LATEST TRENDS IN FAT BIKE DESIGN
In the last 3 years, we have seen definite trends in Fat Bike design, with many recent advancements launched in 2017, and Industry mass production acceptance by 2018.
FAT BIKE DESIGN HAS REACHED "STANDARDIZATION" IN THE CYCLING INDUSTRY
Remember just a few years ago, when people were saying "Fat bikes are only a fad, they will be gone in a few years"..? Well, I'm glad the World has proved the nay-sayers wrong. Fat bikes are a heck of a lot of fun to ride all 4 seasons, especially when you invest in one the same way as a favourite MTB bike. Rigid carbon fat bikes we custom build are now down to 22 lbs or less, and full suspension alloy fat bikes are down to 32 lbs or less.
The reason Fat bikes have broken through into mainstream acceptance, is because common geometry and fabrication agreements between manufacturers of Fat Bikes and the component and accessory vendors, has been established. Standards are now found for overall Industry frame geometries, wheel design, hub spacing, suspension (corrected) travel, tire width, pannier and cargo frame bag sizing... 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, dedicated Fat Bike airline travel bags, etc etc. This acceptance has fueled the expansive growth of Fat Bikes, as we witnessed at the recent Interbike show in Las Vegas, and other Industry events like Sea Otter.
MAJOR RECENT CHANGES IN FAT BIKE DESIGNS for 2018 :
CHAINSTAY LENGTH : "CS" or chainstay length, has shortened considerably on many fat bikes and has become a big marketing ploy for some companies. (Note : the trade-off to extremely short CS lengths is tire width). What was the norm 2 years ago, is usually no longer optimal "CS" length. We have gone from 465-470mm avg chainstays, to about 440mm on average (with acceptance of 26x4.8" tires). 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 the only alternative for riding snow trails in the winter. The FATBACK SKOOKUM fits into this category. Light, agile, nimble, very quick accelerating, singletrack orientated Fat bike. 440mm chainstay with acceptance of 26x4.8" tires, 27.5x3+" tires, and/or 29x3.0" tires, without any frame modifications needed. Just swap out the wheelsets and hit the trails!
Fat Bikes that now optimize frame geometry to have chainstay lengths around 455-459, are generally used for activities like : winter riding and racing, repetitive hill climbing, and for sure, bikepacking and adventuring. These bikes will generally be equipped with cargo-capable front forks and have rear frame rack mounts pre-installed into the frame, like on the FATBACK CORVUS and FATBACK RHINO FLT.
SUSPENSION TRAVEL : In 2014, the standard was 80mm front suspension travel, and that was if your fat bike frame could even accommodate a tapered suspension fork, and the frame was also suspension corrected. Now in 2018, the vast majority of new Fat Bike frame designs accommodate options for 100mm suspension travel, and some are geometry corrected to the latest 120mm front suspension forks by Wren and Manitou. In just 4 years time, average frame-corrected suspension travel has increased by 50% and there are at least 6 different major brands of suspension forks to choose from, instead of just 1. Some insanely cool full suspension 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 : Rigid alloy Fat bikes weighed 36 lbs on average 3 years ago, and about 33 lbs 2 years ago... then, some companies in the industry broke the 30 lb barrier for "stock" bikes sometime between 2017-18. Now, sub 25 lb ALLOY fat bikes are obtainable, (like the FATBACK RHINO FLT) if you have the money to buy the high performance components. For carbon Fat bikes, we can routinely custom build a FATBACK CORVUS FLT XO1 EAGLE hardtail to 22 lbs or less, using all-mountain rated or enduro parts.
Where a simple alloy rigid Fat Bike 3-4 years ago weighed 32-36 lbs, we can now build custom high end full suspension 150mm travel ALLOY fat bikes to the same weight. The cycling industry has certainly been innovating for the Fat bike market in the last few years.
COMPONENT GEARING. Component manufacturers such as Shimano and SRAM have solidified the 1x11 and 1x12 speed, single chainring drivetrain for Fat Bikes as the new standard. They include a very wide range of gearing on the rear cassette like 11-46t and 10-50t. (which is a 500% increase in gearing). Manufacturers like RaceFace have designed beautiful cranksets and chainrings to accompany these 1x drivetrain systems. Together, they provide a fantastic opportunity to custom build Fat Bikes, offering the perfect gearing for all 4 season riding. Just 2-3 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 2018 Fat Bike frames will allow 26 x 4.8"+ tires, and provide more nimble, agile handing, without giving up any performance and weigh in at under 30 lbs on average.
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 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. In years past, 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 caught up to the demand. Turnaround time is now measured in days or weeks, versus months.