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Are you looking for the best fat bike for riding on the snow, sand, and everything in between? Over the past several years, we've ridden over 17 of the most intriguing models on the market. This review focuses on 8 of the best models available. Our testers have spent countless hours riding these fat bikes on everything from buff snowmobile trails, rocky singletrack, and ice-coated downhills. We tested these bicycles back-to-back to gain the best understanding of the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each model. After that, we rated each bike on predetermined performance metrics including downhill performance, climbing abilities, versatility, and build kit. We present our findings in this review.
The Fezzari Kings Peak Comp rose to the top of our selection and is the best all-around fat bike we tested. This carbon-framed bike rolls on 27.5-inch wheels clad with massive 4.5-inch wide tires providing excellent floatation and predictable traction. The Kings Peak's longer and slacker geometry make for a familiar feeling, comfortable, and confidence-inspiring ride that performs well on the descents. At 31 pounds, this bike is lighter than it looks, and it feels relatively efficient while pedaling and climbing thanks to the stiff frame and steeper seat tube angle. It also comes equipped with plenty of mounting options on the frame and fork, making it a solid choice for bike packing or adventure riding. The build kit is far from flashy, but it gets the job done with little to complain about, plus Fezzari offers another, more expensive, complete build and a variety of options for component upgrades at checkout.
We found very little not to like about the Kings Peak, and our gripes are fairly nit-picky. The ergonomics of the SRAM SX shifter are not ideal as it ends up either too far or too close to the thumb when the brake levers are in the ideal position. The slide-on grips are also not our favorite, making it more difficult to install and remove them or make changes to the position of shifters and levers on the bar. The Clarks M2 hydraulic disc brakes are also a fairly uncommon specification, and we are curious how they perform long-term. Otherwise, we loved riding the Kings Peak and think it's a killer value.
The Trek Farley 5 hasn't changed much in the past few years, and that's not a bad thing. This affordable model performs respectably across the board and is a solid option for anyone looking to add a snow bike to their quiver. It has fairly typical fat bike geometry that works well for the moderate speeds and terrain it is intended for, and despite being one of the least expensive models we tested, it weighs in at a reasonable 31 pounds and 11 ounces (with tubes). It feels fairly efficient on the climbs, and the huge 4.5-inch wide Bontrager Gnarwhal tires provide excellent floatation and traction when pedaling, cornering and braking. The budget-friendly build works just fine and performs adequately for the demands of typical fat bike use.
The Farley 5 performs admirably without really standing out in any of our metrics. The conservative geometry is well suited to moderate speeds and mellow riding on typical fat bike terrain, but we didn't love it when ridden on steeper and chunkier dirt singletracks. Its design and component specification are quite basic, but like most fat bikes, it doesn't need to be fancy to work well for general-purpose fat biking. Regardless, we feel this is a quality bike that should work well for most people's needs without breaking the bank.
The Canyon Dude CF 7 is a reasonably priced carbon-framed fat bike that performs well for most fat biking applications. This sleek-looking bike is fairly lightweight at just 30 pounds and 5 ounces with tubes in the tires, and it is efficient in the flats and on the climbs. The geometry is somewhat standard for fat bikes in terms of angles, though it has a slightly longer reach and wheelbase that helps enhance stability and should feel a little more familiar to mountain bikers. It is a rigid-framed bike, but it performs well on the descents when kept within its limits of speed and terrain. It also features adjustable rear dropouts that allow for changes to wheels and tire size. The build isn't impressive, but it gets the job done with little to complain about.
Our biggest complaint about the Dude CF 7 is the limited bottle bosses and accessory mounts on the frame and fork. This bike has a total of one water bottle mount on the down tube of the frame. This limits its ability to carry bike-packing gear to bags that strap or clamp to the handlebar, frame, and seatpost and detracts a little from its versatility. Like other bikes with SRAM SX drivetrains, we also don't love the ergonomics of the SX shifter as it is hard to position ideally on the handlebar. Despite these gripes, the Dude is a killer value and a great choice for anyone looking to extend their riding into the winter months.
Giant's entry into the fat bike market was long overdue, but it seems they did their homework when creating the excellent Yukon 1. This bicycle is our top choice for those riders looking for a fat bike solely for riding on snow. This fully rigid model features a sleek-looking aluminum frame paired with a composite fork. The moderate geometry feels just right and is spot-on for snow riding. It's stable enough at speed yet plenty maneuverable and reasonably capable on steeper, rougher terrain with a skilled rider. It also comes with a dropper post which boosts the fun factor and takes its performance on descents to the next level. The Yukon climbs as well as it descends, with a great body position and quality component specification and massive tires with decent rolling speed and loads of climbing traction.
We found little not to like about the Yukon 1, but there are still some factors worth mentioning. While we loved it as an on-snow fat bike, it isn't the best choice for regular trail riding. While it is a competent descender, it is still a rigid bike and can be a bit jarring over the 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 well-rounded performance.
The Trek Farley 7 quickly rose to the top in our testing. This bicycle shreds downhill with supreme confidence and comfort thanks to a suspension fork, dropper post, and gargantuan 27.5 x 4.5-inch tires. The Farley lays waste to snowy descents but also feels quite capable on some rocky and rough terrain. Not only does the suspension fork provide a comfortable ride, but the high-volume tires allow you to run very low air pressures to provide some additional damping. Cornering abilities are sharp given the reasonable wheelbase and conservative geometry. Despite its heft, the Farley reacts quite well to rider input in most situations. Yes, this bike is heavy, but its climbing abilities were largely impressive and are accentuated by incredible traction thanks to the huge footprint and tread of the Bontrager Gnarwahl tires.
While earning top marks in many categories, this bike doesn't quite get a ten out of ten. Our size large aluminum test bike came in just shy of 37-pounds with tubes installed. We didn't find this weight to be all that noticeable when riding on snow. That said, if you are looking for a fat bike to also serve as your summertime trail bike, we suggest looking elsewhere. Riders who frequent very steep climbs might find the combination of the slack-ish seat tube angle paired with short chainstays to be problematic. The Farley 7 is also one of the most expensive bikes in our review. That said, we feel the performance and quality component specification justifies the price tag.
Our lead tester is review author, Jeremy Benson. Jeremy is a South Lake Tahoe, 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 bike 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 lifelong 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 and accessories of all kinds for reviews. Pat lives in Cashmere, WA, where he gets out for frequent rides when he isn't performing dad duties for his two young boys.
After poring over the internet in search of the best reasonably priced fat bikes, we purchased 8 models to test and compare. Recent availability issues limited our selection to bikes that were actually available for purchase. Once all of our bikes arrived, we took to the snow, dirt, and a mix of both to examine how each model performed in a range of trail types and surface conditions. Early winter 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.
Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of several months, 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. 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 to the comfort, quality, and performance of each model. Read on to see how the bikes in this test compare to each other.
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. This is a breath of fresh air at a point and time when full suspension bikes and electric mountain bikes carry price tags resembling that of a nice used car. Given their relative simplicity, most fat bikes are relatively inexpensive compared to the rest of the mountain bike galaxy.
We feel the best value is found in the Trek Farley 5 and the Canyon Dude CF 7. Despite being the least expensive model in the test, the Farley 5 still managed to impress our testers with a solid all-around performance. Similarly, the Canyon Dude costs only a bit more, but we feel it is a great value for a bike with a full carbon frame.
Fat bikes are typically used as a way to keep riding outdoors in the snowy and icy winter months. 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. Most fat bikes 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, and 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 and to create bikes that are more comfortable and capable on the descents.
Without a doubt, the most capable and fun bike to ride on the descents was the Trek Farley 7. As the only bike in our test with a suspension fork, it had a serious advantage over the competition. The 80mm Manitou Mastodon fork takes the edge off rough sections and helps smooth out the chatter in a way that most rigid bikes simply can't. In addition to the suspension, the Farley 7 has a dropper seatpost that gets your saddle out of the way so you can manipulate the bike better. It also has huge tires that allow you to run very low pressures which provides extra cushion/damping and tons of traction.
While the Farley and its suspension stole the show on the descents, the Fezzari Kings Peak Comp wasn't too far behind. Fezzari gave this bike a more modern geometry (for a fat bike) which is more similar to a normal mountain bike than the competition. This 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 in addition to feeling more stable and familiar than the steeper and shorter geometries of the competition. 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 Rocky Mountain Blizzard 20 is another model that brings modern geometry trends to fat biking. This bike is the longest and slackest of all the models we tested. It doesn't flinch or hold you back when things get steep or rough, though it does sacrifice agility as a result. It's also quite heavy.
All of the models in this test are hardtails, most 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 are their weight and geometry.
The Salsa Beargrease is a quick and responsive climber. It is the lightest bike we tested by a slim margin, and the carbon 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 Canyon Dude CF 7 isn't far behind. This carbon-framed bike weighs just over 30 pounds and it feels quick and efficient when pedaling in the flats or uphill. The geometry is fairly typical, and it has snappy, predictable handling. Likewise, the Fezzari Kings Peak has a stiff carbon frame and a reasonable weight of just 31 pounds given the massive rubber (and tubes) on this bike. Pedaling and climbing efficiency feels great and the seated position is super comfortable with its steeper seat tube angle and riser handlebar.
The Giant Yukon 1 is another comfortable and efficient climber. It weighs a bit more than the models mentioned above, 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 Trek Farley 7 performs relatively well on the uphills. Given its lofty 36 pounds and 11 ounces of mass, it relies primarily on its insane traction thanks to the ultra-grippy 4.5-inch tires and low air pressures. This bike can work up any climb effectively, but the heavier weight means it's not the peppiest climber. The short chainstays can also create some problems on super steep pitches where the front wheel can start wandering.
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.
Fezzari intends the Kings Peak to be a do-anything fat bike, and they've designed to cover all the bases. Its more progressive geometry works better on the descents than most while still performing well in typical fat bike situations. Loads of frame and fork mounts also make it ready for loading up with all kinds of gear for any bike-packing adventure you can dream up.
Similarly, the Salsa Beargrease can seriously do anything you want with it lightweight and efficient frame and 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. We feel the same about the Giant Yukon 1. Snow, sand, smooth dirt, you name it. This bike would be great for extreme conditions bikepacking or jumping into your first fat bike race.
The Trek Farley 7 offers versatility in a different way than the bikes mentioned above. It may not have a super quick and agile attitude on dirt, but it does have a suspension fork, dropper post, and adjustable chainstays. These features make it 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 is your idea of fun, this rig does have plenty of space for a frame bag, handlebar bag, and top tube bag. It does have mounts for a rear rack.
The Trek Farley 5 is a fully rigid model that has relatively standard water bottle mounts on the frame. It does not have the extra mounting options of the Beargrease making it less functional for bike packing purposes, though it could easily be mounted with handlebar, saddle, and front triangle bags that don't require threaded attachment. This bike is best at riding smooth snow or soft soils, and the Farley really shines with its big tires that have better floatation and traction than the competition.
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 SUN Ringle has cornered the fat bike market, and almost every one of these bikes comes with SUN Ringle Mulefut rims.
The build of each bike plays a role in how each model performs and how comfortable it is to ride. The Trek Farley 7 has the nicest build kit. This bike runs an 80mm Manitou Mastodon suspension fork and a 130mm dropper post. The Bontrager Gnarwahl tires offer absurd traction and are stud-able. It runs a 12-speed SRAM NX derailleur with a SRAM SX shifter. Perhaps the most sneaky impressive component is the Bontrager hubs that have 108-points of engagement. This means the freehub engages extremely quickly when you start putting down the power.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Rocky Mountain Blizzard 20 has a very budget-minded component specification. This build includes a 12-speed SRAM SX drivetrain and Shimano MT200 brakes, both of which work admirably but 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 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 fairly reasonable.
There's definitely a lot to think about when searching for the perfect 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. Whether on trail, sand, or snow, we hope that the information presented in this detailed comparative analysis will help you find the model that best suits your needs and budget.
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