Put a non fat bike believer on a fat bike for few months riding, pretty much to the exclusion of all other bikes. The results may leave you almost lost for words (which, in this age of hype is no small achievement). Flame retardant suit at the ready, here are nine reasons why I reckon a fat bike should be your only bike.
A fat bike as your only bike? That’s a step too far, isn’t it? They’re too heavy / slow / cumbersome / fugly / the preserve of the “look at me” extrovert / utterly pointless (delete as appropriate), aren’t they? Who in their right mind would consider having one as their only bike? You’d have to be a stubbie short of a six pack to go down that route. Next thing you know, you will be taking up a sport where you wear cardigans and have to mow the green… Ok, I’ll admit, it seems like a pretty tall claim to make but having committed to riding mostly fat bikes after discovering them four years ago I’m converted. Since taking delivery of a Diamant F2 fat bike with a 120mm Bluto suspension fork as my long term test bike it’s definitely opened my eyes up to what makes for a great mountain bike. Don’t believe me? Read on and I’ll try and explain.
1. No other bikes climb as well.
Think of a hard MTB hill climb. One of those long, draggy affairs that seem to go on forever and really push the boundaries of what is rideable. Do you think of the rocky pinch climb out on Manly Dam ? The unfeasibly steep gravel road at Thredbo providing temporary access to the new All-Mountain trail which seems to get steeper and steeper the further up you ride it? Or some steep zig zaged single track in your own neck of the woods. To my mind, these are climbs to be relished. Steep and unyielding climbs that you have to grind and grunt your way up, pushing body and bike to the limit in search of that elusive clean ascent in order to get the rush of the downhill. I have used every trick in the book over the years in my quest to clean them – a twenty tooth granny ring, deflating the back tyre, adopting the arse on nose of saddle / Quasimodo style hunch over the bars that looks like you are about to have the squirts, soft pedalling on the less steep section to regain composure – all have yielded success but at the expense of looking like a boiled lobster and feeling like you are fighting the bike at all times.
Enter the fat bike with wheels normally in excess of two kilogrammes a piece* – yup, you did read that correctly . Lightweight, they aren’t! However, what you gain in weight, you more than gain in traction. Four or five inches of rubber on the trail stick to it more effectively than a dry half-eaten Weetabix does to a breakfast bowl (if only they made superglue out of the same stuff). The power transfer and torque is amazing. No more spinning rear wheel when your out of the saddle on a loose surface. Coupled with a weighted down front end that isn’t constantly trying to flip you onto your arse and you are able to concentrate on getting up the climb. You may not be the first in the mad rush to start the climb but come the end, you will be the one still spinning to win at the front while your mates on their single ringed Enduro bikes are forlornly carrying or pushing theirs up the hill.
*unless they have a carbon rim with light weight tyres like the Diamant F1 – Ltd.
2. Watch your network of trails expand in front of your very eyes.
If you are lucky enough to live near a bike park or Thredbo, you can look at a map and pretty much plan a route safe in the knowledge that you can ride it. However, saddled with positively arcane access legislation, our city cousins are left to dine on the scraps of single track and locals only sections built by trail fairies. It’s a piss poor state of affairs but all is not lost. What if I told you that there are thousands of kilometres of trail waiting to be explored? We are an island, which means that we have literally thousands of miles of coastline to explore. See those bits on the map between high and low tide? Fancy riding them? If you have a fat bike, you pretty much can with the notable exception of riding on defence land but then, if you prefer not to ride over unexploded ordnance, it’s not exactly a hardship to avoid! An ordinary bike will do but when the sand gets deep and the shoreline rocky, you’ll be glad to be on my weapon of choice.
3. Realise the inner trials rider in you without even trying.
Fat Bikes inspire confidence full stop. Riding a fat bike grows your confidence as a rider when you realise just how capable they are. It is not uncommon for a fat biker to be out riding and face something that would beyond their capabilities on a normal bike but suddenly have an epiphany. When faced with an enormous boulder field, you don’t feel the need to get off and push over the ankle snapping jumble of boulders but just decide to try and ride them. Previous attempts on your old full sus bike may have had limited success; leaving you feeling like a very slow and uncoordinated pinball. However, with five inches of rubber front and rear, and bingo your’ll give it a bash. A few metres quickly morph into tens of metres and before you know it, your riding across the boulders.
You feel as if you had suddenly acquired the trail skills of an elite rider and feel as they say, stoked! Ever since then, lines that you wouldn’t even have considered on a normal bike appear possible. Being able to bulldoze through mud, boulder fields and sail over rock gardens definitely changes your perceptions as the previously un-rideable becomes rideable! Technical now comes in many forms, not just vertical.
4. If you like bikepacking and touring, welcome to the ultimate bike for your off the map adventures.
For bikepacking, everyone knows that you need a 29er, right? For covering big distances on smooth gravel tracks, it’s hard to beat a good 29er or 29+ set up. But what if your desire for adventure takes you a bit more off the beaten track? It’s at that point that a fat bike begins to make sense. Fully loaded up, the big wheels show none of that flippy floppy nervousness that you often find on a race tuned 29er. The fat bike offers you a more forgiving ride over bumpy terrain while their geometry tends to be more relaxed and see the world than arse up, head down. In short, when you venture off the beaten track, would you rather be in a Land Rover or a Ferrari? Still not convinced? Have a look at some of the places you can ride on our blog cross desert’s, snow in Alaska or float your bike on your own adventure.
5. Make new riding buddies.
“I already have enough friends, thank you very much!” Unless you have aspirations to live the life of a hermit, making new friends is no bad thing as it widens your life experience and brings you into contact with all manner of new characters. People are just drawn to the bike so be prepared to answer questions “that must be hard to pedal” and even the hard core gravity set will be curious and are often surprised that their anti-fat bias is unjustified. When I was “fat-curious”, that stage between not owning and owning a fat bike, I would regularly look at fat bike related blogs. One in particular stood out, www.fat-bike.com based in the states is great a source of world wide fatbike knowledge and product reviews. Combine this with the Fat bikes Down Under Facebook group to meet local riders in your area and you will learn all about fat bikes and get to see where people are riding.
6. Come to realise that it is all about the journey and not the destination.
How often do you set Strava or whatever tracking device your phone happens to be carrying before going on a ride? Do you find yourself riding fast up or down your local trails in search of that elusive “King/Queen of” designation? Do you feel yourself being a little downhearted if you are way off your personal best time? I have one question for you. Why? Does Strava really make the ride better? What is more important – the time you took to do the ride or the fun you had doing it? Would you not be better taking the time to stop and soak in your surroundings? Psychologists refer to it as mindfulness, of being in and savouring the moment. With a fat bike, you are never going to be the fastest rider on the trail so why not take the time to enjoy the whole experience of the ride? Leave Strava to the masses. (Mind you on a personal level fat bikes are not slow because of the extra confidence to launch into the technical ghar. I have had more PB’s on my fat bike then the Enduro full-sus bike on Strava).
7. Hone your descending skills.
Suspension, ultra-short stems, wide bars and super long top tubes – if you believe the hype, you’ll never be a fast descender unless you have those at your disposal. Bollox, bollox and thrice bollox, Riding fast is as much about your mind as it is about the bike. It’s easy to be seduced into a world of marginal gains where every one tenth of a second counts. With a fat bike, you learn to ride downhill in a different manner and by that I don’t mean slowly. What you lack in suspension, you gain in terms of astounding levels of traction and wheels that can plough through rock gardens as opposed to being hooked up by them. Take different lines with your effectively 5inch wide 29er size wheels. Learn to trust a fat bike and push the limits of what it can do, rail corners with confidence and I promise that you will genuinely be surprised at how fast you can get it to go. And that is before we even start talking about suspension forks, then if you really feel the need go for 120mm of travel and fire up Strava!
8. Keep it simple.
Remember the first bike you had as a child? Unless your parents were unwittingly cruel and gave you some faux suspension bike shaped object made of pig iron, you will almost certainly have started with a simple, rigid bike. By eliminating suspension parts, there is immediately less to go expensively wrong. If you just want to ride on the beach or tour Australia or even the world stick with a rigid fork. Do don’t need a suspension fork so enjoy the simplicity of not having an additional kilo of suspension fork adding weigh tto the bike and let the tyres do the work. Attach what you need via racks and mounts or the more modern frame and saddlebags and your’ll be ready for any adventure. If this is ‘the bike’ and you want do all of the above but still push yourself on aggressive all-mountain trails or ride 1000’s of kilometres over corrugated roads then you want to consider a suspension fork. The Rockshox Bluto, RST Renegade or Fatlab fork are all worthy contenders depending on your use and budget. You get what you pay for stay away from fat bike shaped objects under $1000 if you purchase a name quality brand whether constructed from steel or aluminium, or carbon most fat bikes have a level of robustness lacking in the latest and greatest wunderbikes. A good fat bike should be built to last with corrosion resistant parts and bolts etc and with a bit of carefully applied grease and lube after a post beach ride hose and wash, you can have a bike that will serve you loyally for many years to come. However, if your going to huck them then I recommend staying with aluminium. like this Diamant F3.
9. Keep fit while having fun.
As Greg LeMond put it, “It never gets easier, you just go faster”. I sometimes wonder if he was thinking about fat bikes. No matter how you cut it, the laws of physics dictate that heavier wheels take more effort to get up to speed than lighter wheels. When you are out riding with you mates, you will have to work just that little bit harder. You will be reminded of this when riding your fat bike while your mate was on his carbon 29er race bike. Make that sometimes a LOT harder! However, switch to a regular bike and you will find yourself positively flying compared to your previous self. All that extra effort you put into the fat bike translates into increased strength and stamina when it comes to a regular bike. Consider it secret training with none of the ephemera that goes with “training”.
So there you have it. Nine good reasons why a fat bike should be your only bike. And to think I haven’t even mentioned snow riding, off trail adventures, less environmental impact on trails, the cheery responses you get from fellow outdoors people when seeing a fat bike for the first time, the shit eating grin you get when riding one etc etc etc. Ditch the quiver and buy a fat bike. Better yet join the Diamant Family.