Why Do Electric Bikes Love Fat Tires? Explained!

E-Bikes have dramatically changed the biking industry, regardless of whether you commute or ride gnarly trails. So, needless to say, most of the community keeps an eye of anticipation on the trends of e-bikes. And one such modern trend seems to be the overwhelming presence of big ‘ol fat tires. So, why are fat tires suddenly so common on e-bikes?

Fat tires offer several benefits for average riders. The wider tire has a large contact patch with the road surface, increasing traction and breaking. Fat tires can also be ridden at lower pressures, improving ride comfort. However, they also make the bike heavier and less power efficient.

Perhaps you’re on the fence about buying a fat-tired e-bike, or maybe, like many people, you’ve seen them pop up everywhere and just can’t figure out what the big deal is. Well, there are several reasons a fat tire may work for you. And several reasons to avoid them.

Why Are Fat Tires Popular On E-Bikes

It wasn’t too long ago when fat bikes first popped onto the market. They were initially designed to ride on snow and were incredibly quirky looking, to say the least. Peddle forward a couple of years, and the hype mainly had passed.

That is, until the fat tire found a new rim to roll on in the e-bike market. So, is it just another hype train, or are there tangible benefits?

Fat Tires Can Ride Anywhere

The first benefit of fat tires on e-bikes is closely related to the fat tire’s original intent, which is its improved versatility. In this case, we mean versatility because you can ride over practically any terrain.

Want to ride along the beach? No problem, as long as it’s legal. Snow? Go for it. Mud? Yep, but you’ll still need to wash your steed afterward.

This is thanks to the larger contact surface of the fatter tire. Fat bikes typically ride over sand, snow, and mud instead of riding through it. So, this makes fat tires ideally suited for most commuter-style bikes because you’ll be able to enjoy your commute regardless of any curve balls nature throws at you that day.

Fat Tires Are Safer

The added surface area has another significant benefit, and that is safety. Now, before you experience traffic-snake, riders shout at the screen about fat tires being less nimble; the safety aspect we are referring to here relates to the average rider.

You have substantially more grip because you have more rubber in contact with the ground. This can be especially important for commuters because road surfaces can change instantly. In addition, rain or ice can make roads extremely slippery, and in those cases, the added grip could just keep you right-side-up.

But the benefit of grip doesn’t just relate to traction. It also improves the bike’s braking ability. More tire surface can grip the road below, meaning there is less chance of the bike sliding around if you must slam on the brakes.

The wider surface area of fat tires can provide increased traction, aiding an e-bike's ability to climb steep hills.

Fat Tire Are More Comfortable

Another important benefit for casual riders is that fat tires act like shock absorbers, which can dramatically improve the comfort of a ride. This is especially true on gravel/dirt roads, cobblestone roads, or other surfaces with multiple small bumps.

Think about this: if you buy an e-bike to ride to school or work, but it’s too uncomfortable, you might stop using it. Then you’ve wasted a lot of money. So, it’s really important that the e-bike is comfortable to ride.

While fat tires on an e-bike offer improved stability and shock absorption, the addition of a suspension system can further enhance ride comfort.

Fat-Tired E-Bikes Are Typically More Powerful

Fat tires are considerably heavier than your typical e-bike tire. They also need bigger rims which adds more weight as well. Many manufacturers equip their e-bikes with stronger motors and bigger batteries to compensate for the added weight.

The stronger motors can usually climb up much steeper slopes and have improved range. However, not all manufacturers ship their fat-tire e-bikes with increased power, so just make sure this is the case before you make your purchase.

Fat Tires On E-Bikes Aren’t For Everyone

As you probably could’ve guessed, there are a few significant drawbacks to having fat tires on your e-bike, and for many riders, these could be dealbreakers.

E-Bikes With Fat Tires Don’t Handle As Well

A counterpoint to fat tires’ improved safety is that they don’t handle as well. Or rather, they tend to be more sluggish in their responsiveness. This is also a by-product of the increased surface area and grip, making the bikes slightly harder or slower to corner.

This increases safety for inexperienced riders because the fat tires make the bike less “twitchy.”

But for experienced riders, like riders who like to weave through traffic or who spend most of their time on trails, this sluggish handling is not only bothersome but potentially dangerous. Imagine being at Whistler Park and completely missing a corning at high speeds. Or being unable to swerve away from a car that suddenly stops right in front of you.

Fat-Tire E-Bikes Are Very Heavy

As we mentioned earlier, fat tires make an e-bike considerably heavier. Sure, some manufacturers compensate with bigger batteries and stronger motors, but those also add even more weight. This additional weight works nicely with the fat tires to reduce favourability even further.

Unfortunately, it also substantially reduces your range, despite having a bigger battery. Remember, it isn’t only the added weight that the motor needs to pull; it is also the increased grip of the tire. The grip is excellent, don’t get us wrong, but grip also translates to friction, which increases resistance, which means your motor has to work harder to keep you rolling.

This lack of efficiency means that fat tires aren’t great options for riders who have long commutes or fit riders that don’t need that extra power.

Conclusion

Fat tires on e-bikes have become increasingly popular because they lower the skill barrier to entry. They are easier, safer, and more comfortable to ride and can be ridden over almost any terrain. However, they make the bike far heavier and less power efficient. Furthermore, the added grip and weight make the e-bike less nimble and harder to handle in technical scenarios.

Author

  • Miles Baxter

    Miles Baxter is an engineer with a longstanding love for bicycles, sparked by winning a mountain bike in a childhood lottery. Balancing a keen interest in mechanics with the thrill of biking, his career is a testament to the art of turning wheels and gears into adventures.

    Baxter Miles