The Best Fat Mountain Bikes

For this roundup we’ve focused on full-rigid or front-suspended 26-inch models with one 27.5-inch rig, ranging from around $2,600 to $5,000, which are considered mid- to high-end models for each brand. All bikes were ridden in various conditions from deep snow to hardpack trail, in either New England or Colorado by our testers. As many share individual components or groupsets, these reviews focus mainly on the overall performance of the whole package (some specific content on the components may repeat where applicable).

Boutique brand Borealis won this group with its Crestone Pro model thanks to its outstanding stiffness-to-weight ratio and carbon wheelset, although it was also the most expensive by a sizeable margin. The lowest rated and lowest priced bike, the Rocky Mountain Suzy-Q, took the best value honor because the compromises made to keep the price low are minimal, and it still performs great over a wide range of terrain and use.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Borealis Crestone Pro
89
Best in Class
2017
Ride Quality 8
Power Transfer 8
Efficiency 8
Handling 8
Components 8
Wheelset 9

Super lightweight

Year round performer

Excellent stiffness to weight

Front axle action clunky

High price

XC feel not for everyone

MSRP
$5,000.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
OTSO Voytek
87
Ride Quality 9
Power Transfer 8
Efficiency 8
Handling 7
Components 7
Wheelset 8

Lighter than most

XC Feel

Rides like a Plus and a Fat

No quick release rear axle

Rear traction an issue on seated climbs

Tires not grippy enough in snow

MSRP
$4,200.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Norco ITHAQUA 6.2
85
Ride Quality 8
Power Transfer 8
Efficiency 8
Handling 7
Components 7
Wheelset 7

Very light

Economy minded

Strong climber

Pedal strikes

Stiff front end

Too wide at cranks

MSRP
$3,200.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Cannondale Fat CAAD 1
84
Ride Quality 7
Power Transfer 8
Efficiency 7
Handling 7
Components 8
Wheelset 7

Lefty fork performs great

CAAD aluminum pedigree

Excellent Value

Heavy

Less versatile than some

Fork makes it tricky to transport/wrench

MSRP
$3,500.00
BEST DEAL
Specialized Fat Boy Trail Pro
84
Ride Quality 7
Power Transfer 7
Efficiency 7
Handling 8
Components 8
Wheelset 7

Floats well in snow

Dropper post standard

Front Suspension

Rear tire traction poor

Heavy

A bit sluggish on climbs

MSRP
$4,200.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Rocky Mountain Suzi-Q 50
83
Ride Quality 6
Power Transfer 8
Efficiency 8
Handling 6
Components 7
Wheelset 8

Taller wheels add versatility

Super quick handling

1X with huge granny ring

Excellent value

Less float for deep snow/sand

Noticeable pull under front brake load

No optional suspension

MSRP
$2,600.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Borealis Crestone Pro

The Borealis Crestone Pro is a fat bike you may want to ride year round. With various tire size options, and a light and well built carbon frame and fork, this is not a bike you will leave in the back of the garage during summer. The Borealis is nearly as light as a XC race bike, weighing in at just over 26lbs. SRAM XO 11 speed was spec’d on the bike we rode (the Elite comes with SRAM XX), which was more than required for quick and responsive shifting. The 4.8 inch Maxxis Minions chew through snow, ice or dirt equally. The Crestone Pro is your bike if you are looking to experience a higher end fat bike with less weight and more fun. 

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Rocky Mountain Suzi-Q 50

The Rocky Mountain Suzy-Q 50 is an excellent choice if you’re not yet ready to fully commit to a Fat Bike and/or if this will be your only mountain bike—it’s highly versatile and relatively inexpensive, and certainly one of the best values in this group. The narrower rims and tires will still provide many of the benefits of full-on fatties, but with better speed and without the weight and handling compromise, especially if you don’t always ride on snow or sand. It’s respectably light, especially for a 27.5” alloy rig, and it’s quite quick on harder packed snow or dirt. However there’s no suspension, so the ride is a bit bumpy, and descending can be tricky in more technical and/or turny terrain.

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OTSO Voytek

The OTSO Voytek is a hard tail fat bike that blurs the lines into a plus size bike. Otso focused on a narrowing of the “Q factor,” which is bike-geek for the distance between the pedals. Generally less narrow is better, and fat bikes typically have wide Q factors to accommodate getting the chain by the fat tires. Narrower is better for pedaling through corners, hence the XC feel; it's also more efficient. The impact of some XC thinking is a bike that isn’t quite fat- and resides in a category of its own—a category we liked!

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Norco ITHAQUA 6.2

Norco’s ITHAQUA 6.2 has created a compelling carbon frame and fork fat bike at a reasonable price point. Featuring SRAM shifting and drivetrain and brakes, in the mid-level range, the budget minded will appreciate this build and carbon frame quality. Though we noticed pedal strikes came with rocky trails.

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What Is A Fat Bike?

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Without a doubt, the biggest evolution in biking over the last few years has been wider wheels and tires. The movement began with mountain biking, but has even gained traction in the road realm. The widest of those make up the Fat bike category. What began as a hack for snow riders in events like Iditasport, who originally welded two wheels/tires together for added surface area and traction in snow, has become a legitimate category of bikes and one of cycling’s fasting growing genres. The first official “Fat” bike, Surly’s Pugsly, appeared in 2005 and now most major brands have multiple offerings, and many smaller Fat-centric brands have emerged.

Originally intended for folks who simply couldn’t put their bikes away when the snow came—but needed a safer, more efficient machine in these conditions—Fat bikes have developed a huge following well outside the original intent: It turns out these rigs are also outstanding on mud and sand (even the ultrafine white variety on your fave summer vacation spot). And riders have also discovered that the huge balloon tires provide excellent traction in any condition, as well as decent shock-absorption, especially with the far lower tire pressures at which they can operate. It’s now common to see dozens of Fatties on your local trails no matter how hard-packed or dry. You’ll even find them tearing it up in XC races.

The vast majority of Fat Bikes are 26 inches (see above for our 27.5-inch model review), and they feature basic MTB-style frames with wider clearance in the fork and rear triangle to allow for the much wider wheels and fat tires. These tires generally range from 3.6-4.8 inches, as compared to the 2-2.6 inch tires generally found on traditional MTBs and 2.8-3.4 inch tires on Plus bikes. While there are full-suspension models out there, most folks find this isn’t necessary thanks to the softer tires. Most are either full-rigid or feature front-suspension forks, generally around 100mm, and geometries lean more toward the aggressive XC side than the slacker gravity to help with quickness and handling on these heavier, less-agile rigs. Obviously the huge wheels and tires add considerable weight, but often that is compensated for by the lack of heavy suspensions—the bikes often hover around 30 pounds, but full-carbon race rigs can come in under 25 pounds, which just a few years ago was impressive even for a XC bike!