A Fatbike's main advantage is its very wide tires, which make it very stable and performing on snow or soft and slippery ground, like sand or mud. Its tires, often four inches or more, are not fully inflated (0.5 to 0.7 bar) and act as shock absorbers. There is, therefore, no need for a suspension system.
The idea is not a new one. Even though we can find references to fatbikes as soon as the twenties and thirties, it's really Jean Naud, a French cyclist, that built the first modern Fatbike in 1980. A few adventurous riders started riding Fatbikes around the year 2000, but the sport did not fully take off until only recently.
From early on, a few pioneering brands helped develop Fatbiking. For example, in 2005, Surly Puglsecoy launched a sort of "mountain bike" with very large tires that sold in several bike stores in the United States. A few other companies followed suit. Among them, Fatback, a company based in Alaska, marketed an aluminum bike with a symmetrical frame and very wide hubs, not unlike the ones we now find on many Fatbike models.
With the growing popularity of this new kind of bike, several major manufacturers, including Trek, Specialized, Scott, Kona, and KHS, started offering cheaper alternatives. Overall, prices range from about $1,000 to $6,000, depending on the chosen model.
Many resorts and outdoor centres have started allowing Fatbikes on their snowshoe and cross-country ski trails. Some have even created new ones and set them aside exclusively for Fatbikes. Fatbiking events are even popping up everywhere. Among them are the Grand Fat Tour, the Défi Nordique, the Mammouth Courses Hivernales, and the Traversée du Lac Saint-Jean.
Although Fatbiking is still very much thought of as a winter sport, it is, in fact, a year-round activity. When the snow melts, everything becomes a play area for these bikes: sandy hills, the banks of the St-Lawrence River, even sparsely wooded land. Think of how often you can ride your Fatbike over a one-year period, and you will soon realize that Fatbikes are a very cost effective option.
Has your curiosity been piqued at all? If so, you're in luck! You can rent a Fatbike in a number of bike shops throughout Quebec and have a go at it. Sift through the list of trails available in Quebec and find one near you. Then head out and enjoy a brand new way of playing outside, whatever the season!