LATEST TRENDS IN FAT BIKE DESIGN
In the last 3 years, we have seen definite trends in Fat Bike design. We examined long term product reviews for 2017, and the 2018 Product Launches while we were just at Interbike in Las Vegas.
FAT BIKE DESIGN HAS REACHED "STANDARDIZATION" IN THE CYCLING INDUSTRY
Common geometry and fabrication agreements between manufacturers of Fat Bikes and the component and accessory vendors, has been established. Standards are now found for frame geometries, wheel design, hub spacing, suspension travel, tire width, ... all sorts of things. The accessory line companies have taken the sport seriously and now developed "Fat Bike specific" gear like, bike racks, tires, shocks, pannier bags, airline travel bags, etc etc.
MAJOR RECENT CHANGES IN FAT BIKE DESIGNS :
- Chainstay length has shortened considerably. What was the norm 2 years ago, is usually no longer optimal. We have gone from 465mm avg chainstays to about 440mm on average. It might not seem like a lot, but handling can dramatically change, depending on your riding style. Bikes that felt more like riding tanks along snowmobile trails, now feel like MTBs on singletrack. They are more nimble, agile, and suited for 4-season use, rather than just snowy trails in the winter.
- Suspension travel. More Fat Bike designs are accommodating the 120mm Front suspension travel standard. (This started as 80mm several years ago). Less and less Fat Bikes are designed to be "non-suspension corrected"... aka - they can only use a carbon fork, or a LAUF without dramatically affecting handling via the seat tube and head tube angles. Some insanely cool Fat Bikes, like the FOES MUTZ 150, which is hand-built in the USA, can accommodate up to 150mm of Front and Rear travel !! (This requires the use of either the WREN ATK 150 or the Mastodon PRO 150 suspension fork).
- WEIGHT. Fat bikes weighed 36 lbs on average 2-3 years ago, and about 33 lbs 1-2 years ago... then, the industry started trying to break the 30 lb barrier for "stock" bikes. Now, sub 25 lb bikes are obtainable quite easily, if you have the money to buy the high performance components. For Fall 2016/Winter 2017, stock alloy Fat Bikes from Fatback Bikes of Alaska, for instance, will weigh in at 27-29 lbs, without modification. By selecting lightweight parts (and lightweight wheelsets/tires), you can get a "stock" alloy bike down to 26-28 lbs ready to ride. Carbon Fat Bikes have seen the biggest reduction in weight. Some vendors claim their carbon Fat Bikes weigh in at 21-23 lbs. Full suspension Fat bikes at 27 to 32 lbs are becoming obtainable. 27-28 lb All-Mountain rated 120mm Front Suspension Fat Bikes are available from Fatback bikes, stock. This means 4.5in to 4.8in tires, ready for winter use... including Dropper Posts ... and pedals... 28 lbs ready to ride. Stock configuration.
Just try to remember that some vendors will play the "weight weenie" game and purposely build a fat bike with insanely lightweight parts, that may not be very durable, or very usable, on demanding trail systems. These vendors will also weigh the bikes without pedals nor sealant, and will certainly be putting on the minimum amount of rubber as necessary on the narrowest of rims to qualify their bike as a "Fat Bike"... this means 65mm rims with 3.8in tires. At that point, it becomes more of a plus bike. These frames also will be limited in the number of bottle cage mounts, and usually have zero accommodation for rack mounts. Only a few companies in the World build frame-sets that are "All-Mountain" rated, and have all the options boxes checked... and we carry two of those brands, FATBACK and FOES RACING.
- COMPONENT GEARING. This last year has seen a huge increase in the usability of the Fat Bike. Component manufacturers such as Shimano and SRAM have solidified the 1x11 and 1x12 single speed drivetrain for Fat Bikes as the new standard, and include very wide range of gearing on the rear cassette like 11-46t and 10-50t. Manufacturers like RaceFace have designed beautiful cranksets and chainrings to accompany theses 1x drivetrain systems. Together, they provide a fantastic opportunity for custom builds of Fat Bikes, offering the perfect gearing for all season riding. Just two years ago, we were looking at heavy, clunky, limited gearing in 2x9 and 2x10 systems. Now we have options to excel at whatever environment we chose to ride in.
- FRAME GEOMETRY. You can view our Stack and Reach charts for more detailed information... but the main trend here is Fat Bikes have decreased in overall wheelbase, but have not given up functionality or purpose. Modern 2016/2017 Fat Bike frames will allow 4.8in tires, and provide more nimble, agile handing, without giving up any performance.
- 4-SEASON BIKES. Fat Bikes were the answer for the perfect winter bike over the last several years... and even dating back 10 years or more... these designs were being created in places like New Mexico and Alaska. Just 2-3 years ago, the hype was "fat bikes are a novelty" and "they will just be a fad". Well, we have proven them wrong! Fat Bikes have been fine tuned, and supported in the cycling industry by the manufacturers, to the point many people look to these bikes as their "do everything" bike for all 4 seasons. With the compatibility for 27.5+ and 29er+ wheelsets, Fat Bikes can compete with MTBs and Plus bikes year-round. Fat Bikes will certainly rule in the winter, with the options for 4.8in+ studded tires, and all sorts of gear racks and mounts, for long adventures in the wilderness.
- AIRLINE TRAVEL AND VEHICLE TRANSPORT GEAR. Several companies have produced excellent Fat Bike specific hitch mount racks for vehicles. Now you can take your Fat Bike anywhere your car/truck/SUV or motor home can go, without having to disassemble the bike and store it in your vehicle. Other companies have designed airline transport bags for Fat Bikes and their wheelsets, so you can take your Fat Bike anywhere you fly on vacation. A GREAT example of this is the EVOC USA FAT BIKE TRAVEL CASE. (which we carry at RIDEBATBIKES.CA)
- PARTS AVAILABILITY. Just last year, it could take 3 months or more to receive replacement parts for your Fat Bike. Sometimes it took that long just to order a Fat Bike! Now, the supply has almost caught up to the demand. Turnaround time is now measured in days or weeks, versus months, or seasons! (for example, a winter studded tire Brand we carried last year (Terrene), was out of stock of their studded tires the entire winter season - which didn't help sales, or the customer's expectations much).
- PRICING. Well, we can't have everything, right? Prices increase for the latest high-tech equipment that optimizes your performance. Some deals can be had on older technology (like the recent sell-off of Bluto RL/RCT3 suspension forks), but the riding experience of these items may feel.... "dated" and non-optimal.