Specialized Fatboy Fatbike, 32.1lb (as tested), $2000; specialized.com
Author: Toby Asplin
Photos: Toby Asplin, Stock
The Good: Fat bike fun.
The Bad: Limited availability.
The Sweetness: Near-XC bike weight and performance; climbs like a mountain goat!
If you live in the land of ice and snow (or in the land of sand or mud), fat bikes are all the rage. Just a few years ago, a handful of enthusiasts were building these balloon-tired behemoths in their garages. Now major manufacturers, like Specialized, have gotten on board. The market is burgeoning with purpose-built fat bikes. This is a good thing for those who love to ride regardless of the conditions.
If you’re unfamiliar with the fat bike phenomenon, a fat bike’s lineage comes from the mountain bike family. Usually, fat bikes are equipped with 3.7”, or larger, tires with rims wider than 44mm. Originally invented for winter trail riding in sub-arctic Alaska, fat bikes are also well-suited to touring sandy deserts and beaches. They also perform well in mud and bogs. This all-around performance has made them immensely popular in many areas. With this popularity has come the market demand that has convinced big-name bike companies that fat is cool.
Specialized announced the Fatboy and Fatboy Expert (the Expert has lighter-weight wheels and a few higher-end components than the basic Fatboy) in mid-2013. The bikes are just now hitting the mass market. I pre-ordered my Fatboy in November of 2013 and was able to pick it up just a few days ago – one of two sold in the state so far.
After over 200 miles of testing, I can officially say that I’m impressed. When you look at the Fatboy, especially sitting next to a typical mountain bike, it looks big and heavy – even cumbersome. After the first few pedal strokes – particularly in snowy (and I assume sandy or muddy) conditions – that perception quickly goes away. The Fatboy is relatively light (mine weighed in at 32.10 lbs with a wireless bike computer mounted) and more nimble than I expected; It took some fairly irresponsible speed and improper pedaling technique to get it to slip.
I’ve ridden single-track, snow, gravel roads, even did a 15-mile enduro race, and the Fatboy handled everything I threw at it; if you air the tires down to about 6 PSI, it grips like you wouldn’t believe and it climbs like a goat on uphills. Heck, I even won the fat bike division of the race.