Bike commuting is probably most often linked with city bikes or road bikes, but you can theoretically commute on any bike.
The biggest variables between commuting bikes are comfort and speed, and both are radically affected by the surface you ride on.
So, what happens if you try using a fat bike for commuting? This is an extreme kind of bike, after all, with tires that are twice the width of MTB tires.
This article gives you the pros and cons of commuting by fat bike and tells you how you can adapt the bike to suit your commute.
Reasons Why Fat Bikes Are Good For Commuting
Let’s start with the positives. Why on earth would you choose a fat bike to commute on? As it happens, there are a few reasons.
The Comfort Factor
Riding a bike becomes uncomfortable when you feel too much of the riding surface for too long. All that vibration from the road or trail jolts up through your spine and arms and starts stressing your hands and lower back.
With a fat bike, there’s none of that. The large-volume, low-pressure tires enable you to ride over irregular surfaces in comfort.
A fat bike is not as “efficient” as a road bike on the road, but you can ride it on most surfaces. And you can take whatever route you like into work. On skinny tires, you can’t do that without experiencing discomfort and punctures.
You can also carry a fat bike onto many trains for intermodal commutes, provided the service allows it.
Video: Off-Road Fatbike Riding
Closely related to versatility is traction. The 3-inch-wide tires of a fat bike are designed to traverse sand and snow, so you can ride to work in any conditions.
Many commuters balk at the idea of cycling into work on ice and snow—not a problem on a fat bike. Of course, you still have to exercise caution in extreme conditions, but those broad tires give you a lot of stability on challenging surfaces.
Read more: Learn about tires for bike commuters
Video: Fatbike Commuting In Snow
A bike you can ride in all conditions and on almost any surface allows you to keep riding throughout the year. It doesn’t matter what the weather throws at you.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. A fat bike is a bike you can confidently ride throughout the winter, helping you to maintain year-round fitness.
Read more: Help, I’m too tired to ride to work!
The Fun Factor
A fun bike ride beats a mundane one, and starting each working day with a bit of fun can’t be a bad thing.
You might even find yourself looking forward to commutes on a fat bike. They give you a sense of adventure you may not feel on a city bike.
Read more: The benefits of riding into work
Reasons Why Fat Bikes Are Bad For Commuting
Of course, there are a few downsides to using a fat bike for a commute. We’ll touch on a few of them now.
If you ride to work on roads and those roads aren’t covered in snow, a fat bike will be slower than almost any bike you can think of. More rubber against a smooth riding surface means more rolling resistance and less speed.
Does speed matter in a commute? Over the short distance a commute usually covers, we’re only talking a few minutes of difference either way. Still, if you’re planning a long commute, a faster bike is more practical.
A fat bike will be heavier than, say, a typical hardtail MTB or road bike. That doesn’t make much difference on flat roads, but it’ll slow you down if you’re climbing hills.
As you’d expect, fat-bike wheels are heavier than other bike wheels. That makes them slower at accelerating away from traffic lights, for instance. Regardless, the extra weight isn’t a huge drawback on most commutes.
Fat bikes are still rare compared to other bikes and are likely to be noticed even among non-cyclists. If you need to commute in an area where you’d rather not stand out, or you want to leave your bike locked in an accessible place, other bikes are more discreet.
On the other hand, if your fat bike is stolen, it’ll be hard for a thief to ride away on it without being noticed. And they’re less anonymous to dispose of, at least locally.
3 Best Fat Bikes For Commuting To Work
Now we’ll show you three different fat bikes that you might like for a commute. There’s a fat bike out there for every budget.
1. Trek Farley 9.6 (best overall)
- Frame Material: Trek OCLV Carbon
- Weight: 28.66 lb. (13 kg)
Presented as a “four-season freedom machine”, the Trek Farley 9.6 is a high-end Fatbike with a lightweight carbon frame and a 1 x 12-speed drivetrain. Trek’s proprietary OCLV Mountain Carbon is designed for tough mountain-specific use.
A strong feature of this bike is the Bontrager Rapid Drive 108 rear hub. This 54-tooth hub uses 6 offset pawls to provide 108 points of 3.3° engagement. This makes the bike responsive to acceleration after freewheeling through corners or over rough terrain.
Gears on the Farley 9.6 comprise a wide-ranging 10-52t SRAM Eagle XG-1275 cassette at the rear and a 30t single chainring at the front. In conjunction with that relatively lightweight frame, you shouldn’t have much problem getting up hills on your commute.
Other features of this superbly made bike include horizontal sliding dropouts, which allow you to tweak the geometry, and a dropper post for on-the-fly saddle adjustments over tricky terrain (typically made when descending).
Stopping power in the Farley 9.6 comes from SRAM Level TL hydraulic disc brakes.
The supplied wheels and tires are tubeless-ready, meaning you can go tubeless by installing rim tape, tubeless valves and sealant.
2. Mongoose Dolomite Men’s Fatbike (runner-up)
- Frame Material: Steel
- Weight: Approx. 45 lb. (20.4 kg)
Suitable for riders from 5′ 6″ to 6′ tall, the Mongoose Dolomite Men’s Fatbike is sturdily made with a steel frame and comes with 4-inch wide tires on its striking red powder-coated alloy rims.
This bike comes with Shimano Revo twist shifters and a 7-speed Shimano rear derailleur. Mechanical disc brakes provide reliable stopping power in all weathers, and of course, you can ride this bike on a variety of terrains.
The Mongoose Dolomite is a bike you can easily assemble and enjoy riding soon after, though it’s also eminently upgradeable if you want to treat it as a project. It’s available in three colors: red, navy blue and light blue.
- Frame Material: Steel
- Weight: 45.1 lb. (20.45 kg)
Anyone seeking a Fatbike on a budget should find satisfaction in the Krusher Dynacraft Men’s Fat Tire Bike. It has a robust steel frame with a 275 lb. capacity and comfy 4” tires to go on its eye-catching 26” wheel rims.
A chief reason for this bike’s low price is its single speed. That, and the weight of a steel frame, makes this a bike for flat commutes. The 2:1 gear ratio is easy to push as long as you’re not facing upwards for long.
The adult version of this bike has front and rear mechanical disc brakes (not the alluded-to coaster brake) for efficient stopping in all weathers.
Other features of the Krusher Dynacraft Fatbike include an adjustable seatpost, front and rear reflectors, a kickstand and a chainguard. This is a low-cost introduction to the fun world of fat-biking!