Touring on a Surly Pugsley (Progress Report)

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(A Tom Walwyn photo)

When I got home last year from touring on the Pugsley in Alaska I ventured some thoughts, all enthusiastic, about the bike choice. After all, it’s a bike, it goes when you pedal it, in fact it goes just about anywhere a bike can go, and if you’re not racing or trying to keep pace on asphalt with your skinny tire friends, what’s not to like? And in AK, why are you not riding a fat bike? Still, I envisioned myself going back to the Long Haul Trucker with 26″ x 2.0′s for overseas rough stuff touring, the ‘cross bike for smooth roads, and a two nine — the folding Rob English with an IGH, one of the best bikes I’ve had the pleasure of riding — for domestic expedition use.

Then my imagination was hijacked by all those days, not necessarily winter days, hooting and having a ball on the Fat Bike, pointing it into the woods and going, just going. Sure, the tires, rims and bottom bracket on the thing are a decent argument against taking it too far for too long away from North America. If those go FUBAR one would have to get creative. It’s a pig, an automatic minimum 10 lbs. penalty over your next heaviest bike. But I’ve spent most of my time over the last eight or nine years on a rigid singlespeed, so I’m no stranger to poor judgment in bicycle selection.

Here’s what I think after two months riding the Pugsley in South America.

It’s perfect, ideal, optimal, I wouldn’t for a second pack another bike if I was packing tonight. On maps of the countries I’m visiting if the line is thick, I avoid it. If locals say there’s a track or trekking trail to where I’m going, I favor that. If a route is described as muddy rocky broken sandy river crossing tough going, you’ve got my attention. The fat bike is effortless ease where other machines merely get by. My companions for a span Tom and Sarah were almost always able to ride the track that I rode on their standardly Schwalbe shod rigs, they are very capable cyclists, but we could see that the Fat Bike was having a don’t bother picking a line time of it. When Sarah test rode it on a rocky loose uphill outside of Cajamarca, she pedaled away from us, easy peasy.

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“Give it back, Sarah. No, seriously, give it back.”

Tiny marbles, big ones, cobbles, dry river bottoms, sketchy wet, ruts, deep muck, deep gravel, rodeo dirt road descents at speed; yeah, no, I don’t sweat any of that. One could achieve some of the same results riding a full suspension, but touring on such a thing is patently stupid.* Fat tires to the rescue. As a bonus, kids, soldiers, moms, construction workers, crowds at parties, hostal owners, dogs, everyone digs it. Someone said it reminded him of the moto in The Dark Knight. That right there would be nearly good enough for me.

Any regrets I may have entertained about bringing this bike have long since evaporated.**

*No, not seriously.

**True, long asphalt stretches into a headwind make me want to scream, fling the thing into a ditch, and caper about like a lunatic. But I doubt that that’s the bike’s fault.

27 thoughts on “Touring on a Surly Pugsley (Progress Report)

    • Hey Jill, thanks for dropping in. Wait, overseas trip? I thought a gang of us all were bringing our fat bikes to Mongolia, Beat could get his own darn Fat Back for the trip ;-) Okay, a plan at best in the theoretical stages, sure, but still.

      Have a great time in Nepal!

  1. And to think, all that deliberation! Glad you made the right call, and that the Pugs’s ambassadorial qualities continue to thrive on a new continent.

    • Hey Nick, thanks for dropping in. Congratulations, you’re going to love the Pugsley and I look forward to seeing how you go with it.

      My whimsical friends registered me for the WM100, so I’ll be in AK in March. Perhaps see you then.

      Oh, and your blog is terrific, love both the writing and photos.

      Cheers,
      Joe

  2. Hey Any update on the Mogolian idea? I’m currently in spain on my Pug, but will soon head east towards Mongolia and Siberia.

    Good site, Thank’s.
    Martin (Denmark)

    • Hello Martin,

      Thank you for visiting the blog. I’m interested to hear that you are riding a Fat Bike on tour, and am eager to hear more. As far as Mongolia, it is still on my mind with all seriousness but there is no timetable yet. Keep us posted on your progress!

      Joe

  3. Did 5000 km around europe with Larry’s on various terrain before they gave up. Converted my pug to a roadbike with some Big Apple tires and got from Barcelona to Copenhagen in 24 days. Speedy pug. Great versatility. Will now head east before long, towards, soon to be , chilly Siberia.6

    • Martin, fantastic, great to hear it. I don’t necessarily believe it when people say, “if there are no pictures, it didn’t happen,” but I’d love to see any photos you’ve collected from your adventure. All the best, and keep in touch (and let me know when you make it to the Americas).

      Joe

      • Hey Joe.
        I did take some pics on the trip, not a lot though. Furthermore, i’m struggling a bit with setting up a good system for blogging, posting pictures etc. Is currently testing various themes on the wordpress platform, but havent yet found anything that works for me. Any suggestions on that?
        Are leaving Denmark in 2-3 weks for the Russia tour and if everything works out i’ll be taking a swim in the pacific ocean next spring/summer.
        If anyone likes to join me for parts of the jorney, the are more than welcome to contact me at “skolma(at)hotmail.com”

        Your travels are inspiring, thank’s for the big work you did at documenting them. I hope to contribute to that a bit myself.

        Martin

  4. Hello Joe. I just discovered your site. Great job. I was a bit surprised to find out that people do long distance tours on fat bikes. I just got a Pugsley, and I am seeing things differently now.

    • Thanks, and thanks for visiting. I know what you mean about being surprised. I initially—some years ago now—got a Pugsley just for laughs outside in the New England winter. After the snow thawed and did some old favorites on it, I realized what should have been more obvious: Fat Bikes are the most capable exploration bikes around. I don’t tour on it as a gimmick or for attention. It’s just the best tool for my aesthetic, and I now feel stymied and limited when I’m on other rigs.

      Cool that you got a Pugs. You might just ride it everywhere.

      Cheers,
      Joe

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