Rigid or Suspension... What's Best For Fat Biking?
The world of fat biking is going strong and seems to be ever changing with new products to improve performance and cut down on weight. More new frames coming to market are using the same geometry as a regular sized traditional mountain bike. Tires are becoming better with rolling resistance by the day... and lighter!
One of the biggest advancements in mountain biking was the invention of the suspension fork. It allowed us to get down some gnarly trails that were otherwise un-rideable and was the beginning of modern mountain biking as we know it. Jump forward to today with fat bikes and we are almost repeating the same cycle again. We have gone back in time to rigid frame technologically. Or have we?
Most fat bike builds on the market today are sold with a rigid fork. As long as the headtube of the bike is tapered then you can swap in a fat bike suspension fork from one of the big brands. A tapered headtube is standard on all modern mountain bikes but isn’t the case with all fat bikes out there for sale. Some fat bikes are designed more like town cruisers than mountain bikes. Not everyone is planning to ride rugged trails on their fatty and bike companies know this. Some unfortunately are offering rigid forks that can only fit a 135mm when the standard is now 150mm as is the case with Rocky Mountain Bikes for example. Their Blizzard series fat bikes are 135mm upfront which greatly limits your wheel options. So, upgrading to a suspension fork will get you to 150mm spacing up front too. Yay!
Here at Fat Bike Asinine we really like having a suspension fork on our fatties. In fact, we’re upgrading a 2020 Rocky Mountain Blizzard to a 100mm travel RockShox Bluto fork (it comes in 120mm travel too, but that will probably change the geometry of your fatty so be aware). We just received the new fork in the mail and will be doing an install video soon. We’ve tried forks from Manitou and Wren as well but, have settled on the Rockshox Bluto RCT3 (newest version) due to a couple factors. One is that the Manitou Mastodon fork doesn’t fit in a hitch mounted Rocky Mounts bike rack. The front tire lock can’t fit around it! (Aahhhhh!) However, the biggest reason why we like Rockshox is because of weight. Fat bikes are already heavy enough and the Bluto is the lightest of the bunch.
For the most part, fat bikes are marketed by saying that the big tires will absorb the bumps like a suspension fork. Well sort of. They certainly do with lower air pressures. Unfortunately, when you run the tires with too low of pressure you get added rolling resistance which makes fat biking not as fun. Swapping in a suspension fork with allow you to ride with higher air pressure in the tires in turn cutting down the rolling resistance and keep sidewalls from flexing as much giving you more control.
When riding on soft snow and sand we at Fat Bike Asinine often find ourselves fully locking out the suspension fork for a smoother ride. The suspension adds extra bounce on top of already low tire pressure when you’re pedaling. This causes you to waste energy… something you can’t afford during snow biking sessions for sure. It’s already a major workout just riding fat bikes in general let alone on soft snow with high rolling resistance! Add in an extra bounce with each pedal stroke and you’re sure to have a lousy day riding.
So, depending on the type of riding you want to do on your fat bike will determine whether or not you need a suspension fork. Essentially, if you want to ride mountain bike trails on your fatty then you need one. Otherwise, stick with a rigid fork and maybe consider going carbon fiber to further cut down on the overall weight of your beast. The big factor is always going to be weight when talking about anything fat biking. Lighter is always better when it comes to fat bikes. So, if you don’t need it then don’t add extra weight to your bike. Are you planning to stay rigid, upgrade to a suspension fork or do you already have one? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Thanks for reading. Look for regular blog uploads from Fat Bike Asinine. It is going to be fun. If there’s anything you think would be good to discuss on this blog send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Until Next Time… Go Fat Biking!
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