Resident bushwhacker and fellow beard cultivator Gareth found the lure of the fat bike too much to resist and took the plunge headlong onto the world of Surly Pugsleys. Here is his review after a couple of months of ownership.
“Oh wow, they are some big tyres!”
If hearing this slightly more than obvious statement from everyone who sees you on a fat bike sounds trying, don’t bother with one of these beasts. However, if you want to have the most fun you have had on a bike since you were doing skids and wheelies on your back pedal brake BMX with your mates after school, then read on.
I came on to a Surly Pugsley after months of agonising over which bike would be the most suitable for me for long distance off road rides. I looked at 29ers, drop barred touring bikes with fat tyres and steel framed mountain bikes. All styles had their advocates, benefits and drawbacks. For me, I needed something that was fun, robust, and capable. I didn’t want to be riding something that would be great on the bitumen, but hold me back when the going got tough. I am, after all, a mountain biker at heart. I had never ridden a fat bike, but piecing together the wealth of information on the internet made me feel like I wouldn’t be disappointed by one. Trusting my gut, and egged on by Angus, a yellow pug was ordered.
The initial rides had me feeling pretty good about my decision. The strange looks given around the suburbs as I test rode the yellow beast only enhanced the fun that I was having. It rides like an oversized BMX, and handles well for something with a much greater mass than anything I had ridden in a while. Stable and confidence inspiring, it needed a proper test. Fortunately, the Dwellingup 100 was just around the corner. Not a bad introduction for the Pug to WA trails!
It wasn’t as fast as a standard mountain bike, but I wouldn’t have changed my bike choice for the day, I was there for fun, not a podium. A few of the tight corners on Turner Hill were a challenge, although the Pug seemed to be more capable than some of the flash carbon hard tails that it passed. There is something particularly satisfying about riding past someone on a race rig when you have little preparation and 4 inch tyres. I wasn’t alone on the day, with at least 5 other rider making use of Surly’s fat offerings. A few contributed to the development of the stereotype that fat bikes are for nerds with beards…
The real purpose of the bike for me was realised when I set off on a mini adventure on the Munda Biddi Trail. I would urge all West Oz riders to have a go at this masterpiece of a touring route, which saw me travel around 700km in 8 days, taking in some of the great sites of the south west. Lightly loaded, the trail was a pleasure, despite heavy rains and many fallen branches. Many of the people who I passed on the journey were complaining bitterly of the mud, but I barely noticed that as a problem. The big tyres at a low pressure provide an elegant solution to trail chatter without the need for suspension, and the stock Surly kit operated well in all circumstances. It isn’t all roses though, with some of the hills a bit of a test of patience with the added rolling resistance. The payoff though was speeds on the descents that I won’t mention for fear my Mum might stumble across this write up. Stable indeed, even with all the camping gear!
So, if I was going to buy another bike for off road camping adventures, would I choose another? Well, maybe yes now that Surly ECR has been released. It comes with the mounts that Cycles Bespoke were able to install for me, and has a deep appeal to my inner bike nerd. I would definitely recommend to anyone who loves fun bikes that they give a pug a roll. It is certainly a good way to release your inner child, and ticks all the boxes for me. And for those tyre commentators? Have a chat, you might just meet someone nice!