…This time, Skyler forges on with the opinions on a subject worthy of his opinion – his own bicycle… In the previous instalment of this Tech Talk business (which I guess is becoming a ‘thing’ now), I wrote about a few of the good people that have inspired me to forgo the old cycle touring […]
Love this old blog from Dales on fat bikes (see what i am googling recently)
Fat bikes are gaining popularity not just as niche snow and sand machines, but as everyday bikes for use on natural terrain. Cue the Surly Pugsley, one of the first mass-produced fat bikes. Now that fat offerings are available from various mainstream companies, more and more riders are now asking themselves if this sort of bike could be for them.
I purchased one of the last 2013 complete Surly Pugsleys a few weeks ago, as an alternative to a short travel suspension bike, for use year round and to complement my single speed Surly Troll. So far it hasn’t failed to impress, in sand, snow, mud and on natural and man-made trails.
Its maiden voyage saw me trying to climb some of the fireroad trails around the Pentland hills, which were covered in deep snow. It’s was a baptism of fire/ice, and it took a whole new set of skills to the keep the bike on the straight and narrow. I quickly learned the key was to stay seated to ensure the rear wheel kept traction, and stay in the granny gear to keep the wheels rolling consistently. I found that if you stood up, the rear wheel lost grip, and if you shifted up a gear, the big tyres would slowly grind to a halt. All this aside, the Pugsley impressed, and the narrower tyre tracks veering off to the left and right of the trail showed where lesser bikes had tried, and failed, to muscle their way through/over the deep snow drifts which covered the trail.
Later in the week I went riding in the deep mud which had collected around Arthur’s Seat after the snows had metled. The Pugsley was again in its element, and the impressive float of the 4 inch tyres allowed me to scrabble across deep muddy puddles, and although it was difficult to precisely steer the bike, general stability was excellent, and at no point did I feel the need to dab a foot, which was good, because the mud was thick enough to suck the shoes off my feet. It was like piloting a paddle ship, just spinning the cranks in a low gear, and aiming for the far shore.
My third ride was an extended tarmac jaunt across Sustrans National Cycle Route 1, which runs from the Edinburgh city centre out towards Dalkeith. Obviously a long tarmac ride is beyond the scope of what a fat bike is really built for, but what surprised me was how quick the big tyres wanted to roll once they gathered speed, probably because the contact patch was only along the centre inch or so of each tyre if they were inflated past 15psi. It was by no means fast, and I only managed a 10mph average, but this allowed me to cover 20 miles in a couple of hours, and take in the scenery at a leisurely pace. To critics who say these bikes are just sideshow attractions for use one or two months a year, I’d like to disagree, and echo the idea that a fat bike can make a good everyday bike, and felt no more inefficient than a 140mm+ full suspension bike when on the road or path.
My Pugsley was given its first true test at the new Cathkin Braes Commonwealth Games XC course. Although it carries a man-made vibe, the loop includes steep descents, rocky climbs and great views, alongside the staple berms, doubles and sweeping switch-back climbs. It’s still in a slightly unfinished state, so the trail was rougher, the mud was deeper, and the rocks more prominent than they might be in future.
Despite finding myself in a group comprised of riders on 140-150mm travel rigs, the Pugsley never felt less than sure-footed, and easily kept pace with the full suspension rigs. The super fat tyres offered excellent traction through the berms and on the climbs, outclassing even the stickiest 2.5″ tread on the other bikes. Winching up the climbs was no chore with a 22-tooth front ring, and full 11-34 rear cassette, the paddles on the rear tyre hooked up on even the softest terrain, and would only slip on the slickest of roots.
Interestingly, downhill sections were less of a challenge than expected. Run at 10psi, the Larry and Endomorph tyres offered plenty of float, and an inch or two of “free” suspension, which took the edge of rough descents and drop offs of up to a foot or two.
On the steeper sections I was glad I’d replaced the stock BB7 brakes with a pair of Avid’s more powerful hydraulic Elixir models, which scrubbed off speed quick enough, even with the substantial rolling mass of the Pugs’ big wheels and tyres to contend with. My only other changes had been to the cockpit, for personal preference, and I threw on a pair of Shimano’s new Saint pedals, which allowed me to ride with hiking boots in the poor weather, so I could always get off and push if the going got too tough.
The Pugsley truly shined in the unfinished sections, where deep swathes of mud or water cross the trail. The final climb was scattered with deep, sandy patches, which proved troublesome for the average XC/AM bike
So whilst many fat bike riders stick to sand, and to snow, I’m eager to try out my Pugsley as my “main” bike for 2013, and test the idea that fat bikes can be used as proper trail rigs, rather than just as clown bikes for soft, and otherwise impassable terrain.
So it’s so far so good with the Pugs, and I’m looking forward to trying it out at some of the larger Scottish trail centres, to see how it really measures up against the more traditional all-mountain and cross-country machines in our demo fleet.
Most recently, having seen the footage from the recent “Forth Fat” fat bike gathering in East Lothian (which I sadly missed, arriving on the fat bike scene as recently as I have), I’m also eager to schedule a trip to the beach!
If you can’t wait for the Pugsley, check out the Surly Moonlander, currently available in sizes 18-24″. The Pugsley will be available again from late summer in the UK.
Until then, happy trails!
Frame: Surly LHT 58″
Wheels: 700c H Plus Son TB14’s. Schmidt Son 28 front hub. Phill Wood rear hub. 32 DT Swiss spokes. Built by Shifter Bikes
Tyres: Schwalbe Kojak 35
Fenders: Gilles Berthoud 50 (Long) plus Mud flap
Crankset: Shimano XT M770 triple 9speed (170mm 44/32/22)
Front Derailleur: Shimano XT M771 (Duel pull, multi fit)
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT M772 (Long cage)
Cassette: Shimano XT M770 (11-34T)
Chain: Sram PC991 cross step
Shifters: Shimano Dura Ace 7700 bar end levers
Brake Levers: Sram S500
Brake Calipers: Paul Touring Canti rear. Neo-retro Front
Handlebars: Salsa Cowbell 3 (44cm)
Bar Tape: Fizik MicroTex with Gel Pads
Stem: Thomson Elite X4 (0°/100mm)
Headset: Chris King 1 1/8
Front Cable Stop: Paul Funky Monkey
Saddle: Gilles Berthoud Aravis (Cork)
Seat Post: Thomson Elite Setback
Seat Post Collar: Salsa Lip-lock
Front Rack: Tubus Nova
Rear Rack: Tubus Cosmo
Bottle Cages: King Cage ss
Bidons: Camelbak Podium Chill
Pedals: Time Roc ATAC 4
This bike from the cycle monkey blog really talks to me ….
It’s not often that we’re asked to build the ideal bike for someone commuting in Siberia. We dreamed up this build for a customer of ours who is a British expatriate working in the snowy climate of central Russia. He intends to do a mix of snow, dirt, and paved riding in sub-freezing temperatures and wanted a dependable bike that could handle a range of conditions but still feel speedy. He ruled out a full fat bike and opted for the more versatile “29+” platform, a tire/rim designation that Surly invented to provide the float and traction of a fatbike, but the fast rollover of a 29er mountain bike. Once we agreed on the type of bike, we set to work planning out the build specifications.
Surly’s Krampus is the bike that brought the 29+ platform into the world, and is still one of the few bikes designed specifically to use 29×3 inch tires on 50 mm wide rims. The Krampus frame is optimized for speedy trail riding, but since its debut, it has also gained a reputation for being a comfortable off road touring bike. Our customer’s riding style is a perfect mix of these two disciplines: a stable, touring-style setup to deal with snowy or sloppy conditions and also a nimble-handling geometry that will roll fast and get him where he needs to go quickly. We sent this Krampus frame off to a framebuilder to get a belt drive splitter installed and also had the frame powdercoated black to fulfill our customer’s desire for a stealth-looking all-black bike.
Love this film showing a wee adventure – makes one desire a one does it all steel bike until we really think about the weight / the components / the compromise. But the escape is always good.
Some spec on the Kona beast which follows in the footsteps of cyclocross, Salsa Surly and a few others ….
At Kona, we love building specific bikes for specific purposes. We see a cool niche, and we pool our collective creativity to come up with the perfect ride. Our all-new Rove is just that. Designed to be the ultimate cyclocross/gravel-grinding/commuting machine, the Kona Cromoly drop-bar Rove pulls in the utilitarian attributes from our best commuter models, spices it with the efficient and comfortable geometry of our long cyclocross heritage, and dashes it with the awesome compliancy and durability of steel tubing. Outfitted with large tire clearance, eyelets for racks, and disc brakes for great stopping power, the Rove will deliver you come dirt, gravel or asphalt for as many Long Sweet Rides as you dare imagine.