Once a novelty built just for snow and sand, fatties are diversifying and growing up. This year, we tested a crop of impressive newcomers so capable and versatile that the idea of investing in a one-quiver fat bike doesn't seem so far-fetched after all.
Specialized S-Works Fatboy Carbon
Best For: Fat Bikers in Skin Suits
The Fatboy feels as if it came straight from Specialized’s road-racing department. It’s made from snappy molded carbon, and the cables are all routed internally. At just 23 pounds, it’s lighter than most hardtails with tires less than half the size of its 4.6-inch-wide treads. The rest is a study in minimalism: the 85-millimeter Hed carbon rims are tougher than their 15.7-ounce weight would suggest; the stripped-down Race Face Next SL crank is one of the lightest 1x11 options available; and ample front-tire clearance makes the brawny fork look svelte. Two models with budget-conscious components go for $6,000 and $3,200, respectively.
Reeb Reebdonkadonk ABT
Best For: Crushing the Elements
Created by the guys at Oskar Blues—the Longmont, Colorado, brewery that deals in small-batch singlespeeds on the side—the Reebdonkadonk is the burliest fat bike we’ve ever ridden. It’s constructed of lightweight, American-made OX Platinum steel, with wide-diameter tubes for stiffness. Ours ran on a Gates Carbon Drive and Rohloff internal hub, both of which proved virtually impervious to mud and snow. And with a gear range as big as a triple mountain bike’s, the Rohloff was good for crawling up even the steepest pitches despite the bike’s hefty 34 pounds. Meanwhile, the KS Suspension Lev dropper post, 800-millimeter-wide bars, and 4.8-inch Surly tires made technical descents nearly as easy as on a long-travel, full-suspension ride. When it comes to pure fun, versatility, and bling factor, not many bikes can out-donk this Reeb.
Trek Farley 9.8
Best For: Versatility
Trek upgraded its Farley from 26-inch wheels to a more versatile 27.5, claiming they make the bike roll faster and easier. The four-inch Bontrager tires mounted tubeless on the carbon Trek wheels did feel quick and responsive, both cruising along snowy roads and smashing down midwinter singletrack. But thanks to Trek’s sliding dropouts, you can run everything from the fattest 26-inch wheels to 29ers, making this perhaps the most adaptable fat bike on the market. The cost stays low(er) because of SRAM’s X1 drivetrain, which has the simplicity of a single-ring setup while still weighing less than anything with a front derailleur. And while the carbon frame looks surprisingly similar to the Specialized’s, the price tag makes the Farley more attainable.