What You Need to Know: Fat Tires on Electric Bikes

As you are shopping for an ebike or are using one, you may have seen many ebikes use big and fat tires that you're not used to seeing on regular bicycles. Lately, fat tires have become very popular across the ebike industry. Lots of bikes, like the Super 73, have been popping up all over the market using fat tires. Nowadays, it seems like every brand is starting to come out with their own version of the 20 x 4.0 or 26 x 4.0 tires. However, you may wonder, what are the advantages of these tires? Are they actually more flat resistant? 

Lets go through their pros and cons.

Pro: Adds Comfort to the Ride

One of the main reasons why fat tires are used is because it provides additional cushion and comfort. A lot of ebikes come with fully rigid frames with no suspension, which are not the most comfortable ride. To help alleviate this issue, a lot of brands will use fat tires to give the bike a plusher feel and better riding comfort. These tires will act like a kind of pseudo substitute for a suspension.

Con: Lower Pressure

However, to achieve that plush feel, these fat tires typically don't run at very high pressures. Most of them have a max pressure of about 20 to 30 psi. Although 20 to 30 psi may seem like a lot, in the grand scheme of bike tires, it's quite low.

One issue that results from a lower tire pressure is that tire kind of squishes out a little bit more on the street and when you go over bumps it will compress a little bit more. As such, these tires are more prone to getting flats. Also, because there is more surface area of the tire coming in contact with the street or ground, it adds to more potential contact points for foreign or sharp objects to easily stick to the tire as well.

Additionally, with a lower tire pressure, it is more susceptible to pinch flap. This is when you're riding and you hit a bump and the tire compresses so much that it pinches the tube underneath with the rim and punctures that tube, and ultimately results to a flat tire. Depending on the bump or the drop size, you may end up pinching that, too.

Con: More Expensive than Regular Tires

Another drawback of the fat tires is that it is rather more expensive and a little more difficult to replace them. If you do encounter flats and need to replace the tire tube, a usual bike tube would cost somewhere between $5-9, but basic tire tubes for the 20 x 4.0 would be about $20-25. On top of the cost, fat tire replacements are a little bit harder to find in bike shops. Not a lot of bike shops carry sufficient stock of particular sizes, if any at all. Not to mention the time spent/labor cost performing the repair will be greater.

Con: Harder to Install

The ease of installation is another drawback of fat tires compared to normal sized tires. Changing a flat tire will be significantly more difficult. One particular area you will encounter difficulty on is getting the tire seated perfectly all the way around. As you air it up, certain sides will be pushed in, but certain sides will be shimmied out, resulting to a considerable effort to get it perfectly. You will usually end up airing it up and down repeatedly until everything is perfectly balanced and good to go. Another issue on the fat tire tube will be that it won’t expand as much as it should. It will only bulge out on some areas around the valve and won’t expand all the way.

Using Tire Liners on Fat Tires

If your bike is using fat tires, which are prone to flats, we highly recommend installing tire liners. Tire liners are foam inserts which go in between the tube and the tire. This will further protect your tires from road debris like thorns, broken glass, and other sharp objects. We highly recommend the Tannus Liner. This will give extra protection and help prevent a puncture from penetrating to the tube.

Another positive thing about using tire liners is that since they take considerable space inside the tire, you will end up using a smaller tube that you would normally use. For example, if you normally would use 20x3.5 to 4.0 tube, once the tire liners are installed, you would only need to use 20x2.1 to 2.5 tube which are much easier to find and work with and are also cheaper.

However, once the tire liners are installed and ready to go, it does take away a lot of the plushness of the fat tires.

Popular Fat Tire Brands

One of the more popular brands you'll see a lot on a lot in direct-to-consumer electric bicycles is a Chinese brand called ChaoYang. It’s not a top-of-the-line tire but the quality is fairly decent. It will not give you a top performance, but it should be adequate enough.

Another popular brand of fat tires is Kenda. This brand makes a lot of great products, and their fat tires are not an exception. Unsurprisingly, their products come at a premium price. Kenda 20 x 4.0 fat tires range around $60-80.

Final Thoughts

With all the things we discussed above regarding fat tires, it is our opinion that they are not really a must have. They come with a lot of work (and cost!) for not a lot of improvement to gain. They also tend to lose speed quicker because of the big surface area in contact with the street.

They do however look really good on ebikes and they give good comfort on your rides. Ultimately, it comes down to a rider’s preference and their judgement when they weigh the pros and cons we have provided here.