Five Fat Bike Reviews: Cheap options for riding snow & sand
Nothing on two wheels draws looks like a fat bike! They are truly compelling.
With their oversized tires and impressive traction, these bicycles can ride virtually anywhere. And they look incredible.
Since you’re probably reading this for the fat bike reviews, I don’t really need to spend too much time explaining the appeal.
Why ride a fat bike? I think the real question is why not!
Whether you’re riding on snow, mud, slick rock, sand or even ice, these monster rides give you unprecedented traction. And they’re more responsive and fun than you might think.
Unfortunately, they also tend to be expensive. So for this article, I want to focus on five cheap fat bikes that review nicely and will serve you well.
For each bicycle, I’ll go over the features, capabilities, pros and cons, along with a short verdict on what it’s best suited for. Hopefully this info will get you rolling in no time.
Ready for some reviews of inexpensive fat tire bikes? Let’s get started!
Updated! Bike models come and go. Thanks for your patience!
What To Expect
If you’ve done any shopping around, or read any reviews, you’ll know one thing: fat bikes are expensive!
There is a pretty good reason why: the frames are atypical, and as such they need to be custom made in low quantities.
They also physically have more raw materials in them, and the frames need to be beefier for the type of riding, so that pushes up the price tag.
The bicycle pictured at the top of this article is a Schlick, and while they’re amazing, beautiful bikes, they’re not exactly inexpensive. If you want a cheaper fat bike with fairly good reviews, you’re going to want to focus on the bigger brand manufacturers.
A lower budget will have some obvious detriments: due to mass production, the components aren’t going to be as nice as a custom Schlick (or similar high end brand). Instead, you’re usually looking at basic Shimano gear.
That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, it just might necessitate an upgrade down the road. Honestly, that’s half the fun.
A cheap fat bike will probably also have a heavier frame, usually steel. Again, not the end of the world, it’s just a little added weight to an already heavy bike.
On the whole, however, you can get a great quality fat tire bike for a lot less than you’d think.
Let’s check out some specific reviews now.
Raleigh Pardner: An inexpensive fat bike with great reviews
Raleigh is a worthwhile company to consider if you’re hoping to find the most bike for your money, and their Pardner is built to withstand the rigours of intense riding.
You’re probably familiar with Raleigh, it’s a big brand. Their presence in this market creates a most welcome downward pressure on everyone’s price tag.
This isn’t just a standard mountain frame with some oversized rubber on it. This is a specifically designed, fully equipped, cheap fat tire bike worth your time to consider. It’s monstrous, it’s beefy, and it’s eye catching. A total beast.
This is not only a beautiful bicycle, it’s also one of the best, cheap fat tire bikes you can find today. And here’s why.
The Pardner is priced between $800 and $900; it fluctuates and can dip lower during a sale. For that affordable price, you get a lot of bike.
The frame of this monster is made from strong and light doubled butted steel, same with the fork. Beautiful in its simplicity, no wasted steel. This ensures that the bike is tough yet lighter than you’d expect.
The frame is hard tail in style and has an aggressive, clean, modern look to it. Any fans of current mountain or BMX geometry should absolutely love how it looks.
The bottom bracket is sealed, and the crankset is a Shimano alloy with 40/30/22 gearing. The drivetrain should survive an atomic blast. The whole ride feels very dialed in, and the Shimano Alivio setup is quite versatile. It shifts nicely through its 27 speeds, and you can pretty much ride through any conditions.
The rims are identical alloy Raleigh Prospects. This bicycle rolls on 4 inch wide Chaoyang tires. They have an excellent standard tread, well suited to a wide variety of riding. For severely snowy weather I’d probably upgrade to something with more grip, but give it a whirl first, these tires may surprise you.
The ride stance is fairly aggressive, with low mountain handlebars. It’s a still a comfortable ride and you’ll appreciate the heads-up, controlled feel, especially when riding through muck. It comes in four frame sizes ranging from 15″ – 21″.
And as an added bonus, it is light! It tips the scales at 37.8 pounds, which is practically featherlight as inexpensive fat bikes go. Overall the Raleigh Pardner reviews well, among the best fat tire bikes in this price range.
Diamondback El Oso de Acero: A reasonably priced fat tire beast
Never one to be left out of the party, Diamondback has recently debuted their entry-level fat bike, and it’s a stunning offering.
Meaning “steel bear”, this appropriately named monster is capable of rolling over almost any type of terrain you’ll come across. It’s particularly well-suited to winter conditions, but it’ll crush sand too.
The custom, butted steel frame and the steel fork are built to withstand a beating (and come with a lifetime warranty.) But don’t worry, it’s a refined beast; with sealed cartridge bearings and an included rust-resistant chain, it’ll keep on trucking in harsh conditions.
The single walled wheels host huge, toothy, 26-inch Chaoyang tires, which are 4 inches in width. The rims feature cutouts to save on weight. The large (160mm) Tektro mechanical disc brakes are well-suited to mucky terrain, and they’ll stop you nicely.
For shifting, you’ve got Shimano Alivio derailleurs and shifters, and the 27 gears should keep even the pickiest cyclist happy. The 150mm rear hub spacing is a bit atypical for the genre, but shouldn’t cause you any troubles.
The lines are simple, brutal and gorgeous. The white paint on the huge black tires makes it really pop.
It comes in at just a hair over 40 pounds (around 18kg) which is certainly heavy, but not as unwieldy as many others in this neck of the woods.
Diamondback has more in this line too, El Oso and El Oso Grande, each of which carry a bigger price tag but better componentry. But their entry level option is competent in its own right. It’s a great fat tire mountain bike worth every penny of the cost.
Framed Minnesota 2.0: A good, cheap fat tire bike with “fattitude”
I think it makes perfect sense that one of the funnest fat tire bikes comes from a company known for their line of BMX bikes. With the Minnesota 2, Framed has created a fat bike with the soul of a BMX.
Not only is this a good looking ride, it’s also a lot of fun, and it is built with a shorter top tube to give you tons of control.
The frame on the Minnesota 2.0 is made from 6061 aluminum alloy, as well as the fork. The weight saved by eschewing steel is noticeable. The tubing is oversized with a classic shape. The only modern touch is the slight bend in the downtube where it meets the head. Wide flat handlebars complete the look: no nonsense and rugged.
The wheels are huge and pronounced. Framed decided to go with a 29’er wheelset for this model, and these wheels absolutely rip over debris and terrain.
The wheels are 26 inches, with single walled alloy rims and well-balanced Vee Rubber tires (4″ in width). The rims feature extensive cutouts in order to cut down on weight, and I think they look fantastic.
Framed has clearly saved money with lower end KT Quando hubs, but the quick release skewers are a nice touch.
For gearing, the Minnesota 2.0 is well equipped, with a Truvativ double crank (38/28T) paired to a SRAM X7 front and X5 rear derailleur. The shifters are X5 as well, with rapid fire trigger shifting. The X5 group offers great value as an entry level setup goes, and I wasn’t expecting to see it on any of the fat bikes reviewed today.
For stopping power, the bike relies on Avid mechanical disc brakes. I’m actually fairly high on Avid, and they certainly seem to do the trick. Hydraulics would have been preferable, but the price point is excellent so it’s hard to complain.
One of the most interesting facets of the Minnesota is the frame geometry. With a seat tube angle of 73.5°, and a shorter top tube, the riding feel is a lot more upright than either of the two other bikes listed here. And the whole ride comes in at roughly 37 pounds for a medium frame.
The BMX heritage is clear. You have excellent control, and it definitely has the free ride feel claimed by Framed. The responsive, snappy bicycle is a perfect match for trails.
For anyone who is ‘fat curious’, I’d definitely give this ride a long look. For well under a thousand bucks, it’s one of the more impressive cheap fat tire bikes available today. The Minnesota 1.0 is a good option as well.
Louis Garneau Gros Louis 4: A well-equipped, affordable fat tire bike
The Gros Louis, by Louis Garneau (which means “fat Louis” in French), has a number of advantages, and only one real disadvantage.
It’s a pretty well respected company known for quality (read “expensive”) cycling equipment; fortunately for you their fat bike is one of the cheapest offerings.
Don’t let the low price dissuade you, it’s worth a look. This particular model is one of the best fat tire bikes on the market for a few reasons.
Let’s start with the frame. It’s a tough, classic welded aluminum frame paired to an oversized front fork. The use of S6 aluminum alloy means the bike is lighter than it would be with steel, and any excess vibrations are countered by the huge tires.
It gets top marks for weight too. Assembled, it comes to 35 pounds for a medium frame. That is heavy as bikes go, but for low cost fat bikes it’s not bad at all.
Speaking of the wheels, they’re also aluminum alloy (26 inch) with square cutouts to reduce weight, and they run on Maxxis Mammoth tires with 4 inch wide tread.
The drivetrain is simple but effective: you have 27 speeds, using Shimano Acera / Altus derailleurs and EZ-Fire shifters. Basic stuff, but for the price tag it’s totally fine.
There is an added bonus not found on the other bikes: this affordable fat tire bike is equipped with hydraulic disc brakes. The Promax Deciphers are certainly low end hydraulics, but they indisputably do a better job than mechanicals.
The frame is beautiful, and the geometry is upright and planted, a good stance for mixed riding. It reminds me of a classic hardtail mountain frame, one of the vintage types from the 80s.
The bike features an alloy riser handlebar, and large composite platform pedals. It comes in a small (15″) and medium (17″) frame, which is a bit limiting, but a long seatpost ensures you have some room to adjust.
It stops with a set of mechanical disc brakes. Again,
The Fat Louis lives up to its name, and it is an enjoyable ride which rolls a lot easier than you might think. This bike handles itself well in sand, snow and muck. Its upright stance, great looks, huge tires and low price tag make this one of the better fat tire bikes around.
Dolomite: A good quality fat tire bike under $400? Believe it!
What if your budget is much lower? In the bike world, like many others, you get what you pay for. Still, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options.
Mongoose saw the opportunity, and they have somehow produced a decent quality fat bike for under $400.
The Dolomite doesn’t have the best components, and it won’t compete with any of the above models. Still, you can experience the fun and versatility of a fat tire bicycle on a tiny budget. Let’s get into it.
The Dolomite features a standard steel frame and fork with slightly oversized tubing. Riding position is neutral. It’s a 17″ frame, and unfortunately that’s your only option.
The wheels are alloy, but heavy. They’re host to unbranded 4″ tires that have a very mild tread to them. They’re best suited to light snow, sand, gravel and pavement. The whole bike is 48 pounds. Heavy? Absolutely, but still rideable. And at less than half the cost of every other bike on this list, that’s the trade-off.
I was surprised to see dual disc brakes at this price point. They’re brandless, mechanical discs that can be tuned up for decent stopping power (I do recommend a professional tune here).
For shifting and gears, you’ve got a basic Shimano Altus rear derailleur paired up to a twist grip shifter. Seven speeds should be more than enough to work with, though be prepared for some routine adjustments.
Despite its low price, this cheap fat tire bike reviews extremely well. Most people who buy it realize that it won’t compare with higher end models. It does exactly what it should: it provides fun and exercise whether on the beach or in the drifts.
If you don’t have a ton of cash, consider the Dolomite by Mongoose. It’s a good, affordable fat bike that you can easily upgrade over time.
Fat & Happy
These five are just a handful of the great, cheap fat tire bikes you can find these days. Aficionados and snobs might tell you that these budgets are too low, but I’d disagree.
The five models reviewed above are a great way for anyone who is curious about the ride quality of a fat bike to get into the category. They’re inexpensive enough that you won’t need a second mortgage to afford, but capable all the same.
They seem to have great resale value too, due to their relative rarity. So what are you waiting for? Get fat, get happy!