Surly Pugsley – new shoes

A couple of months ago I became a happy owner of a yellow fatty monster, a Surly Pugsley that is. Not everything from the original specs suited me and at first I considered assembling the bicycle from parts, according to my wants and needs – more wants than needs I guess. Unfortunately used frames do not come up very often in the EU and I was forced to look for a new one eventually. Further price scouting revealed that buying parts separately would end up being more expensive then getting a complete bike, thus burying the idea once and for all. The die has been cast.
Why a Pugsley?
Because (not-always-random order):
  • (for far too long) I wanted one,
  • Kuba Postrzygacz has fired my imagination with his story a long time ago,
  • Vik is good at being persuasive,
  • Nick has some cool ideas,
  • Joe’s already checked that this frame will accept almost everything – though it’s not always elegant,
  • Sometimes life’s a boggy place,
  • I’m not in a hurry,
  • (at last) I could.

    And so, after a long period of forum lurking and convincing myself that this bike doesn’t make any sense, it’s unnecessary and what not… I found myself standing right next to a huge box, it’s contents responsible for some sleepless nights in the past.
    The bike didn’t travel a lot in it’s original form, merely a couple of meters across the living room. Just to check that it’s: too long here, too short there, this I don’t need and that’s certainly missing. Almost immediately I began modifying. 
    First I’ve changed the cockpit, straight handlebars where swapped for my beloved Salsa Woodchippers. Naturally with that came the necessity to change the Microshift thumb shifters for some Shimano bar-ends.


    Secondly, the asymmetric 135 mm OLD fork got swapped for a symmetric one with a standard 100 mm spacing. This enabled me to run a dynamo hub up front.

    New hub, new wheel which I have decided to build by myself. This would be my first attempt at lacing and truing a wheel and that with a rather uncommon and expensive rim – it would be a shame to wreck it. Luckily all went well and so far I have managed to get some 200 km on it without (touch wood) any problems – I still need to check if the spokes hold their tension.
    While designing and building up the wheel I’ve found the Freespoke calculator and the genius guide by Sheldon Brown very helpful – if someone can’t build up a wheel with the help of those two, he or she probably shouldn’t have tried in the first place ;)
    Apart of the TM-1 spoke tension-meter, bought specially for this occasion, I lacked any professional tools, in such a case Sheldon recommends some Jazz improvisation.

    Fork + chair + duct tape =
    Truing stand
    Spoke + marker pen + two boxes =
    Dishing tool

    …and the wheel is almost there.

    My last modification was changing the stock fat tires for something lighter and more suited for tarmac.

    Tarmac on a Pugsley? Why not! It’s an option! This doesn’t mean everyone should try it or that it’s even smart to do so… to say the least.
    Yet, at this point any excursions or even snow remained all but a dream and a bike has to be tried, fitted, tamed and, finally, tapped on the back.
    Another thing was the 50 km commute both ways. I didn’t feel like punishing myself physically and financially trying to spin the heavy and expensive fat rubber… all the carbs necessary to get them rolling were also taken into careful consideration.
    Just by changing the stock tyres and Surly Toobs for some lighter Schwalbe Big Apples 2.35 and regular mtb tubes, I have managed to save around 800 grams. That’s for one wheel! For comparison, just the tyres:

     Surly Larry 27tpi, ~1.5 kg 
     Schwalbe Big Apple 2.35, ~0.8 kg 
    Thoughts? It’s not bad at all! I had some initial problems with getting the right fit with the dropbars, but with some trail and error I managed to get just as comfy as my other bikes – that’s very comfy. Nothings pulling, rubbing, itching… all hugs and kisses. Pugsley sports a relatively long top tube and,  with the drop bars I’m using,  I could have been a bit better off with a frame one size smaller.
    It handles tarmac exceptionally good . Big Apples roll well as expected, but are susceptible to too low pressure. This becomes most noticeable at the front where in curves the bike tends to over steer. Not to mention using these on wet grass is plain lethal. I could do with some proper balloon semi-slick tyres .
    Looking at my commute, my speed decreased considerably when compared to my previous bike. That’s expected, there’s a 3-4 kg difference between those two – most of it in the worst possible spot, the wheels! My 24 km route takes around 5-10 minutes more on the Pugsley, that’s acceptable. In the distant future I’m planning to commute with some fat rubber, this will be an opportunity to check their (un)suitability for tarmac.
    In the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
    It seems that the Pugsley is a bit of a Swiss Army knife amongst bikes. The frame mostly allows to use standard elements. That’s apart of the wheels, where one has to rely on original Surly parts. However, there are cheaper alternatives available. 
    With some dedication it’s even possible to build up a set of 28″ wheels and have a lighter option for 100% tarmac roads or mountains with lots o climbing. Unfortunately the frame offset means that building a strong rear wheel is a task by far more difficult that it is with a symmetrical frame, requiring carefully chosen parts and attention. I’m awaiting for the last parts to arrive… 
    We like each other.


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