View Full Version : Fat v. Skinny (tires, not people)

11-19-2008, 10:16 AM
So, a week ago Monday, I crashed pretty hard on some wet leaves (and stupidly going too fast) while coming home from class in the evening. As of right now my trusty commuting steed is a Specialized Sequoia equipped with 700x23c tires. I'd be hard pressed to fit larger tires on the bike, especially since I want full fenders. I'm thinking of adding a more "winter" bike to my collection and would like input on whether people find fatter tires particularly useful for urban riding during the slipperier winter months? Any specific width that people find to be a good balance between narrowness for speed and width for stability?

11-19-2008, 10:23 AM
I don't have personal experience with commuting on a fat tire bike, but I would be suprised if it made that much difference. Sure some one smarter than I will know for sure.

How about a bike with an outriger?

11-19-2008, 10:34 AM
How about a bike with an outriger?

:D, might as well put training wheels back on. Actually a sidecar would be pretty sweet . . . If only I could teach my cat to ride in a sidecar while wearing goggles, a leather cap, and a scarf. My biggest thing is that this time of year skinny tires mean dodging debris, no traveling if there's any snow, etc. I'm just wondering if people find that it makes a big enough difference to make it worthwhile to buy another bike. Never can have too many bikes in my opinion though . . .

11-19-2008, 11:22 AM
Your risks in this area come in two forms: leaves during November and early December, and some ice in January and February.

IMHO I don't think either of those are pervasive enough to make me change my ride. When there are leaves, I just get cautious. There were only two days last year that ice was an issue for me, and even then it was only in the mornings.

Then again, I ride 27" x 1,25" (huge honkin' tires), so perhaps I'm not the best authority :D

11-19-2008, 11:46 AM
My rain bike has 700x32 tires instead of my normal 700x23 or 25. I don't have any data to show that wider tires help with traction in wet weather, but it does feel more secure to me.
If nothing else, being on a heavier bike & fatter tires slows me down somewhat, which is a good thing in bad weather.

11-19-2008, 09:52 PM
I switch to fatter tires. Not because I feel like I have more traction but because, as lefty said, it means less dodging of debris. I feel much more confident riding through a pile of leaves while on a wider tire because I know that even if there is a hidden branch or something it would have to be pretty big to cause me a problem. With a narrow tire I might swerve around that pile and that swerve is where I feel I'd be more likely to slip.

11-24-2008, 12:11 PM
I switch to REAL fatties in the winter. 2.1" conti Town and Country. Not a slip so far this season. Of course, I'm riding on old 90's XC frames, so size is not a barrier. I've had to remind myself is that even though riding across fallen branches doesn't cause the bike to slip, they can still flip up into the drive train or tires at speed, which is a BAD THING. The added weight of the tires is a great way to keep me in shape for longer spring rides on lighter tires.

11-25-2008, 09:46 PM
I ride 25s. I rarely have to deal with leaves, however.

Back when I would commute through Ladd's Addition I was rolling 23s. I bit it in those leaves at least twice that I can recall.

I don't think I'd feel any safer in the leaves even if I was rolling cyclocross tires. Just gotta be careful in 'em.

I do have Michelin Country Rocks (26x1.75) on one of my mt. bikes now, perhaps I should roll through Ladd's NE to SW like I used to when I was late for work and see if I slam...

...ermmm, nah.

11-29-2008, 09:47 AM
In the situation you're describing (dreaded leaf mush), I don't think that tire type would have made a tremendous difference. Kinda like a MAX rail, or the black ice I saw during New England winters. Physics takes over, and quickly cancels out whatever differences there may be in a tire's contact patch, relative stickiness, and the like.

I'd venture that your fat-vs-skinny decision would hinge more on your average riding conditions, than the occasional extremes. I ride a repurposed 80s-vintage Trek 620 tourer, rolling on heavy touring rims with 27"x1.25" Armadillos at 110-115 psi. Suits my commute distance (6 mi.), pavement conditions, and desire for fewer flat tires. When conditions turn crummy, I adjust my behavior and -- so far -- the equipment gets me where I want to go.

I once almost dropped 800 lbs of motorcycle in leaf mush. I imagine that you, too, will never look at the stuff the same way again. Let's hear it for "muscle memory!"