Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I thought fat was a 28mm tire...

It's all relative.  A fat road bike tire is a 28.  A fat cross bike tire is a 40.  A fat mountain bike tire used to be a 2.35.  Then these bikes came out that pushed the fat envelope.  Made the envelope bust at the seams.  To someone used to the sleekness of a classic road bike these bikes are double-takers.  By now, they've been out for a few years and are getting more refined and dialed.  I've watched the development from afar with little personal interest, but big interest in seeing how they work.  Being a bike shop and needing to sell things in order to keep the doors open, I brought in a couple Surly Pugley bikes last week.

I posted a photo of the Pugsley yesterday on the Black Mountain Cycles Facebook page and the comments about how much fun they are to ride immediately started popping up.  I believe it.  Don't doubt it in the least.  If I lived somewhere that had more immediate, more demanding dirt terrain, I could see owning one.  But I find myself, for several reasons, at the opposite end of the spectrum.

For one, I like to push myself and my cross bike on trails most people ride mountain bikes.  And two, I like to ride the road to get to the dirt.  In some cases that means over an hour on the road.  The time I get to ride means making the most of every ride.  If I have 4 hours, I want to ride 4 hours.  I don't want to drive (and any drive from Pt. Reyes Station to a riding area is at least 40 minutes) almost 90 minutes total to ride a couple hours (have to factor in the time spent getting ready to ride and the time packing it all back into the car).  I'll do this on occasion, but for everyday/weekly type riding, I want to maximize my time on the bike.  This means road rides or cross bike rides.  I have maybe 10 mountain bikes that are ready to ride, yet I've gotten out on a mountain bike twice this year.  I also can't justify another bike to myself that I know, based on my riding habits, I'll ride infrequently.

Interestingly, I typed up the bulk of this post yesterday and today, Guitar Ted has a bit on his blog about fat bikes and Traction Action the tires provide and how they make technical sections easier, hence more fun.  And who doesn't want to have more fun on a bike ride?  Fat bikes reinforce the n+1 reasoning for adding bikes to the quiver.  However, it's unlikely I'll be adding one to my personal bike quiver any time soon.  I just wouldn't find myself using it enough to justify it - or maybe I would find myself using it all the time and neglecting my other bikes.  Hmmm....

So,  yes, I think these fat bikes would be a hoot to ride.  I think the bikes are pretty damn cool and there was a whole lot of thinking outside the box to design them.  And I have a couple of Surly Pugsley bikes in the shop that are for sale.  One 16" and one 18" at the moment.  And right now on the northern sections of Bolinas Ridge, these things would rule the crappy, rutted out trail sections.  Heck, they might even make the Olema Valley Trail semi-fun.  

Surly Pugsley
Just can't get over how damn big those tires are.  

Surly Pugsley

Surly Pugsley
This illustrates how the rear is offset so that with a 135mm spaced rear hub and a rim that is offset it all comes together to create a chain line that clears that almost 4" tire.

And now these 3.7" fat tires are skinny in comparison to the 4.5" tires that are available.  Fat is relative.

(What's playing:  KWMR Faultline Radio)


Guitar Ted said...

Thanks for the mention, Mike. Ya know, you could look at this another way: Getting to the trail head by car to enjoy more time on the "good stuff" instead of riding "boring" pavement, or dangerous roads. It is all relative, as you say, isn't it?

As for me, I almost will never consider riding on paved roads these days, but my situation presents a lot different set of opportunities than your situation does.

It is all relative, but the bottom line is riding your bicycle, whatever that may be, wherever you like to ride it, as often as you can ride it.

Anonymous said...

Mike, I've spent the last nine months on a used purple Pugsley, daily. At times, I curse the heavy wheels and highly tractional tires (resistance! when you don't need it), but mostly it rides like a bike and knows no limits. Last year, riding the Divide on a repurposed drop-bar 85 Schwinn High Sierra, I saw lots of opportunities to explore new terrain, but the gravel roads of the Divide were the approximate limit of the 47mm tire I was riding. To note, the High Sierra ate up the pavement as well, in the way your cross bikes are real performance hybrids. I promised next time I come back to the mountainous west, I'd bring a bigger tool. A 29er would be a sensible option, but an unexpected move to Anchorage put me on a fatbike for five months of winter riding. When spring arrived, I left town on the Pugsley.

A fatbike is a commitment to riding off-road (mostly), and a tool to explore new terrain, not only to make the current mtb loop more fun or more silly. There have always been lots of things bikes cannot do, there are a few less with the introduction of fat tires.

I think lightweight fat tires in the 2.5"-3.8" range will hit home with more people, such as with the upcoming Krampus. You were there in the early 80's, it's the promise of fat tires all over again.


CadenceMichael said...

"Fat is relative." True in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

I rode down that section of Bolinas Ridge you mentioned two weekends ago on a full-suspension mountain bike and actually wished for something like the Pugsley, so it was interesting to read you writing about such a thing. Rutted out is not the word for that trail right now...even with 100 millimeters of travel front and rear I think my kidneys were damaged from the impacts...I do think a few fillings got shaken loose at the very least.

Trailer Park Cyclist said...

Watching this Fat Bike thing has been fun and my first impression was "Clown Shoes" then I found out that Surly was already using that term (further proof that Surly is invading my brain. That's why my helmet now has a foil liner.)

Then Gypsy started talking about fat bikes in Florida and I thought "yeah, maybe for the beach." Then I remembered that Florida is all beach and I had visions of a circumnavigation of the state on the beach. That led me to remember many failed sojourns onto power-line trails and fire-roads that became bike-hikes (a term denoting failure)because of sugar sand.

Suddenly I began to lust after my own pair of clown shoes and with all that pneumatic suspension who needs steel? Maybe 'luminum will get a reprieve.

How about a 2013 Cunningham Kong?


Doug said...

Mike, You wrote, "By now, they've been out for a few years...."

It's interesting to me that so many people think they've only been around for a few years. More correctly, they've only been hugely popular for a few years. I bought my Purple Pugsley back in June of 2006. The Pugsley itself has been around since 2005.

When I first saw the Pugsley on the Surly website back in 2005, I wanted one right away. Back then it was primarily considered a snow bike developed for Minnesota winters. I wasn't a summer mountain biker, but bought mine to explore the hundreds of miles of winter snowmobile trails around my northern Minnesota city. I've never had so much fun on any othr bicycle I've owned.

Anonymous said...

You said it TJ! Can we get an aluminum 'Ham Kong with drop bars, or a titanium Potts King?

I'm something of a sugar addict, so your description of Florida sand is enticing.


blackmountaincycles said...

Thanks all for the comments. Seems to me as I get older that "a few years" is encompassing more and more time. The turn of the millennium seems like it was only a few years ago, but it was almost 13 years. Sheesh, where does the time go. And I do think the Krampus bike is going to be a big home-run.

Mauricio Babilonia said...

My experience is similar to Doug's in that I originally purchased my fat bike to ride on snow, but have found it to be a very capable bike for exploration-style riding in any season.

I'd recommend giving one a bit more of your riding time before assuming you couldn't ride pavement to the trailhead. Pressure is important with the bigger tires, so put in 20 for pavement, drop to ~8 for trail and just remember to take a mini-pump along (I use the Lezyne micro floor drive HV) for the return trip. Sounds like a pain, but it turns out to be not such a big deal.

As always, different strokes, but give it a shot...riding something new is always worth the experience.