The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Best Fat Bikes

Tuesday February 4, 2020

Over the course of approximately 2 months in the early winter, two professional bike testers rode each of the fat bikes in this review as much as they possibly could. Testing took place primarily in Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and the Sierra foothills just to the east and west. Each of these bikes was ridden on snow surfaces ranging from groomed to slush, smooth and technical dirt trails, and a variety of mixed conditions. We also rode these bikes in all types of weather ranging from warm and sunny to frigid and snowing sideways. Through it all we scrutinized every aspect of each bike's performance while climbing, descending, and pedaling away the miles. Our focus was primarily on downhill and uphill performance but we also examined the geometry and the build of each model and their relation to performance on the climbs and descents, rider comfort, quality, and value.

The fleet lined up for testing.
The fleet lined up for testing.

Downhill Performance


Downhill performance was tested by riding each bike downhill as much as possible. Our XC style test loops all involved some downhill sections of snow or trail, sometimes both. During these descents, our testers focused on how each bike performed on both smooth and rough sections, corners, and at varying rates of speed. We paid special attention to each bike's stability at speed, playfulness, maneuverability, and forgiveness, as well as the bike's geometry and its relation to downhill performance.

Testing the Beargrease on some steep rock slabs and mixed conditions.
Testing the Beargrease on some steep rock slabs and mixed conditions.

Uphill Performance


As with the downhill performance, we tested the uphill performance of each bike by riding them uphill and often back to back for direct comparison. We rode these bikes on packed snow, dirt, and a mix of both on XC test loops that included a fair amount of flat and uphill riding. Power transfer, gear range, traction, and seated pedaling position are all important factors that play a role in how well each bike climbs. During the sections of climbing, we focused on how efficient and comfortable each bike felt while considering the geometry of each model and its relation to uphill performance.

Versatility


To evaluate the versatility of the bikes in this review, we took several things into account. First, we rode them in a huge range of conditions. Groomed snow, hiker packed snow, DG sand, even some hero dirt on flow trails. Our testers considered how well each bike performed for its intended use of snow and soft conditions riding, as well as how it performed outside of those parameters. Some bikes perform well across the full spectrum of conditions and terrain, while others are a little more limited and this is primarily a function of a bike's geometry and component specification. Another factor we considered is how prepared a bike is for bike packing or adventure riding. Some bikes come with multiple bottle cage mounts, frame bag mounts, and 3-pack mounts and are ready for you to attach all manner of gear to them, while others do not.

The best way to test a bike's climbing prowess is by riding them uphill.
The best way to test a bike's climbing prowess is by riding them uphill.

Geometry


To level the playing field from a geometry standpoint we don't just go off what the manufacturers publish on their websites. Instead, we take all of our own measurements at our OutdoorGearLab bike testing home base. By measuring all of the bikes ourselves we can ensure that all of the measurements were taken in the same way, with the same instruments, and will accurately reflect the numbers and how they compare between the different models.

Its all about the numbers. A bike's geometry is one of the main factors that influences its performance characteristics.
Its all about the numbers. A bike's geometry is one of the main factors that influences its performance characteristics.

Build


The component specification, or build, of each bike is something we take into consideration for each model. We examine all of the elements of each bike from the frame to the tires and how it all comes together and works as a complete package out in the field. The build section of each product page details the key aspects of each bike's frame and components in relation to performance, value, and how the different bikes compare to each other.

One thing is for sure  riding a fat bike can be a blast.
One thing is for sure, riding a fat bike can be a blast.

Conclusion


We tested these bikes so you don't have to. We hope that our extensive testing and detailed comparative reviews help you make a more informed decision when searching for the right fat bike to suit your needs and budget.