Fat bikes are strange birds in the cycling world, with their crazy-wide q-factors and monster clearances, but they are also extremely capable platforms that lend room for a lot of creativity. As an arctic blast sweeps across much of the US, and snow blankets our favorite Southwest trails, we’re taking a look back at our ten favorite fat-bike reviews from the last few years. You’ll see a few of the usual suspects from Surly, but we’re also resurrecting one-off creations from the archives and even a Readers’ Ride. Drop into the comments and let us know how you’re getting ‘Fat’ this winter!
As the first mass-produced fat bike, it’s only right to start this roundup with the Surly Pugsley. After bluntly stating that he “hated” his inaugural fat-bike experience on a Pugsley, Morgan Taylor was pretty sure this was a bike he didn’t want, and never would. And yet, like a cat-allergic softie who gets talked into adopting a stray kitten, he somehow found himself giving this 2013 oddity a home. If you missed this one, be sure to go back and read how two sessions with the parts bin turned a reluctant Morgan into a proud Pugsley owner.
It’s fitting that you should live a little—or a lot—before investing in a ‘forever bike.’ By the time Daniel commissioned this custom titanium fat bike, based around Black Sheep’s ‘Speedster,’ he’d left the grueling winters of Connecticut from his childhood behind and spent a two-decade stint basking in the year-round riding of the Bay Area. But when a pandemic move brought him and his family to Santa Fe, New Mexico, he was once again forced to come to terms with winter. After a season on a second-hand Surly Ice Cream Truck converted him to the Church of the Fat Bike, he decided to go all-in and sent James Bleakley a deposit for the build above: a twin-top-tube titanium chassis hitched to a 150-millimeter-spaced suspension-corrected segmented fork, blinged out with a few custom components including a 22.2-millimeter handlebar, and front and rear racks. In his original write-up, Daniel assures that the bike “rides as good as it looks” and adds that he’s taken to spending time on it year-round. As a final testament to this bike’s ride quality, he even sold his gravel bike.
After riding the Voytek through three seasons, John Watson reviewed Otso’s answer to the fat bike in September 2021. At the time, the original Voytek’s 183-millimeter q-factor gave it the narrowest stance among its plus-tired contemporaries, and its suspension-corrected geometry and tuning-chip design gave it off-snow versatility. In retrospect, the Voytek seems to have presaged trends to come, while remaining a relevant adventure platform in the years since its inception.
This bike proves the old adage, “the third time’s the charm.” Or, rather, in the case of this Sklar fat bike, the third owner is the charm. Built for the 2016 North American Handmade Bike Show (NAHBS) in the earlier days of Sklar bikes, Adam made this bike for his friend, Colin Frazer. It migrated from Bozeman to Los Angeles, and changed hands twice, before ultimately landing in Kyle Klain’s garage in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The steel frame shows off Sklar’s signature curves and a custom finish from Black Magic Paint, but Kyle put his own spin on the build, swapping the 26+ fat-bike tires in favor of 29+ for desert touring. You can read more about Kyle’s desert rambler setup in our original profile of this Sklar Touring Fat Bike in 29+ Mode.
Another classic desert rambler from the archive: Erik Nohlan’s Desert Sand Fatboy. Originally documented by John on a 2017 Death Valley ‘prospecting tour’—where the trio of friends promised to take “only photos”—Erik’s aluminum Fatboy frame and carbon fork (read the original Reportage for how he got creative attaching that front Surly Rack) in its loaded-down state exemplifies the burly benefits of fat bikes. Plus, that custom desert sand finish adds something a little extra.
If you don’t care about going fast, there’s an argument to be made that a fat bike like the Wednesday is the real quiver-killer. Or, at least, Morgan Taylor inadvertently makes this case by walking through the various—and storied—iterations of their partner, Stephanie’s, Surly Wednesday. From riding rigid on trails, to summer bike tours, and snowy winter commutes on studded tires, the Wednesday starts to sound like a pretty compelling all-arounder after reading Morgan’s review.
Our long-running Readers’ Rides series turns the spotlight on a reader’s build each week. The best submissions give a little insight into how someone rides based on where they live, and how a specific build reflects those terroir demands. But fat bikes are a rare occurrence in the RR inbox. Equal-parts story and bike-nerdery deep dive, Peter’s REEB Donkadonk Fat Bike review makes Metro Detroit sound like a damn fun place to rip around, especially aboard his Donk with its Stooge Moto bar, PNW dropper, and home-brewed hack that forces a Shimano XT 11-speed derailleur, Shimano Zee 10-speed shifters, and microSHIFT ADVENT X 10-speed cassette to all get a long.
Call it a rat rod, or rust patina, we’re suckers for the big-DGAF-energy of Sam’s DIY fat bike. Built around a 135-millimeter-spaced Rohloff hub in the rear, Sam managed to maintain room for a five-inch rear tire (though, if you’re Type A, we’d recommend avoiding close inspection of the crank clearance) thanks to the elevated chainstays and warped seatstays. At the time of our original documentation in 2019, standout components in front of the bottom bracket included a Works Components’ adjustable headset and a SON Edelux beacon paired with a dyno hub. But, last we heard, Sam had plans to chop up the frame and keep experimenting. Long live the garage builder!
We don’t have much to add to this Rover fat bike from Mars Cycle, documented by longtime friend of the site Jarrod Bunk at the 2019 Philly Bike Expo, because the build largely speaks for itself. The Ritchey WCS Carbon Bullmoose Mountain Handlebar, covert Iozzio Stem Cap One-Hitter ‘Shotgun,’ logo-patterned finish, and temptation of the sliding dropouts make this a bike we’re more than willing to revisit. Jarrod’s original post is light on words, but the gallery contains multitudes.
Beach cruiser vibes with a BMX look and ultra-endurance comfort are the major tasting notes for Josh Uhl’s 2014 Surly Moonlander. After spending a few years trying to love skiing in Colorado’s cycling off-season, he decided to ditch the sticks and go steady with fat biking instead, buying a second-hand Moonlander and rebuilding it to make it his own. Check out Josh’s build breakdown for his preferred singlespeed on snow ratio, or if you’re curious to know how the sans-front-brake setup is treating him.
We’re signing off this roundup with a nontraditional fat-bike build. We love what Andy White does with his FYXO e-conversions and this Surly Big Fat Dummy, transformed into ‘Lane Cruise TURBO’ is no exception. Originally released by Surly about a decade ago, and arguably a precursor for the longtail cargo bikes to come, Andy went on a tireless search to secure the BFD. In his original Reportage, Andy walks through what he chose for the build kit and why—when it comes to retrofitting ‘analog’ bikes with motors, nobody knows there stuff like Andy…
What about you? What’s your favorite fat bike gallery on The Radavist? Or perhaps you have one of your own you’d like to share? Drop ’em in the comments!