This article is part of the Fat-bike 101 series and is intended to help new fat-bike owners, and potential fat-bike owners, with some of the questions they may have about fat-bikes. In addition, it is a chance for experienced riders to add comments to help our new brethren enjoy all that fat-biking offers. Consider these articles as conversation starters, not exhaustive explanations!
Fat-bike 101 Tires
A major component of fat-bikes is, of course, the tires. While in the early days of the current fat-bike phenomenon soft condition riders where forced into some DIY solutions, like sewing two tires together, the modern fat-bike really came into its own with the introduction several years ago of the Surly Endomorph; the first commercially available fat-bike tire that was available in quantities large enough to allow multiple builders to begin to explore the boundaries of fat-bike design. Since the Endo, Surly has dominated the fat-bike tire market but there are some new kids on the block that deserve looking at including 45NRTH and the new offerings from VeeRubber.
Fat-bike tires are typically marked as 26 x 4.0 though most are really more like 26 x 3.7 or 3.8. The actual size of the mounted tire will vary depending on the rim width used for the wheel. We will discuss fat-bike rims in a future article but fat-bike rims currently run from 44mm all the way up to 100mm with rims as wide as 140/160mm possibly on the way.
Big Air Volume
So, fat-bikes use big tires. But why? Well, it is for all that air volume and the gigantic footprint that let you go in comfort and control where other bikes, and even people, have feared to tread. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t take and extreme adventure to really appreciate the extra grip, shock absorbing quality and added comfort of fat-tires, just a desire to expand your boundaries.
About Tire Pressure
Tire pressure, and the ability to change it for different conditions, is the key to fat-biking and to enjoying your rides. Fat-bike tires are very sensitive to tire pressure changes. Because of the large volume of air a difference of just a 1 or 2 PSI will make a noticeable difference in how the tire interacts with the terrain. Typically, fat-bike riders use pressures in the 8PSI range for soft conditions, 12-15PSI for trail riding and 20-25PSI for on-road or urban riding. Experiment! You will find what works for you.
On the very low end, depending on your weight and setup, pressures as low as 4PSI can be used. You’ll see wrinkly sidewalls kind of like a dragster coming up to the line!
The common theory on how high a pressure you can run on trails is the point at which you begin to bounce a lot as opposed to floating over terrain.
For the road you can run up to 30PSI in a fat-bike tire but you may find that 20-25PSI will roll fast enough and still take the edge off pot holes, pavement cracks and other urban hazards.
About Tire Pressure Gauges
Most common tire pressure gauges are not sensitive enough at the low end to accurately read the 4-15PSI commonly use by fat-bikers. Frankly, it is more of a “feel” and experience thing but an accurate gauge like the Accu-gages from Meiser (we like the 0-30PSI version) can help you get a feel for what to use when you are starting out with fat-bikes. Lots of local bike shops carry, or can get, these gauges.
Enter the BFL
Two years ago Surly fired another shot at the bigger-is-better wall with the introduction of the 26 x 5.0 Big Fat Larry designed to work on their Moonlander but also appropriate on most fat-bike front wheels as well as the rear of several current fat-bike frames out there. Most older frames were designed before this massive tire was introduced and may or may not work. Also, some drive train mods may be needed to make sure the chain clears the tires.
Since the BFL Surly have introduced 2 more 26 x 5.0 tires with more aggressive tread patterns called the Bud and the Lou. These tires were designed as a front-specific and rear-specific pair and can really stretch the boundaries of where fat-bikes can be ridden.
Here is a listing of tires that are intended for the fat-bike market. Note that everyone has their favorite if they’ve been riding fat-bikes for a while but what’s best for them may not be best for you. With the stock tires on a Pugsley, a Mukluk or any other fat-bike you will be able to go places you’ve never been able to before and, with some experience, you will learn what you like and be able to make your own choices for what works best for you. Get experienced, Ride!
45NRTH Husker Du
Surly Big Fat Larry
Surly Black Floyd
Vee Rubber Mission
VeeRubber Mission 2
On One Floater
Origin8 Devist-8er 2
Origin8 Devist-8er UL
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