Despite being a relatively young niche and one that’s far more popular overseas, fat bikes are still gaining popularity in the UK. Primarily, fat bikes are all about delivering superior traction and flotation over unpacked surfaces, but there is a lot of variation in how riders are using them.
Originally intended for riding on snow or sand, fat bikes have now found their way onto normal everyday trails for the fun and unique ride feel they deliver.
Monster truck-style tyres mean exceptional amounts of traction and contact patches big enough to prevent these machines from sinking into snow and sand. Big tyres and low pressures mean suspension is essentially built in and, although you can get bikes with fat suspension at one or both ends, it’s certainly not a necessity.
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Below we’ve included five of the best fat bikes available now to purchase in the UK.
Trek Farley 9.8
- Rigid carbon chassis
- Unusual 27.5in wheels and 3.8in tyres
- The ideal fat racer
The Trek Farley 9.8 proves that fat bikes can be seriously fast, and this particular model is ideal for racing. Its rigid carbon frame and fork make for huge tyre clearances and a relatively narrow pedal stance. There’s no suspension to worry about, instead riders must rely on the Farley’s unusually sized 27.5in wheels and 3.8in tyres.
An impressively low 10.82kg (23.84lb) overall weight figure means the Farley is fat by name but not by nature. We weren’t impressed by the narrow standard handlebar or the slow-engaging rear hub, though and those 27.5in wheels mean you currently don’t have a huge range of tyres to choose from, either.
We found this bike to excel on hard packed snow where it offered an incredibly light and nimble ride feel.
Specialized Fatboy Comp Carbon
- Full carbon frame
- Manages to be both fast and comfortable
- Decent component mix
The Comp Carbon Fatboy boasts a nicely finished, lightweight FACT carbon frame with internally routed everything, even the front brake. In the name of weight reduction the Comp Carbon is only available with a matching carbon rigid fork (although will accept a RockShox Bluto fork if you can’t live without suspension), and the whole package weighs in at 12.92kg (28.48lbs).
The conservative angles of the Fatboy put it firmly in the ‘long day in the saddle’ XC bracket, but the steep 70.5° head angle is good for attacking twisty climbs and cranking through the flat sections.
With a 11-40t Sunrace cassette, the gear range is wide enough for all bar the steepest climbs but if you plan on racing you’ll want something bigger than the 28t chainring on the Race Face Turbine cranks. It’s sensibly specced and delivers a fast and comfortable ride on snow.
Maskinen Prodigy R1 27.5+
- SRAM drivetrain and brakes perform brilliantly
- Low overall weight
- Great for distance rides
Maskinen is a small Danish direct-sell firm that specialises in fat bikes specced to their customers’ preferences. The Prodigy 27.5+ shares its carbon frame with Maskinen’s fat bikes but swaps out the fat hoops for an own-brand 650b carbon wheelset that’s shod in slimmer (albeit still plus-sized) 3.25in treads from Vee.
Those big volume Vee tyres provide heaps of grip, except in sloppy mud, and also mean more suspension — over smaller bumps the bike buzzes rather than chatters. Combine the smooth riding characteristics of those wide-boy tyres and the Maskinen’s low overall weight (11.47kg) and you end up with a bike that really excels on longer distance rides.
At speed the Prodigy is surprisingly confident, something that the lengthy 468mm chainstays no doubt contribute towards. And in this 650b+ configuration the bike proves itself to be a fun and capable companion that excels on longer rides.
- Cheap as chips
- The fun factor is fully present
- Ideal for shorter rides
Calibre’s Dune is one of the cheapest ways to get your leg over a fat bike and although it’s not without its flaws, the fact it’s a fraction of the price of anything else on this list makes it well worth including.
The Dune does allow its riders to feel the fun side of fat biking and on the whole its simple and sturdy components allow you to get on with the job. Its alloy frame and fork together with lightweight tyres make for an impressively low overall weight figure of 31.9lb (14.46kg). We were disappointed by the performance of the Tektro mechanical discs though, and found the relatively aggressive geometry makes this a bike we’d rather not use for longer rides.
Our one major gripe with this bike is the fact it’s available in one frame size only, meaning plenty of particularly small or large people simply won’t fit on it.
Scott Big Ed
• Price: £2,149
- Comfortable, relaxed geometry
- Excellent Shimano Deore discs
- Rockshox Bluto suspension fork
The Scott Big Ed is a versatile fatty that’s best suited to mile munching rather than going against the clock. We put a lightly modified version of this bike through its paces during a marathon race at the Snow Bike Festival in Gstaad.
We enjoyed its comfy, relaxed riding position, excellent Shimano Deore brakes, and Rockshox Bluto suspension fork but its 15.5kg/34.17lbs heft means you’ll be working hard if you want to go anywhere quickly.