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

How We Tested Best Fat Bikes

By Ian Butler
Thursday April 26, 2018

We tested these fat bikes on the frozen and snowy trails in Coastal Maine. We rode these bikes in tightly compacted time periods to ensure the bikes were being tested in the same conditions to try to eliminate changing trail conditions. Our tester rode multiple 10-15 mile loops on each bike. These rides all included high-speed sections, technical zones, punchy climbs and everything in between.

Our tester is an experienced fat bike rider with significant mechanical knowledge and superb riding skills. After each ride, detailed notes were recorded. All ride notes were dated to monitor evolving opinions about specific bikes. Once we had significant ride time on each bike, we ranked these bikes on four metrics: fun factor, downhill performance, uphill performance, and ease of maintenance.

Fun Factor


This metric is quite simple. The highest score goes to the bike was the most fun to ride. At the end of the day, this is the critical metric. Some of the other metrics kind of creep into the fun factor. This isn't the most easily quantifiable metric in the world. We score these bikes on how happy we are charging them around the woods, how playful they are, and how much work it is to get these bikes to respond to rider input. Often times, the fun factor is closely tied to the overall performance.

Downhill Performance


These bikes are scored by how comfortably and effectively they charge downhill. We spend time riding fast and flowy downhills as well as steep and old-school trails with a lot of chunk. Testers push these bikes as hard as possible in an attempt to find the limit of each bike. This is a dangerous endeavor, but our expert testers are excellent at bringing these bikes to the limits of control. We do our best to isolate components vs. frame design whenever possible.

Uphill Performance


Uphill performance is a much easier metric to score compared to downhill performance or fun factor. Afterall, you spend a whole lot more time climbing these bikes than pushing them downhill. In addition, the calmer and less intense climbing experience gives us plenty of time to consider all of the characteristics that factor into uphill performance. This includes frame geometry and components.

Ease of Maintenance


Mountain bikes require maintenance to keep them running in top shape. A little bit of maintenance goes a very long way. These are machines and certain parts will wear out with use. While fat bikes are much more simple compared to full suspension bikes, they are also subject to more harsh weather conditions. Every model of fork, drivetrain, and brake requires far different levels of maintenance to keep them functioning properly. We developed a formula to create a numerical representation of how easy or difficult these bikes are to maintain. These numbers are quantifiable ways to assign easy of maintenance scores.

Conclusion


After our testing ends and these metrics are sorted, we have final scores. We explain our reasoning for the final scores under each metric.