Fat Bike vs. Mountain Bike: Which One’s Better for You?

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Buying a new bike has been on your mind since quite some time now, but it’s tough for you to choose which one. Especially if the decision is between a fat bike and a mountain bike, the choice is even trickier. Isn’t it?

Honestly, if we were to say which one is better, we’d say that it depends on a lot of factors; primarily, your requirements and the kind of terrain you’d be riding on. But, if we really have to choose one, we would pick the fat bike!

Not because it’s rugged and like a beast (of course, that’s one reason), but simply because you can always switch the fat tires for mountain tires if the need arises. But you cannot switch the mountain tires for fat tires in MTBs.

However, as we said, it depends on so many other factors. Let’s get into the details, and you’ll have a clearer picture by the end of it!

Wheels

The first noticeable difference is in the wheels. Fat tire bikes are called so because they have thick, beefed-up tires, ranging between 4” and 5”. They are designed for the specific reason of ‘floatation’. 

These fat bikes have low-pressure tires with a wide surface area that helps the bike tackle soft surfaces like snow, sand, and mud. It increases traction. Moreover, the tire pressure can be changed according to the rider’s convenience and the kind of terrain they are supposed to ride on.

The wheels are generally 26,” 27.5” and 29” wide. This is the primary reason why people in colder snow-clad regions prefer a fat bike. You do not have to stow away your bike in winters and can ride all year round. People who love riding on the sand along the beach or in a desert also prefer fat bikes over any other. 

The MTBs, on the other hand, have thinner tires, around 2” wide. The wheel size is generally 26”. The thinner tires are ideal for maneuvering rocks, trails, and ride through dirt and gravel. The wheels are made to tackle all sorts of terrain but cannot ride on sand, snow, or mud. 

People prefer an MTB over a fat bike if they need to ride on flat surfaces. They are perfect as commute bikes. Fat bikes do not ride well on flat surfaces as they are bouncy and uncomfortable. 

Frame

When you look at both the bikes, it’s hard not to see the difference between an MTB and a fat bike. 

The frame is built for specific reasons, and they serve distinct purposes. In a fat bike, along with the wheel being fat, even the hubs are wider too. It is to allow the bigger and stiffer wheels. They have longer chainstay lengths for the bike to stay upright and stable. The bottom bracket width is increased too, compared to that of an MTB.

The frame of a fat bike is heavy but stable. It does not give the speed that MTBs provide the rider with. While riding a fat bike, the rider looks for steady and safe rides instead of speed. 

Fat bikes are heavier because of their construction. An MTB is sleeker, making them lighter in weight. They are more compact too. When riding an MTB, the rider looks for speed. The MTBs have steeper slack head angles that provide the speed. 

Gears

The most significant advantage of having a mountain bike is the gearing system. It has gears up to 24, or sometimes, even 30. That’s how it achieves the speed. It is exceptionally helpful in riding uphill and pedaling faster. 

However, it also makes the construction of the bike slightly complicated. Your bike would require regular maintenance of the gears.

Most fat bikes are single-speed which means pedaling is slightly challenging, and the rider has to make most of the effort while riding. It makes the bike a great workout machine. However, riding uphill is tough with a fat bike due to the weight and the absence of gears.

Suspension

Fat bikes generally do not need suspension since the tires are built to absorb the bumps and shocks of the terrain. However, fat bikes with suspension are also available.

MTBs are known for their suspension. Since they are used for riding on rugged terrains like rocky hills and dirt trails, the rider needs comfort and the bike’s ability to absorb shocks and thumps. MTBs are mainly hardtail or full suspension. 

Fat bikes: Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Perfect for sand, snow and mud
  • The fat tires absorb the bumps, eliminating the need for suspension
  • Stable and safe due to maximum traction 
  • You can ride it all around the year, irrespective of the weather
  • You can switch the fat tires for mountain tires for riding on flatter surfaces

Cons

  • It’s not suitable for flat surfaces; tires experience rolling friction
  • It is heavier, so portability is difficult
  • Pedaling is harder 
  • Achieving speed is difficult
  • Expensive

Mountain Bikes: Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Riding uphill is easy because of the gearing system
  • Lightweight and easy to ride
  • Can tackle different terrains and is comfortable 
  • MTBs are designed to achieve high speeds
  • Not as expensive as a fat bike

Cons

  • Not suitable for sand, snow or mud
  • Gearing system requires regular maintenance
  • Unlike the fat bike, you cannot switch the MTB tires for fat tires

Final Verdict

We’ve tried to differentiate the two so that an informed decision would lead to the perfect buy for you. The essential factor behind picking one over the other is the kind of terrain you’d be riding on. If it’s for commuting or exploring the hills, or to achieve higher speeds, an MTB is perfect for you.

If you live where it snows a lot, or there are beaches where you want to ride, nothing is better than a fat bike. It would serve you all round the year, and you can change the tires to an MTBs anytime you want. You can have two bikes in one!

Whichever you choose, enjoy the thrill of biking, and exploring! 

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