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A New Surly Pugsley Lands In Lviv, Ukraine

A few weeks ago I mentioned that William Salefski, an American citizen working in Ukraine, saw the article about the Surly Necromancer Pugsley that Zion Cyclery custom-built for me and he decided to wanted one tricked out the same way. He visited Zion, Illinois in early July to pick up his bike and then shipped it to Lviv, Ukraine. Last week he sent me a note to let me know that his bike made it safely to Ukaine and I asked his permission to share a few photos with you.

William Salefski in front of The Lviv Opera House (lviv, Ukraine)

William Salefski in front of The Lviv Opera House (lviv, Ukraine)

Look at the smile on his face! I’ve seen a lot of cyclists with their new bikes—some people have a grin, triathletes usually have a look of pain, but a new owner of Fat Bike always has an ear-to-ear smile on their face!

A Beautiful New Surly Pugs

A Beautiful New Surly Pugs

In his note to me Willaim said, “The roads in Lviv are mostly made of cobbles, and the Pug eats them up. Half a bar tire pressure. There is also some road repairs being done, and the Pug rolls right over the sand. The winter snow will not be a problem.” (By the way, half a bar of tire pressure is equal to about 7.5 psi)

The Cobblestones In Lviv, Ukraine

The Cobblestones In Lviv, Ukraine

Look at those cobblestones! These beautiful cobblestone roads survived both Soviet and Nazi occupation during WWII and they remind of roads in the Paris-Roubaix race (my second favorite bike race in France).

Another Happy Fat Bike Owner!

Another Happy Fat Bike Owner!

In William’s second note to me he said, “Well, the smile from the first ride was the sheer fun of riding a bike that is unlike any bike I’ve ridden before. Having ridden bikes with 30+ pounds of pressure, the Pug feels like riding on a cloud. Over here, it’s even more pleasant since the big tires just eat up the cobbles in the city center. I can ride the Pug faster than my normal commute bike, a Swobo Dixon with Marathon Plus tires, on the cobbled streets. I like it better than my full-suspension MTB on the cobbles. However, ‘nimble’ is not the word to describe its handling. But I really enjoy the different handling. It reminds me of my FJ40: not the fastest or most agile means of transport, but it will roll over anything. I can’t wait to get some snow on the ground to try it out.”

 
 

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New Surly Pugsley Destined For Ukraine

A few weeks ago I stopped in at the local bike shop, Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois, and one of the mechanics told me that they had just received a phone call from a cyclist in Ukraine who saw my article about how Zion Cyclery built my Surly Pugsley Fat Bike with a Shimano Alfine 8-Speed Internal Geared Hub and he wanted them to make one just like it for him. It turned out that William Salefski, an American citizen working in Ukraine, was the cyclist who wanted to Pugs and he was going to be in the Chicago area in July to pick it up. I didn’t know when William was going to pick up the bike, but by chance I was at the shop when he arrived and I was delighted to meet him and welcome him to the world of Fat Bikes.

William Salefski and his new Surly Pugsley

William Salefski and his new Surly Pugsley

William's first ride on his new Pugs

William’s first ride on his new Pugs

Mechanic Grant explaining how the Alfine hubs works

Expert Mechanic Grant Mullen explains how the Alfine hubs works

Packing the Pugs for shipment to Ukraine

Packing the Pugs for shipment to Ukraine

I want to make it plain that I have absolutely no financial connection with Zion Cyclery—they are simply the bike shop I choose to do business with. They are a family owned shop and have a sterling reputation for quality work, great customer service and fair prices. I have visited dozens of bike shops in the Chicago suburbs and these are the only folks I will let touch my bikes!

 
 

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Surly Rolling Darryl Rims (Putting My Surly Pugsley Fat Bike On A Diet)

Question: How long does it take to finish building a Fat Bike? Answer: The world may never know! I’ve never met any Fat Bike owner who has actually finished tinkering with their creation—there is always a “little upgrade” or “tweak or two” in the works. Fat Bikes, like my Surly Necromancer Pugsley, are among the most versatile and customizable bicycles in the world and every time you think the bike is finished you find something else you would like to do with it. My wife has never understood why I need to keep buying upgrades for my Pugsley, but then again, I’ve never figured out why she needs 200 pairs of shoes (that number might be slightly exaggerated). Last week the guys at the local bike shop (Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois) made a few upgrades to my Pugsley, or, to put it another way, they helped me put my Fat Bike on a diet.

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike

My Surly Necromancer (AKA, Surly Black Ops Pugs, Surly Neck Romancer) weighed an incredible 41 pounds the day I brought it home from the shop—this is about six pounds over factory weight because I had a Shimano Alfine 8 Internal Geared Hub installed, along several other upgrades. The bike came with 82mm wide Surly Rolling Darryl rims that weigh 1030 grams each (33.3 ounces). Last week we swapped out those rims for Rolling Darryl rims with cutouts and that took off six ounces per rim. These cutouts now only reduce the weight of the rim, but they also allow you to install a colored rim strip. I used the Surly PVC RIm Strip—they call the color red, but it is actually burgundy. To add a little more color to the rims I had them install red anodized spoke nipples.

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

My Pugsley came with rather heavy 1.3mm inner tubes that weigh about one pound each, so we switched these out for lighter 1.0 mm tubes (Surly Toobs). In the summer I use Slime in my Fat Bike tires and this adds eight ounces to each tire, but have finally decided that this is not necessary when riding in the snow (I hope).

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Surly Rolling Darryl Rims

Thanks to the incredible effort of the owner of the local bike shop I was finally able to get a pair of 45NRTH Dillinger winter tires, the first-ever studded Fat Bike tire. These tires have an aggressive tread pattern and 240 lightweight aluminum-carbide studs. I haven’t had a chance to use them in the snow yet, but I can tell you that they have an amazing grip in the mud. Due to their business practices 45NRTH is one of my least favorite companies in the world, but this tire looks and feels great (I will publish a full review after Chicago gets some snow this year).

45NRTH Dillinger Fat bike Snow Tire

45NRTH Dillinger Snow Tire

This trip to the bike shop helped my Pugsley shed 3.5 pounds—that doesn’t sound like a lot, but you can really tell the difference when climbing a hill. As I said in an article last year, once you start customizing a bike it is hard to stop until you run out of cash. When the guys at the bike shop were ringing up my sale I asked them how much their average new bike sells for at the shop—well, I topped that number by about $40 with just this upgrade. Therefore, I am officially finished customizing my Pugsley—at least for today.

 
35 Comments

Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Fat Bikes, Product Reviews

 

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Surly Pugsley: The Ultimate Beach Cruiser

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!

Surly Pugsley Necromancer Is A Great Beach Cruiser

My Surly Pugsley Necromancer On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

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!

 
 

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Using Your Fat Bike As An Off-Road Trail Bike

This past winter a lot of cyclists in the Upper Midwest bought Fat Bikes with the intention of spending many hours riding in the snow. In fact, the long-range weather forecast for the Chicago area called for “the worst winter in a generation.” As it turned out, this past winter was the mildest in modern history and we didn’t get to spend much time on the snow at all. However, that doesn’t mean you have to hang up your Fat Bike and wait for next winter! Fat Bikes are a blast to ride on off-road trails.

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Black Ops Neck Romancer

My Surly Necromancer Pugsley On The Des Plaines River Trail

Fat Bikes, like the Surly Pugsley and the Salsa Mukluk, are best known for their wide tires. The standard Surly Pugsley has 65mm wide rims, and the rims on the Surly Moonlander are 100mm wide. My Surly Necromancer Pugsley has 85mm wide rims and the tires are 4″ wide. In the winter you normally run tires like this at extremely low pressure (between 5 and 10 psi) which helps the tires “float” over packed snow, and in the summer you can ride over sand on the beach with ease (OK, maybe ease is not the right word, but you can do it with a smile on your face).

The major downside of Fat Bikes is their weight—my customized Pugsley weighs in at 42 pounds (not counting the seat bag and water bottles). As most cyclists know, heavy bikes are usually slower than lighter bikes (which is why roadies love carbon fiber bikes).

Even though I bought my Pugsley for winter riding, I’ve put more miles on it this spring on off-road trails than I did this past winter in the snow. While I have two other mountain bikes, the Pugsley is just plain fun to ride on the trails! It is never going to match the speed of my Gary Fisher Big Sur, but what it lacks in speed it makes up for in comfort.

Yesterday I took the Pugsley out for a ride on the Des Plaines River Trail in northeastern Illinois. The trail follows the Des Plaines River and is pretty flat. The crushed-gravel trail is shared by hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. In most places the trail is smooth, but in areas with heavy equestrian traffic the trail is very bumpy due to the hoof marks left by the horses. Also, the lowlands often have standing water and long stretches of mud.

I inflated the tires on the Pugs to 15 psi (that’s high for a Fat Bike) and rode for 68 miles on the trail. My average speed was only about 1 MPH slower than it would have been with my other mountain bikes, but this was the most enjoyable off-road ride I’ve ever had! The wide tires on the Pugs soaked up every bump on the trail and I never had to slow down while riding through mud, sand, loose gravel, or standing water. While the 42 pounds of steel in the Pugs makes me dread long climbs, there is no other bike in the world I’d rather have on a long descent.

If you are thinking about buying a Fat Bike, don’t wait till next winter! Fat Bikes can put a smile on your face all year-long. Where other bikes have to slow down your Fat Bike speeds up.

 
28 Comments

Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Fat Bikes, Product Reviews

 

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Surly Jethro Tule 15mm Offset Box Wrench

If you own a fixed gear bike or have a Shimano Alfine Internal Geared Hub then you need a 15mm box wrench to remove the nuts on your bolt-off hub so you can repair a tire. Unfortunately, standard length 15mm box wrenches are too heavy to carry in your seat bag and the shorter cycling-specific wrenches usually hurt your hands when you try to use them. Surly, the maker of great bikes like the 1×1, Steamroller, Karate Monkey, and Pugsley, has a great 15mm offset box wrench for you—the Surly Jethro Tule.

Surly Jethro Tule 15mm Offset Box Wrench for bicycle repairs

Surly Jethro Tule 15mm Offset Box Wrench

The Surly Jethro Tule is made of highly polished stainless-steel and has a double-sided 15mm offset box wrench on one end with a bottle opener on the other. Sitting above the bottle opener is a spoon-shaped area that allows you to apply a lot more leverage than you can with traditional short wrenches. The offset design of the wrench makes it easy to reach inside recessed dropouts without fear of scraping your knuckles when the axle nuts loosen.

A large box wrench (like the ones you have in your garage) can apply a lot more torque than you will ever be able to get with the Jethro Tule. I would suggest you always use the Jethro Tule when installing or removing your wheels—that way you know you will be able to match the torque when you have to remove a tire the next time you get a flat.

The Jethro Tule does not have a carrying case, so to keep it from clanging with the other metal items in my saddle bag I just took a 5″ piece of an old inner tube and closed one end with tire patch cement. The Jethro Tule fits perfectly in this case and the seat bag stays quiet.

The Surly Jethro Tule retails for around $30 and if your local bike shop does not have it in stock they can order it for you. As mentioned above, the Jethro Tule has a bottle opener that some people love to use for a post-ride drink. That is kind of funny because I’ve never seen a carton of chocolate milk that needed a bottle opener!

 

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SKS Grand M.O.M. MTB Oversized Rear Mudguard

If you own a Fat Bike like a Surly Pugsley or the Salsa Mukluk then you probably know what it is like to finish a ride covered with mud from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. Being covered with snow is not as bad since it is a lot easier to clean up than mud. We get dirty not because we love playing in the mud so much, but we really don’t have any choice. Until someone makes fenders that will give decent coverage over a 4″ wide tire we are going to get dirty. In the mean time, unless your make your own fenders, the SKS Grand M.O.M. MTB Oversized Mudguard Rear Bicycle Fender is probably the best rear fender you are going to find.

SKS Grand M.O.M. MTB Oversized Mudguard Rear Bicycle Fender

SKS Grand M.O.M. MTB Oversized Rear Mudguard

The SKS Grand M.O.M. fender is 19″ long by 4″ wide (and in one spot it narrows to only 3.5″ wide). While this fender is perfect for either a 26″ or 29″ mountain bike, it is still a bit narrow for a true Fat Bike. However, it does a decent job at stopping the mud from being thrown all over your back. This fender should fit on just about any mountain bike and you can put it on or take it off in just a couple of seconds. It has a quick-release power strap that will secure it tightly to nearly any size seat tube, and it is adjustable to just about any angle your bike needs. This fender is made of plastic and weights only 182g.

If you are looking for something to keep your bottom bracket and crank sprockets clean, then you can attach a SKS Mud-X light dirtboard to your down tube. The SKS Mud-X attaches to your down tube with rubber fasteners and includes two foamed rubber pads to avoid scratches and twisting. The SKS Mud-X is 12″ long by 5″ wide and only weights 90g.

SKS Mud-X light dirtboard

SKS Mud-X on the down tube

While both of these mudguards are easy to clean once you get home, there is an easy way to keep mud from sticking to your fenders in the first place—just coat the bottom of the fenders with PAM no-stick cooking spray before you go out for a ride. The PAM will wear off after every ride, but it does an incredible job of keeping the mud and/or snow from sticking to your fenders!

The SKS Grand M.O.M. mudguard retails for $30, and the SKS Mud-X sells for only $9. You should be able to pick these up at your local bike shop—if they don’t have them in stock they can easily order them for you. If all else fails, you can always order them from Amazon.com.

 

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