Yesterday I went for a surprisingly long mountain bike ride with Ed. I was on a very normal ‘trail bike’. Sub-30lb 140mm full suspension with 26in wheels type of thing. Ed was riding a prototype-y On-One fatbike… thing.
Fatbikes haven’t really done anything for me. Well, occasionally they’ve annoyed me I suppose.
They’re the new singlespeed. The new 29er. The new bike for people to buy who have run out of riding mojo.
Yesterday it was very interesting to go on a normal ride alongside someone on a Fatbike. Much simpler – and hugely less embarassingly look-at-me – than having to ride one myself.
One basic revelation during the ride was fatbikes are traction machines. This appeared to be both good and bad.
They certainly don’t seem to glide over mud or soft ground, as I thought they might what with that oversize footprint of 4in tyres. They actually seem much harder work than a normal bike on squidgy stuff.
Ed was getting huge levels of grip on off-camber trails where I was flailing – and in one circumstance, falling.
One reassuring thing was that it was abundantly clear that 4in of rubber tyre is absolutely not like (good) suspension at all.
Ed was seemingly having a bit of trouble readjusting to life without a suspension fork up front.
Big ass tyres don’t seem to deal with hitting rocks at speed very well. And they also seem to be rather prone to ‘bobbing’ when pedalling along firm surfaces.
But the overwhelming revelation I had about fatbikes is that they’re different. That’s the ‘point’ of them (if you must find a point to everything).
There’s no denying the occasional flashes of 100% glee that their riders have on certain sections of trail. It’s a type of glee that you don’t ever really achieve (as an adult) on any other type of bike.
So yes they are attention seeking. Yes they are functionally woeful in terms of suspension. Yes they are going to bought by people who spend more time buying bikes than they do riding them.
But they offer a new kind of experience unattainable on any other bicycle. So fair do’s.