Fat Tires So Great?
Fat tires have many advantages and a few disadvantages. They are slightly more expensive than regular bike tires. However, that should be expected considering they are bigger and more versatile. They are also great for exploring, built for comfort, and make a good workout. Explore these advantages further below.
They Are Made for Exploration
Fat tires are designed to enhance off-road biking. You can take them on almost any terrain. The deep tread provides better grip and traction than a standard bike tire. A few examples of where you can ride on fat tires are:
- Sandy beaches.
- Muddy paths.
- Steep and winding hills.
- Dense snow and ice.
- Wet stone and pavement.
The width allows extra contact surface and reduces pressure on the rider and the bike. You also do not have to fear skidding on slippery surfaces.
They Are Built for Comfort
Fat tires are still comfortable at pressures as low as 15 to 10 psi. Fat bikes are even known to be highly rigid because they do not need a suspension system; it is already built into the tire. Riding at low pressure on fat tires makes them prone to bouncing more, which allows the rubber to absorb the shocks. The result is a very comfortable ride through rough terrain.
They Are a Great Workout
Fat tires can make picking up speed a bit more challenging. That may not sound like an advantage to everyone, but to the exercise enthusiasts that want a better workout on their bikes, it is a bonus.
The size and weight make them heavier than standard bike tires, and riding on low pressure can make pedaling more difficult. You have to put in more work to pick up speed. However, it is a great workout for your upper and lower body.
They Are Great for Beginners
The additional balance and stability provided by fat tires make them great for riders that are new to off-roading or biking in general. Taking on more challenging terrain when you have smaller tires with less grip can stifle your confidence. You have to dodge obstacles, such as rocks and roots, but with fat tires, you can ride right over them. It helps to build confidence in rookies and is even practical for children.
Are There Any Limitations?
As previously mentioned, fat tires can make your bike heavier and slower. They are also more expensive than regular tires. Despite all their advantages, they do have some limitations:
- They can have less traction on smooth ground. While they may be great for rough terrain, putting fat tires on your bike for an urban commute could make it more difficult to ride. They are designed to grip loose ground, therefore, pavement leaves very little to grip.
- Tire pressure can be concerning. You have to monitor tire pressure very closely with fat tires because it governs how your bike interacts with the ground more strictly than a standard tire. If the psi is too high, your ride will be bumpy and uncomfortable. If it is too low, you risk damaging your rims.
- They can be harder to pedal. While this is great for exercise, it makes using your bike to commute or cruise more challenging.
- They are sometimes more difficult to store. Fat tires take up more space and make your bike heavier. If you live in a small, urban apartment with limited space, storage could prove challenging.
Most of the limitations are easily avoided by knowing why you want fat tires. If you plan to convert your bike so you can take it off-road on the weekends, it is a great idea. If you use your bike primarily on smooth, paved surfaces and might occasionally go off-roading, replacing regular tires with fat tires may not be beneficial unless you just want a good workout on your commute.
How Are Fat Tires Installed?
Installing fat tires on a standard mountain bike can be tricky. It requires much more preparation than simply removing the tires and replacing them with fat tires. Every mountain bike is different, and it can be difficult to fit a significantly larger tire on a standard frame. There are certain elements that come into play.
The first step in the installation process is to determine the limitations of your bike’s current setup. The three parts of the bike you need to look at are:
- The rim is the outer edge of the wheel that serves two functions: to hold the tire in place for all bikes and provide a surface for braking on rim-brake bikes.
- The fork is made of two blades that are joined at the top to make a crown. It holds the front wheel.
- The chainstay consists of a pair of metal tubes on the back of the bike frame that locks the rear axle in place with the bottom bracket.
Ideally, you can replace the regular tires with the fat tires with little alteration. For that to be possible, the fork needs to have enough width between the two blades to accommodate a wider tire.
If your current setup is too small to fit fat tires, you will need upgrades to make the conversion work. You can invest in new rims that can hold the wider tire and a wider fork. You may also need to replace the chainstay if the new tire compromises the stability of the chain.
Once you make the decision to convert, it is best to fully commit. Trying to make the process as cheap as possible could have very negative results. A strong carbon fork will make the ride smoother and kill vibrations. Lighter rims will make the bike easier to ride, and if you aren’t confident in your ability to handle the work on your own, pay to have a professional take care of it for you.
Bicycles are specialized. There are many different types, and they function best in certain conditions. The same can be said about all bike tires. Fat tires are not exceptionally better than any other tire, but they are more versatile. To figure out whether or not you should take the time and make the investment to convert your regular mountain bike to a fat tire mountain bike depends entirely on how you plan to use it.
For more information on fat-tire bikes and the cycling world, check out BikeLVR, where a team of cycling enthusiasts is happy to answer all your questions.