Snow Bike (Fat Bike) FAQ

Snow bikes can mean a variety of things, but in this case, we’re talking about the fat-tired bicycles. In other words, fat bikes for riding in the snow. Fat bikes have existed for a few years, but are just now getting mainstream attention, showing up in bike shops all around the country. They are more commonly called fat bikes, though sometimes they get the moniker of snow bikes or sand bikes, owing to the two environments where they perform best.

Can I convert a normal bike into a snow bike?
Not easily. Snow bikes, or fat bikes, have a lot that’s different from even the biggest mountain bikes. Custom forks, crank sets, and offset drivetrains are just the beginning. Most also have a different frame geometry than traditional bikes. So unless you’re ready to do some welding and serious Franken-biking, you’ll need to start fresh.

How big are the tires?
Tires are typically around 3 to 3.5 inches, though some can get up to more than 4 inches across. To accommodate these tires, you’ll see rims anywhere from 60 to 100 mm wide, with the most common size being 80 mm.

What are the advantages?
Without getting a physics lesson, snow bikes are advantageous because they distribute your weight across a larger area, which means you don’t sink into soft terrain like sand and snow. Those fat tires also allow for extremely low tire pressures, like 10 psi low, so you get absurd traction.

What are the disadvantages?
They weigh more than a dozen pregnant cats for one thing. All those enlarged pieces: fork, tires, rims, etc. add up to a very heavy bike. That weight, combined with the wider tires also mean more resistance when you start up an incline. Many riders will even notice the resistance when on flat surfaces.

How much do they cost?
For now, there are no Wal-Mart or Target versions of snow bikes. Though they are getting more popular, they are still a very niche market in the biking world. Translated, this means that aren’t going to be cheap. Expect to pay at least $1,500 and up to $5,000.

How can I try one?
The best way to get on a snow bike is by renting one. Lots of bike shops, particularly those around beaches or mountains have started to carry rental snow bikes, fat bikes, or sand bikes. For a small fee, you can see what all the hype is about and see if getting fat might be just the thing for you.