Dispelling Fat-itude

Dispelling Fat-itude

” Why do you want to ride something that’s slower and heavier? Granted if you’re not a good rider and you want something that you can go over stuff, I get that part, and hopefully that will turn people onto riding a real bike.”

This quote taken out of context could be about a lot of things: mountain bikes in general, singlespeeders heckling geared bikes, 26ers heckling 29ers, 6″ suspension bikes versus 4″ suspension bikes, and of course what it was meant to describe – the use of plus-sized and fatbikes on dirt. It’s a quote from a Bike Mag interview with Rob Roskopp of Santa Cruz bicycles.

Ever since fatbikes have gained traction (huh huh) in the lower 48 the naysayers have had a field day heckling them saying things like they’re the recumbents of the mountain bike world. I’ve heard this from bike shops, industry folks, and many more that just don’t like the idea of fatbikes. It reminds me a lot of the 26er vs. 29er debate that has raged for years.

For some reason they think that the bigger tires give you a handicap, like a few strokes on your golf game, to help keep up with the young whipper-snappers. Bigger tires with lower pressure can roll over stuff more smoothly than narrower higher pressure tires, so of course that’s only desired by “intermediate” riders, all said with a hint of pity and disgust.

They miss the point.

Added traction and float is only useful for beginner or intermediate riders? Really?

Do we heckle Enduro or Downhill riders for not using hardtails? Are they any less of a rider technically because they use suspension to go faster downhill?  I can almost guarantee that if you ran Enduro races on fully rigid bikes you’d have the same results as if the riders used their normal full squishy bikes.

Are geared bikes only for wussies and singlespeeders are inherently better riders because they only have one speed?

Do all XC riders suck at downhills and technical sections and that’s why 29ers have taken over that field? 29er’s are heavier and some may say slower at tight technical singletrack.

Do they think we should all be on 2.25″ wide tires since they’re faster and lighter than the new trend of wide rims with 2.4″ wide tires?

Well, DUH…NO.

The fact is, almost nobody has only one bike anymore.  The people riding fats on Santa Cruz singletrack may indeed have that as their quiver killer because that’s what they think is the funnest at the moment. They have fun on it, it’s a “real” bike to them! Not everybody likes to ride the trails the same way or with the same bike. That’s the beauty of diversity.

Most others have a few bikes and maybe one of those is or will be a fatbike or plus-size tire bike; it’s just just one of their quiver. Like me, they may use their fatbike mainly in winter on snow, or on the beach because they live near the sea. And they may occasionally rail the fatty on dirt – which is insanely fun and different because of the added cornering and climbing traction from the hugeass tires.  But most of the time in summer they’ll ride a “regular” mountain bike with some skinnier tire size because that’s what they prefer on hardpack trails.

If you’ve never ridden a fatbike you may think they’re easier to get over stuff and would be easier to ride for beginner or intermediate riders. But fatbikes also haven’t had front or rear suspension until pretty recently, and even though you could run 3psi in the tires its not like you could rail any downhill at any speed you wanted.  Try it and you’ll get bounced off the bike. Fatbikes are more like tractors than any other bike out there and aren’t designed with high speed downhills as their primary objective. They’re designed to go places other bikes can’t (unless you really like carrying your bike).

Plus-sized tire bikes (2.75 – 3.25″) are all the rage now and for good reason. They’re fun! Not everybody’s goal is to win XC or Enduro races, but i think these bikes could be contenders in both those categories.  They’re more agile feeling than a full fat and make a quiver-killer since you can also run smaller tires if you like and don’t mind the change in bottom bracket height. I don’t want to play into the “fast and light is best” argument, but it’s not only my opinion that they are faster than riding a bike with a lighter wheelset with 2.4’s, even with the added rolling resistance. Here’s a great interview to listen to as well. In a couple years this will be common knowledge.  Lower pressure and added traction do exactly what they did to 2.4’s when we all started choosing those tires. The 3″ wide tire may be too big for you, but my hope is more 2.75’s come along because that is a really nice size. The Panaracer Fat B Nimble 29×3 is actually more around 2.75 on a 41mm rim, and if the Bontrager Chupa came out in that size i’d be all over it.

So rant over. Try it all out and make conclusions for yourself. In the end all these things are is another bike, and it’s amazing how many styles we have to choose from these days!

 

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