Are you searching for the best fat bike for snow, sand, or year-round riding? In the past three years, we've tested 15 models, and for 2020 we focus on eight of the best. Our testers spent months riding these bikes on groomed and packed snow, dirt, sand, and a mix of smooth and rough terrain. We rode them back to back for comparison and to gain an understanding of their performance characteristics. While riding, our testers focused on each model's climbing, descending, and all-around performance, as well as the geometry and component specification. We hope this detailed comparative review helps you find the fat bike that suits your needs and budget.
The Best Fat Bikes of 2020
Best Overall Fat Bike
Giant Yukon 1
Giant's entry into the fat bike market was long overdue, but it seems they did their homework when they created the Yukon 1. This fully rigid model features a sleek-looking aluminum frame paired with a composite fork. The moderate geometry feels just right and this bike is comfortable and adept at tackling snow, sand, even some light-duty trail riding. It's stable at speed yet plenty maneuverable and reasonably capable on steeper rougher terrain with a skilled pilot. It also comes with a dropper post which boosts the fun factor and takes its performance on the descents to another level. The Yukon climbs as well as it descends, with a great body position and a quality component specification and massive tires with decent rolling speed and loads of climbing traction.
While we found little not to like about the Yukon 1, it wouldn't be our first choice for trail riding. While it is a competent descender, it is a rigid bike and can be a bit jarring over the really rough stuff. It's also moderately heavy and the massive tires can feel a bit draggy outside of the typical fat bike conditions. That said, for proper fat bike riding, the Yukon 1 really impressed us with its all-around performance and we've given it our Editor's Choice Award.
Read review: Giant Yukon 1
Best Bang for the Buck
Rocky Mountain Blizzard 20 2020
The Rocky Mountain Blizzard 20 is a reasonably priced and impressively capable fat bike and we've given it our Best Buy Award. Rocky Mountain broke the traditional mold by giving the Blizzard a somewhat more aggressive geometry, especially the slacker headtube angle of 67-degrees. Due to the fact that it is longer and slacker than the competition this bike has a notably more confident feel when pointed down steeper or slightly rougher terrain. It's still a rigid bike, but it feels more composed than other models with more conservative geometries. The seated pedaling position is comfortable, and this bike plods along flat terrain and moderately pitched climbs just fine. The build is budget-oriented but perfectly functional, and the massive 4.8-inch tires have loads of traction and help dampen the ride.
The biggest gripe our testers had with the Blizzard 20 is the weight. At over 35 lbs, the Blizzard is the heaviest bike we've tested, and by a fair amount. This weight makes it feel a bit sluggish all around, but especially when climbing. Our other concern is that with such massive rims and tires, the Blizzard's dirt riding versatility is somewhat diminished by the weight and drag. Despite these issues, we feel this is a great fattie for snow, sand, or adventure riding, and an affordable one at that.
Read review: Rocky Mountain Blizzard 20 2020
Top Pick for Snow and Dirt
Kona Wozo 2019
The Kona Wozo impressed our testers in a strong field of competitors to claim our Top Pick for Snow and Dirt. The Wozo sets itself apart from the rest of the models in this test due to the fact that it has a suspension fork and a more modern geometry that makes it the most comfortable and capable on the descents of all the models tested. It's basically a cross between Kona's Honzo trail riding hardtail and their fully rigid Wo fat bike creating a best of both worlds that is right at home riding snow and mixed conditions or dirt trails in the summertime. In addition to the front suspension, the Wozo has a relatively slack, for a fat bike, 68.5-degree head tube angle and the longer wheelbase and reach that gives this bike a composed and confidence-inspiring feel on descents. Its also got impressively short chainstays that make it easy to get the front wheel off the ground and help it maintain a lively and playful demeanor.
The Wozo is a little heavier than many of the other bikes in this test due to its alloy frame and suspension fork, so it's not the most efficient model out there. It also lacks the accessory mounts that bike packers might be looking for making it less well suited for those riders. Despite all of our praise, this probably isn't the best option for pure winter snow riding. That said, the Wozo is effectively 2 bikes in one, it's a fun trail hardtail as well as a fat bike making this a great versatile option for people who actually want a bike that can shred year-round.
Read review: Kona Wozo 2019
Top Pick for Racing
Salsa Beargrease Carbon Deore 2019
The Salsa Beargrease Carbon Deore is the only model in our test selection with a full carbon frame. Thanks to the carbon frame, the Beargrease feels light and lively and especially responsive to pedaling and steering input. It climbs very well, with a comfortable body position, rigid frame, and grippy 4" wide tires. It also performs well on the descents, with agreeable geometry measurements. Considering the fact that it's fully rigid and made from carbon we thought it would feel extra harsh on the descents but were surprised to find it was more comfortable and compliant than we expected. This is a well-rounded and versatile bike that is well suited to a huge range of riding styles from winter racing to bike packing adventures.
While we did enjoy riding the Beargrease, we weren't especially impressed with the budget build the Deore model came with, though that is how they kept the price so reasonable. Testers also found the Salsa handlebar to have excessive back sweep and just wasn't that comfortable. That said, this bike is quite affordable for carbon and we feel it's a great value for the rider looking for a versatile fat bike that's equally at home on casual rides or taking on some races.
Read review: Salsa Beargrease Carbon Deore 2019
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tester is review author, Jeremy Benson. Jeremy is a Truckee, CA resident and a year-round cyclist who focuses primarily on gravel and mountain bike racing. Living in the often snowy Sierra Nevada mountains, Benson's appreciation for extra-wide rubber has grown over the years and he often uses fat tires in the winter months as a two-wheeled alternative to backcountry or resort skiing. His extensive mountain testing experience makes him well suited to examining differences in geometry, components, and all-around performance of all types of bikes. Benson was joined by our former Senior Mountain Bike Editor, Pat Donahue, for testing. Pat is a life long rider and a mountain biker at heart, but a lover of all things two-wheeled. Prior to working at OutdoorGearLab he spent several years working in the bicycle industry and now spends his days testing mountain bikes of all kinds for reviews. Pat lives in South Lake Tahoe where he gets out for frequent rides when he isn't skiing in the backcountry or at the resort during the winter months.
After poring over the internet in search of the best reasonably priced fat bikes of 2020, we purchased 8 models to test and compare. Once all of our bikes arrived we took to the snow, dirt, and a mix of both examine how each model performed in a range of trail types and surface conditions. A slow start to the winter in the Tahoe area made for some excellent packed snow and frozen dirt conditions on the local trails that was supplemented with some groomed snow and trips to the foothills in search of hero dirt once the snowpack arrived. We had far more fun than we expected taking these bikes to their limits as we analyzed every aspect of their design, build, and performance and how they compare to each other.
Related: How We Tested Best Fat Bikes
Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of two months in the early winter, our testers rode each of these bikes numerous times and often back to back for comparison. The greater Lake Tahoe area served as our testing ground where we were able to take advantage of the full complement of trail, surface, and weather conditions. Each bike was ridden on groomed and packed snow, mixed snow and dirt, and sometimes exclusively hero dirt in the foothills. During testing, we scrutinized every aspect of each bike's performance with a focus on their uphill and downhill capabilities. We also analyzed each bike's geometry and component specification and their relation on the comfort, quality, and performance of each model. Read on to see how the bikes in this test compare to each other.
Related: Buying Advice for Best Fat Bikes
Most of the bikes included in this review are all relatively affordable and fall within a several hundred dollar price range. To be honest, most of these bikes are a pretty good value but there are price differences that tend to correlate directly with their frame material or component specification. We feel the best value is found in our Best Buy Award winner the Rocky Mountain Blizzard 20. Despite being the least expensive model in the test, the Blizzard still managed to impress our testers with a solid all-around performance. On the other end of our price spectrum are the Kona Wozo and the Borealis Telluride, the two most expensive models in the test. Even though these bikes cost several hundred dollars more than the Farley we still feel they represent a good value considering their component specifications and performance.
Traditionally, fat bikes were intended for riding on snow and other soft surfaces like sand or loose dirt. More recently, they've been adopted by some riders as all-around bikes for use in all conditions and all seasons and modern models are becoming increasingly more versatile. Many models, including 6 of the 8 in our test selection, are fully rigid meaning they have no suspension except for the cushion of the girthy fat tires. This lack of suspension is a limiting factor in the way a bike handles rough terrain and demands a more calculated approach to technical sections of trail. Many brands make models with front or even full suspension, not surprisingly these bikes tend to offer a plusher ride than their rigid counterparts. With or without suspension, companies have been slowly but surely tweaking the geometry of these bikes to enhance their downhill performance to create bikes that are more comfortable and capable on the descents.
Without a doubt, the most capable and fun bike to ride on descents was the Kona Wozo. As one of only two bikes in our test with a suspension fork, it had a serious advantage over the competition. The 100mm Manitou Mastodon fork takes the edge off rough sections and helps smooth out the chatter in a way that most of the other bikes simply can't. In addition to the suspension, the Wozo has a longer wheelbase and reach along with the shortest chainstays in the test giving it an interesting combination of stability and playfulness on the descents. If you're likely to ride anything other than smooth snow or dirt, the Wozo is the way to go and is a fun bike that you can ride year-round.
While the Wozo stole the show on the descents, the Rocky Mountain Blizzard 20 wasn't too far behind. Rocky Mountain gave the Blizzard an "aggressive" geometry which includes a longer wheelbase and a slacker 67-degree head tube angle. It feels more composed and confidence-inspiring when rolling down anything steeper than the typical moderate fat bike terrain. The Giant Yukon 1 was also a comfortable and capable bike on the descents. While it doesn't have a suspension fork or an aggressive geometry, it does have a just right geometry that performs very well within the typical fat biking application. It's stable at speed yet surprisingly maneuverable, plus it comes with a dropper post which instantly makes it more comfortable and user-friendly to ride downhill.
The Borealis Telluride was a mixed bag on the descents. On the one hand, the GX Eagle spec with the Mastodon Pro fork upgrade is the nicest build of all the models we tested. The 120mm of front suspension automatically makes it feel more comfortable over chop and rough terrain. Despite the fancy build, testers found the geometry, the short reach and tall front end, to feel a bit awkward when riding at higher speeds or on steeper terrain. Both the Trek Farley and the Salsa Mukluk work well when kept within their terrain and speed limits. With steeper head tube angles and shorter wheelbases, they offer responsive handling but can feel a little overwhelmed when taken out of the moderate terrain and speeds they were designed for.
All of the models in this test are hardtails, six of which have rigid forks, making them inherently pretty good at riding uphill. These bikes are all relatively efficient and responsive on the climbs although some perform a little better than others. Regardless of the bike you're riding, there are limitations when it comes to riding uphill in snowy or sandy conditions due to the soft and often slippery nature of the surface. In addition to packed snow, our testers rode each of these bikes uphill on dirt trails, mixed conditions, and even pavement to assess their climbing capabilities. The primary factors affecting each bike's uphill performance is their weight and geometry.
The Salsa Beargrease is a quick and responsive climber. The only carbon model we tested, the Beargrease is impressively lightweight and 2 full pounds less than the next lightest competitor. The frame is stiff and pedaling input is transferred very efficiently into forward momentum. The geometry lends itself to a comfortable seated pedaling position with a moderate reach measurement along with a shorter wheelbase and moderate length chainstays. Whether you're looking for a fast and efficient ride, or toeing the line at a fat bike race, the Beargrease is a great option.
The Giant Yukon 1 is another comfortable and efficient climber. It weighs a bit more than the Beargrease, but it has an equally comfortable seated pedaling position, a quality drivetrain specification, and loads of traction. The Farley 5 isn't too far off in terms of uphill performance. It's got relatively standard geometry numbers, it's reasonably lightweight, and it has outrageous traction thanks to its 4.5-inch Gnarwhal tires. The Salsa Mukluk slots right in there with a neutral and comfortable geometry, predictable handling, and moderate weight. It may not be the fastest uphill, but it works well on moderate terrain and a huge range of conditions.
The Kona Wozo feels and performs well enough on the uphills, but it loses a little ground here due to its heavier weight and squishy front end. It has a slightly taller front end than the other bikes, plus the longest reach in the test that does result in a comfortable seated pedaling position. The Wozo also has the shortest chainstays in the test, only 420mm, making the front end feel lighter and more prone to wandering on steeper sections of climbing. The Borealis Telluride is in a similar category as the Wozo in that it comes with a suspension fork, though it is lighter and a bit faster rolling. The Telluride's geometry is different in that it has an even higher front end and a short reach which results in a very upright and non-aggressive seated pedaling position.
The Rocky Mountain Blizzard 20 works well enough, but it certainly doesn't stand out on the climbs. The Blizzard is heavy, over 35 lbs, and the massive 4.8-inch tires have a bit more drag than the competition. The Cannondale Fat CAAD 2 is a relatively capable and efficient bike to ride uphill, unfortunately, the bike's lower front end results in a less comfortable seated pedaling position that was hard to look past.
Every bike in this review comes with a different component specification, or build, that is chosen by the manufacturer. Generally speaking, more expensive bikes come with nicer components and vice versa, but most of the bikes in this review have somewhat comparable builds and all fall within a similar price range. It has taken a little while, but higher-end technology has been slowly but surely trickling down to the less expensive components and nowadays the budget builds are on par with higher-end builds of several years ago. The most common component of the models in this test are the wheels, it seems that the rim and wheel manufacturer SUNringle has cornered the fat bike market and almost every one of these bikes comes with SUNringle Mulefut rims.
The build of each bike does play a role in how each model performs and how comfortable it is to ride. The Borealis Telluride GX was head and shoulders above the rest in terms of its component specification. It's the most expensive model we tested, but that translates directly into a quality SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain and more powerful SRAM Guide brakes with excellent stopping power and the best lever feel of the bunch. Our test bike also came with a 120mm Manitou Mastodon fork, a carbon handlebar, seatpost, and cranks.
On the other end of the spectrum, our Best Buy Award winner, the Rocky Mountain Blizzard 20, is the least expensive model in the test and has a correspondingly budget-minded component specification. This build includes a 12-speed SRAM SX drivetrain and Shimano MT200 brakes, both of which work admirably but they lack the bling factor of the higher-end competitors. Rocky Mountain saved a little additional money by spec-ing house-branded wheels with old-school quick-release hubs.
The rest of the bikes fall in-between the above-mentioned models with their component specifications. The Kona Wozo is another worth mentioning. It is one of only two models in the review with front suspension. It comes with a Manitou Mastodon fork that provides 100mm of squish. Suspension forks are more expensive than rigid forks, so it comes as no surprise that the Wozo is among the most expensive and has the best downhill performance of the models in this review. It comes with a SRAM NX 1x11 speed drivetrain, SRAM Level T brakes, and a well-appointed cockpit with a short stout stem and wide handlebar that complement this bike's downhill prowess. The Salsa Beargrease Carbon Deore came with, not surprisingly, a Shimano Deore 1x11 speed drivetrain. Like several other models in this test, it has SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes, Salsa branded cockpit components, and 80mm rims. While the build isn't exactly flashy, Salsa did a great job keeping the price of this full carbon model down.
Fat bikes have traditionally been used for snow biking or soft conditions where the added width of the tires is beneficial for floatation and traction. Over the years, these bikes have become increasingly more versatile and many riders use them for year-round riding on dirt as well as snow. Some models also come equipped with mounting options on the frame and fork to accommodate additional water bottles or gear for bike packing and adventure riding.
The Salsa Beargrease can seriously do anything you want with a comfortable and shreddable geometry and a wealth of accessory mounting options. You can take it for a ride on packed snow one day, rip it on smooth singletrack the next, then load it up for a week-long bike packing adventure in the desert. This bike is lightweight, performs well all-around, and has you covered no matter the season or adventure. We feel that same about the Giant Yukon 1. Snow, sand, smooth dirt, you name it. This bike would be great for extreme conditions bike packing or jumping into your first fat bike race
The Kona Wozo offers versatility in a different way than the bikes mentioned above. It doesn't have the frame and fork mounts needed to make it well suited for bike packing, but it does have a suspension fork and a more modern hardtail geometry that make way more fun to ride on dirt than any of the other models we tested. This bike is equally at home riding snow as it is on an all-day trail ride, plus it is actually fun to ride rough or technical sections of trail thanks to the front suspension. If bike packing isn't on your radar and you want a playful bike that you'll actually want to ride year-round, the Wozo is an excellent option.
Both the Trek Farley 5 and the Cannondale Fat CAAD 2 are fully rigid models that have relatively standard water bottle mounts on their frames. Neither bike has the extra mounting options of the Beargrease making them less functional for bike packing purposes, though they could easily be mounted with handlebar, saddle and front triangle bags that don't require threaded attachment. Both of these bikes are best at riding smooth snow or sand, and the Farley really shines with its bigger tires that have better floatation and traction than the competition.
There's a lot to consider when searching for a fat bike. It's important to consider where, when, and how you're most likely to use it and then narrow down the performance characteristics that will benefit you the most. We hope that the information provided here in this detailed comparative analysis will help you find the model that best suits your needs and budget.
— Jeremy Benson, Pat Donahue