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.
Over the years I’ve kept all my tools a plethora of ways, often due to what was on hand. The current Clubhouse has a dearth of wall space for your traditional pegboard, but at least there’s a nice view. I’d settled on keeping everything in a toolbox on the bench. Recently I picked up a @parktoolblue tool caddy for my stand. I liked it but was frustrated with having to reach around/through the bike for tools. Then I had the caddy mounted on a wall but that didn’t work either. Some tools in the caddy, some in the tool box – it was no good for my feng shui. I kept moving the stand around to try and get optimal stand/tool/bench positioning. “If only this stand had wheels,” I thought. But that wouldn’t work, it would fall over. But what if the TOOLS had wheels. I had this dolly I’d made to move furniture collecting dust in the garage. I had my base. I had these handles that came with the kids’ playground – long since deconstructed – that I was saving for some reason, because reasons. Sometimes things just align. Behold the CABC Tool Roller V.1.0. There’s even a hanger for my @randijofab apron made from an old rear cable hanger. If I ever have to move furniture again, I’m screwed, but moving furniture sucks anyway.
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.
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.
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
In an article at Gear Junkie that I posted earlier on Facebook and Google+ this week, Eric Larsen said something that really resonated with me. People are always commenting how I’m nuts to be out in such cold or that it’s weird that I like being out in it. What he said particularly was:
“People say they hate the cold. I think what they mean is they hate being cold. I agree, being cold sucks. It’s painful. I like being warm in very cold environments; you can do it, too.“
Same here. This morning I got up to go for a run and it was -17ºC/1.4ºF. That’s pretty f’n cold. Not arctic polar cold, but cold enough for most of us non-explorers. Most of these mornings I lay in bed, contemplating if I want to face the cold or not, I also am mentally figuring out what I’m going to wear if I do. I’ll check the temperature and conditions outside and then in my head, compare that with other times I’ve been out in same conditions and what I wore and what worked and what didn’t – i.e. did I freeze my ass off or overheat. Another factor will be what kind of activity I’m doing and how long I anticipate doing it for.
So along those lines I thought I’d share what I wore today as maybe it will help some of you sort your own kit:
Feet 1. Thin cotton sock – most people, including me, will tell you that cotton next to skin is a no-no, and that’s true, but I don’t have any thin/liner weight wool socks. I hope to remedy that in the near future. I put these on today and rolled the dice. I won. 2. Grocery bags – yup, you read that right. Low tech, but never fails. Cheap vapor barrier. 3. Medium weight Smartwool sock. 4. Salomon Speed Cross shoes – while not a winter shoe specifically, these do have some tech and materials designed to keep water and cold out. More of a ‘fall/muck’ shoe.
Legs 5. Synthetic long underwear – cheapie stuff from Walmart. 6. Fleece/thermal cycling tights – these are Performance house brand ones I’ve had for at least 10 years. Still in great shape. Right leg has broken zipper pull replaced with a paper clip. I’m punk rock.
Torso 7. Under Armor ‘Cold’ base layer – wicking/thermal 8. Merino Wool Cycling jersey – wicking/thermal – added bonus doesn’t collect stink! 9. MEC Derecho Cycling Jacket – shell/wind – nice because it has full zippers up the sides/armpits that allow you to vent easily if you start to heat up.
Misc 10. Buff – This provides a nice ‘gasket’ at the neck to keep out drafts – something I hate. It’s also great ’cause if it’s too cold once you get out you can pull it up over your nose/mouth. I don’t even have the wool/winter version, just the basic one. 11. Trusty wool RandiJoFab cycling cap – this one’s got built in flip down earflaps if needed. I like it vs. a normal winter cap too, ’cause it has a brim. 12. Salomon running vest – this is the first time I’ve run with this even though I got it some time ago. I don’t normally take water with me on short runs, but lately when it’s cold I find I get thirsty sooner. Maybe it’s the cold air or my mouth dries out faster, I dunno. Perhaps, my body’s using up more water for heating so it’s telling me to drink. After reading again in the article the importance of eating/drinking, I decided at the last minute to throw some water in it and take it along. I’m glad I did. I didn’t actually end up drinking anything, but it was a great trial run. The pack is comfortable, streamlined and fit great underneath my shell layer. I actually sorta forgot I was even wearing it.
Hands 13. Some thin Head gloves from Costco – while not meant to be a liner glove, these are the closest thing I have. Also nice is they have the pads on the fingers that let you use them with a smartphone. 14. Pearl Izumi Amfib Cycling Gloves – as an outer glove.
Today I probably could have just gone with one pair of gloves, the Pearl Izumis, but it’s always nice to be able to take off the bulky outer glove to adjust snowshoe bindings or access zippers/pockets, without exposing your hands to the cold.
I wore all this too, bearing in mind that I wasn’t going to be stopping anywhere for any great length of time and would keep my body temp up with activity. If I had planned anything like that, I would have brought extra layers to add on for those times of inactivity, as Eric mentioned in his article.
Overall, I had a great time and wasn’t too cold or hot – BAM – nailed it! Nothing is better than getting outside any time of year and getting your kit selection just right.