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Fat done right — Can an e-bikes fat tires be offset by a fat battery? A well-implemented electric boost handles some of the worst of ultra-fat tires.

John Timmer – Apr 19, 2023 11:30 am UTC EnlargeJohn Timmer reader comments 5 with Share this story Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Reddit

For many years, talking about fat-tire bikes meant you were referring to mountain bikes. But a more recent generation of bikes has dared to ask, “You call that fat?” These bikes, equipped with comically wide tires, promised to retain traction on just about any surface imaginable and to soften bumps without requiring a suspension.

Earlier this year, I had the chance to try out my first ultra-fat tire electric bike. Unfortunately, it was also my first mountain bike frame and the first folding frame I had tested. There were so many new things about the experience that it was tough to evaluate which aspects of the ride (good and bad) were due to the product and which were due to my unfamiliarity with the bike’s features.

In an attempt to get a better perspective on things, I will be spending this spring riding a dedicated ultra-fat-tire e-bike, a dedicated folding e-bike, and a dedicated mountain e-bike. First up: the $1,500 Velotric Nomad 1, which falls in the ultra-fat tire category. Not quite the same

We spent time on an earlier Velotric model, the Discovery 1, and found that it provided a very satisfying experience. There was nothing fancy or exciting about the bike, but it made for a solid riding experience, plenty of gears, and minimal fuss at a competitive price. The Nomad 1 appeared to offer more of the same but with an ultra-fat-tire twist. The frames and components, while not identical, are similar, with the tires seeming to be the largest difference. Advertisement

(Our earlier test ride had been on the U-shaped step-through frame, while we chose the step-over this time. This seems to have made no perceptible difference to the riding experience.)

So I came into things expecting the Nomad would be a case of “same, but with fat tires” compared to the Discovery. I was a bit surprised at the many differences between how the bike was packed for shipment and some differences in assembling a functional bike from its package. Almost none of this made a difference once assembly was done, but it suggests there was more involved with the Nomad’s design than simply throwing on some wide tires.

The one functional difference is that the rear light on the Nomad isn’t integrated into the bike’s electrical system; it’s got its own battery and needs to be switched on separately. This may seem so minor to be not worth mentioning, but one of the appealing aspects of most e-bikes is that if the bike is charged, everything about it will work. If you use the controller to switch the lights on, all the lights go on. The Nomad breaks that promise for no good reason. I was surprised at how much this single feature annoyed me.John Timmer

(It could also be that I’m still annoyed that I got the front and rear lights for my road bike separately, but the batteries are different sizes and don’t even use the same mini-USB connector to charge, making being ready for evening rides a bit of a pain.) Page: 1 2 Next → reader comments 5 with Share this story Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Reddit John Timmer John became Ars Technica’s science editor in 2007 after spending 15 years doing biology research at places like Berkeley and Cornell. Email jtimmer@arstechnica.com // Twitter @j_timmer Advertisement Channel Ars Technica ← Previous story Related Stories Today on Ars

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