Sun Spider AT—Fat Tire Fun.
A couple months back, Dave of Cycle Armory, brought one of these Sun Spider AT fat tired bikes to our group ride around Mission Bay. It looked like great fun as he smiled his way through the ride. Watching him pedal over the sand up to the water made me want to give it a try. So yesterday I managed to get a chance to try one out on sand, dirt and the trail.
Surf Monkey Bicycles, a stand-out local bike shop in Pacific Beach, was the place to go for the excitement of the day. They have a great selection of these sand bikes. Although it seems to come from the factory in one basic configuration, Jake at Surf Monkey goes the extra distance with some cool mods that really wake this bike up. The one I rode was custom painted in orange metal flake and out-fitted with a seven-speed Shimano geared hub.
They start out in matt black with a two-speed kickback coaster brake hub. They do have the accommodations for a front disc brake and other options. From there, the skies the limit. Surf Monkey has these in many colors and layouts for sale and rent. Plus they can do up your bike any way you like. I have to admit I was pleased the bike they lent me had the extra gears to work through.
After a quick photo shoot with one of their surfboard trailers hooked to my E-Brompton, I was headed for the bikeway around the bay. With the nicely done custom paint job glistening in the summer sun, I was already beaming. The ride was comfortable and the gears responded easily as I made my way on the street with the shoreline as my destination. Although not all that extra heavy compared with everyday beach cruisers, between the big tires and the heft, I could tell I was headed for a good workout on this 12 mile loop.
This is a big bike. The tires really are part of the feeling. They can hold up to thirty pounds of pressure, but set at twenty, it did roll fairly easily. The trick to riding in the sand is to lower them to the five to eight pound range. The times I took it in deep sand I could tell that the higher pressure was slowing my progress. In fact the deep sand slowed me to a stop more than once. Next time, I will bring a pump so trying the low pressure won’t keep me from riding on the solid trail with the extra drag.
Speaking of the tires, I got a great kick out of the tread pattern. Large spider patterns make up the design and fit in so well with the theme and name of this beach crawler. Of course, the aluminum frame and steel fork are specially designed to fit these monster sized tires to a T. Built-in are a bunch of places to bolt down racks, disc brakes and most any kind of wild goodies you might want to add. It seems like the crew at Sun know that the owners of this kind of bike like to go all out with add-ons.
I fit on the Sun Spider just fine. It comes in a unisex 18” frame. My large body took to it fine and before the ride I let some of the gals give it a go. With the seat all the way down, they seemed more than comfortable with the sizing too. In fact with the shortest of them in the saddle, the bike looked just that much larger. It is a big bike.
I had no problem charging the largest hill of the ride. The gear spacing and ratios the Jake has chosen fit well with the way this Sun Spider AT rides. Shifting was easy and quick with the twist-grip shifter on the right grip. The coaster brake worked good enough and never made me wish they had sent me out with the front disc brake equipped model. I did wonder now and then why I had no drink holder, but next time I will make sure one is mounted up.
And there will be a next time. In fact the word is that a different sand bike will be making its way to the shop that has many of the options already built-in. I will ride and report on that bike before the year is up. Sand biking is fun and exciting so I will be sure to follow the tide of new models as they appear. I saw a post on FB of a all carbon-fiber fully suspended sand bike shown at Eurobike this week. How do I get my hands on that beauty?
Looking at Sun’s website I notice they offer way more different types of bikes than I have seen in person. Dave often borrows the rental Sun tandem from Surf Monkey so he and his girlfriend can make the beach group rides together. It appears to be made well and Dave speaks highly of it. The two of them just glide on that tandem during the rides. I am sure that Surf Monkey Bicycles can order you any bike in the Sun line-up you might want. Plus, they are hot on customizing it any way you can dream up.
If you get a chance stop by the shop in Pacific Beach to check out some of the vintage and custom bikes they have on display. You can rent one of the these sand bikes and see how you like it. They also are a Pedego dealer so if a new E-bike is on your wish list, they can help you there too.
You may be wondering about all the sand getting into the inner workings of the bike. It is a big concern for me when I ride my vintage and newer bikes at the beach. It seems that these sand bikes are pretty well sealed again the sand, although cleaning it off the chain now and then would be advisable. But, you do have to pay to play, so if you want to ride down the beach, prepare for a little extra maintenance as the months go by. Cruising the sand is great fun so it will be worth it. One other thing I noticed about this sand cruiser was the large amount of people that noticed it and pointed it out to their friends. I haven’t been noticed on a bike this much since the days I use to ride the Dyno Cruiser (super-stretch job) we offered at the Schwinn shop I worked at.
Rooster tails anyone? Thanks for checking out my blog, Turbo Bob.
“Principal Arguments That May be Marshaled Against Bicycles
1. Bicycles are childish.
2. Bicycles are indignified.
3. Bicycles are unsafe.
4. Bicycles are un-American.
5. I don’t like the kind of people who ride bicycles.
6. Bicycles are unfair.
7. Bicycle are good exercise.”
Sun Bicycles on the web
Surf Monkey Bicycles on the web and Facebook
Cycle Armory on the web and Facebook