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.
Co-worker’s birthday means a trip to the office for cake. And a little bit of rain.
It’s an interesting thing when you really have only one or two options for a commute route into town. If you’re at it long enough it means you literally end up riding certain sections of trail THOUSANDS of times. All the bike trips have been invariably far better than the car ones.
Also, if you’re in the market for a handlebar bag these @porcelainrocketNigels are the bomb for reals. And looky – waterproof.
A Series Until It isn’t: The 2013 @surlybikes Pugsley Neck Romancer – in one version of ‘winter mode’.
Acquired brand spankin new from @radicaledgebikeski – The Rundown: 2013 Pugsley Neck Romancer Frame and Fork in Burned Nougat. @canecreekusa 40 headset. Bontrager parts bin stem clamping @giantbicycles Connect riser bars with @esigrips Chunky grips to block the cold. @rideshimano 9spd LX shifter clicking an SLX rear deraileur around an 11/34 cassette, spinning a @srammtb chain around a set of X5 GXP cranks that were a take-off of another bike and donated to this project by @shawnthamilton. They’re currently wobbly in the frame, I can’t get them to tighten and they’re probably doing bad things to my BB, but I’ll get to it when I can. @blackspire_components Snaggletooth 32T ring because Canada. I stomp the whole business through jerky squares via @45nrth Heiruspecs pedals. Avid FR5 levers pull BB7 brakes on the original rotors. The stock Kalloy seat post clamped by a Surly clamp capped by a @selleanatomica (NSX?) Saddle. Stock Surly Rolling Darryl rims mated to a Shimano Deore Rear Hub and Surly Ultra New front hub. @ridebontrager Gnarwhal studded tires. OG @porcelainrocket ‘2 section’ frame bag from back when Scott would actually take your frame measurements to make ‘em. I even had him add in some mesh pockets on the non-drive side of mine because #deepcustom . An @oldmanmountainracks Fat Sherpa rear rack holds my Anylander Panniers (also made by Porcelain Rocket) and @parts.and.labor . A couple of other choice bits of this current incarnation are some @revelatedesigns Expedition Pogies – something I waited forever to get, but shouldn’t have because they are a game changer in the cold – and a Tarik Saleh Bike Club Bartender Bag by @randijofab for positive mojo and transportage of little things. Bontrager plastic bottle cages on the forks for bottles. Of course now that I finally got around to making this post – just yesterday I swapped out the wheels for the 29+ set because spring is coming. At some point. I guess I’ll do another post – whenever.
A Series Until It isn’t*: The 2004 @surlybikes Surly Cross Check. Acquired slightly used as frame and fork. Built up countless ways over the years. Stevie Ray Vaughan had ‘Number One’, this is mine. It is now the bike that has been in the Stable the longest. I like the ‘steed/stable’ metaphor better than the ‘arrow/quiver’ one because even when I ride my fastest bike I plod along like a horse. I hath not the vigor of an arrow loosed.
The Rundown: Cross Check frame and fork – probably in hindsight a TAD too small for me, however I have considered and rejected selling this bike several times, but the fact of the matter is, I now can’t because it is singularly tied to my identity on this planet. @chriskingbuzz Headset, natch. Giant parts bin stem clamping @salsacycles Cowbell bars with a @knog Oi bell and @ridebontrager Bar Tape. @rideshimano Sora 9spd brifters clicking an LX rear deraileur, a Sora front and spinning an SRAM chain around a set of LX(?) Cross Cranks sporting @crankbrothers Candy C pedals and pulling cables on Avid Shorty 6 brakes. A no name seat post clamped by a no-name clamp capped by a @selleanatomica (NSX?) Saddle. Custom Built wheels by me – with assistance from @wineintitanium in his living room many years ago – consisting of parts bin LX hubs courtesy of @uhlsbrewingco laced to Alex R390 rims sporting @panaracer_world Gravel King Mud 35mm tires with (though you’d never guess it) tan sidewalls. I’ve over 15,000kms on this wheelset with not much more than an occasional seasonal truing. @porcelainrocket bags. My fave bag makers of all time. I usually have this bike setup with this medium stock frame bag and a black Charlene to match – both of which I got from MEC – but today I threw on the multi-cam BIG bag because: coffee stuff/puffy layers. I forget what it’s called but the big one without the frame that they just firesaled all the back stock on and I got one because it was just too good of a price to pass up and huge. Official Custom-Installed ¡TSBC GO! patch.
Coffeeneuring 2019 Control # 2: Headed out to one of my favorite #coffeeoutside spots and set up a ‘coffee shop without walls’ for Control #2. Fixed myself up a nice coffee black. Gas station cream cheese and chocolate chip muffin was only a 6 out of 10 though. Did manage to drop a bunch of existential angst on this trip thus making it a legit Corrective Action Bicycle Ride as well. Also, learned that the @porcelainrocket Microwave Pannier holsters work great even without the proprietary drybags just for stuffing extra stuff in. Layers, ground scores, what-have-you. I imagine they would also work great with other dry bags in a ‘multiple-smaller-dry-bag’ configuration as well as with various kinds of totes and other bags or whatever. I believe in the marketing industry this is all referred to as ‘added value’. I’mma call it rad.
Two nights ago the weather forecast was calling for rain in the form of ‘buckets’. I think ‘buckets’ is a specific meteorological term, but I’m not meteorologist. Not one to ignore a seemingly obvious sign from the gods – or anyone with a ‘gist’ at the end of their title, I thought this was a perfect time to mount up my @porcelainrocket Microwave Panniers .
They are built around a removable dry bag system so seemed perfectly suited. Like all of PR’s gear I’ve had/used/abused before, these came through with flying colors. My stuff stayed completely dry. I’m not sure what sort of witchcraft the dry bag material employs – I was a bit concerned at first when I could actually SEE the colors of my stuff inside through the bag, but they stayed watertight. love the fact that I can just pop the dry bags out and take them in the house (from the garage, where the bikes live) to load/unload them and leave them by the door to grab before heading out in the morning. Also nice is being able to haul a bag of work clothes to the office washroom easily to change. A small, easily overlooked – yet huge detail – is the fact that the dry bags are flat-bottomed and stand up on their own, a feature I highly appreciate. 
The ‘holsters’ that receive the dry bags were easy to mount up, come with a bunch of extra holes and enough strappage that I can only think they’ll fit whatever kind of rig you’ve got. In closing these are solid goods that you could do no wrong in acquiring for yourself. Don’t be fooled by Scott’s rugged good looks and outdoorsy-type beard – even though he makes all this stuff for that wild and crazy packbiking and other wilderness shenanigans, I’m here to say his stuff works great for us mere-mortal commuter types as well. I love getting my stuff from small shops like PR because I know that if I ever have an issue, question or need a repair, I can easily talk to an actual human – even if they’re a weird one, because really, we’re all a little weird in our own weird way – amirite? [3-10] Random pictures from a soggy commute. Camera doesn’t do the foliage justice – seems like on the grey days the colors pop even more.
Managed to slam in 3 consecutive days of fantastic riding with great peeps to open the summer season.
Saturday I led my usual Radical Edge Donut Roll Beginner Road ride. I only had one rider this week, and Mike’s not exactly beginner, so heading out bright and early at 8, we beat the heat and had some great conditions. A tail wind heading out to Oromocto provided us with a pretty blistering pace that had us chuckling at ourselves at the turnaround knowing full well what we were in for on the way back. Taking turns with short pulls on the way back gave us a good workout into the headwind and we managed to get back pretty quick leaving the remainder of our day for adult boring stuff. The 50k-ish loop combined with my 15k rides to and from the ride start to home got me past the 75k mark on the day and there was still more in the tank.
Sunday was the Third Annual Radical Edge Gravel Grind in support of Special Olympics New Brunswick. I can claim original gangster status as having ridden since the first year, and hopefully it’s a streak I can keep alive, as the event keeps improving. A later start date this year meant no rain and no jackets/baselayers (!) for the first time! Full sun and soaring temps provided a great, if not even a bit warm ride, and the atmosphere and the post-ride feast and cool-down at the new Picaroons Roundhouse was well-appointed and most welcome after a morning baking on the gravel.
I had planned to ride the 75k distance but at the last minute, they were short staffed, so I volunteered to sweep the 50k route with a backpack of tubes and tools to assist anyone that ran into problems out on course. It was a refreshing change to take it easy off the back, take in more scenery and chat more with folks along the way – a real fun experience and reminder of what cycling at it’s core is about as well as what a great riding community we have around New Brunswick and the Maritimes. Best part of all, I had to fix a grand total of ZERO flats! Kudos to everyone for being so prepared! I had wavered back and forth on which bike to take to this year’s ride, my ol’ trusty Surly Cross Check or the Giant Defy Advanced 1. In the end I went with the Defy and was super happy with the way it performed. Stayed comfy all day, and the D-Fuse seatpost in combination with the carbon frame really was great at smoothing out the rough stuff. As a bonus, turns out my Porcelain Rocket top-tube frame bag that I acquired for the Cross Check also fits the Defy. Good to know!
As mentioned in a previous post, I worked with Josh and Jane at Special Olympics New Brunswick this year on some branding and marketing materials for the event and they’ve taken done excellent work and really turned it into a top notch event. Over 160 riders from all over the Maritimes, showed up and were treated to a well-supported ride and atmosphere, locally sourced and catered food, local microbrews and a phat table of door prizes, including a Thule T2 hitch rack. This event has grown and improved every year and is fast becoming a ‘mark your calendar’ ride for the cycling community in our region. Of course the most important part is in the end, over $17,000 was raised to support Special Olympics New Brunswick!
After baking in the sun all morning, Sunday evening I rolled out to Killarney Lake to lead a Rad Edge/Giant Sprockids Fredericton session teaching the next generation of shredders some MTB skills. It was super hot and the kids worked hard, had fun and hassled me the entire time to let them jump in the lake – which I regrettably couldn’t – though I kinda wished I could as well. They did manage to treat me to the ‘Gun Show’ however before the session was over.
Monday evening I put on my Giant Ambassador hat again and headed out to the Giant Bikes MTB Demo at MVP. I’ve been reading online from months about the Trance and Anthem and the differences between the two, trying to figure out which one I’d like – BUT JUST FOR RESEARCH’S SAKE BECAUSE OMG I’M NOT BUYING ANOTHER BIKE RIGHT NOW IN CASE MY WIFE IS READING THIS – HI DEAR. Sigh. If you’re ever in the market for a bike (of any brand really) and have the opportunity to get out and demo some, definitely make an effort. Even if you’re not in the market, riding different bikes over the same trails in the span of an hour or two will make glaringly obvious the differences and is a great way to learn about the features, geometry and handling of bikes. Of the two, I came to the conclusion that I’m an Anthem guy – though if I were to get one – which I’m not (see all caps above) – I’d go with the Anthem SX which is kind of a marriage of the two. I won’t bore everyone here with details of my experience and my reasons for choosing – if you’re interested, hit me up and I can talk/message your ear off. Everyone was having a lot of fun trying out the electric mountain bikes, the Dirt E+ and the Full E+. I wanted to make sure I got rides in on the Trance and Anthem so I ran out of time for that. Honestly, I need to keep burning as many cals as I can when I get out anyway. Rubs belly.
Super stoked that we have such a great riding community here in Fredericton and the surrounding area and a real treat to see it growing over the past few years. I have to give props to the Radical Edge, Giant Bikes and Special Olympics New Brunswick – particularly all the fine humans working hard with each of ’em – for definitely setting my summer riding season off on the best possible foot. Looking forward to many summer miles!
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