Why do so many e-bikes have fat tires on them?
And more importantly, why does EVELO not use fat tires on any of our bikes?
These are common questions that we hear due to the popularity of fat tires in the bicycle industry. Fat tires refer to any tire that is 3.5 inches or wider. The non-electric sector of the bicycle world actually saw fat tires much earlier than e-bikes and the trend had already moved on to plus-size tires by the time the hundreds of fat tire e-bikes became available.
What are the benefits of fat tires?
Tires with lots of air volume offer a softer ride quality, more stability, and more traction. The trend started with mountain bikes used in snow or mud where the width offered the buoyancy to float over softer terrain.
What first started as two 2 inch tires mounted side by side (on two separate rims) to create a wide rolling surface evolved into a 4-inch wide tire that was mounted on a wide rim.
What’s the downside of fat tires?
The weight of these tires is huge. If your biking under your own power – you will feel the drag and need to pedal harder to get the same speed/distance. Most people found that the benefits didn’t outweigh the negatives and left behind the cool factor for something more useful. After all, how many people actually ride in the snow and benefit from the 4-inch tire.
The one thing that did stick around was the notion that a voluminous tire can replace suspension components. Large volume tires naturally do what suspension components strive to do, which is smooth out the bumps, absorb road noise and add traction but without the maintenance of a suspension system.
Out of all this, was born the plus-size tire category. It was a balance of weight and performance which is more suited to a bicycle.
Plus-sized tires are any width between 2.4 and 3.25 inches.
Lots of e-bikes use fat tires because it offers extra stability and comfort. Since lots of e-bikes already weigh a fair amount the additional weight of the tires is not as big of a concern. On top of that, the motor helps offset the tire weight so the benefit of comfort and stability really shines through. Due to the numerous e-bikes with fat tire options, the trend has sustained and it seems the average e-bike purchaser is interested in wide tires.
We’ve chosen not to use fat tires on our ebikes. We see the benefit of the extra air volume and also that the motor offsets the weight, but our choice to use plus-size tires comes down to one reason: Rideability.
The steering on a fat tire bicycle is often not stable and wants to flop to one side or another in which the rider ends up fighting with their arm muscles while riding. Using a narrower tire actually makes this go away without having to change the geometry of the front end, hence why we decided on a 3-inch tire.
Plus-size tires are lighter and offer more control and stability
The tire is significantly lighter but still offers plenty of comfort and stability. A lighter tire ends up allowing more hill-climbing power (and faster acceleration) as well as extends the range because the motor doesn’t have to work as hard.
The loss in width is not noticeable because it’s unlikely that anyone will ride their EVELO in deep snow or mud. We felt the ride characteristics of a plus-size tire were just better than fat tires and thus use 2.4, 2.8, and 3-inch widths on our models.
We understand that there are still consumers who wish to have fat tires on their bicycles, however, we also know that most customers will not ever ride in snow, mud, or sand where they are most useful. Many EVELO owners are happy with the riding characteristics of the plus-size tires even though they were initially searching for fat tire e-bikes.