Surly Pugsley Fat Tire Bike with a Rohloff Hub—So Very Nice.
No, I’m not becoming obsessed with fat tire all-terrain bikes, it’s just that they are gaining popularity and they seem to be a big part of my local bike scene. This is the personal bike of Xavier, the owner of Q-Bikes here in San Diego. As a knowledgeable bike rider and frame builder, the modifications he made on this bike really impressed me during my three hours aboard the saddle.
Xavier’s shop is a Rohloff dealer, so adding this great hub to the Pugsley must have been a no-brainer for him. The last Rohloff equipped bike I rode was his too. I continue to gain more and more respect for the feel and quality of this jewel of a geared hub. The gear range, shifting and external appearing simplicity are a cyclist’s dream. It really matches this Pugsley well.
The bike itself, before the mods, seems to be mapped out with much thought. The light-weight feel was welcomed. The ease of the steering surprised me, especially compared to the few other fat tire bikes I have ridden, I am not sure how much of this was built-in or a result of the changes Xavier has made. As I climbed over curbs and floated through soft and hard-packed sand, my smile never wavered.
The super-wide rims are very interesting. They have a couple different patterns of spoke holes so they can be laced up to match the centering of the rims, hubs, and frame. They have large lightening holes that allow the inner tube to bulge out in a unusual and stylish way. Turning true and feeling rock solid, their fragile look is very deceiving.
The tires he has on the bike worked perfectly for my riding. I normally don’t go out of my way to bang over curbs and look for obstacles to conquer. Yet, that seems to be what this kind of bike is designed for. Deep sand and soft terrain are no match for the tires on this Surly. Xavier told me that he really built it for riding in snow. Some of his stories of cold weather rides sounded like great fun. Bring it on.
The Rohloff hub could have gone in with no changes, but Xavier was not happy with the way the factory rear horizontal drop-outs affected the mounting of the rear wheel. As he worked his magic, the new drop-outs he installed (from a donor frame) make for a better way for things to line-up, make chain adjustments, and secure the wheel in the frame. They are kind of a pendulum set-up that overcomes some of the failings of the original design.
Plus the clean job he did on that part of the frame modification really stands out. I personally could see a Gates CenterTrack belt drive intergraded into the mix, and maybe that was on his mind too. That might be why he hasn’t final painted the frame mods yet. But still, the chain drive worked flawlessly and a change to a belt might be just my dream, not his. This great drive train he has added to the Surly is top-notch and covers every one of my needs.
I noticed this bike has a much smaller wheelbase than the other fat tire bikes I’ve tried out. It really seems to do the job in agility and handling. That is part of the reason it feels so light too. 40 lbs. on my cheapo fish scale was the number I came up with. Considering what an heavy piece the Rohloff hub is, I was amazed to see that low overall weight on the scale. That is one more reason it rides so well, I’m sure.
Sand bikes I have ridden up until now barely needed brakes. The rolling resistance was high, and a simple coaster brake would have covered anything except steep down hill runs. Not so on this Pugsley, as it rolled much like any other bike. The hydraulic disc brakes are front and rear. They are smooth, strong, and needed. Of course, disc brakes add to the looks of any bike. On a bike with rims like these you don’t have many other choices anyway, so bring on some big bad discs, please.
Mechanically, I love this bike. But way more than that, it just fit me so well. The up-right bars and seating position make for the most comfortable of rides. I was still wanting more as my time with it came to an end. I couldn’t come up with one negative as I piled away at the pedals. I don’t really see a fat tire bike in my personal future, but you might.
Many bike riders are looking for that something special, a bike unlike all others. The real trick here is to have one that rides like no others. I think Xavier has fully succeeded in that respect. A cool bike that is hard or uncomfortable to ride is not that cool. Function with form, a long lived dream for many, is achieved with the combination of parts and passion that have gone into this fat tire special.
If this is what you are looking for, an off the shelf fat tire bike most likely won’t deliver. I will be riding more all terrain bikes as time goes by, but I do feel like I have already experienced the cream of the crop. If something real special in this bike genre is on your list, talk to Xavier about your own custom to enjoy.
Got sand (or snow)? Turbo Bob.
“I want to break the world record for slowness, to be by a long shot the last one out there, to wish this bicycle a quarter inch off the ground so that together we become a single stationary beast under which the earth turns leisurely, bringing the finish line beneath me as I hang motionless, suspended through nebulae of gnats and subtle barometric changes, as close as I can come to that passion where there is no difference between the willed absence of motion and the still absolute of speed.”—Claire Bateman, The Bicycle Slow Race.
Link to my favorite local bike shop, Q-bikes
in San Diego—Clairemont and Lemon Grove
A link to the article I did on Q-bikes aways back
Link to the Rohloff hub website
Link to the Rohloff hub article I did
Link to Surly Bikes
Link to a video I posted on this bike