If you are into mountain biking then chances are you have come across or heard about fat bikes. But, if you are just picking-up the sport and you have no idea at all what a fat bike is, then prepare to be amused about it’s origins and purpose.
What is a fatbike? Is it a bike for chubby bikers? Or is it a descriptive term similar to ‘big bikes’ or 'monster bikes' for motorcycles with 250 cc to over 1000 cc engines. We’ll it could be, if you consider its purpose, its use, and its appearance.
If you want to be more specific, a fat bike is also referred to as “fat-tire” bike because of its 4-inch or wider rims. Get this; it was originally invented for riding in snowy trails and racing in the sub-artic regions.
When the president of one of the leading fat bike manufacturers in the world saw a huge spike in demand for their snow machines from the Philippines, he had to go here for a market visit, and see for himself how, and why. Is climate change responsible for their increasing sales from this part of the world? Well, I bet he was disappointed to find out that it hasn’t been snowing here since the end of the last ice age, but still happy that their sales are continously growing. One fat bike group in a popular social media site even has over 7,000 members. It goes to show that there is a big market for fat bikes in the Philippines.
The mind-boggling question is, why are snow bikes very popular in a country with a tropical climate like the Philippines? To answer the question we have to first forget that it is a snow bike, and think of it in a simplistic view—as a bike with very big wheels.
I have tested one on a trail, and I must say I liked it and considered buying one. After testing it only did I realize its appeal. So what are the advantages of a bike with big fat wheels you ask?
Here are the 5 main reasons for its popularity:
- Practicality- you can compare it to an SUV’s or pick-up truck and how they are suited for the road conditions in Metro Manila. Like these vehicles it’s practical to use a bike with fat wheels for the kind of roads we have--pot holes and all, let alone the ruggedness of mountain trails. Those fat wheels come in handy in these conditions.
- Comfort- if you haven’t tried riding on one yet, then you should know that it is very comfortable. Its big wheels absorb a lot of the impact and vibrations. You hardly feel the rocks and small bumps on the road or trail, so it keeps you comfortable on your saddle.
- Stability- if it is good enough for snow, then it sure is stable enough for any kind of terrain. Although there are some drawback like in terms of speed and rolling resistance, these are not big issues if you are in it for the fun of it all. Don’t expect perhaps a podium finish on a XC race, but it will still get you to the finish line.
- Versatility- most fat bikes have simple (classic) frame designs, and have no suspension systems. Its big wheels compensate for this so it does well on any terrain you ride it on. Its biggest advantage is on loose sandy ground like the trail leading to Mt. Pinatubo. A regular bike with narrower tires (1.95-2.3) would have a harder time on this terrain.
- Style- though you see more and more of it everywhere, it still is pretty unique. If your style is relaxed and comfortable riding, and you want to be “different” then a fat bike would be a good choice.
If you are interested in buying a fat bike, prepare to cough out at least 80k pesos for the standard models and well over a hundred grand for the higher end models. If you are a bike enthusiast then you would know what type and what brand falls in this price range.
There are also cheaper brands that offer these bikes in the 30k-40k price range. If you are one who’s not obsessed with design, and parts specifications, and if all you care about is to own one, by all means go for these.
Fat bikes were intended for use on snowy terrains, but it is also an all around bike, which has very practical applications even in our tropical climate. This interesting occurrence makes us trend setters this time around for rest of world to follow.