Lyn picked me up from work and we took Colin and Olivia to the @fredredwings home opener last night. Good game. Looks like they have a solid group of guys. Was a fun evening. Shoutout and thanks to Kyle Holder for the tickets. We’ll be back! So today I got dropped off at the office to get the commuter rig back home. Worked out well as it allowed me to get a ride in on #intergalacticsurlyday on the Surly Disc Trucker Hit up my boys at the Radical Edge to stock up on snacks and some conversation. They were sold out of SkratchLabs gummies though – gonna have to make do. Stopped crossing the Nashwaak River to check out the foliage, Just starting to turn – no where’s near Peak Leaf yet – but it’s coming. Was nice to get out and spin the legs a little in prep for a big road ride with @spoke_n_words and @zacharyblong tomorrow. Gonna be good times and an unseasonably nice day for it. Go ride your bikes people – it’s always a good idea.
I wouldn’t say I have regrets (Sam Harris would argue I could never have done differently than I have in the past anyway) but with the benefit of hindsight, there are things I would do differently given the choice again.
When we moved to our current house my kids were little and we settled in a rural location because we liked the peace and quiet, the big yard and it was affordable vs. closer to town. In hindsight, I would have liked to live closer to town and tried to adopt – if not a car-free lifestyle – then at least a ‘less-car’ lifestyle.
The fact is that my house is only about .8kms from a multi-use trail that I can use to get into town, but I’m still almost 15kms out – and in the winter, it’s snow covered. I love the ride, but the reality is that I can’t get to work and get everyone where they need to be on a bike, on time, and still get sleep each day. Thus, cars.
Would I be able to do it if I lived closer to town? Still not sure, at some point when the kids were old enough to not be able to be hauled, they might have rebelled at being forced to ride. We’ll never know, but I certainly could have done more errands, groceries and commuting if I was closer to town.
I have been eyeing Surly’s cargo bikes and trailers since their launches, but can’t justify them at the moment as they would more than likely not get ridden enough to justify the expense. Maybe once all or most of the kids are out of the house. I don’t know that I’d go e-version, but it’s tempting. I do like the Big Fat Dummy platform a lot though.
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.
Surly Pugsley ‘Necromancer Edition’, Moonlander Fork
Seatpost clamp: Surly Stainless, 30.0mm
Crankset: SRAM x5
Chainring: Blackspire narrow-wide, 32T
Bottom Bracket: SRAM
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XLS, clutch, 9-speed
Cassette: Shimano Deore, 9-speed 11–32t
Chain: Shimano Deore, 9-speed, narrow-wide
Pedals: 45 NRTH Heiruspecs/Crank Bros. Candy C
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
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
Wheels – 29+ Setup
Front Hub: Surly Ultra New, 135 w/ bolts
Rear Hub: SRAM X9
Rims: Surly Rabbit Hole
Spokes: DT Swiss Champion, 12mm brass nipples
Tires: Surly Knard, 29″ x 3″, 120 tpi
Frame Bag: Porcelain Rocket El Gilberto
Handlebar Harness: Porcelain Rocket MCA System
Seatbag: Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion
Salsa Anything Cages on Fork with Porcelain Rocket Anything Bags
RandiJo Fab Bartender Handlebar Bag
44 Bikes feedbag
Old Man Mountain Phat Sherpa front and rear racks
Serratus (formerly MEC house brand) front and rear pannier sets