Fat bikes are cool, and as we head towards winter (in the Northern hemisphere), you might be thinking about getting one to make sure you don’t get the winter blues. If you want to build your own fat bike, then you’ll be thinking about a frame and which one you should get. The right frame for your fat-tired build, and you’ll find no trail to hold you back this winter.
Fat bike frames
Starting your fat bike build from the frame is a great idea, as it will then allow you to know which standards you’ll need for other parts of the build. There is nothing worse than buying a set of fat bike wheels and then finding out they don’t fit any of the frames you’re thinking about buying.
The main reason for different standards for fat bike frames is how do you fit those massive tires in and still have acceptable tire clearance. You’ll find that this gives you to 2 main rear end differences on fat bike frames. You’ll discover offset rear ends, and symmetrical rear ends.
Offset fat bike frames tend to move the rear end of your bike frame 17.5mm to the right. The shift to the right allows your chain to clear the huge tires that you’ll be running. Offset designs tend to favor being used with a traditional 135mm wide axle spacing. You’ll now find that these designs are being phased out in favor of symmetrical rear ends.
Symmetrical rear ends are being used with wider hub spacing. You’ll find 170mm and 190mm rear ends are now way more common. The wider spacing allows you to have a good chain line and saves you from worrying that the chain will rub against your tire. You’ll probably want to favor one of these wider rear ends to make it easy for you to buy new wheels.
Carbon fiber or steel fat bike frame?
The next big question to think about when deciding on your new fat bike frame is do you want one made of steel or one made of carbon fiber. As with everything in life, both of these materials have their pros and cons.
The internet is full of arguments about whether steel or carbon fiber is the best material for bike frame, usually also throwing aluminum in for good measure. Rather than rehash all these arguments that many of us have seen many times over, we’ll give you one point.
Fat bikes, by their nature, require a lot of material. Due to this, they’ll always be heavier than “normal” mountain bikes. That is why it is worth thinking about carbon fiber. You can save way more with a carbon fat bike than you can with a carbon road bike. You’ll appreciate a lighter fat bike when you’re slogging through a swamp in the back end of nowhere.
Full suspension or hardtail fat bike?
The final main question you should ask yourself is if you want a full suspension or hardtail fat bike. Similar to the above choice, both of these options have their pros and cons.
If you live in an area with a big thaw and refreeze pattern, then a full suspension fat bike is a great choice. In a place like this, big ruts will develop and make most trails seem like a summer black trail. You’ll appreciate your fat bike being able to keep you rubber side down and allowing you to carry on riding in terrain that may not be as fun on a hardtail.
A hardtail is an excellent choice if you like going on adventures into the winter wonderland. If you like going on adventures, having a frame that is simpler and has less to go wrong is what could be the difference between a dreadful trip or a great one. You’ll also be spending less money on bearings and bushings if you end up riding in the sloop.
If you want a fun fat bike for icy and bad conditions, then it is worth looking at a carbon fiber full suspension fat bike frame. If you’re going to go on longer adventures and bikepacking trips, it is worth looking at a carbon fiber hardtail fat bike.