No one likes to have an expensive single purpose bike that collects dust for most of the year in the corner of their garage or basement. But by simply changing out your tires or wheel set, this is a very simple and cost effective way to continue to use that fat bike in a more energy efficient way. Fat Bikes are truly four season, all conditions, any terrain, get you there with a big grin on your face mountain bikes. Transforming your fat bike for the warm weather months is a great way to get more use out of the fat bike you love, all year round.
Many of us have studded winter tires or very aggressive 5 inch large knobby tires on our fat bikes for the cold and snowy winter months, however just like you would change tires on your car or truck at the end of the seasons, besides performance switching tires is also great for preserving your precious and expensive winter tires for the season they were designed for.
Back in 2009 to fund my first titanium Fat bike I was forced to take a leap of faith and sell all my high end 26 inch full suspension bikes and put all my eggs in one (fat bike) basket. I eased into the transition of owning just one single bike by building up two wheel sets, one fat wheelset 26 x 70mm Speedway rims with Endomorph and Larry tires and installing a Carbon Fatback fork for winter. For my warm season setup I build a set of 29 x 21mm Stans rims with 2.4 inch Schwalbe Racing Ralph’s and installed a Fox F29 suspension fork with 100mm travel. I used this summer setup to compete in many races including endurance marathons, 8 and 24 hr races and a 100 miler. For two years I raced with this setup sometimes experimenting with installing the rigid carbon fork and fat wheel on the front on the bike. The “half fat” setup worked very well for a few reasons as it was slightly lighter than the suspension fork setup and it also provided loads of cornering traction that fat bikes are so famous for, providing the perfect race bike that I could setup just the way I wanted and really “become one” with the bike, by riding it exclusively all year round, swapping rear tires on occasion if I felt conditions warranted it.
Fast forward to 2016, we really have many great options available to us now to transform your fat bike into a proficient year round pedaling machine. Many riders out there really enjoy leaving their super aggressive tires on all year round and that is totally fine to do if this tire configuration fits their needs. I know many riders that love their Vanhelga or Nate/Nate or even Bud and Lou tire combo year round for bushwhacking, rock crawling and just as a general aggressive single track tire. Fat bikes are great for that niche of utility vehicle/go over and through anything/ unstoppable machines. This aggressive tire choice is perfect for those people who if it were not for fat bikes would be out ripping it up on their ATV or dirtbike, fat bikes are SO much better for their health and eliminating sound and air pollution and destructive trail impact, if only everyone owned a fat bike…I digress.
Alright lets look at some great options available to us to make the summer transformation. One option is to swap out your tires for something with less rolling resistance and less aggressive knobs, this also means less actual rubber material so less rotational weight from the tires and subsequently an overall lighter bike.
Some examples of great summer fat tires offerings are a set of Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26 x 4 inch, these tires are mirrored from the best XC racing tires on the market the Schwalbe Racing Ralph but on steriods, very light weighing in at an impressive 1090 grams each for the snakeskin sidewall version which I recommend or the lighter but much more fragile Liteskin version at 990 grams. The Jumbo Jims are a great tubeless tire with extremely low rolling resistance, a very fast tire choice that also has great cornering abilities. This premium tire offering from Schwalbe has definitely impressed me as you can tell. Schwalbe also makes a 4.8 inch version of the Jumbo Jim for those looking for a higher volume tire.
Another decent summer tire choice is the 26 x 4 inch Panaracer Fat B Nimble weighing in at only 1180 grams for the folding bead version built with 120 tpi rubber. This tire is extremely fast rolling and the small knobs provide solid traction for climbing and predictable cornering. The 26 inch version Fat B Nimble is best used at a slightly higher air pressure to avoid a slight auto steer tendency if used on some wider rims, but is still a very solid choice for a more budget friendly easy rolling fat tire.
45NRTH is known for their great winter tires and summer Fat bike performance can be found here with their 26 x 4 inch Husker Du tire, there is a standard 120 TPI folding version available now and by mid June of 2016 they will be releasing their new ultralight Husker Du model with a weight of just 1240 grams per tire but still providing great traction for most 3 season riding and racing, this ultralight tire features the same tread pattern as it predecessor but the center knobs are much lower making it roll faster while the outside cornering knobs are higher than the original to provide better traction in loose corners.
Surly has a few 26″ tire offerings that offer less rolling resistance for those looking for a warm season tire, there is the Black Floyd which is a full on 26x 3.8″ slick fat bike tire great for road riding with your fat bike, then there is their Knard 26 x 3.8″ tire, Knard 26 x 3″ or Knard 26 x 4.8″ tire as well as the same tread pattern offered in 27.5 inch and 29er tire models.Another popular tire choice from the guys over at Surly is their 26 x 3.8″Larry and 26 x 4.7″ Big Fat Larry tires which offer the rider a great fast rolling, low knob tire choice that is considered one of the “Go To” tire choices for beach and sand riding. The 4.7″ version is perfect to provide maximum flotation in soft sand due to its large volume tire casing but offers very low knob height making it ideal for fitting into a wider variety of frames including most 170 mm rear hub spaced frames.
There are two more tire brands that I will mention briefly before moving on to alternative wheel size options for your all season fat bike. Vee Rubber has a few tires that could be used like the Bulldozer but thus far none of their tire offerings seem to fit my needs. Kenda Tire makes a decent fast rolling tire called the Juggernaut Pro, and with a claimed weight of only 900 grams this is the lightest fat tire available to date, but the low weight has to come from somewhere and with the Juggernaut Pro it is with its very low knobs and minimal sidewall protection. The Juggernaut Pro is still a decent tire choice for hard packed conditions and general riding not requiring traction just be conscious of its limits in any loose trail conditions and vulnerable sidewalls while plowing through rock gardens.
Just when you thought that owning a fat bike couldn’t get any better, it has yet another advantage over a skinny tire bike with it’s ability to use a 27.5+ and/or a 29er+ wheel set on your existing fat bike frame making this wonder bike even more versatile. Adding a second wheel set into your mix of options is a great way to lighten up and increase the speed of your fat bike for the warmer months and adds a real viable option for someone that is looking for that quiver killing “One bike does everything, super bike”. Many riders out there are always joking about N + one (N=current number of bikes one owns +one) however that equation does not always work for quite a few riders due to either bike storage constraints, or financial reasons and some just choose one “super bike” for minimalist lifestyle reasons.
Whichever wheel size or tire size fits your individual needs at any particular time throughout the calendar year, I hope you always choose Fat. And one last thing to remember is, as the famous saying goes “Once you go Fat, you never go back”.
Cheers to a Fat season.