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Fat tire e-bikes now account for a substantial slice of new electric bike sales in the USA, and other parts of the world. These behemoths of the e-bike world have polarized opinions, with some people dismissing them as unnecessary, while others sing their praises. In this article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of fat tire e-bikes to see if they’re worth considering for practical daily transport.

fat tire e-bike pros and cons
An Engwe Folding Fat Tire E-Bike

Fat Tire E-Bike Pros

1. Comfort

Like or loathe them, there’s no denying fat tire e-bikes are comfortable. Having those massive 4 inch tires, removes a lot of road chatter, and takes the sting out of potholes and such like. Factor in front or rear suspension, and you end up with a ‘magic carpet’ ride.

2. Great for Riding on Sand and Snow

Fat tire bikes were originally developed way back in the 90’s by riders living in extreme parts of the US. From the hot deserts of New Mexico, through to the frozen tundra of Alaska, fat bikes emerged out of necessity. Ironically, nowadays most fat tire e-bikes are ridden on asphalt, but they do ride well on wet sand. They’re also great in the snow, as long as tire pressures are lowered accordingly.

3. Suitable for Heavier Riders

Finding a suitable e-bike if you’re a heavier rider can be tricky if you stick with the big-name brands. Most have upper rider weight limits of 264 lbs / 120 kg. The extra wide tires on fat bikes provide extra cushioning and stability. In addition, most fat tire electric bikes seem to have upper weight limits of 330 lbs and above, with some going as high as 400 lbs.

4. They Look Pretty Good

This is a personal choice. When I first started to see fat bikes in bike stores a few years back, I have to admit, I thought they looked pretty cool. Those 4 inch tires give the bike an imposing presence. I can see the appeal, but I know a lot of people who think they just look ridiculous – each to their own I guess!

5. Dealing with Obstacles

If you accidentally ride over some road debris on a regular e-bike with skinny 35 mm tires. The chances are you may damage your rim, or worse still come off the bike. The bigger the tire, the less of a problem this becomes. Plus, if you want to be more adventurous and ride more challenging terrain, fat tires cope pretty well.

fat tire e-bikes pros and cons
My Fiido T1 Pro Fat Tire Cargo Bike

Fat Tire E-Bike Cons

1. Heavy Weight

There’s no escaping the weight penalty. Fat tire e-bikes have beefier, heavier frames, big wheels, big motors and bigger batteries. Plus, they usually have suspension (which I think is unnecessary). I have never tested a fat e-bike that weighed under 70 lbs, and have ridden some that are close to 85 lbs. To put that into perspective, my lightest road bike weighs 18.5 lbs. If I jump on my road bike after riding an electric fat bike with 750-watt motor, it feels really quick.

2. Rolling Resistance

Rolling resistance is a big factor when riding a bike, along with aerodynamics. Fat tire e-bikes perform very poorly in both. A typical Kenda Juggernaut 26 x 4″ tire produced a massive 38-watts of resistance when tested at 16 psi [source]. Plus, they’re heavy, weighing in at nearly 2 lbs per tire. When you compare that with a Schwalbe Marathon Almotion 700 x 40c – the resistance is 17-watts [source] – a difference of 20-watts per tire. When you consider most fat tire e-bikes are never ridden off-road, that’s a lot of wasted energy!

3. Hard to Pedal Without Assist

Picture the scenario. You’ve overestimated the battery range of your e-bike – we all do it from time to time. And you find yourself having to pedal without motor assistance for the last few miles. Trying to pedal a 70 lb fat tire electric bike without assist ain’t easy, especially if you find yourself faced with a hill! Also, you may want to conserve battery power on longer rides by pedaling without assist for periods of time. You can get away with it on flat or slightly downhill sections, but the minute there’s a slight gradient, your legs will be begging for help!

4. Reduced Battery Range

Battery range and efficiency is directly linked to bike weight, rolling resistance and aerodynamics. Fat tire e-bikes are heavy, have high rolling resistance and poor aerodynamics. This means, a 48v 13Ah battery is going to give you less range on a fat e-bike than something like a hybrid / city e-bike. This is the main reason most electric fat bikes have big 48v 20Ah / 960Wh batteries fitted. This does go some way to mitigating the extra weight / energy consumption.

Most manufacturers wildly exaggerate battery ranges. For example my Fiido T1 cargo e-bike has a claimed maximum of 93 miles. The reality is, I get about 35 miles riding in level 2 assist on hilly country backroads. I always recommend looking at the claimed range and reducing by at least 50%.

5. Sizing

Most fat tire e-bikes are usually ‘one size fits all’ – I’m just over 6 ft, and I’ve never had an issue with sizing. Most folding electric fat bikes are okay, and can be ridden by riders from about 5’2″ all the way up to around 6’4″. The larger hardtail and full-suspension bikes like the Cyrusher XF800 are quite long. There is usually plenty of adjustment in saddle height, but to bring the handlebars closer, you may need to fit shorter or adjustable handlebar stems.

6. Maintenance Costs

Along with the increased weight comes increased wear and tear on some of the components. The obvious one is tire price. Although fat tires are easy to come by, they can be more expensive than regular-sized counterparts. In addition, inner tubes cost more as well. Then there’s increased wear of the brake pads and wheel bearings. Finally, a lot of these bikes have unnecessary suspension systems fitted. You have linkages and bushings to think about. These suspension units are usually unbranded budget items and will not be as durable as something by a premium brand like Rockshox.

addmotor fat tire cargo e-bike
A fat tire cargo e-bike

Conclusion- Are Fat Tire E-Bikes Worth It?

Fat tire e-bikes are here to stay. Sales aren’t showing any signs of slowing down, and more manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon. If you’re thinking of buying a fat tire e-bike, you need to ask yourself the question – do you really need one? If you plan on riding mainly roads, I don’t see the point. If you want an electric bike for a mixture of on and off-road riding, maybe you’d be better off with a regular electric mountain bike. Fat bikes really come into their own on surfaces like sand, mud and snow – if these are likely to factor into your daily riding, then I would wholeheartedly recommend one.

What do you think of fat tire e-bikes? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Meet Tony, a passionate e-bike advocate and enthusiast who discovered the life-changing benefits of electric bikes back in 2016. Tony's journey began after gaining weight and neglecting his health in his forties, as a result his doctor advised him to get an electric bike to help him tackle the steep hills in his area and inspire him to get fit. Since that time, Tony has become a true believer in the power of e-bikes, using them to transform his own health and inspiring others to do the same. Tony’s technical experience within the e-bike field was gained while running a successful electric bike conversion business for 5 years in his home county of Cornwall, UK.

Tony has 238 posts and counting. See all posts by Tony

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