Confused about why fat tires are so popular nowadays? We’ve put together a list of all the advantages and disadvantages of wide tires compared to thin tires that you should know.
The type of tire on a bike affects the performance of many aspects of the e-bike such as the speed, range of travel, adaptability on different terrains, and even shock absorbency. That's why it's especially important to make the right decision on tires.
Continue reading to find out about the advantages and disadvantages of fat tires compared to skinny tires and find the best type of tire for your e-bike.
What is wide bike tire?
Wide/Fat tire e-bikes are e-bikes with tires that are four inches wide or more. The widest widths can be up to 4.8 inches, and four-inch tires are the most common. These tires are also larger in diameter, generally mounted to wider rims 20, 24 or 26 inches, compared to regular tire widths, which are usually about 1.95 to 3 inches wide.
Since the rise in popularity of electric bicycles, e-bike tires have undergone constant improvement to meet consumer demand and enhance the riding experience. Today, the influence of wide tire e-bike is rapidly expanding, after more than a decade of development has long ceased to be snow, beach-specific. Electric bike with wide tires has become the most popular as it is suitable for use in mountainous areas and even on the road.
Benefits of wide bike tires
The advantages of fat tire e-bikes are plentiful. This is due to a few reasons, some of which we’ve listed below:
Produces less rolling resistance
A test about bike tire width rolling resistance shows that wider tires produce less rolling resistance than narrower ones at equal pressures.
Tire deflection (the degree to which each tire is flattened under load) causes the tire to form a flat contact area for the ground. At the same inflation pressure, wide and narrow tires have the same contact area, but the latter has a thinner, albeit longer contact area.
The longer the length of the contact area, the more "roundness" the wheel loses, so the fat tire rolls better. A wider tire allows your e-bike to travel much more efficiently over a variety of surfaces.
Makes a bike more stable
With e-bikes, ease of travel is a priority for most buyers. Electric bikes with wider tires are easier to balance on the ground, making travel safer and a lot less of a hassle.
There are usually two ways to make a bike more stable: having more pressure per square inch or having a wider contact area with the road. But as mentioned above, because tire deflection causes rolling resistance, wider tires are more highly recommended than thin tires because they will give you a wider contact area, provide better grip, and give better traction.
An obvious improvement can be felt when you ride over wet roads, with the wider tires providing better grip on the road in the rain. In addition, fat tires include more and larger grooves that help retain and drain water from the tire's contact surface, thus reducing the risk of Aquaplaning. If you ride in wet weather, slightly less pressure would also be advised to improve traction.
Increased Functionality Over Different Terrains
All tires need a certain amount of air pressure to keep them from bottoming out on the rim. Fat tires have a higher air capacity and relatively lower pressure, giving more comfort and traction with a certain amount of tire softness. Skinny tires, on the other hand, have higher pressure and are stiffer, which means a greater likelihood of blowouts. That's why fat tire e-bikes are ideal in snow, sand, mud, woodland and rocky terrain.
You might even try riding over sand at your local beach. Wider tires will allow your bike to travel over sand better, making sure you don’t get stuck.
Improved Shock Absorbency & Ride Comfort
The most important factors for a tire to absorb shock is low pressure, followed by width. Fat tires meet both of these conditions. With more air between you and the road, you are guaranteed a softer, smoother ride. The fat tire will absorb slight bumps and vibrations better than a thin tire. This makes every commute much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Fat tires are, as implied by the name, thicker than the standard tire. This allows you to maintain these tires for much longer, given that they provide better durability. This helps you save on overhead costs with the vehicle.
Disadvantages of fat bike tires
Increased Electricity Consumption
Generally speaking, the less friction an electric bike tire causes, the less steering force is required, and therefore, the less electricity is needed. However, wider tires cause more friction and consume more electricity.
Due to the high mass of fat tires, their weight is greater, resulting in the need for more power when accelerating. Narrower tires would be a better choice in this regard, as they generate much less friction and thus consume less power.
Slower Acceleration and Harder Steering
Wider tires are heavier and therefore add more weight to the e-bike. This makes the bike's acceleration lower. It also makes steering difficult and takes more time to steer due to the large contact area between the tires and the ground.
As a rider, you may think that fat tire electric bikes just have bigger tires, but that's not really the case. Fat tires also make the frame, rims and axles bigger and heavier, which is not ideal for everyone, especially if you have to haul your e-bike upstairs to work or your apartment.
But to overcome this drawback, e-bike manufacturers have come out with foldable fat-tire bikes.
For example, Espin's Nesta, with its 4 inches wide tires and reduced tire diameter of 20 inches, coupled with its foldable frame, retains the benefits of fat tires while also saving significant storage space, perfect for outdoor adventures and daily commuting.
Fat tires and skinny tires have their own advantages, and although fat tires can reduce the speed of an e-bike, this effect can also be minimized by increasing the wattage of the motor.
We can choose tire widths based on other criteria such as suspension requirements, grip and aerodynamics. Ultimately, it’s dependent on what you want to achieve with your e-bike setup.