Surly Pugsley with Old Man Mountain Cold Springs front and rear racks. Larry tires. Lone Peak Mount Rainier and Ortlieb Sport Packer Plus panniers, Revelate frame bag + Gas Tank. Fuel bottle in Bikebuddy cage secured to seatpost with Minoura bottle cage attachment.
After summertime touring in Alaska last year on the Pugsley, I reported having had an excellent time and that I was very satisfied with the choice of bicycle. I also said that I didn’t imagine myself touring on it again much in the future, unless there was some special reason to be on a fat bike. Evidently I asserted something about preferring fast-and-light. Equally evidently — though I waxed on about how the big tires inspired complete strangers to outlandish declarations of bike lust — I didn’t anticipate just how much the fat tire format would capture my imagination. So, going round and round in that this is really important but it couldn’t possibly matter much sort of way, I’ve tested my packing and gear with an eye toward five months on the trail in South America. MC spoke with the convictional voice of reason: “There’s no issue, the bouncy bike is completely out. Ride the bike that makes the most sense for covering distance, take the Long Haul Trucker.” To a normal person she would have been completely persuasive. By way of antidote and encouragement, AE said, “…besides the fact that everything will be rideable, you’re going to make more friends. If we were into not being miserable then we’d go to the beach and have umbrella drinks.” This sort of quip ought to have set off all kinds of alarm bells. Here’s the deal: The Pugs is about 10 pounds heavier than my Trucker, and about 14 pounds heavier than the English Folding 2-9. I shudder at those differences, though, really, the English is out since the wheel format can create headaches if something goes wrong. (True, the Pugsley wheels are also not standard, but there’s a reasonably straightforward plan against catastrophe in that case.) For the broken road jungle walk dirt track mountain trekking path trip that I envision, the bikes are probably nearly a wash. Each is superior to the other at the extremes of a spectrum from asphalt to singletrack. I would hope that the Pugsley can make short work of Bolivian sandy roads, but that’s only a small fraction of the journey. In all, the Trucker ought to be the default, easier to repair, ridable anywhere. But I’m just so damned stupidly enamored of the Pugs. Here’s the thought that makes the fat bike so blindingly seductive: For any terrain ahead of you, if a bike can go there at all, a fat bike can go there. I’m sure I’ll be angrily repeating that to myself like a mantra as I beg for help hoisting the thing on to a bus roof. The total base weight — bike, bags, all gear except minimal clothing worn, but no food or water — is 72 lbs. (~32 kg’s). Not overly heavy by the standards of some cyclotourists, but unusual for me. As far as the method of carrying gear, I’ve toured with many different configurations on that front, from a trailer to rear panniers to superlight just-rucksack. For this trip I’m using the traditional four pannier method, though all are small (and marketed as front panniers). I tried out the same load with the Lone Peak panniers in the rear and a Revelate front sling and pocket + Viscacha seat bag instead of the front rack + panniers. The half bikepacking setup didn’t quite give me enough useable space for the times when I would be traveling with a few days worth of food and water. I could probably still have managed, but this kind of trip also goes a bit more easily when I can quickly and conveniently remove most of the bags to, say, bring them upstairs in the hostel or toss them up to a friendly guy in a dump truck I’m about to get a ride from. The downside, as always, is weight. The swing was about 3.5 lbs., and I decided I could live with that. The laden bike rides very smoothly and I can negotiate fairly demanding singletrack with this arrangement. [Edit: I changed my mind just before I left to South America and went back to the bikepacking soft bags. Glad I did!]