There are lots of things to take into account when you decide to buy a mountain bike – style, function, and price are all primary concerns that might impede your shopping process, but if you have a grasp on the necessary information you’ll have no problem identifying the right bike. In this guide, we’ll show you how to pick the perfect fat tire bikes for an affordable price under a thousand dollars.
Fat Tire Bikes – An Introduction
Snow bikes, Fat tire bikes, or simply “fat bikes” are one of the main styles used in casual mountain biking – they’re especially suited to snowy areas and ones with unstable terrain where the thick tires allow greater traction.
These bikes are far more suited to sand and bogs than conventional mountain bikes, giving them the immense staying presence in parts of the world where these terrains are present.
Personally, the reason I favor fat tire bikes over their more casual cousins is their versatility – during the summer I can ride my fat bike without concern for mud and in the snow, they’ve got some of the best traction available in mountain biking today.
Fat bikes are a relatively new addition to the world of mountain biking, coming into vogue in the 1980s after famed French cyclist Jean Naud used a Michelin-designed fat tire bike to cross the Sahara.
Competitive mountain biking has since adapted to offer a wide variety of events and festivals around the world, some of which involve extreme distances up to a thousand miles.
Although these bicycles cross unstable terrain much more easily than their unspecialized variants, attempts to reach the South Pole and cross Antarctica on an unassisted fat bike have failed in the past.
Key Aspects to Look Out For
Although fat tire bikes are cheaper and more readily available than specialized styles like downhill mountain bikes or freeride bikes, they can still run relatively expensive .. so these tips should help you find a bike that suits your needs but still fits your budget.
Tires: A standard fat tire bike is usually outfitted with 26-inch tires, although larger sized tires up to 30 inches in diameter are available for cyclists in extremely treacherous terrain – the bigger the tire, the more efficiently it’ll be able to push through obstacles and avoid getting stuck.
One of the most important aspects of getting the perfect ride on your fat bike is to keep your tire pressure low – this helps the bike move easily over small obstructions without being knocked off balance, ensuring a smooth ride.
When it comes to your rims, there’s a wide range of acceptable sizes – but in general, you’ll want something between 60 and 100 millimeters.
Suspension: The low pressure used in fat bike tires makes their suspensions an interesting point of analysis – although fat tire bikes are prone to engaging the kind of unsteady terrain that needs a good suspension, the low-pressure tires allow the frame to absorb impacts even with a relatively bare-bones suspension.
For the purposes of affordability, you can get away with a simple hardtail mountain bike – a sturdy frame and a stiff front fork are all you really need to absorb the drops and jumps associated with this style’s rocky terrain.
That said, if you have a more varied riding style then consider buying a fat tire bike with a full suspension – you can always switch out your fat tire rims for more conventional tires if the situation calls for it.
Q-Factor: Often confused with the similar term ‘stance width’, this is an ever-growing topic of discussion that particularly applies to the fat tire style – Q-Factor is considered to be the distance between a rider’s arms, while stance width refers more specifically to the distance between a rider’s pedals.
Fat tire bikes conventionally carry extremely wide lower brackets in order to allow the chain’s mechanical motion around the thick tires – this can create an uncomfortably wide ride that some find unpleasant, particularly those unaccustomed to the style.
Unfortunately, going narrower with the Q-Factor makes pedalling harder, and the increases in speed that result from the narrower bracket aren’t sustainable.
The Best Fat Bikes for Your Money Under $1000
Now that we know what to look for in a fat bike, it’s time to get into the gritty details and exact specifications of the most affordable offerings.
El Oso Nino 20 Fat Bike
Unlike the other fat tire bikes on this list, the El Oso Nino 20 is a children’s bike – suited for riders between 45 and 56 inches in height, it’s made from high-grade steel and manufactured by Diamondback Bikes with the utmost care.
This bike may be for children – but it’s a hardy enough machine to support even smaller adults, using a seven-speed grip shifter to make hills a more manageable task.
The weight of this bike is relatively low and it doesn’t have much trouble on hills anyway, but the extra help should keep your child’s enthusiasm for mountain biking at its peak.
You’ll find that this bike is well-suited for both snowy locales and sandy ones, meaning it’s perfect for family outings at the beach or getting your child to school on a winter day.
The responsibility of taking care of their bike as they navigate, alone or with friends, will help with developing further responsibilities later in life.
160mm disc brakes offer safety and responsiveness through fast, efficient braking – the grip triggers are adjustable to suit the reach of the specific rider, making these bicycles highly customizable and suited for most children with an interest in mountain biking as a hobby.
It can be hard to justify a purchase of this magnitude for someone too young to work – but shipping at under five hundred dollars, the El Oso Nino 20 is comparable in price to new home gaming consoles … with the trade-off that your kids might spend time outside instead of in front of the TV.
GMC Yukon Fat Bike
If it’s an adult bike you’re looking for, then you can’t do much better than the GMC Yukon. Of course, the GMC Yukon is also a famed General Motors SUV – but the version we’re looking into today might actually have more maneuverability than the beefy flagship SUV.
The Yukon uses an aluminum frame to cut down on the weight and expenses of heavier metals, each frame hand-crafted with the same care that made GMC a global powerhouse.
The seven-speed shifter comes from drivetrain powerhouse Shimano, placing a heavy emphasis on the range of situational customization.
A relatively complex drivetrain lets you fiddle with your settings to more easily traverse even the steepest hills or most treacherous ridges.
This wasn’t my first experience with GMC mountain bikes – in the past, the GMC Topkick has received a lot of praise in the mountain biking community and my experiences with the Topkick were always excellent.
The Yukon is slightly specialist and slower than its 21-speed relative, but it makes up for that loss in speed with a remarkable advantage in versatility.
Using a standard 26-inch tire with low pressure, the GMC Yukon Fat Bike can move with the dexterity and ease of a simpler machine – mud, snow, and bogs are just a few of the many terrains this fat tire bike can cross.
The Yukon comes nearer to a thousand than a few of its competitors on its list, but not by much.
Sitting around five hundred dollars if you order online, the Yukon counts on to operate effectively for years to come.
It’s a reliable bike ready to last without serving the sole purpose of being a trail bike, just as useful with street tires as the conventional fat tires.
Mongoose Vinson Fat Bike
In keeping with a brand name which the Earth’s most ferocious animals inspired, the Mongoose Vinson fat bike is a mean machine.
Also utilizing an aluminum frame, the Vinson has a rigid front fork ready to absorb drops even when you’re tilted into them.
Mongoose knows its audience, and they love to ride.
The Vinson carries the most complex drivetrain on this list with a whopping 24 speeds, controlled by trigger shifters and combined with a Shimano front rail and SRAM back rail.
You’ll find that your choices in gears are almost endless, making the Vinson a highly customizable ride you can tailor to the situation at hand. As any mountain biker knows, surprises can come from anywhere .. but with the Vinson, you’re always ready.
One reason for this bike’s ruggedness comes from the dual disk brakes, which supply a sharp stop even in snowy and icy areas.
These brakes are ready to operate equally well despite weather conditions or road hazards, an extra touch by Mongoose to go the extra mile in protecting their customers.
Like many other fat tire bikes, the Vinson will traditionally fit with 26-inch tires – but the more important aspect of the bicycle’s frame comes from the chain crank, a 3-piece system ready to reduce wear and thus reduce the need for customer repairs or taking the bike to a shop.
The Vinson and Mongoose by extension have less control of the industry than GMC, but that’s helpful for the consumer – a standard Vinson gets to your home for under three hundred dollars, with most customers reporting that the assembly took no more than a half hour to complete.
Kawasaki Sumo 4.0 Fat Bike
There are a few names that dominate the world of mountain biking, and Kawasaki is one of them – having popularized their brand of street motorcycles as well, Kawasaki’s engineers are among the leading innovators in their field.
The Kawasaki Sumo 4.0 is no exception, strapped to the gills with state-of-the-art technology.
Like others before it, this bike contains aluminum – it uses triangular and diamond shapes within the frame itself to better sustain impact even as the rigid front fork outfits in a U-bridge style.
The 21-speed Shimano shifter pairs with a matching front and back rail for a complete system, ensuring that the three components work together perfectly to support the rider’s steady ascents.
Promax disc brakes on both the front and rear wheel go the extra mile in ensuring that you’ll never slide or slip beyond where you’re trying to go; although many fat tire bikes are specifically for trail riding, they’re common enough on the road for it to be important that you can stop and turn on a dime – and the Sumo 4.0 can accomplish both with ease.
Depending on the version of the Sumo 4.0 you buy, you may receive a smattering of accessories like a free headset and clip-on handlebar covers – but the bike itself is well worth the estimated $400 value.
Gravity Monster Fat Bike
For just below $600 dollars, the Gravity Monster is a prestigious member of the mountain biking community that nonetheless comes as an exclusive offering from Bikes Direct.
Bikes Direct is a vendor and manufacturer popular by their designs on the Gravity Deadeye, but they’re making a further name for themselves with the Monster.
Carrying the conventional aluminum frame in much of this list, the Monster shakes things up with a steel handlebar fork that makes the bike even more rigid than some of its competitors.
You’ll notice a relatively complex SRAM X4 drivetrain and black alloy hubcaps with a quick release function that lets you exchange them easily, far more than you would normally expect at an affordable price.
This is the kind of bicycle for frigid winters and for carving through the snow with wire beaded 26-inch tires. The more expensive and intricate Deadeye should be a benchmark of the quality you can expect from Gravity.
But at a vastly improved price, the Monster is an excellent decision for even the most casual mountain bikers.
Fat tire bikes may be relatively new to the world of mountain biking, but their quick impression upon the world of competitive racing and casual riding is a sign of the true value of the style.
With these mountain bikes, you can find the outdoor hobby you’ve always wanted or just commute through town.