17 Fat Bike Disadvantages (That You Need to Know)


This post may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
--

While there is no doubt that a fat bike can be a wonderful bike to own, it’s not all plain sailing. Any bike in the world will have its own set of disadvantages or problems, and a fat bike is no different.

However, while it would be easy for me to sit here and tell you all about how amazing a fat bike is, I also feel it’s best you know of its problems.

So, with that in mind, here are 17 disadvantages associated with a fat bike.

(I do still love them, but it’s best that you know!)

By the end, you may be in a better position to decide if a fat bike is something you want in your life (or not!).

Fat Bike Disadvantages

1. Fat Bikes Can Be Expensive

While there are some bargains out there, a fat bike can end up being pretty expensive if you want to get your hands on a decent version.

Also, the wheels are not going to be that cheap either, but that should come as no surprise when you see the sheer size of them.

But while their cost can clearly be a problem, you should also know that they can still represent significant value for money. They are sturdy, should last for years, and will give you so much enjoyment that you will be glad you splashed out the cash.

But while their cost can clearly be a problem, you should also know that they can still represent significant value for money. They are sturdy, should last for years, and will give you so much enjoyment that you will be glad you splashed out the cash.

However, if money is an issue, then you may run into a bit of a problem.

2. Fat Bikes Can Be Slower

If you just cycle on the road, then a fat bike is going to be a slower way of doing things. Also, if you want to race on the road, then avoid a fat bike. 

A fat bike is larger in both frame and weight. That sort of thing does slow you down quite considerably, but we aren’t saying you shouldn’t ride your fat bike on the road at all.

That is simply not the case.

Instead, I am merely stating that a fat bike is not about speed, and as long as you realize that, then you should get on great with it.

3. You are Restricted with Tire Options

When it comes to your actual tire options, then you are going to be quite limited with a fat bike.

They do all follow the same sorts of lines in that they are huge, chunky, and offer a vast amount of grip. However, this is also partly due to there being less companies out there manufacturing them in the first place.

Also, you need to think carefully about the terrain you will be riding on. That will influence the tire you end up putting on your bike as not all fat tires are going to be the same.

When you then factor in the potential cost of a decent set of wheels, then you start to see why it is so important to know you have made the correct choice at the first time of asking. 

4. Fat Bikes Can Cause Some Problems with Hips and Knees

Due to its design, a fat bike must have its pedals situated out wider than a normal bike. This is to accommodate the wider frame, so there’s nothing much you can do about it. 

However, this change in angle does mean a fat bike can cause some hip and knee joint problems for some individuals.

This is especially true if the bike is not fitted correctly for your height, and you then end up straining those joints.

The best way to get around this is to make sure you have been measured correctly for your fat bike.

It is the only option available, and while it may not remove this issue 100%, it will certainly make a significant difference to the angle and the strain.

Fat bike rider going up a snowy hill
Fat bikes are brilliant for snowy terrain, but not so great on the road

5. Fat Bikes Are Tougher to Transport Around

Thanks to the extra weight and size, it can be tougher to transport a fat bike around.

You may need to go and purchase a specific bike rack.

This is due to the thick wheels sometimes being unable to fit correctly on your existing rack. Obviously, that then leads to more money, but it may be the only solution available when you want to drive to a certain spot to then get on your fat bike.

Also, be aware that it will cost you more money to ship a fat bike thanks to the extra size and weight.

This is something else that needs to be factored into things before you start believing you are going to visit different parts of the country just to ride your bike.

6. You May Have Limited Frame Options

Even though fat bikes are becoming more popular, there are still a number of limitations when it comes to frame option. 

The best way to see this is in an actual bike store. There will be wall to wall options of mountain bikes, but limited fat bike options. This is something that is changing, but not quick enough.

Also, if you have a specific frame manufacturer that you prefer to stick with, then be aware you may only have a couple of fat bike options available.

This does feel restrictive, so if you have a specific setup that you prefer, then it may not always be possible to get this with a fat bike.

Well, not at this moment anyway.

7. Fat Bikes Are Harder to Steer on Technical Terrain

Even though they are still pretty good when it comes to ease of handling, you may find it harder when it comes to more technical terrain.

At that point, their size and weight can feel as if it’s working against the bike, and that’s not a good position to be in.

It is undoubtedly harder to manhandle a fat bike when compared to a mountain bike that is significantly lighter. You need to think carefully about the terrain you will be riding to determine where the positives of a fat bike could start to really work against you.

However, there is no doubt that the more technical terrain aspect will make your life significantly harder when it comes to being on a fat bike.

8. Fat Bikes Are Heavy

We have mentioned this before, but fat bikes are heavy, and that can certainly be a disadvantage for some people, and in different ways. 

It can make them harder to move around due to their extra weight. They can make some people feel as if they need to battle for control of the bike, and that is something that can take some getting used to.

This isn’t us saying these bikes are too heavy, but there is a real difference compared to a normal mountain bike. If you feel that a mountain bike is already pushing your limits, then a fat bike may be a step too far.

9. Fat Bikes Have Fewer Gears

If you love to play around with a number of different gears, according to the terrain, then a fat bike will often come up short in this department. [Source]

For most fat bikes, you are looking at a 1 x drivetrain along with a single chainring and up to 12 gears.

However, some are also a single gear, so that is something you need to keep in mind before you go ahead and purchase a fat bike.

10. You Won’t Really Develop the Technical Side of Riding

The problem with a fat bike is that it simply allows you to pretty much ride over everything without too much difficulty.

However, while that may sound like a good thing, there is the argument that it does mean you fail to work on developing the technical side of riding your bike.

With a normal mountain bike, you need to work on being able to really move the bike around and to deal with those obstacles. A fat bike, thanks to the tires and the pressure in them, doesn’t require the same sort of response.

Also, you do tend to get amazing traction with a fat bike, and that is something that applies on a constant basis. Yet again that sounds great, but that’s not really the case.

Instead, not having the best traction at times does mean you need to go ahead and understand how to handle your bike in different situations.

That is going to hamper your ability to develop as a cyclist, and while that may not be a bad thing for everyone, there’s no doubt that some people will be missing out.

But here’s another problem. 

If you ride a fat bike on most occasions and then switch to a mountain bike, you will have some limitations. It will be all too easy to come off or get into trouble when you switch this way.

Two fat bike riders going down a snow covered hill
Fat bikes require a different tire pressure depending on the terrain you will cycle on

11. You Need to Work at the Tire Pressure

Fat bikes work on completely different tire pressure to mountain bikes. It’s part of the reason why you can ride on any terrain and not struggle when doing so. 

However, even though that is a good thing, it does come with a drawback. 

As you switch from one type of terrain to another, you need to be aware of the potential need to change the tire pressure.

If you keep on jumping from one surface to another, then this is something that will be repeated over and over again.

Eventually, you could grow tired of this and start to limit where you will be using your fat bike. [Source]

12. You Can’t Really Just Blend In On A Fat Bike!

People are used to seeing others riding mountain bikes that they don’t even notice them.

However, the same cannot be said for a fat bike. In fact, there’s a good chance you will draw some attention to yourself.

Now, for some people that’s not an issue. But for those that don’t enjoy having the attention put on them, this is certainly problematic. 

It’s all to do with fat bikes still being quite a rare sight, and non-cyclists are just unsure as to what it is that they are looking at.

They know it’s a bike, but it’s clearly bigger in scale than a mountain bike, so they have no idea what is going on.

That type of thing leads to some stares and curious glances.

However, it could be argued that you should be out in the middle of nowhere riding your fat bike, so this may not even be much of an issue for you.

13. You May Feel You are Riding Uphill

When starting out with your fat bike, you may feel as if you are riding uphill and that life is difficult. This is clearly tied into the reduced numbers of gears and the weight issue associated with the bike, and this is how it can all play out.

You need to be prepared to really work at the bike to get the most out of it.

Don’t be surprised if you feel you are just not getting anywhere fast. This is especially true when starting out with your fat bike.

This will be made even harder for you if you tackle any terrain that is viewed as being on the slightly tough side early on.

You are probably going to struggle, and it could put you off using a fat bike for some time. However, don’t allow that to happen.

14. They Have a Lot of Rolling Resistance

An increase in rolling resistance means you need to use more energy to get something moving, and that is a real problem with a fat bike.

The level of rolling resistance with a fat bike is huge compared to a mountain bike, and that is reflected in how hard you need to pedal from the outset.

This is all thanks to those super-wide tires that come with a fat bike. They give you more traction, but more traction also links to more friction.

If you have more friction, which is giving you some of that grip, then you have an increase in resistance between tire and the ground.

While that does come in very useful at different times, it can make life harder for the rider when there’s no real need for that extra traction in the first place.

15. Fat Bikes Have Slower Response Times

It’s not only the actual speed that is slower with a fat bike. It’s also their response times.

What we mean by this is the length of time it takes for you to perform some sort of action on the bike, and for the bike to then respond.

Now, we are still talking about fractions of seconds here, so don’t think you will be waiting forever in order to have something happen.

However, even a fraction of a second of a difference can be huge.

What this then translates into is you needing to adapt the way in which you try to handle the bike. You know there’s a need to work harder at getting a fat bike to do the things you want, and you need to be in a position to react earlier than before.

By reacting earlier, it means there’s enough time for the bike to then react to the instructions you give to it.

Once again, this is thanks to those tires and the heavier bike.

16. They are Almost Exclusively Muscle Powered

While you could argue that every bike out there is muscle powered, aside from electric bikes of course, that’s not the point that I’m making here. 

A mountain bike, or a road bike, use their gears to generate more power or momentum while you get to preserve some energy. It’s a clever system designed to get the most out of both the bike and the rider.

Unfortunately, a fat bike does not generally offer you the same thing.

Instead, it will only go as fast as you can pedal, so if you burn out early on, then your general speed will slow accordingly.

That does mean you need to be willing to really work a fat bike to get the most out of it. There’s no other way around it. 

17. Fat Bikes Don’t Excel on Smooth Surfaces

While they don’t particularly struggle on smooth surfaces, it could be argued that a nice flat road is not the normal domain of the fat bike.

There’s no doubt that fat bikes are primarily aimed at individuals who love going off-road, and they are built in such a way to allow them to thrive in those situations.

Considering they are expensive to purchase, you need to think very carefully about where you will be riding.

A fat bike is effectively looking to be used on rough terrain where other bikes would struggle, or even fail. These bikes are not that interested about a casual cycle in a park. Sure, they can do it, but it’s not their normal territory.

While so much of this sounds negative, there’s no doubt a fat bike can be a wonderful bike to own.

It allows you to get to spots you would have otherwise missed out on, and it would be a real shame if you never got to experience them just because you didn’t have a fat bike.

Martin Williams

Martin has been tearing up all sorts of trails on a range of bikes ever since he was young. He once cycled across France, and once fell into a canal on a hybrid. He writes about everything to do with cycling on our site. You can find out more about him at bicycle2work.com/about-martin-williams/

Recent Posts