For those who are easily enticed by marketing claims, cycling can be a dangerous rabbit hole. It is an enjoyable pastime that attracts gear enthusiasts. There are many options for fatbike tires.
Newer bikes, parts and accessories give competitive cyclists an edge. They also tempt recreational riders with the promise of a new riding experience. Value is important for most people, who have limited budgets and limited lives. Which investments can offer tangible and noticeable improvements?
For a simple reason, tires — specifically those for fat bike–, are the most common answer. Even a worn-out tire can be used for grocery shopping, but it could also be replaced with an inner tube. Advanced designs, high-quality construction and high prices can all be a factor in bicycle performance. Tire selection is crucial for high speeds, long distances and difficult terrains.
Fat biking is definitely an extreme sport, and tires can match it. Fat bike tires are available in sizes between just under 4 and over 5 inches, with 26″ and 27.5″ diameters. This can cause confusion for shoppers who are more used to driving on dry roads. There are many other factors that can affect the tire size. There are many options for tread patterns. They can be shaped, sized, patterned, and densified in a variety of ways. From “EXO” through “TRS”, technical designers create a letter and word salad that can vary from one brand to the next. Brands themselves may be unfamiliar. For example, household names like Continental or Michelin have been replaced by niche brands like Surly or Terrene.
You are not the only one spinning your head due to your fat bike tire choices.
This guide will make choosing the right tire to fit your fatbike easy. Let’s take you step-by-step through the main features of your ideal tire. Next, we will highlight some tire brands that are particularly strong in the fat tire market and talk about how certain models compare.
What to look for in Fat Bike Tires
This area is still in development. Older fat bikes use tires and wheels with 26 inch diameters, while the newer models use 27.5″. Although some 27.5″ models can fit 26-inch rubber, interchanging these sizes could lead to new wheels and many pitfalls. If the respective metric numbers 559 and 584 are not used, we recommend that you stick with what is already working.
This isn’t about getting wider mountain bike wheels. For fat tire width considerations, see the next section.
Snow riding is easy with a 4.5-inch tire like this 45NRTH.
Fat bike tires are more popular than mountain bikes because of their tire width. Although tire width is often measured in inches it should be considered a guideline rather than a specification. It is important to only use tires that are as wide as a fat bike’s maker (and equally importantly, the rim manufacturer) recommends. The factory tire width allows for enough space to accommodate muck, sticks and different sizes between manufacturers. You should not go bigger than you can fit. It’s difficult to return tires that don’t fit and it is possible for tires that are physically “fit” to cut into bike frames over time.
Fat bike riders are likely to want the largest tire for maximum grip. But what about narrower widths? Although the largest tires can be used in snow and sand, they are heavier and more drag-prone. Experience mountain bikers may prefer smaller tires. The term “tire width” also refers to height. Larger tires can feel more stable, but could cause pedals to be dangerously close to the ground.
Many entry-level fat bikers find it confusing that rim widths (or wheel widths) are often measured in millimeters. However, tires are almost always described in inches. A stock fat bike rim of 80mm is quite common these days.
We would say that a standard tire width is between 3- and 4-inches. As you may hear them called, the equates to approximately 80-100mm tires.
What is the largest fat tire width? A few models are slightly larger than 5 inches, which is a standard width for specialty snow tires.
The tread design of bicycle tires is often misunderstood. This article will address the myths surrounding tread. A half-dozen knobby tires placed side by side will show that few cyclists can match the tire design to the terrain. Worse, tire manufacturers and designers can mislead riders or make assumptions. Did you know that the best commuter or road bike tire is the one with the least resistance to rain? Many new bikes have many small channels or “sipes”, even for use on pavements.
Truth is that removing material from a road tire’s surface means less contact with the ground and less grip. It also makes it more energy-efficient if the sipes are too wide to allow the tire to squirm on hard surfaces. Fat bikes and mountain bikes follow the same rules, but they ride on thick knobs. Because they dig into hard surfaces, these knobs provide more contact and more grip. This is proportional to the surface: hard surfaces such as pavement should be ridden on completely smooth tires. However, soft surfaces like mud and mud can be ridden on extremely knobby tires called “spikes”. Hard-packed dirt and snow are able to provide enough grip for small knobs without the need for heavy, slow-rolling spikes.
Spikes are not the only thing to mention. Studded tires offer a dramatic increase of traction on slippery, glassy ice. In other situations, however, studs can be dangerous or even harmful. As they absorb energy, studs can make a distinctive popcorn-popping sound on pavement. Studded tires are expensive, and they are rarely needed outside of the northern winters. These fat bikers in these climates have been known to justify the expense of studded tires by comparing them to medical and dental treatment.
Terrain and Seasonal Factors
This last point about tread is important. The type of riding and season you ride can have a significant impact on the tire selection. This is not an easy decision.
A tire that accommodates or has studs is necessary if you plan to use your fat bike mostly for winter riding. You might also buy a tire to ride on the beach. In this case, studs may not be necessary but a wide-floating tire might be the best choice. You might just be purchasing a fat bike to tackle the gravel trails near your home. You can choose a narrower, more manageable tire in this case.
Many times, the same tire can be offered with different features. One of our favorite tires, the Terrene Wazia comes in both a studded or non-studded variant.
Congratulations! You can now read the tire tread tea leaf. Let’s take a look at a few fat bike tire lines from different brands.
4 Great Fat Bike Tire Brands
|Check the Price
Covers a wide variety of needs
Wide range of options
Great for off-road use
Ready to use -Tubeless
Available with or without studs
-Range of widths, and trend patterns
This is a great choice for trail riding on soft or loose trails
Compatibility with -Tubeless
-Snow and water capability
-Tubeless is ready for new productions
Maxxis: The Best for Selection
Shop Maxxis on Amazon. Cheng Shin is a Taiwanese giant-maker of off-road vehicle tires. It sells premium bicycle (and other) tires under the Maxxis brand. Maxxis, a leading tire brand in mountain biking, is best known for its legendary Minion downhill or trail tire. Fat bike tires are not to be missed.
The Minion FBF, Minion FBR and Recon tires are exceptions. They can be used for a wide range of fat biking needs.
Maxxis fat bike tires come in two sizes: 26″ and 27.5″, with the exception of the Chronicle, which comes in only 27.5 inches. Maxxis tires are available in different widths depending on the model, so fat bike owners may not find the right Maxxis tire to fit their needs.
The Maxxis Off-road focus is evident in the available treads. Minion FBF models and FBR models borrow names and tread patterns directly from mountain bikes. Minion FBR is a good choice for riders who want a long tread on soft terrain like mud and snow. Minion FBF is quite extreme and will only be used by the most experienced riders in most difficult conditions. The Colossus’ knobs, which are shorter than the Minion models but longer than any other standard, is a great all-arounder that can handle both flat and trail riding.
The new Chronicle tire is a unique addition to the range. It’s designed to be an all-around fat tires that can handle multiple riding conditions. It’s a 30-inch tire that can fit on a 27.5-inch rim.
If you are looking for a Maxxis tubeless tire, make sure “TR” is clearly displayed on packaging and product descriptions.
Maxxis tires can be found here on Amazon.
Terrene: Most Versatile
Terrene has a very narrow selection of mountain bikes, fat bikes, and gravel tires. The brand is based in Montana and was founded by a few cycling industry veterans who wanted to fill the gaps in the tire market. The Wazia studded fatbike tire was one of three, true to their northern roots.
Terrene will launch models. This lineup now includes Wazia and Cake Eater fat bike tires.
Terrene offers 26 inch sizes in all three fat tire models. However, 27.5″ riders can only use the cake eater model in 4.0″ or 4.5″. The Johnny 5’s 5.0″ width is not suitable for bikes with less clearance. The Wazia’s width of 4.6 inches should be sufficient for most 26-inch fat bikes.
Terrene calls the original Wazia “all-season, all-surface,” and its tread design demonstrates that versatility. Although moderately-sized knobs of moderate spacing may not grip on the most difficult terrain, they should be able to grip in all conditions. The Cake Eater has shorter knobs that can be used in fast-rolling conditions, such as hardpacked roads or pavement. If you are looking for trails, the Wazia or a similar Johnny 5 might be a good option.
Terrene tires are all tubeless, so there is no need to be confused. Each of their fat bikes models can come with or without studs. There are two types of Terrene tires: “Light” and the “Tough”. The thicker, heavier “Tough”, models should be used for riders who use inner tubes or on rocky trails.
>Check out the tried-and-true CakeEater lineup.
45NRTH: The Best for Extreme Performance
Minnesota-based 45NRTH is a specialist in cold weather. Their name emphasizes this: The 45th north parallel runs roughly halfway between the equator and the north pole. The Minnesota-based 45NRTH proudly displays their Minnesota pride by naming fat bike tires “Dillinger 4 and 5” and “Husker du” respectively. However, fat bikers without an interest in geography or punk music will still find plenty to choose from among the wide variety of fat bike tires available, including the Wrathchild and Wrathlorde as well as Vanhelga.
The options for owners of 27.5″ fat bikes include a 4″ Dillinger 4 or 4.5″ Dillinger 5, studded or unstudded, and the studded 4.5′ Wrathchild. 26″ Wrathchilds come in studded 4.6″, whereas the 4.2″ Vanhelga or 4.8″ Husker du are strictly studless 26″.
There are many tread patterns and widths available to suit most fat bike riding styles. 45NRTH describes the Wrathchild at the extreme as the “ultimate studded fat bike tire.” It has large knobs and studs that are well spaced and well placed. However, it can also be very drag-prone on hard surfaces. Wrathlorde has shorter knobs to allow for quicker rolling, but a large number of studs. This makes it ideal for ice riding with a 26-inch fat bike. For those with limited tire widths, the Vanhelga splits Wrath-tire tread and drops the studs. The Husker Du’s 26″ frame has plenty of space, so the short knobs on the Husker Du are without studs. This could help save drag when fast trail riding and slick ice are not available. The Dillinger 4 has similar short knobs and a narrow 27.5″ package. It
would make a great choice for hard packed snow, or pavement with studs for ice. For fast trail riding or fresh snow, the Dillinger 5’s extra grip is worth considering.
Although 45NRTH’s fat bikes tires claim to be tubeless compatible, other tires in the 45NRTH line are not. Please check the tire packaging and labels for confirmation. 45NRTH offers a variety of colors, including black and tan. However, other tires in the 45NRTH range are not tubeless compatible. Please check tire packaging and labels to confirm.
Surly: The Best Value
Surly is a unique brand for many reasons. It’s not common for low-volume bike brands to offer their own brand and design of tires. Surly was able to take control of tire design and design new, sometimes innovative bikes.
Surly first. Surly’s current range includes the Edna and Nate, Bud, Lou, and Bud. Surly tires are affordable and have solid design. They also lack high-tech features. This makes them a popular choice for fat-bike riders who want to ride high-mileage.
Surly has 26 inch fatbike tires for 27.5″ owners. Widths vary by model: 3.8″, Nate, 4.3″, Edna and 4.8″, Bud or Lou.
Surly’s models have modest knobs and a more balanced design than other brands. Both Lou and Bud claim to have snowy, muddy trails capability and good rolling ability. Surly recommends that you have a front Bud and a rear Lou combination to get the best results. The Edna is described as “ultra-versatile” and has a combination of moderately sized knobs with a relatively smooth rolling arrangement. It’s not too different than the smaller Nate. The Surly tire’s width will make a significant difference to the tread pattern.
Surly’s fat bikes tires are described as “tubeless-ready,” however, older production may not be compatible with tubeless. To be certain, double-check Surly’s part number. With no studs available, decisions can be made without much effort. Surly shares 45NRTH’s Quality Bicycle Products parent company, Surly, because of its high-quality products and wide variety. View the large Surly Lou .
Fat Bike Tire FAQs
What PSI should my fat tire be?
The air pressure of a fat tire can have a significant impact on your ride. Fat tires should be ridden at LOW pressure, unlike road tires or gravel tires. Snow riders want to be able float on the looser parts so they set their PSI at 4-6. A fat bike riding on gravel will need a slightly firmer tire. It might be in the 12 to 15 range. You should not pump your tire to more than 20 PSI.
Before you go on a ride, make sure to check your pressure. Fat tires can fluctuate so you need to ensure that your PSI is correct before you start any ride.
Can I ride my fat bike on a trainer?
Fat bikes are great for winter riding but there may be days when you have to ride indoors. Perhaps it’s pouring or you don’t have the time to put on your winter gear.
While we do not recommend that you ride normal fat bike tires on a regular friction bicycle trainer, you can do it with a smart-drive smart trainer. An old-fashioned trainer will cause friction to create heat, which can lead to a rapid wear of your fat tires.
Instead, you can put an old roadbike on the trainer and use it indoors.
Do I need to put studs on my Fat Bike Tire
You may be able to depending on which model you have, but it is possible that you don’t. If you plan to ride on uneven ice or in areas where slippage is possible (icy roads, mountain cliffs, etc.), studs are recommended. A 4” or larger fat bike tire with good grip will give you enough grip on any flat surface. Studs also increase rolling resistance, so it will be harder to ride on smooth surfaces. Many fat tires can still accommodate studs if you require traction for safety.
Shopping for fat bike tires is easier if you have a good understanding of what decisions you need to make. The options are much narrower when you know the right size of your tire and the appropriate width. It doesn’t need to be difficult to find the right size and width of tires. Although brand is a major factor to consider, any of these brands can provide excellent tires. For trail-focused tires, consider Maxxis, Terrene, and >45NRTH for maximum performance and snow. Surly is for value.