I bought a fat bike on a whim because I like toys and I wanted a new one. It is a seriously fun and different way to get around.
I could stop there and you would get the picture. Huge cushions for tires, chill geometry, an indestructible drivetrain and you’ve got a big dumb tank that plows through town with a lack of grace. The tires produce such a noise on pavement that it turns heads and makes children point and scream. That was my initial impression of the Surly Pugsley until recently when mother nature dumped a gigantic load of white powder on central Virginia.
We don’t get pummeled with snow here very often so when we do, I’m eager to get out and enjoy it as much as possible. In recent years I’ve been tethered to my Niner hardtail while my trail tires spin out on the fresh pow. You could get around slowly through the first couple inches of snow before you hit the physical limits of a two inch tire. You could pretend you were having fun but deep down you knew you weren’t going anywhere. It turns into a hike with a 25 pound bike on your back.
I’m not going to turn this into a review of a snow bike because you’ve probably read them all. The four inch tire at 10psi sloshes through the snow a lot easier than a traditional mountain bike tire but when it comes to 8-12 inches of fresh snowfall there just isn’t an easy way to get through. That’s what skis are for.
I did go on a ride with a few riders on different machines. Full suspension 29ers, gravel grinders and flat-bar commuters with knobbies. The Pugsley marched ahead of them with ease and that is to be expected, but we all made it through. Even Fabian on his (barely) knobby 28s. The gear will only take you so far. It’s up to the rider to make it to the end.
Where I feel the Pugsley shines is in its versatility. The horizontal dropouts on the frame allow you to turn this bike single speed or geared. While it’s kind of a pain to remove the rear wheel when geared, it’s still a welcome option in my opinion. Another cool feature; the frame and fork are both spaced to accommodate 135mm hubs. You can throw a single speed wheel up front and in the event you snap your derailleur, you can simply swap wheels from front to back, drop several links from the chain and now you’ve got a proper SS rig to get out of whatever nasty situation you’re in.
The Pug handles our local single track circuits remarkably well. Aside from the weight (33lbs, the higher end Pug Ops is definitely lighter) the bike kind of cruises over most anything you throw at it. Rocky creek crossings, rooted climbs and speedy burms, it’s all pretty chill on this guy and fairly forgiving. You definitely need a different approach to each trail with a rigid fatty if you’re coming from the world of carbon and suspension forks, but it can be done. That’s what I like about this thing. I’m having a blast riding it to band practice, taking detours through trail systems and church staircases. The 4” Surly Nate tires aren’t the most clumsy things in the world and certainly more trail ready than the nearly five inch tires that come on the Ice Cream Truck or the Moonlander.
What I look forward to most is the ability to transform the Pugsley into a bike camping machine. The chromoly frame is littered with cargo mounts from the fork to the rear triangle and it is even compatible with Salsa’s Anything Cages. Add a Revelate frame bag and throw on some 3” tires and you’ve got a very capable, less clumsy adventure bike that is almost Troll-esque in nature.
The Pugsley is one of the more versatile fat bikes on the market and is certainly readily available from your local shop. We deal with Surly all the time here at CBC but we’re also familiar with the offerings from Salsa. We even have a few of the Specialized Fat Boys in stock, and those beasts are rocking 4.6” rubber so come give them a squeeze!