The Surly Pugsley is one of the most versatile bicycles on the market today. Most people buy a Fat Bike so they can play in the snow, but when summer comes they quickly find out it is also a great bike for off-road trails. However, if you own a Fat Bike and are fortunate enough to live near a beach you only need to spend a few hours playing in the sand and to appreciate the fact that Fat Bikes are the most awesome beach cruisers ever made!
This past Sunday afternoon the temperature in the Chicago area topped 90 degrees and since I live close to Lake Michigan I took my Pugsley out for ride on the beach. Using the stock 3.8″ Surly Larry tires on the front and 3.7″ Surly Endomorph tires on the back (often called the Larry/Endo combo) I lowered the tire pressure down to 5 psi and was able to maintain a steady 11 MPH speed while on the beach (with a maximum speed of over 24 MPH). The major downside to running at such low tire pressure is that if you have to leave the beach your bike is going to feel like is has two flat tires, and turning the bike requires a lot more effort. However, once you are on the sand you will probably enjoy the ride more than any other form of cycling you have ever experienced.
Just like riding a Fat Bike in the snow, momentum is everything! Since most beaches are very flat once you get up to cruising speed you probably won’t have to shift gears until you want to stop or get off the beach. I presume that Lake Michigan is like most other large bodies of water, i.e., the sand closest to the water is the easiest to ride on since it is firmer (having been compacted by the waves). Between the parking lot and the waterline the sand on a beach is usually very soft and difficult to ride on—but once you get next to the water you can really fly!
If you are going to ride on the beach there are a few accessories that can make your ride a lot more enjoyable. If you want to use a seat bag I would strongly suggest the Topeak Wedge DryBag—it is waterproof and easy to clean. Since you probably carry a cell phone you need a JerseyBin Waterproof Cycling Pouch to keep the phone dry and away from the sand (you can still use the touchscreen on your phone while it is in the pouch). Mud fenders, like the SKS Grand M.O.M. oversized rear mudguard, will keep sand and water off the back of your jersey. On the other hand, I enjoy making a rooster tail while on the beach!
While riding in the loose sand I had to put a foot down several times (mainly due to pedestrians getting in my way), so I think the next time I ride on the beach I am going to take off my clipless pedals and go with the Odyssey JCPC Pedals instead (it’s what I use in the snow). Also, a pair of Lake MX235C Mountain Bike Shoes works well on the beach since it has screened drainage holes on the soles to let water out (if you put your foot down in the water). There are a few other things you will need to ride on the beach, such as: sunglasses, bug spray, and sunscreen.
As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I like to keep a nice coat of wax on my bikes. The wax not only makes your bike shine, but after a ride on the beach you can easily clean the sand off your bike with just the nozzle of an air compressor or soft brush.
If I could only have one bike there is no question it would be the Surly Pugsley! It is a pain if it you have to ride it on pavement, but a genuine pleasure to ride on snow, mud, sand and off-road trails. Pugsleys love to travel where other bikes dare not tread!