Out of all the reasons to purchase a fat bike, safety might not be at the top of a person’s list, at least initially. However, safety is something that without question makes a difference, especially when riding on terrain that is less than ideal. All it takes is a few missteps, and a person could be in a pretty sticky situation.
Most people don’t figure out just how safe it is to ride fat bikes compared to other options until they ride one. Why are they recommended for anyone who wants the safest ride possible on any surface? Here’s a breakdown on a few factors worth considering.
1. Surface area matters
Many people who can ride a bike but don’t feel extremely confident doing so well take one look at a road bike tire and feel intimidated. That same person can look at a fat bike tire, and feel much more confident that there is a significantly reduced chance of injury.
Having a wide tire gives many people a ton of confidence. It’s the #1 reason why fat bikes are safer across the board than any other bike, regardless of where a person rides.
Instead of focusing solely on keeping upright and not losing balance, those just starting out can start to enjoy their experience overall. Fat bikes are great to learn basic riding skills on, and they come in handy as new trails are tried all the time.
Once a person is much more confident as a rider, That surface area comes in handy even for competitive riders. A lot of fat bike racers look for a balance between a good amount of surface area and speed, but when riding at fast speeds close to other competitors, every extra bit of safety matters.
There are reasons to have a skinnier tire, and there’s room for road bikes and fat bikes to coexist. From a beginner’s perspective, a fat bike is so much more beneficial to learn on. Even if the basic riding happens entirely on pavement, start with a fat bike if available, and let someone graduate to a road bike later on.
2. Extra Cushioning and Stability
Most people ride mountain bikes and fat bikes to enjoy some off-road fun. That means occasionally getting some air on a downhill, crossing rough terrain, and tackling anything that comes up. To feel confident in doing that, comfort and stability are huge.
With a fat tire that is usually inflated very low, jumps are very easy to land. Not only is it a softer landing, but with more surface area to work with, it’s easier to stick it perfectly.
The tires are also great at smoothing out rough patches and bumps in the road. Having a fat bike with a carbon fork, full suspension, and more will help also, but just the tires alone make it more comfortable than a mountain bike.
3. Frame geometry
A lot of people love to focus on the tires with a fat bike as the main reason why it is so safe to ride. However, bike frame geometry also plays a pretty big role.
Fat bikes, for the most part, are designed to allow people to pull off maneuvers that other bikes simply don’t. That means having the capability of making jumps and doing skills when the opportunity presents itself.
Before putting money down for a fat bike, make sure to look at the different frame setups before investing. If the plan is to do a lot of jumping and difficult trails, it makes sense to get a bike designed specifically for that.
Just a few tweaks to the geometry can make a difference between a very minor crash, and something much more serious.
Remember, fat bike manufacturers very much understand their core demographic. Mountain bikes have morphed into all-purpose bikes a bit, so they don’t always come with the right frame geometry to protect riders pushing the limits.
Fat bike manufacturers know the vast majority of riders will be pushing things at least once in a while, and they design the frame to provide great support if something goes wrong.
4. Thick, durable tires that are almost indestructible
One of the biggest inconveniences when riding a bike of any kind is dealing with a flat tire. It happens to everyone at some point, but fat bikes are about as close as you can get to indestructible tires. Expect much fewer flat tires in general, especially if using a tubeless tire option.
Not only are the walls more durable on fat bike tires, but the low tire pressure makes them less vulnerable as well. It’s still important to carry a repair kit and a spare tube in case something does go wrong. Unless some freak accident occurs, most people will find the number of times they need to replace a tire or a tube is significantly reduced.
5. Adding studs to tires
Another huge bonus for safety with a fat bike is that it is possible to add studs to tires for additional grip. Many people will do this for riding on terrains such as snow or sand. The studs significantly increase the grip and keep a rider upright even if the bike feels like it is slipping a bit.
Just a simple turn without studded tires could put a person at risk for injury. On snow, there is always a chance that patches of black ice could pop up as well. Without studs, a person stands little chance at not falling off their bike. Ice can make huge vehicles with four wheels spin around, so of course, they can do damage to any bike.
Studs are versatile enough that they don’t need necessarily removed when not riding on certain terrains that need them. It’s recommended to remove them if pavement riding is the most common terrain a person rides on, but other than that, they can be left on all year round. In the winter specifically, studs are practically a must for any off-road riding.
The drawback to studs is that they do end up costing additional money. Tires for fat bikes, in general, tend to run a little more, but since they are so durable, it tends to even out over time. Don’t let a minor amount of money prevent a very significant upgrade if snow riding is on the calendar a lot.
6. Clipping in is not necessary
Fat bike riders rarely clip into pedals. That might cut down a little on pedaling efficiency, but it offers great flexibility when riding, and a safer ride in general.
It is tough at first for people to learn how to clip into certain bikes and slide out if an accident occurs. Sometimes, these clips cause significant damage to a person’s legs as they tangle up in the bike as they go down.
The vast majority of fat bike pedals are big platforms that are easy to step off if something happens. It’s much easier to prepare for an accident this way. A person feels a lot less helpless and can control their body better than ever.
There is no definitive fat bike footwear, but most people protect their feet with either athletic shoes or boots that provide a decent amount of protection and flexibility. Not being forced to wear a specific shoe on a fat bike is another hidden benefit. For colder weather, a thicker shoe makes sense, while in the summer, something much more breathable is the way to go.
7. Are there still risks people should be aware of?
While fat bikes are generally safer, people should consider that there are some things to be aware of that could cause issues. For starters, every person riding a bike and not having any mishaps or crashes will likely start pushing the limit more and more. Fat bikes provide a great amount of safety support, but a person can get themselves in trouble if they start overdoing it and getting a little too risky with moves.
Always remember to stay within reason on trying new things with a fat bike. Don’t start thinking that it’s impossible to have a crash or incident, because they still happen. If a person is just starting with jumps, don’t think it is easy to go crazy with them from the very beginning. Take learning new skills gradually, and it will cut down on injury risks.
It’s also worth noting that fat bikes are a little tough to steer if a person starts to lose control. It’s important to stay calm if something happens because a fat bike might start feeling a bit overwhelming.
Finally, if a crash or accident occurs, fat bikes are significantly heavier than most other bikes out there. Make sure to wear proper protection in case something does happen, because not only can the ground cause injury but so can the bike if it falls on someone. Fat bikes can be well over 50 pounds in some cases, and that can do some pretty serious damage if a person is unprotected.
As much as everyone would love to think that it’s impossible to crash on a fat bike, there are still accidents that occur. They do a great job of minimizing the risk, but no one should feel so comfortable that they completely skip any safety measures.
Make sure to always wear the most obvious form of protection, a well-fitted helmet. On top of that, most people who ride fat bikes will wear padding or gloves to help prevent too much damage if an accident occurs. It’s a lot easier to layer this stuff on in the winter since it helps keep a person warm while riding anyway. Just because it’s hot in the summer, don’t forget the padding then as well.
A final look at that bike safety
Fat bikes bring a lot of positives to the table for people looking to find a fun way to exercise outside every day of the year. Thanks in large part to the thick tires used on the bike, a typical
rider feels very safe at all times. Whether a person is just now learning how to ride a bike, or they are looking for a new challenge, a fat bike protects riders very well.