Fat bikes are a great way to enjoy a muddy, wet bike ride and are particularly great when the weather is icy and cold. Taking them off-road is a particularly fun way to spend your time.
Whilst riding them off-road is fun, can you ride fat bikes on the road? In this guide, I will look at whether you can ride them on the road and how you can make sure you ride your fat bikes safely.
If you’re in a hurry…
Yes, you can ride your fat bike on the road, as long as you stick to the regulations within your area. You should also make sure you take appropriate safety measures, such as wearing bright clothes and a helmet.
Whilst you can ride them on the road, they are not necessarily the best bike for riding on the road.
Want to find out more? Then read on.
What Is A Fat Bike?
Fat bikes get their name from the larger tires that they have compared to other bikes. A fat bike will generally have tires that are somewhere between 3-5 inches wide, with most fat bikes tires being around 4 inches wide.
Originally fat bikes were created for riding on softer surfaces, such as sand and snow, where a normal bike would sink into the surface and struggle to move as a result. Due to the wider tires, fat bikes tend to sit on top of these surfaces as they are able to compact the sand/snow down better than a bike with narrower tires.
In terms of frame design and rider comfort, they are very similar to a mountain bike. The rider sits more upright when compared to a road bike for example, so you are not stretching forwards in a more prone position.
In reality, a fat bike can be ridden on any surface, whether it’s sand, mud, rocks, snow ice or tarmac. This makes them a fantastic choice of bike for those who would like a bike that can be used all year round.
What Are The Benefits Of Fat Bikes?
Fat bikes are lots of fun to ride, not just because of how cool they look, but because they also have some distinct advantages over other bikes.
Larger Tire Surface Area
Fat tires are much bigger than the tires you see on other bikes, both in terms of width and diameter.
This extra-wide tire size makes them a solid choice for those who are less confident on bikes as you have a lot more stability on a fat bake compared to other bikes you can buy (especially road bikes with narrow wheels).
If you are riding off-road and bump into something, these extra-large tires will eat it up with ease and you won’t be thrown off your bike as easily. The same can be said for poorer road surfaces and potholes, which you will no longer have to say a little prayer each time you are riding over them!
Great For Riding Off-Road, On Mud And On Snow
Fat bikes are designed to be ridden on surfaces that are loose, where you are less likely to get a good grip when riding on. This makes them a great choice for those looking to explore more than just the tarmac streets and pavements.
This advantage is due mainly to the large surface area of the wheels, due to their width and lower tire pressure compared to other types of wheel.
This means whatever the weather, you can get out and ride and to bike won’t let you down.
If you are particularly interested in riding your bike in the winter months and need a bike that will provide substantial grip in icy conditions, studded tires are a great way to keep riding and feel safe as well. Check out our guide to the best fat bike studded tires to find a great set of tires to go with your fat bike.
Less Likely To Get Punctures
One of the main causes of punctures on a normal bike is the high tire pressure that you need to ride comfortably. Whilst this means you have a lower rolling resistance when cycling, it also means that coming into contact with sharper surfaces and bumps can cause your tire to puncture, as there is less “give” in the tire itself.
This is where fat tire bikes have a major advantage over other bikes. The lower pressure in the tire allows it to deform to the surfaces you are riding over much better than other bike tires. This means that you can ride over gravel surfaces without fear of getting a puncture.
Fat tires aren’t a cure-all to every puncture you could get and riding over very sharp objects will still cause a puncture, but gone are the days of the random puncture that comes from seemingly nothing.
If you do get a puncture when out of the trail, you will need a decent trail pump to help you reinflate your tires. In our guide to the best trail pumps for fat bikes, we can help you find the perfect small pump to help you get out of a sticky situation.
Can You Ride Fat Bikes On The Road – What You Need To Know
Fat bikes are very versatile bikes, which you can ride on pretty much any surface that you can think of. However, whilst they are very good on all surfaces, it doesn’t necessarily make them great on every surface.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages you should consider when thinking about riding your fat bike on the road.
Advantages Of Riding Your Fat Bike On The Road
One of the main benefits of riding a fat bike on the road is the increased traction you will get when the conditions are slippery or wet.
With a normal road bike, the tires tend the be narrower and slicker, meaning that when the conditions are a little icy or there is a lot of water, there is an increased likelihood that your wheel will slip out underneath you when taking corners, particularly at speed.
This is where a fat bike can make a difference. The increased traction that you will get from the wider tires will reduce the likelihood of the bike slipping when cornering. This means that you can take the corners faster compared to other bikes, without the worry that you will soon become more acquainted with the tarmac.
Flexibility Of Riding Routes
If you are looking for a bike that is good for commuting and fun to ride, a fat bike is far better than a traditional road bike.
Say you fancy taking the scenic route home and riding on some gravel paths, dirt tracks or through the woods. Your road bike might be fast, but it can’t handle this rugged terrain.
As a fat bike can handle pretty much any surface, it makes for the perfect bike to be impulsive and have a bit of fun.
Disadvantages Of Riding Your Fat Bike On The Road
Fat Bikes Are Slower Than Normal Bikes
When it comes to speed, fat bikes are generally slower than bikes with standard width tires, there are several reasons for this:
- Wider tire means more friction – Because the tires are wider than normal bike tires, this increases the surface area in contact with the road. This creates a higher amount of rolling resistance, meaning more drag and therefore slowing the bike down quicker.
- Lower tire pressure – The lower pressure in fat bike tires means that there is even more tire coming into contact with the road as the tire will spread out when weight is applied. This is great for loose surfaces, but for a solid surface like the road, this means more friction and therefore slower riding
- Wider bike frame = Increase wind resistance – The wider tires on a fat bike mean a wider frame. This wider frame increases the amount of wind resistance when riding, which makes it harder to reach higher speeds and slows your bike down more
Fat Bikes Are Heavier Than Other Bikes
Fat bikes on the whole are heavier than most standard bikes. This is because the frame and forks need to be wider to accommodate the size of the wheels and therefore require more material to make them.
The extra weight of the bike can make it harder to reach higher speeds, particularly when riding uphill as you will be fighting against gravity.
Great for riding downhill though as you get lots of speed!
Taking Corners At Speed
Have you ever tried to steer around a corner when your tire is not fully inflated? From experience, I can tell you that it can be a little hairier than you think! As you turn, the forces that push your bike out can make your rims slip across your tire. This causes a misalignment between your rim and tire and can make it feel like your bike is about to slip.
The same is true with fat bike tires due to the lower tire pressure. Whilst it is not quite the same and an underinflated, narrow tire, you do sometimes feel like you are slipping still, so you need to be careful not to take corners too quickly (or practice leaning into corners).
Is It Legal To Ride Your Fat Bike On The Road?
When it comes to riding your fat bike on the road, the rules are just the same as they would be with a normal bike.
It is always worth checking the rules in your local area, but generally, there is no problem with riding your fat bike on the road, as long as you do so safely.
Best Practices For Riding Your Fat Bike On The Road Safely
When riding your bike on the road, there are some important safety points you should consider to protect both you and other road users.
Always Wear A Helmet
It goes without saying that when riding on the road you should always wear a helmet.
Whether you are just taking a short trip, commuting or going for a long ride, you can never know when an accident might happen (if you did know you could avoid it of course).
Helmets are a great way of protecting your skull when in a bike crash. Whilst they might not prevent fatalities to the extent that you might think, they do help to reduce the potential for brain damage in non-fatal crashes.
Signal When Turning
Making other road users aware of your intentions is key when it comes to riding a bike, particularly when you think of the injuries you might suffer when colliding with a car.
If you are making a turn of any kind, you should hold out your arm in the direction you intend on turning. This will make it clear to other road users that you are about to turn and then they can make sure to leave you enough room to make you manoeuver safely.
Riding defensively is another great way to make sure that you are safe when riding on the roads. This means that you should try and act as though you haven’t been seen when riding and adjust your behaviour accordingly.
For example, if you see a vehicle waiting to turn out from a junction, always assume that they might not see you coming and might pull out in front of you. You can then adjust your behaviour accordingly, such as slowing down a little or at least preparing to brake suddenly.
I personally like to try and make eye contact with the driver to make sure they have seen me when riding.
Wearing Bright Clothing
Making sure that you can be seen is another way to ensure that you are safe when out on your bike.
When riding at night, wearing reflective clothing, as well as using bike lights, is a good way to make it easier to be seen by other road users.
You shouldn’t limit yourself to just thinking about nighttime riding when it comes to bright clothes as they can also help during the day. This is especially true if the weather suddenly turns on you and it starts raining, as it can be difficult to see in the rain when driving.
Other Fat Bike Riding FAQs
Are Fat Bikes Harder To Ride?
A fat bike is no harder than any other bike to ride. There are pros and cons to riding a fat bike compared to other bikes and the surface you ride on plays an important part in this.
When it comes to riding on firmer surfaces, such as roads and pavements, fat tire bikes can feel sluggish compared to most other bikes. This is due to the wider tire increasing the resistance on the road and therefore making it harder to ride.
On softer ground, fat bikes really come into their own. The wider tire design makes the bike ride above the sang/snow and not cut through it like other bikes.
For those that are less confident on bikes, fat bikes can actually be easier to ride. This is because the added tire width provides extra stability compared to bikes with narrower tires and it is, therefore, harder to fall off your bike.
Can You Commute On A Fat Bike?
Yes, you can commute on a fat bike, although they are not always the best option for commuting and it really depends on the route you will be riding in as to whether they will be the ideal bike.
If you are exclusively riding on tarmac, then a bike with narrow tires, such as a road bike will be best for commuting as it will be easier to ride due to the reduced rolling resistance.
If you will be riding on multiple surface types, you should try and choose a bike that is suitable for multiple surfaces, such as a fat bike or gravel bike.
Are Fat Bikes Good For Winter Commuting?
When it comes to commuting in the winter, fat bikes are awesome. This is particularly the case if you live somewhere that is prone to snow in the winter months as fat bikes are great in these conditions.
If your winter conditions tend to be icy, fat bikes tires are still better than narrower tires and are even better when you put a studded bike tire on your fat bike.
Can You Ride A Fat Bike On The Pavement?
The same rules apply to fat bikes as to normal bikes when it comes to riding on the pavement. You should check the rules in your local area, but generally, you will be ok to ride on the pavement as long as you remember that bikes can be dangerous vehicles if ridden irresponsibly.
If you are going to ride on the pavement, make sure you give way to pedestrians and keep your speed down. This will make sure that you don’t cause any accidents and, in the unlikely event that you do bump into someone, your low speed will mean that there shouldn’t be any serious injury.
So there you go. Yes, you can ride your fat bike on the road, but they are not necessarily the most suitable bikes for doing so.
You should also make sure that if you are going to ride on the road, you wear the appropriate safety clothing, such as a reflective jacket and a helmet.
If you are yet to buy a fat bike, check out our guides below to help you find the right one for your budget.
Andy is an avid cyclist who enjoys nothing more than a ride out in the hills. Competing in track, road, time trial and mountain bike events in the past, he prefers slower rides out with his family these days.