With the new On-One fat bike launched HERE, and the 4.0” Floater tyres delivered, we asked our resident
lover of all things fat fat bike expert, Shaggy, to say a few words about why they are great and not as silly as they look. By way of putting his money where his mouth is he is just back from working at Trans-Provence, a week long enduro race. He ragged a prototype Fatty around sweeping up the racers on their ubiquitous 6" travel bikes.
“It’s one those snow bikes”, is a phrase I’ve heard a lot from people commenting on my fat bike. And while it is a great bike for riding on snow, that’s certainly not a “snow bike”. It’s so much more. The initial idea of big tyres was to provide extra flotation over really loose surfaces like sand, mud, and, yes, snow. And, yes it works. Normal tyres don’t even compare. However there were several other benefits that arose from the increased tyre size, namely; they can be made really grippy and also provide a degree of suspension. Conveniently these are the characteristics that make the bike fun.
The grip is a funny thing. A normal mountain bike feels adequate until you try a fat bike. Drive and braking are improved, especially on less than ideal surfaces. However it’s the sideways grip that really impresses me. At speed cornering grip is excessive. If the tyres don’t stick, it’s likely nothing will. Improbably corners can be nailed and previously impossible off-camber slopes can be traversed with relative ease.
Calling the tyre deflection suspension is, perhaps, not an ideal analogy. Certainly small lumps are soaked up and large one reduced but there is little in the way of damping, there is just tyre pressure to play with. The nature of the deflection, is quite different to ‘normal’ suspension though. An impact deforms the tyre around the object. Consequently along with absorbing some of the shock the tyre actually grips on more of the obstacle. This really encourages you to throw the bike through rough patches of trail.
The combination of these traits mean that rough sections can be tamed and new trails can even be investigated. Have you ever tried to ride up a rocky river bed on a normal bike? Probably not. It would be quicker to walk. Fat bikes open up this sort of terrain, and it turns out it’s really fun. Slow speed trials type moves are, obviously, possible but it’s when you attack something at speed when the fun really starts. You can pedal through a lot more than you’d imagine and once you run out of steam the bike can generally keep rolling over whatever is in its path. It’s not always elegant but it gets the job done where nothing else could. I liken it to a monster truck, and who doesn’t secretly want a monster truck?
5 October 2012