Are Cheap Fat Bikes Any Good? 10 Pros & Cons


Whenever a person starts to shop for a brand new bike, pricing inevitably comes into play. Those who have never gone on a fat bike before are likely looking for something that is pretty affordable so that they do not feel like they are wasting a lot of money if they do not really feel like they love the sport.

However, going too cheap with any bike can be frustrating. For a fat bike, it can even come off as not being safe enough to be out there in tough conditions and ride consistently without any fear.

Are cheap fat bikes any good? When looking in the right areas and paying attention to certain parts of the bike, a perfect purchase can be possible.

What Are Fat Bikes Designed For?

Before shopping for a cheaper bike of any kind, it is important to get the right fit for the right use. That means knowing what a fat bike is actually designed for.

For the most part, anyone who wants to ride consistently on snow and sand will start to look at these very thick tires and the geometry of a bike. It can handle many different types of terrain, and is basically a more intense version of a mountain bike.

Riding in any condition is pretty easy to do as a fat bike rider. There are even options that include putting studs on the tires to increase the grip and make it that much easier to ride in certain scenarios.

When other bikes come up just short, fat bikes are designed to pick up and make it possible.

What Is The Typical Price Range For Fat Bikes?

Surly Fat Bikes

People should expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars on a fat bike even in the cheapest range. Considering all the components to go into a fat bike, this is a pretty fair price overall.

Fat bikes can get up in price in a hurry when shoppers start to look for more premium components overall. Perhaps the biggest telltale sign of a pretty expensive fat bike is whether or not it has a carbon frame.

The more carbon on the frame in general, the more expensive it tends to be. The tradeoff is that a carbon fat bike is lighter, more comfortable, and more durable than other options.

High-end fat bikes will be several thousand dollars from top companies. They are always pushing innovation in this growing bike industry, and that is good news for consumers.

Prices are also flattening out a bit since there is a lot of competition. There was a bit of an issue early on with fat biking in that there were so few companies putting out bikes.

They could dictate pricing a little bit more, and it was a more expensive sport to get into. Now that fat biking is a bit more mainstream, those issues have faded away.

How Easy Is It To Start Riding a Fat Bike?

Quite a few people believe that a cheap fat bike is one of the best ways to go for beginners doing a lot of off-road riding. It is a very stable ride overall.

The extra width of a tire should actually act as an aid for people who feel like they do not have the balance down just right. Instead of learning on skinny tires with not much tread, this seems like a much better situation overall.

Adults learning how to ride, or getting back into things after years away from the sport, should also find fat biking as having a pretty small learning curve.

Finally, anyone who has put on extra pounds and feels like they can’t find a bike that works for them will love what a fat bike provides.

It is a comfortable ride, even when only looking at cheap options. The weight distribution with fatter tires is helpful.

What to Expect Out Of Cheap Fat Bikes

When a person ultimately decides to invest in a cheap fat bike, they need to know that there will be some compromises here and there.

Most beginners will not feel like it is too much of a burden, especially when shopping for the right bikes and companies. No two fat bikes are created equally, so having something to look out for makes a big difference.

Frame

A cheaper fat bike is going to not only be a little heavier, but likely utilizing a steel or aluminum frame. This is still going to smooth out the ride a little bit, but not to the point that a carbon option can.

All the expensive options will start to have more and more carbon on the bike, to the point that everything is made of carbon in the end.

The good news about a steel or aluminum frame is that it is still very durable. A good, cheap fat bike is going to last a long time no matter the price. But what will be noticeable is that an upgrade to the frame will be a little bit better as far as performance is concerned.

It is very tough to push the pace without some carbon on the frame, or at least a carbon fork. That is why when a seasoned fat bike rider gets to a certain level, they tend to make an upgrade as far as the frame is concerned.

Tires

Stock tires on a fat bike that is pretty expensive might not satisfy a rider trying to take their skills to another level. The grip might not be sufficient enough, the durability might not quite be there, and overall performance can seem a little lackluster.

The good news is that so many companies put out fat bike tires that fit any type of rider, and it does not take much effort to find something that works.

If the tires seem to be the only thing that is holding back a cheaper fat bike, it might be worth it to invest in a new set right away.

This will significantly increase the overall satisfaction of the bike, and will allow people to get more use out of it overall. Check out what tires the bike can handle, as every frame and wheel set will have a specific range.

Drivetrain

Most of the fat bikes that fall in the cheap category are going to have a pretty basic drivetrain overall. This means that the gearing might not be as robust as some people would like, but it is still going to be perfect for those who are still learning the ropes.

Too many people get caught up on drivetrain specifics, but the truth of the matter is, it does not really matter until a rider reaches a certain level. Gearing and shifting might not be quite as smooth as one would like, but most deal with the setup.

Like several other components, it is also very easy to make the upgrade if a person absolutely wants to. Most people are not going to upgrade the drivetrain necessarily, only because it usually means that other upgrades are necessary.

That means that it makes more sense to update the entire bike instead of just one part of the bike.

Brakes

This is one particular area where people might be a little hesitant when it comes to buying a cheap fat bike. Some of the cheaper options are going to rely on disc brakes with cables, while others will include hydraulic disc brakes.

When using disc brakes with cables, it just is a clunkier experience overall. They are becoming more and more phased out as time goes on, but hydraulic brakes do cost a little bit more.

There is a level of safety and responsiveness, even in the toughest conditions, that have people gravitating towards hydraulic brakes.

Another positive is that when older cables are removed, there is less of a chance of something going wrong during a minor spill.

Suspension

Finally, everyone loves having a good amount of suspension on a fat bike. After all, it is supposed to smooth out even the toughest rides in general.

The suspension gets better as a person spends more money for the most part, but some cheaper options have better suspension than one might think.

Everyone is going to have a different level of tolerance as far as what they can feel on a ride. It also depends on where a person is riding.

If the terrain is already very bumpy, it might be worth investing extra money to get better suspension. If the fat bike is going to be on fairly smooth terrain for the most part, it might not necessarily be worth it to make the upgrade.

This is where a person can save some money and have a little less suspension overall.

Finding Great Deals On Fat Bikes

There are other ways to purchase a fat bike that is pretty cheap overall. It is all about being creative and finding different ways to obtain a bike to get started. Most people at this price point are not looking for the best, but great value above everything else.

Shopping Direct Sales Companies

Canyon The Dude Fat Bike

Direct sales companies selling fat bikes can usually come in at a price point that is lower than the competition. That is great news for people who are shopping for cheap options that fit into their budget.

The downside of this is that availability can sometimes be hit or miss, and shipping times are occasionally pretty long. On top of that, being able to try out the bike in any type of shop is pretty much non-existent.

It is a bit of a gamble, but there are some direct sales companies that have taken off in the fat bike industry. Since a few of them are leading the way, more and more companies are jumping into the mix as well.

Make sure to do the extra amount of research before purchasing, but it could be worth it for those wanting to break away from the usual bike manufacturers.

Shopping Used

The used market for fat bikes can be a little hit or miss, depending on exactly what a person is looking for. The positive to shopping used is that a person can get a great deal on a bike that they otherwise cannot afford.

There are different levels of used bikes out there, so it is important to pay attention to that. Some people sell a fat bike that has barely been used, while others run them into the ground.

Since fat bikes are built to be off-road, there can be some significant damage to a fat bike if it has been through a wreck or two.

Pay attention to any upgrades or adjustments that have been made by the original owner as well. A fat bike might not perform the way someone might think if they do not do research beforehand.

There are a lot of people who go in with expectations on a used bike, only to figure out that they are a bit disappointed.

The Final Word on Cheap Fat Bikes

As recently as a few years ago, it was probably not the best idea to shop for a super cheap fat bike. The technology just was not there, and they ended up being a pretty big waste of money for those trying to get into the sport.

Since then, traditional bike companies, as well as direct sales companies, have really stepped up their game.

Some of the leaders in the industry putting out inexpensive fat bike options include Mongoose, Trek, Diamondback, Salsa, Surly, Frames, and Felt.

They all have more premium options as well, it is worth comparing the two and seeing all the differences in charts. Many will realize that cheap fat bikes have come a long way, and it is no longer a huge issue trying to get into the sport.

This is great for the overall growth, and beginners can finally start to see the benefits of a fat bike as well.

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