Biketoworkday is supported by its audience. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Fat Bike vs Mountain Bike: Off-road Showdown

Writen by Gary Johnson

Fact checked by Henry Speciale

fat bike vs mountain bike

There are many different types of bicycles available, and it is vital to make the right decision when selecting one to buy, since this will affect the quality of our rides.

However, it can be hard to pick between two extremely similar choices. One such predicament would be fat bike vs mountain bike.

These two appear similar, but there’s more than meets the eye. We’ll get to know the characteristics that make each of these bikes unique. Let’s get to it.

Mountain bike

road-bike-fat-tires

This is one of the standard types of bicycles and is built for taking on off-road conditions. It has a sturdy frame, knobby tires, and high clearance for going over obstacles. It also has bigger wheels compared to the road bike.

With their popularity, there isn’t much that needs to be said about mountain bikes for people to recognize them.

These have a wide gear range (up to 27 combinations) to handle different road types. This versatility means they are very common everywhere.

Characteristics

  • They are highly customizable, which makes it easy to adapt them to your everyday needs.

For example, a mountain bike is convertible into a bike for daily city commute by switching to smaller tires. It is easy to find spare parts, and there are many cheap alternatives on the market with starting prices at $100 for a whole unit.

  • There are a few notable disadvantages to using mountain bikes, and two are worth mentioning when comparing them to other off-road options.

First, these bikes are not suitable for all types of weather and terrain, specifically soft surfaces like snow where tires may get stuck. Another problem is that it can be rough to ride over bumpy roads.

Many of these challenges can be overcome with skill, but it is not reasonable to expect most people to be capable of such a thing. Other downsides include the bikes being prone to damaging its wheels and rims.

Pros Cons
  • The standard off-road option
  • Fast, light, and maneuverable
  • Highly customizable with a wide range of available parts
  • Full range of shifting options
  • More affordable options available
  • Not suitable for all terrains and weather
  • Shock absorption leaves much to be desired
  • Prone to wheel damage
  • Takes more skill to use

Fat Bikes

fat-tire-bike-uses

These are bicycles designed for traversing a wider range of off-road conditions, specifically capable of running over loose sand and deep snow with relative ease.

What’s more, they can do so without needing to go through parts modifications, meaning you can ride through different types of terrain and weather straight away.

The fat tire bicycle started as modified mountain bikes with big wheels in the 1980s. At first, fat bikes good for sand and snow were a niche type but gained more popularity as time passed.

Characteristics and advantages

Fat bikes are modified to emphasize certain qualities, with the wider tires as the main point.

Measuring 3.8 to 5.2 inches wide, they are much bigger than those on mountain bikes, even though their rim diameter tops out at 27.5 inches (smaller than that of MTBs).

Everything different about fat bikes is made to accommodate the much bigger tires; these tires are what give them their edge after all.

Tube tires for these have lower air pressure, which adds to their ability to traverse soft and shifting surfaces, though there are tubeless options as well. These can run over snow and sand as opposed to mountain bikes, whose wheels are instead submerged.

They are also good at traversing rocky and swampy terrain.

Another essential characteristic of this bicycle type is its lower center of gravity, which gives it more stability and better traction.

Its excellent weight distribution is vital in allowing it to run over unstable riding surfaces and effectively tackle mud and loose gravel.

With all that this bicycle type is capable of, it’s not hard to imagine why fat tire bikes are so popular.

Downsides

The disadvantages are also notable, because while fat bikes seem to have so many advantages over MTBs, the weaknesses make them difficult to use in most other situations.

Overall, fat bikes offer no advantages in non-off road situations. Coupled with other characteristics, they are unfit for everyday use.

These bicycles are very heavy, making them challenging to transport and harder to pedal. Even when a much lighter frame is used, it is just too difficult to offset the weight of its much bigger tires. Parts are also more expensive.

In general, these bicycles cost $500 to $1500 or more. It would be a good idea to look for a used fat tire bike if you can’t afford the steep price.

Another downside is the limitation in gear avail ability. Some frames allow having more than one gear but still far fewer than what is available on MTBs. Having a limited number of options is common for many parts of this bicycle.

Pros Cons
  • Can traverse shifting surfaces such as sand and snow
  • A true all-terrain and all-weather bicycle
  • Excellent traction, stability, and suspension
  • Low maintenance
  • Heavy weight makes it hard to move, transport, and ride
  • Limited configurations due to specialized design
  • Cannot move very fast
  • Parts are expensive and difficult to find

Mountain Bike Vs Fat Bike – Head to Head

What fat tire mountain bike vs regular comes down to is what strengths work for you. Is it the fat bike’s ability to traverse more types of terrain, or the mountain bike’s tried and tested versatility that allows for on and off-road use?

I would look more at the fat tire bicycle and work out what it can do for me. If I’m looking to stick to off-road situations, then the fat bike as only bike is the better choice. If not, then the mountain bike wins out.

Of course, there is always the choice of getting more than one, with fat bikes used for off-road rides exclusively and a different bicycle for everything else.

Frequently Asked Questions

mountain-bike-vs-fat-bike

Who should ride a fat bike?

The purpose of fat tire bikes is to tackle the different rough road conditions in any weather. Anyone who intends to stick to such off-road situations would benefit from using them.

Are fat bikes good for mountain biking?

They are good in most aspects of mountain biking. However, speed is not their strong suit due to the effort required to pedal, limited shifting, and the weight of the bicycle.

Are fat tire bikes easier to ride or harder to ride?

It depends on the situation. A fat tire bike uses wider wheels that make it more difficult to pedal, but these allow for easier traversal on many types of roads, and it is easier to ride them on snowy or rough terrains compared to other bicycles.

Can you use fat tires on a road bike?

Yes, however, on a road bike fat tires will come into contact with the frame, resulting in more stress on the treads. They may need to be replaced earlier and more often.

What about an electric fat bike versus a mountain bike?

An electric fat bicycle has the same parts as a regular one, just with the addition of an electric motor for more difficult paths, so the same considerations apply when comparing it to mountain bikes.

The difference between the two types is still mainly the tires.

Conclusion

Deciding on fat bike vs mountain bike is all about what you are comfortable with when it comes to your activities. Hopefully, you were able to gain a better understanding of what you’re getting with each of these bicycles.

Have you taken your pick between these two off-road bicycles? Tell us all about your choice and how you came up with your answer. Leave us a message in the comments section below.

Always ride safely.

5/5 - (2 votes)