The Global Fat Bike Summit reported that fat bike sales doubled from 2011 to 2012, then doubled again from 2012 to 2013. The category is growing, and the ease with which the oversized tires float over sand, snow and technical rock sections is to thank. The fat bike story began in 1987, when Simon Rakower, the technical support lead for the Iditasport (then called the Iditabike), a 160-mile bike race across Alaska, created his own solution for the race that allowed participants to float across the snow: he made extra-wide rims by welding two rims together and cutting out the middle ridge, resulting in a product that was 44mm wide. In 2005, Minnesota-based Surly launched the first “official” fat bike called the the Pugsley. Today, options abound. Whether you’re looking for something to ride casually through the winter months or a race monster, we’ve got five bikes to cover your needs.
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Borealis Yampa XX1
Best Race Bike: Borealis is the new kid on the block, with a big ambition: designing the most advanced fat bike. The Yampa XX1 is a lean fat bike with carbon construction that is as advanced as anything you’ll find in the market. They’ve set a new industry standard by using 190mm centered rear spacing to clear the largest fat tire and rim setup along with a 2 x 10 drivetrain to make it up any hill and avoid spinning out on long flats. Borealis offers the Yampa as a frameset and also offers complete bikes available in four sizes, from small to extra-large, ideal for racers of all shapes and sizes.
Ventana El Gordo
Best All-Around Bike: Ventana has been making custom mountain bikes for over 20 years. The El Gordo’s 4.5 pound frame is made out of 6061 aluminum and is compatible with multiple tire sizes, allowing variation depending on the kind of terrain you’re planning to conquer. The El Gordo stays true to Ventana’s rich history of custom bikes by providing three levels of geometry customization for a perfect fit, plus multiple color combinations to add equally unique style. The price below is for the frame only.
Best Mid-Range Bike: Double-digit growth year after year has brought in the cycling industry big boys. The Fatboy is Specialized’s first bike in the category, and the big-name brand has delivered a lightweight frame and fork with 4.6-inch Specialized Ground Control tires, a fully butted M4 premium aluminum frame with 190mm rear spacing and a tapered head tube with clearance for five-inch tires. The lightweight frame and mix of quality components from SRAM, Tektro and Specialized at a reasonable price point make the Fatboy a great choice for beginners on up to experienced riders.
Best Out-of-Bounds Bike: The team at Surly describes the Moonlander as the bike that’s designed to ride where there are no roads, no trails and no people. The Moonlander’s 4.8-inch tires on 100mm rims allow the tire pressure to run extremely low for gliding across almost anything in your path. The Moonlander’s geometry has the the right mix of bottom bracket height for clearing obstacles and a high head tube, the perfect set up for comfort during all-day rides. Surly offers the Moonlander as a complete bike with a bombproof mix of components or as a frame set with sizes that range from small (16-inch) to XLL (22-inch, extra long).
Framed Minnesota 2.0
Best Starter Bike: Framed knows that we don’t all have a few thousand dollars to blow on a new type of bike. They set out to make a comprehensive fat bike for under $900. The Minnesota 2.0 differentiates itself in more ways than price alone. Its shorter cockpit provides more of freeride feel, which should spur some inventive ways of hucking, and the ability to easily switch to some Framed Fattie Slims will make rolling around town much faster. The Minnesota comes in at a hefty 35 pounds (no fat jokes), but at the price point is well equipped with a mix of SRAM and Avid components.