Bikerumor Opinion Fatbike Pugsley Fun (1)

Currently it’s -8 degrees, dark, my ice beard from an earlier ride has melted away in front of the fire, and yet I’m sitting here having to force myself from going back outside to ride my fatbike. Crazy? Maybe. Fun? Definitely.

Over the past few months or even years fatbike popularity has skyrocketed. More and more fatbikes and fatbike brands are springing up which seems only to stoke the fire of the fatbike detractors. Whatever the reason, for each person with a resultant permagrin from trundling over permafrost, there is opposition wanting to claim that fatbikes are silly and unnecessary. I’ve been thinking this piece over again and again, and I’m finally ready to say it – fatbikes rock.

After years of pedaling around the bikes with the clown sized tires, one thing is clear – while not for everyone, fatbikes aren’t just a passing fad. If you can’t come to grips with that, well, you might be doing it wrong.


Our shop’s old demo Pugsley behind one I had just worked on for a customer.

The Beginning

I’m sure I’m not alone here, but when I was younger, the best thing to happen over winter was the occasional snow day. No school? Time to don the snow pants and mittens and take to the snow. Snowball fights. Building snow forts. Exploring frozen forests and creeks. Snow days meant freedom to explore the winter wonderland that was outside the frosted window panes.

I haven’t really outgrown that.

Sure, there are less snowball fights, and very rarely do I have the time to build a snow fort, but that sense of wonder accompanied with the desire to explore has never gone away. For years I rode in the snow with a standard mountain bike which is entirely possible. No one ever said you can’t ride in the snow with a mountain bike, or hell, even a cross bike, but a fatbike changes things.

Good luck riding though here on a regular mountain bike.

Good luck riding though here on a regular mountain bike – deep sand under fresh snow.

The equipment

So many people think that a fatbike is just a mountain bike with wider tires, but there’s more to it than that.

There comes a point with a normal mountain bike in the snow that you end up carrying or pushing your bike more than riding it. Deep snow, fluffy snow, even ice are much more easily dealt with when you have 4” wide rubber underneath you. In addition to the width, running 3-10 psi in those gargantuan tires allows the tread to envelop large rocks, roots, and other obstacles where a normal mountain bike tire may simply bounce or slide off. Studded tires are not exclusive to fatbikes, but when added to a 4” tire, the added contact patch can mean big gains in traction.

Can't climb on a fatbike? I could barely walk up these hills due to ice, but the fattie made it up both sides with ease.

Can’t climb on a fatbike? I could barely walk up these hills due to ice, but the fattie made it up both sides with ease.

Then there is the bike itself, specifically, how it deals with the elements. With the introduction of $5k+ fatbikes this is probably less applicable, but one of my favorite things about owning a fatbike is that I can ride during the winter and not worry about the road salt, slush, grime, mud, and water from ruining my expensive mountain bikes. A simple steel Surly Pugsley treated with Frame Saver will last a long time in winter conditions without much maintenance. A full suspension mountain bike? Probably not. Since purchasing a fatbike, my winter riding has doubled if not tripled.

Winter fatbiking does mean you’ll need additional gear and clothing, but if you plan to ride any bike over the winter, you’ll need it anyways. And while a fatbike does require a number of pricey fatbike specific parts, there are quite a few parts like bars, stems, seat posts, drive trains, some cranks, etc. that can be used to build up fatbikes on a budget – something a number of riders have done locally. One thing that I have definitely learned though – on a fatbike tires count, big time. Maybe even more so than your average bike. A high TPI tire means much lighter weight and an increasingly supple ride, after all the 4″ tire is basically your suspension. It’s easy to want to cheap out when it comes to super expensive fatbike tires, but trust me, money here is money well spent.

Bikerumor Opinion Fatbike Pugsley Fun (4)

Bikerumor Opinion Fatbike Pugsley Fun (3)  Bikerumor Opinion Fatbike Pugsley Fun (2)

The exploration

The benefits in equipment are obvious. It’s the mindset that takes more explanation. Even after riding fatbikes for years, I still didn’t quite get it.

Sure, it’s nearly impossible to ride a fatbike and not come away with a huge shit eating grin on your face, but some of that is likely due to novelty. Eventually the novelty will wear off, but by then you will probably understand.

Somewhere along the way to “adulthood” my sense of exploration and adventure was somewhat muted. Riding meant visiting the same trails over and over, seeing how fast I could make it to the end. Sure, road riding helped feed that sense of adventure, but there’s something so good about being deep in the wilderness. Fatbiking offered something different.

After a photo from some fatbike loving friends inspired me, I ended up exploring areas right by my house that I have ridden by countless times. Riding through mud bogs, across rivers, over downed trees and across floodwater ravaged fields, my fatbike took me to places I had never been. All of a sudden, I was looking for new lands to explore – some possible to ride on a normal mountain bike, but mostly not. Thanks to the go anywhere, ride over anything capabilities of my Pugsley, suddenly there were so many new places to explore in an area that previously had become old hat.

There are a number of areas locally that are not off limit to bikes, but since there are no real “trails,” people don’t really ride there. The fatbike changes that.

Bikerumor Opinion Fatbike Pugsley Fun (8) Bikerumor Opinion Fatbike Pugsley Fun (5)

Bikerumor Opinion Fatbike Pugsley Fun (6)


Honestly, I’ll probably never ride some grueling adventure in Alaska, or bike to the South Pole, but my fatbike isn’t going anywhere. Fatbiking offers a change of pace and scenery over the winter that for me, can’t be replaced. Owning a fatbike means never having to wonder if the conditions are right – on a fatbike they are always right*.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions with fatbikes is that on a normal mountain bike you can ride almost as much as you can on a fatbike. That’s true to a point, but take a recent night ride I was on – two of us were on fat bikes, and the other was on a typical mountain bike. The two fatbikes had already done a few laps so the snow was packing in nicely, and yet the third rider on the mountain bike was having a hell of a time trying to keep forward momentum, and after 3/4 of a lap was ready to bail. He was able to ride the trail, but he wasn’t having much fun doing so and in turn rode about 1/3rd as much as the fatbike riders. Knowing the fatbike has very few limitations helps get you out of the house in the winter. Nothing can slow you down.

Riders that live in areas with decent skiing or other winter sport opportunities may have a hard time justifying a fatbike, but there’s a lot of us who simply don’t have those options. There is also something to be said about the solitude you can find out on the trails during the winter. Of course, then there’s the whole mud/sand prowess of the fatbike which makes it more than just a “one season” bike, but that’s a story for another time. There are plenty of people that are perfectly happy to sweat away on their rollers or trainers over the winter, but I’d rather ride anything outside over that. And the fatbike is more than just anything. It is a purpose built fun machine that can take you anywhere you want to go.

Don’t agree? That’s fine with me – you can find me out on my fatbike.

*Fine print – just because a fatbike can ride anywhere, anytime, does not mean that they won’t cause damage to mountain bike trails if ridden when extremely wet. Obey local trail closures just as you would on a normal mountain bike. The mud bogs, swamps, etc I have ridden are in areas approved for use when wet, not on local mountain bike trails.


  1. Ted Rosebelt on

    VERY WELL written! I assume this is a response to that “other” recently posted article on another website 😉

    I thoroughly enjoy my Moonlander in the spring on the ATV trails. Slip sliding around and getting all dirty, splashing through huge mud puddles I could never get to on my normal mountain bike, what could be better???

  2. FatForever on

    I’ve been using my Pugsley exclusively since October in the U.K. and will probably do so until the clocks go forward at the end of March (especially since i got the 11Nine forks on it since the end of November).

    There hasn’t been any snow, but i’ve had a damn sight more fun on that bike in the mud than i ever did riding my 6″ trail bike in the same conditions.

  3. MBogus on

    You have to expect naysayers when something becomes fashionable in the cycling community. I’m old enough to remember when front suspensions were the new thing in mountain biking and the steel fork purists at the time would scoff.

    The good news is that others will enter the fatbike market, drive the price to reasonable status, and the great deal of cyclists will partake.

  4. Ryan on

    I like the idea. It sounds like the reasons I cross country ski, but better since it involves pedaling and likely more versatility. I do wonder how it descends a lot more than how it climbs.
    Also I question your premise. Maybe I just don’t frequent the same sites as you, but I never hear any hating on fat bikes.

  5. Tom Servo on

    I wouldn’t say I hate fat bikes, they just don’t seem practical to me. I bike less in the winter and even if I biked in the cold a lot, the snow in PA just does not seem to stay on the ground like it used to. I’d definately give it a try, epecially in deep powdery snow, but ideal conditions don’t last very long, and then a standard wheeled bike works well enough.

  6. Garrett on

    The only way you’re gonna have a 4-5″ wide tire and a normal Q factor is a frame with a jack shaft. I think the old Hanebrink bikes had them. My Moonlanders Q is the last thing on my mind when riding thru the snow with a silly grin.

  7. Tom Moore on

    My problem is with Fat Bikes destroying groomed XC ski trails or going on nature trails where mountain bikes would not be allowed.

  8. Michelle on

    Did we do a Vulcan mind meld for this article? Everything in that was spot on and exactly what I try to tell the nay sayers! I am into my second season of fat. My boyfriend got me into it because HE loved it so much. So here I am a full convert. I sold my Fuel EX7 (got front suspension) and my indoor trainers. Canadian winters give you everything. So everything this bike does.

  9. Gillis on

    I didn’t realize people hated fatbikes. That seems ignorant. I thought people hated certain tire diameters more than tire widths.

  10. Ed R on

    I don’t hate Fat Bikes but living in San Jose CA, I have no use for one. If I lived in the Sierras or any where that received a annual snow pack, I would consider one but since I don’t, for me to buy one would just be silly.

  11. Jason S on

    My fatbike has opened up a whole new sense of bicycling adventure for me and I have only ridden snow twice.

    While it is true any bike can ride the packed sand of the beach, they can’t turn on a time, ride up and down loose sand dunes or ride the rocky beaches of say the Puget Sound area.

    Bored with local trails and sick of road riding, exploring Google Earth has inspired me to take my fatbike to small islands via packraft and ride rocky beaches, explore dry creek beds and ride abandoned rail roads.

    These rides are less about ripping fast and flowy trails (I have bikes for that although 4″ tires makes that fun too) and they have me out pedaling for hours and hours and miles and miles in nature. I have explored beaches with my wife way farther than we ever would have walking.

    I went to school in Minnesota and remember how miserable I was during the winter months, not being able to ride in the snow (yes I tried…no it didn’t work even with downhill tires). If only Pugsleys were invented 10 years earlier!

    I used to think if I had to only have one bike it would be a cyclocross bike….now if I ever had to sell of the stable I would keep the fatbike.

  12. Zach Overholt on

    @Ted Rosebelt, I guess it could be taken that way, but to be honest this was saved as a draft before theirs was published and I haven’t read it yet. Funny that while I was writing this about how much I like them others were writing the opposite!

  13. Ben on

    I would like to add that one of the biggest misconceptions about fatbikes (@Ed R) is that they are only intended to be ridden in the snow. It’s kinda like saying that you should always drive your MTB to the trailhead because they’re only meant to be ridden off-road. Fatbikes are fun year round and about the only thing you should never do with one is head out on a 100 mile road ride.

  14. Kelvin on

    Fat bikes are ok… They annoying people who ride them, not so much.

    Just ride it, I’m sick of hearing about how it changed your life.

  15. Ken on

    So you rode 2/3 more than the guy on the regular bike and spent how many more thousands to do that? Nice, i was thinking about buying a 5,000 dollar bike only good for those few times when I have to squeeze between cars in the trail head parking lot to get to the bathrooms,maybe I could convince you that’s totally practical too and cash in on my new trail head parking lot bike. If I lived up north I would take that same money and put it towards a really nice indoor virtual reality trainer setup or a new spring mountain bike.

  16. Veganpotter on

    Ken…you can get a great fat bike for $2k. It’s tough to do that with a normal hard tail. Plus…most bike enthusiasts buy a new bike every few years anyway…for many…this is just another bike that happens to be a fat bike instead of a new crit bike, commuting bike etc.

    Riding indoors is absolutely a terrible experience if you love being outside!!! Also…this article said nothing about all fat bikes being $5000. Just as all road bikes aren’t $15,000 or more in some cases.

    On a side note…I’m gonna buy a fatboy soon. For $2000 it wil work in the snow and will be about as heavy as my 2011 Fisher X-caliber if not lighter. That bike was worthless in soft snow more than 2″ deep it’s not much more expensive.

  17. Chris on

    I live in Sweden and for some weird reason there are very few fatbikes here, especially in the north where I live and where we have massive amounts of snow in the winter.

    My local Trek dealer got one of seven(in scandinavia) farley fatbikes which I tried in the undeground garage. All I can say is that after about five minutes my face hurt from smiling and this was not even outside. Unfortunately someone bought it but if I’d bought it I would probably use it all year round.

  18. Doug on

    I was an early adopter of fatbikes. I purchased my Pugsley in June of 2006. I didn’t do it because it was fashionable or the hottest new thing. I bought it because it made sense to me the first time I saw it on the Surly website. I got it. I understood it. I live in Northern Minnesota where it is very cold and we have snow on the ground much of the winter. I live within one mile of a network of snowmobile trails that are hundreds of miles long. In the 8 winter seasons I’ve owned my Pugsley I’ve ridden 3500 miles on snow alone and two Arrowhead Utlra 135’s. It’s the funnest riding I do all year. With the harsh winter we’re having this year it’s also become my go to commuter when the temp drops below zero. It’s a great bike and is a no-brainer when you live in this climate.

  19. Ben on

    @Ken. You don’t get it and won’t get it. How does the saying go….if you have to ask, you’re not a customer….or something like that. Clearly a lot of people doing a lot of riding that they never did before. Fad? Fads don’t go out in subzero temps for several hours. Fads sit on the mtbr forums reading about those doing it.

  20. satisFACTORYrider on

    they’re fun as hell. secret to fat bikes? be a kid when you ride one. like you’re supposed to be on any bike. except tts/triathlon rigs…they are hopeless.

  21. d*pow on

    Well written Zach.

    I was a naysayer for years, but as soon as I actually gave a fatbike a chance I understood what I was missing. That said, calling a fatbike a “snowbike” makes about as much sense as calling a cyclo-cross bike a “10 speed” because it has drop bars.

    You can ride a fatbike on all the trails you ride a traditional mountain bike PLUS fatbikes can be ridden on sand dunes, deeply rutted/muddy logging roads, river deltas/banks, railroad ballast, tidal flats AND snow.

    For me, it’s about having fun exploring places I never could before. Fat bikes actually deliver on the promise of exploration that traditional mountain bikes never really could. Would I race on one? Nope. But if that’s your thing go for it.

    But hey, that’s just my opinion.

  22. Marc on

    If you like bikes and snow, you will like a fatbike. For me, winter has always been for skiing [XC] and summer for biking. Last week, I finally got fed up with the crappy ski conditions, and demo’d a fatbike. First ride I did 23 miles on snowmobile trails and had a blast. Next day tried dirt : muddy and rocky, lots of climbing and descending. Fun ? Check. Then rented a cheaper, heavier fatbike, and had another couple of great snow and dirt rides. This week I bought one. Now I realize that XC and fatbiking totally complement each other : when the XC snow gets crusty and old, the fatbike shines, and vice versa.

  23. Allen on

    Nice article… I’ve always enjoyed mountain biking, but couldn’t keep in shape, so the enjoyment wasn’t always there. In the past two years because of being over weight I’ve taken on road biking, and I am now doing centuries and double centuries on the road bike and doing some mountain biking on the side. I built a Fat Bike a couple of years ago, with the idea that I would ride it during the winter. Hmmm. I hardly ever ride the mountain bike any more. I have a grin on my face, I am slower no doubt, but I climb things I couldn’t climb before, I have conversations with people I wouldn’t have talked with before, I ride trails I wouldn’t have ridden before. I am out doing things especially in the winter that I wouldn’t have done before. So if you want fun, come join us, I am having a blast! signed the Less Fat Old Man with a grin on his face 🙂

  24. haromania on

    On my 3rd fatbike now with a very high end complete build kit for the next one already sitting in my basement while I decide on the next frame….. I can’t imagine not owning one now, unless you just hate having fun. They turn a normal ride into an adventure.

  25. Ed R on

    @Ben, I have ridden a fat bike and it did nothing for me but I also don’t ride any where sand is an issue, like the beach. It’s not my thing and I’m cool with that, it’s not a misconception. I come across fat bike riders from time to time and when I do those guys seem to be having a good time, but no better than I am, like I said, not my thing. If you dig the Fat Bike, well, that’s awesome.

  26. Joe Maki on

    I’d like to say, for those concerned about Q factor, it’s apparently not an issue. It was one of the things I worried about when I decided to build my first fat bike, but I’ve never noticed while riding. What I have noticed, is how much work it is pushing that bearing grease around when the temps are sub zero. I need to find a lighter synthetic for winter use 🙂

  27. Psi Squared on

    Excellent article.

    One thing I’ve never understood about the cycling community was the need to get one’s panties knotted all because of what bike someone else rides. After all, isn’t the point of riding to have fun? If someone’s having fun on their bike, why should it matter what type of bike it is, how much it cost, what that person does for a living, what condition that person is in, how often they ride, or whether or not said person has been seen with their bike and a demitasse of espresso at a coffee shop?

    When I look at a fat bike, it screams “fun”.

  28. AZBikeFreak on

    Fist comment: Its the same BS that we heard when 29ers were coming into fashion.

    “They’re slow on the hills”, “They steer like a mac truck”, “They have toe overlap”.

    29ers are no the leading category in MTBing.

    Second comment: I live in Phoenix AZ and just bought myself a Fatboy. I didn’t buy it for riding in the sand or snow I bought to ride some of the most technical and rocky trails in the SW. I am having a blast. I feel like a little kid riding my BMX bike for the first time.

    If you haven’t tried one you’re missing out. If you already rode one and don’t get it your doing something wrong. Check the tire tread, tire pressure or and then your attitude.

    I don’t care if people like them or not but I can tell you they are super fun to ride.

  29. Fraser C. on

    4.8″ tires at 4psi – me + Moonlander = 25 SQUARE INCHES footprint! That is a snowshoe! It will float on fluffy snow, or bone dry sand. I use it on my commute and ride up the kerbs and over the snow plow hills just for fun! I don’t give a $h1t what other people think, although most who see the bike think it’s super cool, but what matters to me is it’s FUN!

    Zach, right on Brotha!

  30. Brad H on

    It’s a bike, for some like myself and many others a really fun bike to ride, in all seasons. I am lucky to live in a climate that has all four distinct seasons and the Fatty is a great bike to have in the quiver. Personally I am not a fan of riding on the road, doesn’t mean I don’t like road bikes and given the option of spinning in my basement on a trainer or getting outside with a great group of friends and my trail dog there is no comparison. Ride one, or don’t ride one but don’t bitch if you don’t like them.

  31. SlabachT on

    Great article but you’re overstating the fatbike’s capabilities. It does not allow you to ride over anything, but it does provide more capability. It doesn’t allow you “float” on snow – at some point after 4 inches you need some trail grooming. Certainly agree they are a lot of fun for sure. I own a Mukluk.

  32. silverlining on

    We finally get it. Just got back from Crested Butte for a weekend ski trip. Big Al’s had some to rent. Decided to take them out for a quick spin and see why they are so popular everywhere in CO now days. Three hours later, and a bit chilly, still couldn’t stop grinning. Packed snow, deep snow, climbing and descending, turning and thankfully stopping are really that much fun. One note- if you’re riding in close to 0 degree weather or windy blowing snow, ski goggles are a must. Great article!

  33. dave on

    Great article. Fatbiking in the snow is all about mindset, or lack of. When I was a kid there was a sledding hill in the middle of the woods. After a big snow we would head for the hill. Sometimes the sledding was great right off the bat, sometimes it tooks hours to pack down until it was good, sometimes it just stunk, but it was always fun because we were out of the house, and even when it stunk we were back the next day. Fat biking is the same. Sometimes it’s fast with loads of traction, sometimes it’s slow and slippery. Sometimes, especially at the start of fat biking season, I have to literally stop and get out of the typical (and usually enjoyable) mindset of how far or fast can I go on my mtb during this ride. Once I do that, it’s a blast.

  34. Ivan on


    Can not see point of such arts…

    Haters will hate, enthusiast will be enthusiastic, trolls will troll, dogs are barking, caravan is moving forward…

    Today we have such variation of bikes, sizes, standards, widths and so on that I see no point making everybody Believers.

    Just get on yer’ bike and ride.

    And have fun…


  35. Jesse Edwards on

    I’d love a fatbike, but it’s not realistic on my dad sized budget, and the reality is we don’t have that much snow over the winter, and what we do get gets packed quick and/or turns to ice. That said, if I had lots of space a few grand for a fourth bike I’d be all over a fatty. Why not!?

  36. Christian on

    Why are Fat Bikers so insecure? Don’t see other sport disciplines defending themselves like this. Just ride your bike and don’t worry about what othes think.

  37. Chris on

    Fat bikes keep messing up the cross country skate skiing trails in my area when the trails are too soft. They are the like the horses were for our mountain bike trails years ago. I like fat bikes but I love to ski and I am frustrated by fat bike destruction. The fat riders even are saying the same lines the equine crowd did before they were banned from mountain bike and hiker trails.

  38. james west on

    @Chris ^
    Exactly. Fat bikes are cool and not every bike rider will either enjoy or be any good at xc skiing but that doesn’t mean they should be oblivious to obvious affects the tires have on groomed xc ski trails.
    Ironically, xc skiing is so much more physically demanding, you only need to be out on the trail for 1/10-1/4 of the workout time to get the same benefit that a fat bike ride will give you. (I’ve raced bikes since 1985 road, mtb, DH, marathon – I know what I’m talking about)

    Not everyone rides or skies for a “workout” but still, the tires ruin the trails when too warm.

  39. Frank on

    I live and race (sport) in Colorado. I am thinking a fatbike is very practical. I can now train all season in conditions I would not want to ride my race bike in, maintain my sport specific fitness, and when the conditions are good enough to break out the race bike, can drop ten pounds of weight instantly. What’s not practical about that?

  40. Surly Shawn on

    Until you ride one, you will never know the appeal and fun of them. Yes, I crow on and on about mine (2012 Moonlander) and am in the process of converting a few friends, but ultimately, the decision will be theirs. All I can do is point them towards this option.

    @Ken – “If I lived up north I would take that same money and put it towards a really nice indoor virtual reality trainer setup…”

    That says it all right there. Enjoy your indoor training. Fat bikers have no ‘off season’. Are you a roadie by chance?

  41. JCizzle on

    I test rode a fat bike (Salsa Mukluk2) while deciding on a mountain bike. I ride road bikes for fun and commuting all year ’round but wanted something that would make sure I could be in the saddle for the most conditions possible. After a few blocks on the fat bike I was sold. Someone said their face hurt from smiling? That was me – I had an ether-huffin’ grin the whole time, they’re so much fun. I love going fast and far on a dry blacktop, but I don’t know how I got by for so long without a fat bike. OTOH, never understood people’s need to turn cycling into religion or politics; like it, don’t like, whatever – just have fun. Bikes are awesome.


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