The Skinny on Fatbikes

Miles of empty beaches await those willing to dip their tires into the fatbike water.

Readers of this blog may have noticed the recent appearance of some conspicuously corpulent bikes in posts written by Communications Director, Dave Schlabowske. These “fatbikes”, as they’re known, are carving out a niche in the the Wisconsin cycling scene faster than Clark Griswold on a saucer sled coated with a non-caloric, silicone-based kitchen lubricant.

A fatbike is distinguished by the width of its tires. A standard mountain bike has tires that average around 2″ wide. A fatbike, by contrast, has tires that are at least twice as wide (which, our geometry teachers would remind us, results in four times as much air volume inside the tire). That extra girth makes fat bikes the bump-eating, ground-gripping, car-crushing bike equivalents of a monster truck. Okay, not car-crushing, but it’s a good mental image, isn’t it?

Thanks to all that rubber, fatbikes have the ability to go where their skinny-tired bretheren dare not – notably, on sand and snow. As you may have read, Dave and his Schlick Cycles Northpaw (which I shall henceforward refer to as the Big Fat Schlickbowske) have recently ridden over snow-covered hunting trails in northern Wisconsin and in the first annual Mustache Beach Ride along the shores of Lake We’re-Shaped-More-Like-a-Mitten-Than-You-Are.

My own fatbike experience is limited to the three weeks since my wife and I welcomed a 18″ white Surly Pugsley into the Yunk home. I haven’t had it on sand or snow yet, but the little bit of trail riding I’ve done confirms everything I’d heard or read. These things are more fun than open swim at a brewery.


Riders compete in the last Pugsley World Championship. Photo courtesy Greg Smith at

If you’re interested in buying a fatbike, you’ve got a number of options. If you want a bike like the Big Fat Schlickbowske, Milwaukee-based Schlick Cycles will be happy to custom-build one for you. Otherwise, you’ll find that most fatbikers around here are on either a Salsa Mukluk or a Surly Pugsley. The Salsa is made of aluminum, which is what beer cans are made of, and the Surly is made of steel, which is what beer kegs are made of. You really can’t go wrong. Salsas are only sold by authorized Salsa dealers, a list of which can be found here. Surlys can be purchased through any shop that has an account with Minnesota-based bike component distributor QBP, which is all of them. Entry-level models start at around $1,600. That’s not cheap, but when you consider that a 15-pound carbon fiber race bike costs about $300 per pound, you quickly realize that a 37-pound fatbike is the bargain of a lifetime. And like the jelly of the month club, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, the whole year-round.



For further reading:

Snow Biking (Silent Sports)

Fatbike vs. mountain bike (a video posted by YouTube user “OutsiderYeti”)

Winter is Here: Bring out the Fat-Bikes (Singletracks)

4 thoughts on “The Skinny on Fatbikes

  1. Thank you dave. Just did tuscubia and as always my bike worked perfectly. There is nothing as peaceful like riding on a snow covered trail at night thanks Wisconsin

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