Let’s be honest, road bikes are well beyond lightweight these days. In an era where weight is being added to top end production bikes to make them UCI legal, competitors are looking for other advantages and one of those is turning out to be disc brakes.
Fat tire bikes have gone from being super niche to a part of mainstream cycling culture. We spent minutes devising the most pertinent questions and then grilled our staff and even a few customers with them via email. Here are some of the best answers we could reprint along with a lot of pretty pictures so you have no excuse not to read all the way to the end.
ACF: When fat tire bikes first arrived on the scene, the idea was that the tire width would be ideal for snow, but we see more people riding them regularly. Are they crazy? Have you used your bike in the summer?
Judy: Yes, my husband and I ride our fat bikes throughout the entire year. The Farley is simply FUN to ride. We rode the Tour-de-Troit on our Farley and I consider it the perfect Urban Assault Vehicle, it smooths out crumbed roads, pot holes and curbs.
Doug: Yes, I own a Farley 9.6. Currently, my fat bike serves as my mountain bike as well because I do not own a current mountain bike. I use it for trail riding, gravel road riding and have done some racing on it. Most recently, I completed the Lumberjack 100 on my Farley. I like the additional sense of control provided by the wider tires while cornering. I’m more comfortable taking corners at higher speeds and that allows the trail ride to be overall more efficient, more fun and faster.
Steve: I rode at the Tree Farm in Novi this summer. I liked how I did not have to be overly focused on the line I was taking. Less stress equals more fun!
Luke: Yes, it's the only mountain bike that I own! Better cornering, traction, and ride quality!
ACF: One of the best parts about owning a fat tire bike is the extended riding season. Not that you should ever need an excuse to ride year ‘round. How has it expanded the riding season for you?
Doug: I’ve ridden all year round for approximately the past 10 years. Prior to last winter, all of the riding that I did through the winter was on the road. I purchased my Farley 9.6 before the start of the winter of 2016. Owning a fat bike has changed my winter riding in multiple ways. It has allowed me to continue to ride throughout the winter while no longer having to ride on the road with cars. I have also been able to explore different winter trails, parks, and various settings that I didn’t have access to without the fat bike. I’ve noticed that the winter group rides draw a wide range of cyclists with a broad range of abilities and fitness levels. People who typically wouldn’t be on the same rides together during other times of the year, all seem to be welcoming and comfortable on the winter group rides.
Judy: Winter riding meant jumping on a spin bike and suffering through a workout indoors. With a fat bike I go for a ride outside and enjoy the experience while getting a great workout.
Mike: I can now ride mountain bike trails in the winter. I would suggest skipping the powder and seek snowman making snow. It is a riot and offers unbelievable traction!
ACF: Early fat tire bikes often had unusual geometry that made them good at certain tasks like long haul rides loaded with gear, but they were not as fun on a trail or a normal ride. That changed with the Farley, a fat tire bike with standard ATB handling. Are there any differences riding one of these?
Mike: In my opinion, it really isn’t that different from a regular bike in term of how it rides. I do pay more attention to my tire pressure to ensure it aligns to the trail conditions. PSI is very important and often lower then you might think.
Doug: Some of the differences that stand out to me between my fat bike and other bikes are that it is incredibly versatile, it feels like I’m sitting up a lot higher, there is a lot more bottom bracket clearance that has allowed me to ride over just about anything that is in front of me, I can be less selective with the lines that I ride on trails, and that even though it is heavier than most other bikes, once I have it rolling at speed it can still be pretty fast.
Judy: Most importantly, it is surprisingly easy to pedal! You will notice that when you stop pedaling however, the bike will slow down quicker than a normal bike. The best part is, you don't have to worry about the terrain and picking the best route – it will roll over it all!
ACF: As with any bike, picking the right gear and accessories can enhance the ride. What have you found works best with riding your fit tire bike?
Judy: If you plan on riding during the winter, and why wouldn't you? You will need proper winter apparel, and that includes; OMW boots, thermal gloves, thermal head warmers and thermal tights with wind block. Get a hydration pack with an insulated hose so your water doesn't freeze. Go tubeless so you can roll nice and low tire pressure.
Mike: Pedals, clips and shoes. Winter riding is all about wearing layers. A good set of mud flaps is a great idea when it is sloppy outside. (Ed note: Good platform pedals rock on these.)
Doug: For winter riding, I highly recommend the Old Man Winter (OMW) boots and gloves.
ACF: OK, it sounds like riding one of these is a lot of fun and fairly easy to get the hang of, so any good stories from a ride?
Mike: When you fall in the snow, it does not hurt as much. I once used my front wheel to shield myself from an angry Canada goose. The goose was not pleased when it bounced off the tires.
Judy: We took our Farley’s out to Annapolis, Maryland this summer and rode them everywhere. Fat bikes are not seen out there as much as Michigan so we become Fat Bike Advocates and we loved it. Everyone is so interested in taking about them; it makes for great conversation with total strangers!
ACF: OK, so a rider can shield myself from ticked of geese and everybody is going to want to know about the bike. Note to self, add a little time in my riding allotment. Have you come across a great place to take a fat bike out and get the full experience, maybe even a best first ride?
Doug: For winter riding, I’d recommend somewhere that has trails groomed for fat biking. While it is possible to ride just about anywhere in the winter on a fat bike, riding on groomed trails is as fun and fast as riding a trail in the summer.
Luke: Anywhere anytime, but probably on a trail that you know well so you can experience the differences.
Judy: Take it on any of Michigan's awesome trails. It rolls over roots and rocks at Stoney. It floats over sand pits at the bottom of downhills on Traverse City's Vasa Trail. It carves through snow on Boyne's Fat Tire Bike Trail - just get out and GO!
Mike: The un-improved Michigan AirLine Trail all the way to the Drafting Table in Wixom! Probst! Second choice would be Island Lake.
ACF: That is a lot of good advice and I really am running out of clever questions. Maybe I just need to get out on a fat bike. I’ll let anyone who wants get the last word in.
Mike: They are not just for winter. They are just not for summer. They are all about fun!
Doug: People inquiring about or interested in a fat bike will benefit from knowing that fat bikes are not just a novelty item. They serve a purpose and fill a niche that other types of bikes don’t and can’t. I have bikes that are faster and bikes that are lighter, but none of them are more fun.
Judy: You should know you and your bike will become a head-turner and the envy of many skinny tire riders. Roll on!
American Cycle & Fitness
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Over the last 25 years of working in the bike business, I have seen a lot of new products come and go. Some are part of the current bike ecosystem, but most are not. I recall two previous attempts at making ebikes (electric assist) a mainstay in bicycle offerings. At that time, the bikes simply were not ready for prime time, similar to what happened with early electric cars. Today however, as we see the electric cars taking hold in the market, we are seeing the same momentum with ebikes.
In Europe, ebikes have become very commonplace and an integral part of their transportation infrastructure. In the US it is now taking off. We have seen a threefold increase in sales and a huge commitment by Trek in ebikes. I became a believer long ago after spending time riding ebikes, but more importantly sharing the experience with my wife.
This past weekend we planned on riding in a group ride sponsored by the League of Michigan Bicyclists. It was a hilly terrain, so I suggested to my wife that she use one of our demo ebikes. As a very recreational rider she was eager to try. In the 30 years that we have been cycling together, I cannot recall being the one behind and struggling to keep up! She was not concerned about what gear she was in, that there was a pretty steep hill ahead, that there was a 17mph headwind , or that we had another 30 miles to go. She was truly enjoying the rolling scenery and thinking about what wine she was going to taste at our next stop. She was happy that she was outside, pedaling a bicycle (you still have to pedal), but not so wiped out that she couldn't enjoy the ride.
My case for an ebike is simple:
- It removes the physical barrier that prevents some people from enjoying the cycling experience.
- For those that currently ride but do so apprehensively, it will help bridge the desire to ride more often, ride farther, and ultimately increase their level of fitness.
- They provide a means of transportation for many that would otherwise use their car to run an errand. About 50% of all trips by car are 5 miles or less. An ebike makes that trip distance possible.
- It provides a cycling commute to and from work without breaking a sweat. (At least not on the way to work - race you home!)
- They allow people of two different abilities to ride together.
I encourage everyone to try an ebike just once. I guarantee you’ll walk away with a smile and some surprise at how fun these bikes truly are.
Michael Reuter, CEO
American Cycle & Fitness
Advocating for safe places to ride bicycles does not usually produce results overnight. In fact, I would say it can takes years and even decades to see the results. I'm not one who usually likes waiting to see results, so this personally is teaching me some patience. But looking back over the last 10 years, I can see the fruit of our labor. Things are getting done. Of course, having safe places to ride is only one part of the equation.
This past week I had an opportunity to speak in front of a great group of people who are directly involved with our state-wide trail network at the annual Michigan Parks and Rec conference held this year in Grand Rapids. The discussion centered on the emergence of electric assist bicycles (ebikes) and how to safely incorporate them into the existing and future trail system. With anything new and unfamiliar there usually is plenty of hesitation, so I tried to separate fact from fiction and bring a fresh voice to the discussion. In our stores and at demo events, we have seen the positive reaction that this fairly new form of transportation brings to the broader public. These are some of the key points that were discussed:
Ebikes come in all shapes and sizes for many different uses including recreational, commuting and trail use
- Ebikes allow more people to enjoy cycling no matter what age or ability
- They are safe to ride and can provide a perfect balance between exercise and transportation.
- They are not motorcycles and can integrate very well on the road, on paths and on trails
- People using ebikes to commute to work or shop locally will reduce auto congestion
- Ebikes are incredibly fun to ride and are guaranteed to put a smile on your face
More people on bikes and safe places to ride them benefits our local communities in many ways including healthier populations, growth in downtown areas, reduced traffic congestion and more visibility for what is ultimately a great activity.
Even if you are not in the market for one, if you are curious about ebikes and what they are really about I encourage you to stop by one of our locations and test ride a bike. A customer came back from a test ride the other day with a huge smile on his face and exclaimed, “That made me feel like I was on my best bike ride ever.” I could not have said it better.
Michael Reuter, CEO
American Cycle & Fitness