LOW PRESSURE GAUGES
Fat Biking is still considered in its infancy as a sport.
There are many things that people are still learning and experimenting with. Fat tire air pressure is one of those things that makes a huge difference in the handling, control and traction of your bike.
I have been in many bike shops and unfortunately many shops that sell, rent and demo Fat bikes still have no clue about how important setting proper tire pressure is and what different tire pressures ranges to recommend to their customers.
Yes, Fat Bikes are still bikes, however Fat tires are very different when it comes to setting the optimal air pressure. It’s a whole new thing to learn and experiment with.
I have witnessed brand new fat bikes leaving bike stores with their happy new owners excited to hit the trails with tires pumped up to 15 or 16 PSI. Running pressures that high would send them bouncing off every root, rock or bump in the snow, causing a teeth chatting ride experience with not very much traction or bike control.
With so much more tire air volume very small changes in pressure affect the ride experience and handling of the fat bike dramatically, these changes are as small as half of one PSI. I believe everyone that rides a Fat bike should own a quality low pressure gauge and actually bring it with them on their rides.
Here are some great examples of quality low pressure gauges;
Topeak SmartGauge D2 Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
More air pressure is not better or any faster, it’s NOT a road bike on pavement!
Depending on conditions I would start with no more than 12 PSI and drop air from that point (never air up Fat Bike tires more than 15 PSI).
Generally on hard pack snow or dirt I personally use something like 8-12 PSI.
If conditions soften up during the ride or I feel like i’m getting bounced around or in need of more traction, I will reduce pressure gradually (7, 6.5, 6 PSI).
For loose/fresh snow or on soft beach sand I like to start around 6 PSI and dump air as needed, going down as low as maybe 3 PSI.
Caveat; I am using tubeless ready rims and tires that are set up tubeless, so I can run a bit lower pressure than others that are using a tubed system. Although I don’t recommend it with my setup it is possible to ride with less than 1 PSI which I have tried before and my tires still didn’t burp off of the rim.
With tubes you will have to use a slightly higher pressure to avoid getting a pinch flat or burping the tire off the rim.
Floor pumps designed for Fat Tires
You could use a regular bicycle pump to inflate your tires, however the low volume and high pressure of most pumps out there make pumping large volume Fat Bike tire a very time consuming ordeal. And trying to set up a Fat Bike tire tubeless with a regular bike floor pump, forgetta bout it.
There are now floor pumps made specifically for inflating those large volume tires with just a few pumps of the handle, filling the high volume barrel and pushing that air into your plump tires with speed and ease.
Here are some great choices for filling your Fat Bike tire with air efficiently.
Topeak JoeBlow Fat
Bontrager Flash Charger Floor Pump
Topeak Mountain Morph
Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV
Another promising looking trail pump to keep your eye out for is; The Fat Stevens Fat Bike Pump from Portland Design Works.