So a little less than a year ago, my internet homey Matt emailed me out of the blue to let me know he was liquidating his Surly stock. He had a Troll and a Pugsley up for sale and wanted to know if I wanted any parts or whole.
As a matter of backstory, I bought my Disc Trucker frame and fork from Matt some years ago and after going back and forth with various builds on it then almost selling it back to him or someone else, I finally got it perfectly appointed for me and it’s become a steady favorite in the stable.
Matt knew I was a fan of all things Surly and was excited to maybe have the bikes go to a dedicated Surly fan. As much as I like the Pugsleys, I already have one and since I wasn’t really bike shopping at all, couldn’t really justify adding another to the stable. The Troll was another matter. Being Surly’s 26+ platform touring rig, the way Matt had it set up really appealed to me as – among other things – a ‘shoulder season’ bike for all the nasty that was too nasty for the Disc Trucker, but not nasty enough to merit the Pugsley. Matt was open to a long-term creative financing arrangement and a plan was hatched.
After many months, a large box was finally deposited on my doorstep last week, just in time for Festivus. I spent a few days building it back up and familiarizing myself with various components and thanks to the Christmas gods and global warming, the weatherman was calling for an unseasonably warm (16ºC!) day today so I made sure to have the Troll ready for it’s maiden voyage. It didn’t disappoint.
Matt’s build spec is spot on and there’s not a thing I ‘d change -I did put my own Selle Anatomica saddle on it – but that’s it. The thing is really fun to ride, fits great and all the components are great at what they do. This is my first bike with an internally-geared hub and the Alfine shifts smooth as butter and rolls smooth too. The Surly Extra Terrestrial tires are great – though I have to remind myself when it comes to wet roots they are traditional slicks – heh, don’t ask me how I know. The whole bike feels stiff and stable like it could carry 200lbs of cargo without flinching.
I’m especially excited about the front Shimano dynamo hub which continuously powers the front Busch and Müller headlight and tail light. I can’t wait to try it out in the dark. I’ve never had a bike with a dynamo hub before – it’s always something I’ve wanted to experiment with. Other notable standouts for me are the SKS Blumen fenders which are super-solid, easy to mount and silent/rattle free and the Harrier pedals with big chonking pegs to grab boots/shoes in nasty conditions. I didn’t think I was going to, but I even really like the weird Ergon cork grips.
I got the Troll out on my usual loop today and threw a little of everything at it and it didn’t flinch. It’s a keeper. Getting out for a nice long ride today means much less guilt eating all the things this holiday season. Merry Christmas to me.
Hope everyone else out there had as much fun today as I did. Ride bikes in 2021.
One time, @thefivetoedsloth let me test ride his @jonesbikes (SWB? LWB?) I forget the letters. The thing I was most struck by was the feeling of being ‘in’ the bike as opposed to ‘on’ the bike. It was pretty cool. He eventually sold it to @heyjaffy which is good because had I’d known it was for sale I probably would have figured out some way to buy it. Jacking these Jones bars up on the Pugsley gives some of the same feel, though more cramped because it’s a smaller frame – probably too small for me in truth – but that’s another matter. All that said, it’s pulled pork sammich night and we needed buns so I headed to my local for supplies. Treated myself to a @jonessodaco – root beer natch, because they’re awesome. Also, as it turns out this post is all about the Joneses.
Thought I’d share my unsolicited (well ‘sorta-solicited’ – Randi asked me in the nice handwritten note that came with my bag to let them know what I thought of it) thoughts on my @randijofab Jeff ’n’ Joan’s bag. / I got one of these bags when they first launched ‘em – I had been wanting a Jones Loop Bar specific bag for quite some time and had seen a few others, but none of them were compelling enough for me to pull the trigger. Once I saw that Randi was making one, I knew it was fate. / I’ve had the bag about 8 months now and I’m really happy with it. It keeps things handy and easy to access while riding. I use it a lot in what I call ’basket mode’ – open all the time so as to just grab stuff from it. Today it held my gorilla pod, phone, keys, wallet, gloves, and my double chocolate chip muffin with some room to spare. / I often don’t close it fully unless I’m leaving the bike to go in somewhere or if it starts raining. The roll top and one handed magnetic clip make it easy to close up fast on the fly. / As with all Randi’s stuff, construction is top notch. For the most part I’ve found it pretty much weatherproof. Waxed canvas is not really touted as ‘waterproof’, but I think it should get you through most rainstorms and all but a complete submersion. The waxing on this canvas/bag does seem to be a bit more ‘water resistant’ than some of the other Randi products I have. I would assume you could continue to add wax to it as well over the years to maintain/build up water resistance. / I haven’t found a use for the mesh exterior pockets yet, haven’t needed them. They’re small, so basically for things like gels, change, or possibly your kids’ Pokemon coins. I could see making use of ‘em on longer trips, but I’m mostly using the bag on the daily commuter. / I’m happy to find that the bag doesn’t interfere with the alternate hand positions afforded by the Jones bar. On the contrary, when closed and rolled down it still allows for use of ‘loop’ hand positions as well as offering a bit of a padded resting spot in some cases. / Overall, I’m glad I bypassed the other Jones bar bags I’d seen and held out for this one. It works great, is well made and I suspect will be carrying my chocolate muffins for years to come.
So after Monday’s commute home on the fat bike via heavily melted, mashed potato trails was a total gongshow sufferfest (I’m not too proud to admit some walking was involved), for today’s commute I opted for the road and the Disc Trucker.
This one is an interesting story. I was trying hard to sell this bike at one point. I wasn’t feeling it at all. I’d tried a few setups. Riser and flat bars. Different saddles and racks. It had some noisy Surly Mr. Whirly cranks that wouldn’t stay tight. Rattly fenders that bothered me. I hate fender rattle. I was done with it.
But no one wanted to buy it. So I was stuck with it.
I started to rethink it. @mikkelsoya was doing some cool shit with his Disc Trucker. This inspired me. When I’d bought it I had a specific setup in mind but abandoned it. In hindsight, I was trying to make it something it wasn’t. Dirt Road Bomber. Roadie/Townie. Moderate Bikepacker. Truth be told, and @surlybikes will tell you as well, that it *can* do all of these things in moderation. Finally though, I let go and let the bike be what it wanted to be – a ‘tourer’ and that’s when everything snapped into place.
I got out of it’s way. I put on the @jonesbikes bars I’d wanted to from the beginning. I got new cranks. I silenced the fenders. Now the thing is fantastic.
It’s a joy to ride. Smooth. With the upright position, you see so much more traveling by bicycle. Things I saw today aside from great scenery: birds, squirrels, deer. Lost mittens. Some nice graffiti and a ginormous Canada sign. Also saw someone with their Christmas tree still up, and lit, in their house. It takes all kinds. I guess.
Commuting for me is very meditative, very Zen. I’m a far better human days I ride my bike to/from work, physically and mentally. Appropriate then, that I had to get zen and let this bike ‘be’ to figure out it was awesome. I’ll still never be able to abide aesthetically the massive head tube on it (#circusbike), but its place in the stable is now secure.
I honestly don’t remember when I first saw a fatbike. I know it was a Surly Pugsley. It may have been a prototype floating around the interwebs. I do remember when they first put a production one in the catalog. I remember thinking that it was awesome. And I knew instantly a lot of people weren’t going to get it. Not right away anyway. I was excited about it.
Many years later, after following along on the development of fat, I finally landed a Pugsley. It was winter of 2013. All along I had been drawn by the snow capabilities of it. After all, that was what was being touted too. I planned to try and commute with it through the winter along the snowmobile trails in my region of the world. Though it proved to be – and still is – plenty snow-capable, my commute just turned out to be too long geographically to make it work – for the time being. Having to get kids out of bed, moving and on buses in the am didn’t leave me enough time to get to work through the snow. I resigned myself to the evening and weekend blasts through snowshoe and footpacked trails in the woods, still good times.
Even before the snow melted, I started to get curious. I had suspicions. “I wonder how this thing would handle on dry singletrack? How would it feel on the trails?“
Turns out – as many people now know – that answer was pretty damn fantastic. The big tires suck up the bumps, provide a smoother and more enjoyable ride and give beginners and more advanced riders alike a much bigger margin of error. After a few rides in the spring through the woods, I was sold. My conventional MTB hung in the garage all summer. I had a new #1.
Many of the local XC/race cats all poopoo’d it. “It’s slow. It’s heavy. There’s no front shock.” I wasn’t concerned too much with going fast. I was just concerned with going. Even then, having had a taste of how the bike handled the trails, I told ’em, “you wait. The tech will catch up. They’ll get lighter, faster. People will be racing ’em.“
Even more than that, I saw fatbikes as a primo beginner mtb. They offered some of the benefits of a full-sus bike, but still provided some rigidity and had less moving parts. Initially they were cost-prohibitive, but again, I told people who came into the shop – “you wait, the price will come down. More people will be making ’em.”
I still maintain that anyone looking for an entry level MTB hardtail now should at least give a fatbike a try. Especially considering that the cost of fatbikes has come down and many can be had at the same or lower pricepoint than an almost equally appointed hardtail. I know several people now who have started mountain biking on one and now have no intention of going to a conventional MTB. And as a bonus, they’ve got way more riding season.
Around this time too, I started commuting on mine as well. Being that I could ride to and from work almost entirely on crushed rock trails, I wasn’t worried about being speedy on the pave. I was worried about carrying stuff from time to time though. Groceries from the farmers market. Clothes for work. Stuff. Never been much a fan of backpacks on the bike though.
I started checking around for gear. Racks, bags etc. There wasn’t much initially. People still thought fatbikes were a fad. They were gonna go away.
Then 2 things happened – and I don’t remember what order they happened in, but they did. I stumbled on an article whereby someone had built up a set of 29″ wheels for their Pugsley and I started noticing lots of blog posts about guys strapping all kinds of junk on their bikes and going camping. These were holy shit moments for me.
Eventually, as I kept slogging along in my commutes and reading the internet all day, guys started putting bigger than usual mtb tires on these 29″ rims and also started making custom bags to carry stuff into the woods as it was easier handle the bikes in tight spaces with the gear secured closer to the bike vs. hanging about on racks a la more conventional touring.
These guys were camping, and mountain biking in between camping spots. Hnnnnng. Count. Me. In.
So eventually the formal monikers of ‘bikepacking’ and ’29+’ eventually became lexicon. During this time it dawned on me that the Pugsley would be an excellent platform to launch a sort of ‘multi-purpose adventure bike’. I could set it up with different wheels and tires, as well as different cargo configurations to suit all kinds of different terrain and trips and still maintain relatively the same feel and cockpit.
So that’s what I did.
There’s no argument that there are other bikes out there that will excel in some conditions where this one will be only ok, but there’s no one perfect bike. I wanted to try and create a jack-of-all-trades, knowing it would be a master-of-none.
So I had the stock 26″ wheels with 3.8″ tires. I built me up some 29″ rims to run 3″ tires. I got some racks and panniers for hauling the kitchen sink on trips to the market, or say, with the kids where I might have to carry gear for 2 or 3, but also got some fast and light bikepacking bags for solo adventures. If I really want to pack some shit, I can combine the two.
So thats what we’ve come to. What I’ve dubbed the Pugsley Adventure Bike. Snow? It’ll do it. Sand? Yep. Singletrack? Loves it. Long gravel grinds? Sho’ nuff. I’ve yet to christen it with an overnighter, but I will. That’s the only thing left to do.
Components Headset:Cane Creek 40 Brakes: Avid BB7, 160 mm rotors front and rear Brake Levers: Avid BB7 Shifter: Shimano XT 9-speed Stem: Bontrager RL Handlebar: Jones 710 mm Loop Bar, Aluminum Grips: ESI Jones, Extra Chunky Saddle: Brooks, Cambium C17 Seatpost: Kalloy
Wheels – 26″ Fat Setup Front Hub: Surly Ultra New, 135 w/ bolts Rear Hub: Shimano Deore Rims: Surly Rolling Darryl Spokes: DT Swiss Champion, 12mm brass nipples Tires: Surly Nate, 26″ x 3.8″, 60 tpi rear, 120tpi front