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I have ridden mtn bikes a lot on snow and ice having grown up in the interior
of BC, and later living many winters on ski hills and in Alberta. I have even
raced the Iditabike in Alaska and the Muffaloose ice road race from Fort
McMurray to Fort Chip.
So, in my opinion…
Fat bikes have an advantage when riding over a thin frozen crust or a thin
layer of packed powder over loose snow, or for variable conditions where you
may inadvetantly punch through. However, for hard packed snow (such that you
could easily run without snow shoes) then a fat bike does not have an
advantage over a 2.5″ tire (actually a disadvantage because of the extra
weight and poor handling for xc type racing). In the majority of cases there
is a narrow margin between any tire width >2.25″ working and the loose and
deep conditions where even a 5″ is not enough.
I have even tried the catepillar tracked SkiTrax bike with a ski on the front.
Super fun downhill in powder and in the moguls, but you still couldn't pedal
it over the flats in any type of condition that it would be an advantage over
a fat bike.
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