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Fat-bike 101 – Tires


Fat-bike-101-Tires

This article is part of the Fat-bike 101 series and is intended to help new fat-bike owners, and potential fat-bike owners, with some of the questions they may have about fat-bikes. In addition, it is a chance for experienced riders to add comments to help our new brethren enjoy all that fat-biking offers. Consider these articles as conversation starters, not exhaustive explanations!

Fat-bike 101 Tires

A major component of fat-bikes is, of course, the tires. While in the early days of the current fat-bike phenomenon soft condition riders where forced into some DIY solutions, like sewing two tires together, the modern fat-bike really came into its own with the introduction several years ago of the Surly Endomorph; the first commercially available fat-bike tire that was available in quantities large enough to allow multiple builders to begin to explore the boundaries of fat-bike design. Since the Endo, Surly has dominated the fat-bike tire market but there are some new kids on the block that deserve looking at including 45NRTH and the new offerings from VeeRubber.

Fat-bike tires are typically marked as 26 x 4.0 though most are really more like 26 x 3.7 or 3.8. The actual size of the mounted tire will vary depending on the rim width used for the wheel. We will discuss fat-bike rims in a future article but fat-bike rims currently run from 44mm all the way up to 100mm with rims as wide as 140/160mm possibly on the way.

Big Air Volume

So, fat-bikes use big tires. But why? Well, it is for all that air volume and the gigantic footprint that let you go in comfort and control where other bikes, and even people, have feared to tread. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t take and extreme adventure to really appreciate the extra grip, shock absorbing quality and added comfort of fat-tires, just a desire to expand your boundaries.

About Tire Pressure

Tire pressure, and the ability to change it for different conditions, is the key to fat-biking and to enjoying your rides. Fat-bike tires are very sensitive to tire pressure changes. Because of the large volume of air a difference of just a 1 or 2 PSI will make a noticeable difference in how the tire interacts with the terrain. Typically, fat-bike riders use pressures in the 8PSI range for soft conditions, 12-15PSI for trail riding and 20-25PSI for on-road or urban riding. Experiment! You will find what works for you.

On the very low end, depending on your weight and setup, pressures as low as 4PSI can be used. You’ll see wrinkly sidewalls kind of like a dragster coming up to the line!

The common theory on how high a pressure you can run on trails is the point at which you begin to bounce a lot as opposed to floating over terrain.

For the road you can run up to 30PSI in a fat-bike tire but you may find that 20-25PSI will roll fast enough and still take the edge off pot holes, pavement cracks and other urban hazards.

dial-guageAbout Tire Pressure Gauges

Most common tire pressure gauges are not sensitive enough at the low end to accurately read the 4-15PSI commonly use by fat-bikers. Frankly, it is more of a “feel” and experience thing but an accurate gauge like the Accu-gages from Meiser (we like the 0-30PSI version) can help you get a feel for what to use when you are starting out with fat-bikes. Lots of local bike shops carry, or can get, these gauges.

Enter the BFL

Two years ago Surly fired another shot at the bigger-is-better wall with the introduction of the 26 x 5.0 Big Fat Larry designed to work on their Moonlander but also appropriate on most fat-bike front wheels as well as the rear of several current fat-bike frames out there. Most older frames were designed before this massive tire was introduced and may or may not work. Also, some drive train mods may be needed to make sure the chain clears the tires.

Since the BFL Surly have introduced 2 more 26 x 5.0 tires with more aggressive tread patterns called the Bud and the Lou. These tires were designed as a front-specific and rear-specific pair and can really stretch the boundaries of where fat-bikes can be ridden.

Available Tires

Here is a listing of tires that are intended for the fat-bike market. Note that everyone has their favorite if they’ve been riding fat-bikes for a while but what’s best for them may not be best for you. With the stock tires on a Pugsley, a Mukluk or any other fat-bike you will be able to go places you’ve never been able to before and, with some experience, you will learn what you like and be able to make your own choices for what works best for you. Get experienced, Ride!

  • 45NRTH Husker Du
  • 45NRTH Escalator
  • 45NRTH Dillinger
  • Surly Endomorph
  • Surly Larry
  • Surly Nate
  • Surly Big Fat Larry
  • Surly Black Floyd
  • Surly Bud
  • Surly Lou
  • Surly Knard
  • Vee Rubber Mission
  • VeeRubber Mission 2
  • VeeRubber Vee8
  • On One Floater
  • Origin8 Devist-8er 2
  • Origin8 Devist-8er UL

If you are an experienced fat-biker please consider leaving a comment below to help newbies get maximum enjoyment from their ride.

If you have a topic you’d like for us to open up a dialog on, please send us a note to fatbike101@fat-bike.com and we will do our best to cover it.

57 Responses to Fat-bike 101 – Tires

  1. Quinn March 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    I am a newbie, wish you would have labeled the photo, I recognize all but 3, the Upper Right tire, and the two in the Lower Right, which tires are they?

    • JYB March 29, 2013 at 7:54 am #

      The tire in the upper right = Vee Rubber Vee8 (don’t think it’s available to the public yet).
      The lower right tires are Vee Rubber Mission (very adequate for the price point) and Vee Rubber Speedster (don’t think it’s available to the public yet).

      • JR Z April 2, 2013 at 8:35 am #

        Vee Rubber Speedster comes on Sun Bicycles’ cruiser bikes branded as a SunLite tire, but SunLite doesn’t list on their website.

  2. Lance March 29, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    we’re missing the “spider” and walmarts new tire (lol).
    Great post, i might suggest that updates are posted as new tires come out.

    • JR Z April 2, 2013 at 8:38 am #

      Not to mention the TommiSea Fat Sand Bike tires as a “big casing” alternative to B/L and BFLs.

  3. Doug March 29, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    Did you guys ever get an official date for the release of the Vee8? I thought I heard “maybe June” but wondering if that means beginning or end.

  4. steve o March 31, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    I have spent a full year on BFLs and studed them for the winter. They didn’t seem to be very good on slipery trails, so I got bud and lou and all is better. My moonlander is now my favorite mtn. bike not just my winter bike. When it comes time to replace these I will put lou front and rear in oposeing directions.

  5. Thomas Stephan March 31, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    I currently roll with Bud and Lou covering Clone Shoes on a Moonlander. I might go back toBFLs for summer. 15-18 seem to fit as I frequent urban areas hard trails and commute.

  6. freisianpug April 1, 2013 at 3:16 am #

    When considering tyres don’t hesitate to think going tubeless – saving half a kilo per wheel l

  7. freisianpug April 1, 2013 at 3:20 am #

    …per wheel is a huge advantage, especially if you go tubeless on some of the new ultralight versions of the tyres out now. Puncture resistance and weight saving in one convenient package!

    • Brian May 25, 2014 at 3:30 am #

      Tubeless riding over the 1.5yrs. It is the only way to roll. Used to get flats regularly and spent $$$ on tubes. No flats now, lighter, and more responsive riding. I have Larry’s, endomorph, BFL, and husker du. The husker du’s are my fav. I use my 80mm Rolling D. Over my Clown s. I think the 100mm is overkill. I make it through most light pow, but wet deep heavy snow nothing works. Next will be the track design like a snow mobile aka the fat trax. Like to try a skinnier rim with a 4.8 tire to see how that holds up.

      • rich May 25, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

        Hey, was wondering if you could help me out. Im running on origin 8 devistors and my front tire makes a rubbing noise. like when rubber rubs on metal. It only does this when i lower the pressure. Im not lowering it thatmuch maybe15 pounds. Do I have a bad tire? Rim? Thanks rich

      • Ernesto January 22, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

        Please let me know if you want to get rid of the clown shoes. 🙂 I’ll buy them!

      • lane August 24, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

        Went to a 100mm rim with bflou’s to gain wider foot print. It made a significant difference in foot print for beach rides on my surley but only can do on front.

  8. E April 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Well done.
    Do more articles like this.
    We are grateful for your information.

  9. Joe Taylor May 30, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    Guys n gals, I ride mostly forest trails and off piste, but occasionally beaches too. I’ve had Larrys both ends and found they lack drive in the rear but handle excellently even on tarmac 🙂
    I bought a pair of Vee Missions and found them to be very heavy even in folding bead, to roll slowly, self steer unless they were pumped hard, and generally feel demoralizing on the bike.
    I’ve just popped a Larry back on the front with a Knard on the back and my bike feels super zippy, grippy, rippy and fun – i.e. it drives, stops, steers, rolls fast and still even works on tarmac 🙂
    My grin is back

  10. Chris August 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    I am new to this.
    I want to put fatter tyres on my existing bike, without changing my rims.
    Do any of these monsters fit on a regular mountain-bike rim?
    I’ve got clearance enough to fit 3.5 inches width on my frame.
    Also – do I need different inner-tubes?

    • Sven Haamer August 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      Chris, in general you’d need a frame that is specifically made for fat-bike tires but some folks have made unusual combos work. Do have a local shop that can help out?

  11. Robert August 28, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    What tires in size 3.8-4.0 are best for front and rear, for dry and loose terrains?

    • Jason Laramie September 19, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

      What did you find out? This is what is like to know too.

  12. JerryQ September 20, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    Specialized is coming out with a 26 x 4.8 Control for their FatBoy in November 2013. That is according to their website 🙂

  13. Brad December 19, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    I just bought a Charge Cooker Maxi to ride in the Colo winter. I’ve had it less than a week & I have noticed that at higher speeds (& even at slower speeds) it can be a hand full while negotiating corners. I have played a bit with tire pressures but to no avail. Could different tires help?

    • Scott Rozsa December 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      Yes Brad, I have the Cooker too, the tires are terrible in snow! I have switched to Nates and they make a huge difference!

  14. BrianO February 3, 2014 at 3:00 am #

    Same here. I have a Charge Cooker Maxi and ended up putting Nates on mine. Huge difference.

  15. Joe Newton (@thunder_night) February 11, 2014 at 1:02 am #

    Pressure gages – So is there a 0-30psi Meiser gage for Presta valves?

  16. paul November 14, 2014 at 3:34 am #

    Hi just bought a fat bike what is the recommended tyre pressure for my body weight / iam 10stone or 62 kg totally lost cheers

  17. Tyler November 26, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    I have a new fat bike with 4.5 snowshoes on 80mm rims and I’m having trouble dialing in the correct preasure I should run for in the snow any suggestions?? (I weigh 140lbs)

    • Carl November 28, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

      @Tyler- if tubeless I would go down to 4-7lbs for snow at your weight and a smidge higher if running tubes (6-9lbs) or as soft as you can go without getting too squirmy or pinch flats if rocks and roots, have fun!

  18. Joe November 30, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    Getting my first fat bike soon – could someone explain the pro/cons of a tire with a 120 tpi versus a 27 tpi? Thanks

    • Tod December 9, 2014 at 11:16 am #

      TPI= Threads Per Inch.
      More threads and less rubber. With less rubber you have lighter tires and more supple tires.
      More TPI=more expensive

  19. Dean December 22, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    Thanks for all the good info. Now you can add the Panaracer Fat-B-Nimble to the list. I just put one on the front of my Mukluk, I love the tire. I’m jus getting my psi dialed in on the dirt single track down here in Florida.

  20. dave February 20, 2015 at 10:53 am #

    love the 101 – but even approx prices and names on the tires would be great for those of us researching thx

  21. Tomás March 10, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    Hola deseo comprar las ruedas 26×4 que sean para la carretera y la piña de la rueda trasera para haserla de cambios y acerla y modificarla a frenos de disco les agradeseria saber el precio de todo por favor respondanme

  22. jonbait March 13, 2015 at 12:13 am #

    Does TPI make a difference in speed? What would be the fastest and least resistant tires? Would tires like the spider design ones on the element 604 be the worst kind?

  23. Jeff Dieffenbach March 14, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    I’ve just gotten into fat biking, am having a blast. I just ordered an Accu-Gage to measure pressure, would love to hear suggestions for the best pump to use. I’ve got a regular floor pump for my road bike, but am curious about the battery powered pumps that use the same form factor as cordless drills. Worth the money, or just use the floor pump.

    FYI, I’ve searched around for the relative amount of air in a fat bike tire at 5-10 psi vs. a road tire at 85-100 psi. I didn’t find anything, so I did some math, but not sure I did it right.

    The fat bike tire has about 20x the volume of the road tire, but given the much lower pressure, I’m estimating that it’s 4x the air. Does that sound right?

  24. Vince March 22, 2015 at 7:25 am #

    Hi folks!

    About tires!! Yes!! Since a while, i’m interesting about the tubeless, I read a lot of good things about that, everybody who try it loves it!!!

    But recently, I ask the question to an experimented mecanic and told me than tubeless is a bit risky if you’re going for long distance trip and you have to change (unfortunately!!) a tire in the middle of nowhere, than you need a compressor to pop the tire in the rim?!? Is that true (still true??)

    Thanks!

    • Gomez March 22, 2015 at 8:37 am #

      I carry a tube to fix a flat that would not self seal. Tire cuts and tears won’t seal either. I have seen a tire that got skewered by a sharp branch that was about a half inch in diameter go completely through a tire and out the sidewall, yet seal with a tubeless set-up and still hold air. If you carry a pump, tube and a patch kit you will not need a compressor. On a long trip, I would probably carry two tubes, a pump and a patch kit.

      • Vince March 23, 2015 at 6:53 am #

        Thanks Gomez!

  25. grant July 7, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    I have recently purchased a 20″ day tire bike. I’m not big into mountain bikes and I have all ways riden a bmx bike so it was a better fit. The bike came with street tires on and I have searched over 50 websites looking for a knobby style tire. Does any body know a website that sells 20″ × 4″ knobby tires?

    • Gomez July 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

      Specialized

  26. Annie whirlwind September 7, 2015 at 3:57 am #

    So I am a newbie and want a fat tire bike for the beach. Deep loose sand obviously packed near water edge . Can I buy a WALMART bike with correct tires added? I do like the duke do including the cool spider tires. On road I ride a derosa and triathlon use a Cervelo. All my $$$ been spent there.
    Also single speed? Seems you want sine gearing, but sand can DESTROY. Do plan to use in snow if we get it. I’m Westchester ny! Thanks

    • Gomez September 7, 2015 at 8:26 am #

      Never buy a bike at Walmart.

  27. Sunlight Daylight November 10, 2015 at 4:44 am #

    I am planning on building up a yuba mundo fat bike, but I want to stick with my standard MTB rims. They are quite wide (Sun Rhyno Lite XL), so what would you think 3″ or 3.5″.

    The frame has clearance, but the fork will need to be swapped out for something from Surly.

  28. Jay February 25, 2016 at 5:42 am #

    I just bought my first fat bike. I got a KHS 4 Season 500. It came with 26×4 tires. I want to put on 26×4.8 tires. Will they fit? Do I need to buy a rim that will support that tire size first? Just trying to plan ahead.

    Jay

  29. will June 24, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

    was wondering would the black floyd tires go on a 80mm and 100mm rim. looking for opinions. its for a cruiser bike….

    • Gomez June 25, 2016 at 11:52 am #

      Yes they will.

  30. Mark July 31, 2016 at 6:33 pm #

    Hey all I currently have Surly Rolling Darryl Rims and
    Surly Nate Tires 26×4.0. I need to get some street tires. Any suggestions? I like how the Surly Black Floyds look but was wondering if there are any other cool options for my rims?

    Thanks Fatty People!
    Wojo

    • Gomez August 1, 2016 at 8:24 am #

      Vee also make a tire called the speedster that is great for the pavement or gravel.

  31. Glenn H. Kletzky August 28, 2016 at 9:08 am #

    First time poster.

    I live in Denver and rode my electric bike to work everyday this summer. I’m an older guy and not a young buck who wants to shred mountains trails. This is all about health but safety for me.

    This week, I bought an e-Motion big bug all wheel drive electric so I can ride all winter. I’m exploring helmets, bar mitts etc, but my big concern is tires

    Will the stick tires protect me from slipping on ice, I will be riding urban with concrete, snow and ice patches all mixed together in my 10 mile run each morning and each night. I worry about ice patches I will certainly encounter.

    Advice on tires and facts about all rubber Xa partial metal stud tires would be appreciated

    • Gomez August 28, 2016 at 10:11 am #

      Glen! Snow conditions seldom require studs, but on ice, studded tires are the jam. There are a few fat-bike tires that come with studs and there is a a company that makes studs that you can screw into the lugs of regular fat-bike tires.
      Studded Tires – 45North Dlillinger, Vee Tire SnowshowXL and Snowshoe Avalanche, Bontrager Gnarwhal
      Grip Studs – http://www.gripstuds.com/

  32. Timmy October 23, 2016 at 11:32 am #

    I’m a big dude and riding my Pug in New England. I am thinking about some new tires for the winter. Maybe 120TPI Nate on the rear and a BFL on the front? Thoughts?

    I ride Knards in the dirt and love ’em.

    • Gomez October 25, 2016 at 8:47 am #

      I’d recommend a Vittoria Bomboloni for the front – A Nate is a great choice in the rear.

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