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The Ultimate Guide To Buying A Fat-Tire eBike in Canada

The Ultimate Guide To Buying A Fat-Tire eBike in Canada

In recent years, the electric bike (eBike) market has seen a significant surge in popularity, with one particular niche gaining a lot of traction, if you’ll pardon the pun: fat-tire eBikes. These are bikes that are popping up in every sub-type of eBike out there, from folding eBikes and commuters, to cruisers and even dedicated off-road bikes like pathfinders and hunting bikes. 

The main reason for this rise is that fat tire eBikes offer an experience not unlike that given by a trail, dirt, or dual-sport motorcycle, that of being able to almost go anywhere and do anything, but without the requirement of having a motorcycle license. They offer superb traction on most surfaces, and even if the bike has no suspension, the air volume within the tires themselves act as a rudimentary suspension to absorb bumps along the way. 

To further define what is a fat tire eBike, the accepted wheel measurements are to have a tire diameter of no less than 20 inches, and a tire width of no less than 3.75 inches. Most of these types of bikes have 4-inch wide tires, with some pushing out to 4.5 or even 4.75 inches for the most robust of off-road models. That, truly, is the only definition factor, as there are 300W commuter bikes with fat tires, and 1,000W hunting bikes with fat tires as well. 

Surface 604 Boar Explorer fat tire ebike

Key Benefits Of Fat Tire eBikes For Canadians

Canada is a very big, very wide-open country, as we all know. Once you get away from the cities, there are a whole lot of forests, plains, coastlines, and other natural wonders that await the adventurous rider. We have tens of thousands of lakes and hundreds of thousands of rivers that have no road nearby, and some of the most popular parks and destinations in Canada have hiking and biking trails available for you to explore.

It is because of all this open space that a fat tire eBike makes sense here. Let’s run down three of the most relevant benefits:

Great For Hunting, Fishing, & Pathfinding

As mentioned, there are a lot of rivers and lakes out there that you can access only by traversing the wilderness. A fat tire eBike works wonders here, as by the nature of having wide tires, there is a significantly increased contact patch with the ground compared to a “normal” bike tire of around 2 inches wide. This contact patch gives much better traction, and with the electric assist, makes off-road riding much easier.

Another key benefit of fat tire eBikes is that most, if not all of them have a decent cargo/payload capacity. This means that if you are hunting small game or fishing for a few trout, you can realistically bundle up your kill/catch, and ride back out of the wilderness without needing to put in hours of backbreaking work. There is even a specific class of fat tire eBikes known as Hunting Bikes, which are optimized for huge torque, excellent cargo capacity, and deathly silent operation. 

Fishing off bridge with eBike parked

If hunting and/or fishing isn’t your reason for leaving the beaten path, there are several eBikes that are interchangeably called Explorers and Pathfinders. These are fat tire eBikes that are often very close to eMTBs that offer a great range, excellent power, and torque, and are built to withstand all types of weather, from the dead of winter to the rainiest days in summer. 

Adjustable & Customizable Suspension

Most fat tire eBikes, but not all, will come with some form of suspension. Often, this suspension is on the front fork only, with a hard-tail setup out back, but there are some that come with front and rear suspension. Part of what makes fat tire eBikes so popular is that almost all of the suspension is adjustable, from having a full lockout, meaning no damping at all, to the full range of damping, often in the 80mm to 120mm range.

Fishing off bridge with eBike parked

This allows the rider to adapt to whatever riding situation they come across, often with the simplest turn of a knob or two on the suspension struts. The major benefit is that these knobs very rarely need tools to turn, which means that you can realistically change your suspension settings in about 10 to 20 seconds. This is fast enough to be able to label it as “On the fly” adjustments.

Built For All Types Of Weather

By now, we’ve all seen it. Walking or driving along in the cold of winter, snow covering anything, and then this bundled-up rider comes zipping along on an eBike, happily riding to wherever they’re going. Canadian winters are notorious for rapidly changing conditions, from dry snow one day to packed ice the next. Fat tire eBikes, due to their large contact patch and grippy tread, excel in the winter, as they distribute the weight of the rider and bike more evenly, giving a more consistent level of grip.

Surface 604 Boar Explorer in snow

As well, eBikes keep their controllers, wiring, and important circuitry within the frame structure of the bike. These frames are then often sealed, keeping those parts away from the weather. It could be hailing down in a thunderstorm in Calgary, be soggy and wet in the Maritimes from an Atlantic storm, or super hot and humid in a Toronto summer, and a robust, well-built fat tire eBike can handle all of those situations without issue.

Examples Of Some Great Fat Tire eBikes You Can Buy Right Now

As the niche of fat tire eBikes is ever expanding, they cross almost all of the classes and types of eBikes out there. 

T4B Fat Black 350W Folding - $1,100

An entry-level commuter folding fat tire eBike that has some very respectable specs and range is the T4B Fat Black 350W ebike. For just $1,100, you get a top-tier Bafang 350W hub drive motor, a 36V 13 Ah removable battery, a 7-speed Shimano derailleur, and 5 levels of pedal assist. It is also a Class 2 eBike, meaning it gives assistance up to 32 KPH. 

T4B Fat Black 350W Folding

The key feature here is that the bike folds up to a very compact 106.7 x 76.2 x 53.3 cm, making it stowable in the garage, under your desk at work, or fit easily in the trunk of the average family car. It takes all of a minute to fold, thanks to quick-release lockouts that are ultra-robust while extended, but don’t need a hammer and a crowbar to pull when it’s time to fold the bike up

Michael Blast Soda 500W - $2,499

While at the very top end of the entry-level price range, the Michael Blast Soda 500W is a perfect example of a light, small, but powerful, and capable city fat tire eBike that can fit in places some other bikes can’t. What makes it doubly special is that it comes with front suspension, and has a total payload capacity of 260 lbs, with the optional cargo rack, if installed, being able to handle 50 lbs on its own. 

Michael Blast Soda 500W

You get a 500W rear hub motor, a 48V 13 Ah battery, a Shimano 7-speed derailleur, and 5 levels of pedal assist. The biggest thing about the Soda, however, is that it comes as a Class 3 eBike, meaning it assists up to 45 KPH and it comes equipped with a thumb throttle. As it has front suspension, it is also rated for off-road use, including trail riding and some light pathfinding. With a range of 40 to 60 KM, you can get a lot of riding done per charge as well. 

Surface 604 Boar Models, Explorer- $3,599 & Hunter - $3,699

Now we’re getting into the serious fat tire eBikes, the ones designed to blaze their own trail through the tall grass and the forests of wild Canada. These are beasts of burden, with Bafang 500W geared rear hub motors that pump out a meaty 80 Nm of torque. They both come with 26x4.5 inch fat tires designed for grip on any surface, including dirt, snow, mud, you name it, it grips it. Both also come with a 48V 14 Ah battery, giving them 72 to 105 KM of range depending on how high you set the 5 levels of pedal assist.

Surface 604 Boar Explorer CAPTION: Surface 604 Boar Explorer

The biggest thing about both of these bikes, however, is their pedal sensors. Most entry-level bikes will use cadence sensors, but the Surface 604 Boar models both use torque sensors. Instead of detecting how fast you’re pedaling, they detect how hard you’re pedaling, and will match your effort and the pedal assist level to give you continuous torque. These sensors also make the bike feel much more like a normal, non-electric bike, so takes much less getting used to compared to a cadence sensor model.

The biggest difference between the two models is that the Boar Explorer is a dedicated pathfinder bike, meant to ride through the roughest terrain, up and down hills, through forests, and even across shallow streams. It really does say it in the name, it finds its own path by exploring. They make superb camping eBikes, have a very hefty total payload capacity of 285 lbs, and are geared to give maximum torque when you need it.

Surface 604 Boar Hunter CAPTION: Surface 604 Boar Hunter

The Boar Hunter model, on the other hand, has been optimized for, surprise surprise, hunters. It comes with both a front and rear cargo rack, and has the same payload capacity as the Explorer, but has had its motor tuned to operate as quietly as possible and give more consistent torque across a wider range of gears. It is often referred to in Surface 604 marketing as “The pickup truck of bikes,” and as it can carry a lot, haul a lot with an eBike trailer, and carry all your gear and your kill if it’s small enough, it really does speak about just how capable this bike is.

Additional Considerations For Fat Tire eBikes

As you can see above, there are a variety of uses and types of fat tire eBikes available out there, from a folding commuter to a robust, rough, and hunting-ready bike. What isn’t apparent between the two, however, is one of the main considerations you need to pay attention to: Weight. The T4B folder is a moderate 55 lbs with the battery installed, which makes it a fairly hefty little beast, while the Surface 604 Boar Hunter comes in at 58 lbs. Surprised?

The reason you need to consider weight is that if you don’t plan on riding your bike to and from the trail or pathway you are going to ride, then you need to be able to handle putting it on a bike rack or lifting it into the trunk of your vehicle. It also is important because if you run out of battery, the only thing moving the bike will be you. The average non-electric pedal bike comes in between 20 to 30 lbs, so with the much bigger contact patch from the fat tires, on top of the bike’s overall weight, you can be in for one hell of a workout if your battery runs out. 

Surface 604 Boar Hunter in shallow stream

Also, not all fat tire eBikes are built for heavy-duty off-road use. Most of them can go off-road, but remember that off-road also includes riding across the grass in a city park to get to a pathway on the other side, or riding a prepared dirt or gravel trail. The more serious you are about heading off the beaten path, the more robust of a bike you will need to look for. This is the primary reason that the Surface 604 Boar models listed above, serious wilderness and pathfinding bikes, are around $3,600 vs the Michael Blast Soda, an urban commuter and errands bike, at $2,500. 

Another thing to consider, with both of the other considerations above, is battery life and battery range. Yes, they are two distinct terms. Battery range has the expected meaning of how far the battery is good for in the bike, depending on pedal assist, throttle usage, payload, and the like. Battery life, however, is how many times you can charge that battery, as the cells within the battery case have what is called a “maximum cycle life,” after which they start to degrade. 

Disassembled eBike battery

It is for that reason that if you have over half a battery charge left, say giving you 40 KM of range, and the ride to work is 15 KM one way, it is better to not charge the battery for the next day’s ride. The optimal levels of battery you want to charge between are 20% and 90%. Draining the battery to under 20% remaining, and then charging it to 90 to 95% charge will maximize the lifespan of the cells within the battery, possibly extending its life by years.

Now Is The Time To Buy A Fat Tire eBike

Fat tire eBikes have been growing in both popularity and quantity. While 2023 saw many excellent models debut, 2024 is already shaping up to have hundreds, if not thousands of new models of fat tire eBikes headed to market. You will find them as commuter bikes, utility bikes, cargo bikes and trikes, eMTB mountain bikes, folding bikes, and pretty much everything in between. The electric bike revolution is here, and it is not going to slow down for the foreseeable future, so it really is a great time to go out there and get yourself a fat tire eBike.

Just make sure you’re going through a reputable, certified dealer, such as Calgary eBikes. These dealerships and vendors have close links with the manufacturers of the bikes they carry, and they can show you the best options for your needs, budget, and desired features.