Fat tire trikes have most definitely caught on and more and more are coming on the market. Those fat tires are nice, but they sure are expensive. And then there are the special wheels required to mount them … also very expensive. Many of us may think we would like to have a fat trike, but can’t afford to buy one. Maybe we struggle with justifying the expense. And even attempting to convert our existing trike over to a fat trike may be cost prohibitive … even if the frame would accept the wider tires and wheels (and it may not).
Most of us know the terms “full”, “mini” and “micro”. Full is full size, mini is smaler than full and micro is smaller than mini. This can be applied to a lot of things including … (drum roll please) … “ta da!” … FAT tires. Yep, there is full fat, mini fat and micro fat. Full fat is said to be 26 x 4 so a full fat trike has 26 x 4 inch wheels and tires all the way around. Mini fat is 20 x 4 so a mini fat trike has 20 x 4 inch tires and wheels all the way around. Then there is micro fat which is 20 (or 26) x 3. Yep, I said 3. It definitely is not a full fat of 4 inch tires and rims, but 3 inches is definitely larger than everything else out there I know of commonly found on tadpole trikes. It looks impressive when compared to more conventional/traditional tires normally found on tadpole trikes. Here is one alongside of a Schwalbe 2 inch Big Apple, a tire many of us are familiar with. As you can see there is considerable difference in both width and height.
So … Want a FAT trike but can’t afford one? There may be hope for you. Converting your standard tadpole trike into a Micro-FAT trike may be as simple and low cost as replacing the tires and inner tubes. Yep, I am talking about using your stock rims to mount these monsters on. At least it is my understanding that this can be done safely and that they will still perform properly. I would strongly advise anyone considering this to first check with a professional mechanic or the bicycle tire manufacturer to be certain this will work and will be safe. I am talking about using these 3 inch tires on your standard stock rims. I am only able to go by what some trike owners report and that is that they are successfully using these 3 inch tires on their stock rims. Warning- Rims are designed to use tires within a certain range. Trying to mount too narrow or too wide of a tire can be a problem and even dangerous. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting or saying it okay to mount these tires on stock rims. I am only reporting that some have done so and claim they haven’t had any problems doing so.
I want to make it very clear that it is possible that these larger width and height tires may not fit on your trike as far as having the needed clearance in the frame. So before spending money ordering these tires and tubes this needs to be known. I don’t have any way available to tell you whether or not they will work on your trike. You are on your own. Some trikes will handle them okay while others won’t.
The best advice I could give it to look at your current tires taking note how much clearance you have available on the sides of the tires as well as the front side of the rear wheel as these 3 inch wide tires are considerably taller than the tires normally installed on a tadpole trike. That means they will come forward further into the frame as well as be wider. So if you already find you don’t have a lot of room left over between your stock tire and the frame you may not be able to install these larger tires. As you can see in the picture above this trike doesn’t have hardly any additional room available for a larger diameter tire, especially on the bottom most part of the frame.
Also keep in mind that even if they do fit they will change some things from what you are used to. For instance most likely your turning radius will be effected as these tires would rub on the frame sooner not allowing the wheels to turn as sharply.
These Kenda Flame 3 inch tires are available in 20 x 3 (76-406 ISO) diameter and, if needed, 26 x 3 (68-559 ISO) for the rear tire … although you may want a different tire on the rear to provide better traction. (They are also available in 24 inch.) It is my understanding that 20 x 4 inch inner tubes should be used in the 20 inch tire and 26 x 4 inch inner tubes in the 26 inch tire. The tire is listed as 20 or 26 x 3 but it only measures about 2.75 inches according to a picture of it online as well as what I have read about it. I don’t know if using a 4 inch inner tube will cause the 3 inch tire to increase in girth when inflated more so than a smaller inner tube would.
Above is a picture of the Kenda Flame 3 inch tire. You can see it doesn’t have much of a tread pattern as far as aggressive traction like a knobby tire has. And it is not available in any other tread pattern. So off road use would be limited in the realm of traction. That is why I mentioned that you may want a different tire on the rear. If you don’t ride in mud or other surfaces or areas require superior traction then this tire may be satisfactory for your rear tire. I am quite sure it would not suffice for me.
The best price I have found for the 20 x 3 tire is $17.59 with free shipping on purchases over $50 on BikeTiresDirect.com
The best price I found on a 26 x 3 inch tire is $29.57 with free shipping on excelcycle.com . There are also other brands of tires available but I don’t think you can buy them for anywhere near this price. That being said, take a look below.
I did find a Vee Rubber 26 x 3 inch tire (pictured above) on sale for $26, but it showed currently out of stock. You can, however, submit your email address to be informed when they have them back in stock. It is quite similar to the Kenda Flame tire.
Just one 4 inch FAT tire costs over $100 and the 4 inch tubes cost about $15 each. You can buy three of these 3 inch Kenda Flame tires and three of the 4 inch inner tubes for about $100. So if this will suffice for you you can see it is definitely a very inexpensive way to go. Keep in mind … you are only gonna be “sorta fat” with this set up.
I want to mention here and give credit to a fellow triker for enlightening me to this as he did this with his trike and swears by these tires for winter riding. He says he inflates them from 10 to 40 psi. Here is a picture of his trike with the 20 x 3 inch Kenda Flame tires mounted on all three stock rims. He reports that they do great riding in/on snow.
In installing these large tires there may be a concern of clearance and definitely most fenders that may currently be installed with have to be removed and remain off. HERE is an article entitled “what are the pitfalls of converting to a micro fat trike”.
One thing which just popped into my head concerning going with a wider tire like this on the rear wheel is the clearance of the chain. On my trike even with 1/4 inch wider tires than stock my chain is very close to the sidewall of the tire.
So if you have a hankerin’ for a FAT trike this may be something to consider. If we ride on these larger tires and go places our smaller stock tires can’t cope with we just may be able to …
KEEP ON TRIKIN’