Despite being a relatively young cycling niche, fat bikes have already sprouted several evolutionary branches. We tested six of the best fat bikes on the market from across these burgeoning sub-categories to bring you the best fat bikes of 2015. But before we jump into the details, here’s a rundown of the current state of the fat bike market to help you find right type of fat bike for you.
First and foremost, fat bikes are all about delivering superior traction and floatation over unpacked surfaces but there is a lot of variation in how riders are using them.
There are expedition-worthy fat bikes, such as the Surly Ice Cream Truck, with voluminous 5in tyres and a huge assortment of braze-ons for racks, mudguards and cargo carriers.
For more the slightly less adventurous, there are fat bikes designed for daily use on singletrack – snowy or dry – and shorter bikepacking trips closer to home, such as the Felt Double Double, Trek Farley and Specialized Fatboy.
If racing is your thing, there are also a number of lightweight carbon models, such as the Borealis Echo, that make it clear that fat doesn’t always mean heavy.
Last but not least, there are a handful of full suspension fat bikes, such as the Turner King Khan, which can go pretty much anywhere.
Surly Ice Cream Truck – £2,400 / AU$3,850
The surly ice cream truck isn’t light, but it can tackle any terrain:
Despite its funny name, the Ice Cream Truck is a serious go-anywhere, do-anything fat bike worthy of weekend or weeklong adventures. The 4130 chromoly steel frameset isn’t light, but it’s well designed, with front and rear thru-axles and a steel fork that can easily be swapped for a RockShox Bluto suspension fork.
The Ice Cream Truck comes with a solid component spec, including Surly’s own 26×4.8in Bud and Lou tyres, which are exceptionally capable of chomping through unpacked snow and make short work of rocky trails, too.
Read the full Surly Ice Cream Truckfull review here.
Turner King Khan fat bike frame – £2,995 / AU$3,454
Fat bikes do have lots of built-in squish on account of the giant tyres but that motion is undamped and essentially impossible to tune. Add front and rear suspension to the equation and you have a go-anywhere, do-anything trail conqueror.
If your fat biking is restricted to winter riding, the King Khan is probably overkill. The rear suspension is nice but comes with hefty weight penalty over a similarly priced (and lighter) carbon hardtail.
That said, we had by far the most fun on the King Khan of any fat bikes we’ve ridden, and that may be all that matters.
Read the full Turner Khan review here.
Trek Farley 8 – £2,300 / AU$ N/A
The farley is a great option for year-round fat biking:
Trek designed the Farley around 4in tyres with geometry that places an emphasis on fun and agility. It built the Farley around the smaller but still voluminous 26x4in tyre standard out of desire to create a fast and light fat bike that handles like a regular mountain bike.
To that end we’d say Trek succeeded, because while there are better fat bikes for winter riding, few others come close to being as fun to ride year-round as the Farley.
Read the full Trek Farley review here.
Felt Double Double – £1,250 / AU$ TBC
For many riders, a fat bike is one more bike in the quiver. As such, price becomes a critical factor. The Felt Double Double 30 won’t wow you with ultra lightweight or rafts of suspension travel. What it will do is win you over with its unflappably capable demeanour and value-packed component spec.
It’s a bike that just flat-out works, and it’s particularly well suited for the winter conditions that most of us are willing to ride in.
Buy if: You want to partake in winter fat bike fun but don’t want to totally break the bank to do so
Borealis Echo – £ TBC / AU$ TBC
If you’re in it to win it, the Borealis Echo should be on your shortlist of high-end fat bikes. The carbon Echo is sleek, efficient, nimble-handling, light, and anything but slow.
The Echo is incredibly versatile. It can be built to be an ultra-light racer or as an all-around trail fatty — the carbon frame can swallow the largest fat bike rims and tyres on the market and it can even run an internally-routed dropper seatpost.
But while the chassis and most of the component spec are unquestionably high-end, the stock wheelset is disappointing. We’d recommend swapping it out for something more befitting the rest of the fast and light package.
Read the full Borealis Echo review here.
The specialized fatboy isn’t the most modern option, but it also won’t break the bank:
Being a California-based company, Specialized may have seemed like an unlikely contender when it rolled out the Fatboy in 2013, but the Big S saw the rapid growth of the this once tiny segment of the mountain biking market and brought its considerable engineering know-how to the table.
Being early to the party meant that the Fatboy isn’t up to date with the latest frame and axle standards. It’s still equipped with front and rear quick-releases, and the front wheel won’t work with a RockShox Bluto suspension fork. The Fatboy does have decent components for the money, though, particularly the Fatboy SL rims and Ground Control Fat tyres.