This is Why Fat Bike Rims Have Holes – All the Facts!


One of the toughest things to get used to for anyone who rides a fat bike is the overall weight compared to other solutions out there. Fat bikes can certainly get up there in weight, making it difficult to climb elevations, ride through tough locations and even pick up when necessary.

The weight of the frame is pretty tough to change since it needs to be sturdy enough to handle everything thrown its away. However, where people can shed a little bit of weight is in the tire and rim area. This is why fat bike rims have holes that many people have noticed and wondered about in the past.

Do these holes actually make a difference? Some people try it out and now won’t go with any other type of set up.

Why Do Fat Bike Rims Have Holes? The Science Behind It

At first glance, people might not initially understand why fat bike rims can sometimes have holes in them. It is done for a very practical purpose, and that is to reduce the weight of the wheels in the most efficient way possible.

Since fat bike tires are so big and bulky, they tend to be relatively heavy. Even though the practice only sheds a few hundred grams of weight, it is noticeable for competitive riders, and even casual ones as well.

The width of the rim is wide enough that these holes don’t compromise the strength at all. It is a trick that started out with people testing different setups in the beginning.

Once they realized that there was no drawback to holes in the rims as long as they were done correctly, manufacturers started putting holes in certain models for people to use. This cuts out the step of having to do it without any help.

How Many Holes Are On the Average Rim?

There is really no set amount of holes on any fat bike tire rim. The majority of tires out there have anywhere from 30 to 44 holes, but a lot of it depends on the size. Manufacturers who make rims with holes already in them have to make sure that they are spaced properly so that strength is still there. Some holes are uniform, while others have unique shapes.

Do Rims With Holes In Them Cost More Money?

Fat bike holes in rim rear view

The reason why rims with holes in them cost a little bit more money is that they are usually made of premium materials, manufactured by top-level companies. There are very few cheap rims with pre-drilled holes available on the market today.

The good news about spending a little bit more money on rims like these is that a person knows they will be extremely sturdy for a long time.

Going cheap on a pair of rims for a fat bike tire is not recommended in the first place, but especially if they have holes in them. The last thing anybody wants is a disaster on the road because the rims aren’t strong enough to support everything.

For more options and to save a little bit of money, buying standard rims and customizing them, later on, is the way to go. It takes a little bit of effort for a person to drill their own holes, but it’s worth exploring for a lot of people.

How Easy Is It To Drill Holes In Rims?

There are some manufacturers that sell rims that are readily available with holes in them. This is obviously the fastest way to benefit from something like that. However, others might find a good set of rims that they enjoy, but they feel like the weight is a little too much. When that is the case, there are actually ways to drill holes into fat bike rims as a do-it-yourself project.

Some might find this to be a little intimidating to pull off, but with the proper tools, it’s pretty straightforward. Having a hole saw and a drill will make things much easier, as well as some Gorilla tape or ribbon to use afterward. Once the holes are drilled, the ribbon will protect the tire from having any type of damage done to it through the holes.

Most people go with holes in the 1-inch to 1.5-inch range. It really varies depending on how wide the rim is. Don’t go too big in the beginning, because it could compromise the ram in the end. There is always the opportunity to drill bigger holes down the road.

How Much Weight Can Be Saved Drilling Holes In the Rims?

Ideally, most people are looking for a way to save approximately 150 to 200 grams of weight per wheel. This might not seem like a ton of weight when compared to the rest of the fat bike, but it will be a noticeable improvement for a lot of riders. The bike will feel a lot more streamlined, and steering is usually improved as well.

The best part is, there are virtually no drawbacks whatsoever in drilling these holes. There might be a slightly increased chance of a puncture if the ribbon or tape used is not strong enough. Even so, it takes a freak incident for something to happen, since the holes are not facing the ground.

Why Aren’t Holes Drilled In Other Types of Bike Rims?

For most other types of bikes, rims are simply too small in width to make it worthwhile to drill holes in the rims. It might save a little bit of weight, but once the tape or ribbon is added, the change is minimal. Not only that, but a rim that is not very wide could we can with holes in them.

Fat bike rims get away with it since they are so wide. They are almost always made of extremely durable material as well, so they don’t need to 100% structurally be there.

There are a few people who drill holes in their rims for mountain bikes, but it is definitely the most beneficial for fat bike riders. Mountain bikes can only pull this off if they have particularly strong rims in general. Most people with road bikes or mountain bikes will just go for carbon rims if possible, and lose weight in that way.

Holes also work best with fat bikes because the tire walls are much thicker, and air pressure is low. Holes in the rim of a tire and high air pressure is a recipe for a flat tire or two if a person is not careful. That’s why so many people won’t even bother trying anything like this with a road bike.

How Often Should the Tape or Ribbon be Replaced?

If installed correctly, the ribbon or tape used on the rim can last a very long time. It will be exposed to the elements a bit, so there is a chance that the color could fade or tiny tears could occur. It’s very easy to take off and replace if needed, so don’t be afraid to take that extra bit of time.

Some people will also switch their ribbon or tape just because they want a slightly different look. A fully customized look can add new life to a bike after having a certain color there for a while.

Are There Any Other Reasons to Drill Holes in Fat Bike Tires?

For practical purposes, dropping weight is the only real reason why people do this. However, there are a lot of people who simply like the look of a rim that has holes in it, and they might not even realize it provides any performance benefits.

Since the ribbon or tape that protects the tire becomes very visible, some people love the ability to customize their fat bike in this unique way. A person can add any color or design they want to make it look a little bit more like a truly customized piece.

Final Thoughts

Not every fat bike rider will look into having rims with holes in them, but it is becoming more and more of a common sight. Some people truly believe that they get a performance boost with these holes in them, and it makes writing just a little easier. For others, it’s just as much about style as it is about performance.

Make sure to do all the proper research beforehand, especially if choosing the do-it-yourself method. Once drilling begins, there is no going back. It does make a weight difference, but make sure the holes aren’t too big that it compromises the strength of the rim.

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