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Dear Nate, I love you.

A Surly Nate on a FlatTop 100 rim

A Surly Nate is perfect for fat, single, & riding hard.

Without question, it was love at first sight.
Infatuation, maybe, but it’s quickly proving to be deeper-lugged. We hooked up a few times and I’m pretty happy with the ride quality. I know it’s moving fast, but I’m actually thinking about proposing… proposing the idea of bringing another into the relationship.

The Surly Nate is the gnarliest piece of rubber on the market over 3.5 inches wide, but is it worth the extra 100 grams or am I just being a stickler with negligible weight and numbers?

After finally seeing one in the local bike shop, I got the courage to bring one home, replacing my Larry running backwards on the rear of my Pugs. Mounted on my FlatTop 100s, Nate’s business width is a full 3.8 inches of ‘kung fu grip.’

Time for an on-the-snow test on local trails in Fairbanks, Alaska.
We’ve received ground-covering snow, enough for the anxious dog mushers to get out their sleds, but not enough to flatten out the trails that cross tussock-filled swamps. Most people have been running their ATVs still, so there are lots of ruts among the six-plus inch deep tussock mounds. Technical snow riding, if you want to classify it.

I was leading the local ride, our first Girthy Thursday with Far North Fatbikes. We took an ATV trail that bombed down a steep hill along a powerline cut that would bring us to a creek. I had no idea if anyone had crossed the creek yet this winter, or if it was frozen over. There may not even be a trail yet on the far side.

The dusting we had gotten that day caused my Larry to wash out all over on the  rutted-trail, with fluffy, unconsolidated sugar in the middle and both sides. It was quite a challenge to keep the front tire going straight down the ATV rut. But, never once did the rear end do anything but scream to not touch the brakes and keep going forward, something I wasn’t used to, even with the Larry I had on there before, flipped backwards.

After flying down the hill, we all talked about how there would be no way a SnowCat’ed 29er could have ridden the trail. I used to ride a 29er with SnowCats and Schwalbe Racing Ralphs and challenged everyone to show me a place they could ride a fatbike that I couldn’t ride my single-speed 29er. I topped-out first on every hill and out-rode, or at least rode with, everyone, in all conditions, until I hit my first springtime sugar snow. Then, I broke down (almost emotionally) and bought a fatbike after we rode a dried-up river bed in the Alaska Range for 12 miles one spring day. It was the most consuming & technical riding I’d ever done, but my buddy on his Pugsley was sitting down, riding the cobble. I cursed him, mostly for how he unconsciously forced me to build a fatbike, out of observation of the supreme capability of four inch wide tires. And now that I own one, I’ve never looked back. I put road rubber on my 29er and only ride it to work on occasion.
Biking isn’t fun anymore… but fatbiking is.

Anyway, back to the Nate story… We reached the creek and found it frozen and solid, but there wasn’t a trail on the far side, since it had just frozen up and probably wasn’t safe yet for ATVs, snowmachines, or dog teams. So, back up the hill it was. Ride-able for a bit, then probably going to have push. I’ve gotten good at that, though, after running single-speed on the White Mountains 100 bike race.

Who had the dirtbike out on the lake?

Charging up the hill, as to always keep momentum with the one gear, I was able to make it half way up, before a steep rise brought my feet to the snow. A quick few steps to top out and then back on the bike, repeating the short push for one more bump. The remainder of the climb was a consistent slope to the top. Could I make it, starting on the hill and with my 22-16 gearing?
‘Hell, I can ride anything on this bike,’ I told myself.

It was as if I put Velcro skins on the tires of my Pugsley; the snow was the loops and the Nate was the hooks.
I wanted to stand-up pedal to test the Nate, but feared that would be the end of the hill climb, as I’d likely spin-out and lose all momentum. But I did anyway, of course, punching it even harder & never giving up on a climb, like any single-speeder would do.

All of a sudden, I was on top of the hill, after stand-up pedaling the entire thing. I looked back and there were my friends, pushing. Not once did the Nate spin-out. Not once did it feel like I wouldn’t make it due to traction. I probably could have sat down and pedaled the majority of it, but I really wanted to see if the Nate could hang with the cool crowd.

Two days later, after a good dump of Utah-like dry, fluffy powder, I logged about 15 miles on the Nate, on & through everything from hardpack trail & frozen lakes, to loose snow trails and off-trail virgin powder up to about eight inches deep. I rode up & down hills, made hairpin turns on angled, loose snow hiking trails, cut through the woods from one trail to another, and blasted along torn up snowmachine tracks. I sat, I stood, I cranked hard.

The only place the Nate spun out and I lost all forward motion was off-trail, headed up a powerline cut. It hooked up in dry virgin powder, chewed up hiking, skiing, and snowmachine trails, rutted ATV trails, side-hill wet snow, across untouched snow-covered lakes, and powered me up short but steep, snow-covered embankments. My biggest thrill and what I was most impressed about was its ability to dig deep and hook up off-trail, in untouched powder, where an Endomorph or Larry is just too slick to bite. Driving forward as if it were still on trail, Nate just wouldn’t give up. It wasn’t until nearly the end of my ride when I finally found Nate’s limit, and maybe fatbiking, too, on the uphill grade off-trail on the powerline cut. They are bikes, remember!

The only real problem with the Nate that I have found, so far, is that I am now aware of how little traction I actually get with the Larry. I guess we all just accepted the fact that Larry was the cool kid in school, compared to the slick tread of the Endo. I’d say that Larry is the big fish in a small pond, with the arrival of the real big fish, Mr. Surly Nate.

Nate's Game Face

Nate's Game Face

Nate is the one piece of bike gear that has already transformed my winter fatbike riding from slippery & cautious to confident & aggressive in the dry snow we have in Interior Alaska. With my new buddy Nate on the rear, I feel like I’m propelling him forward, chasing Larry up front, trying to steal his lunch money and jam him into a school locker. Having a Nate in front, as well, is like a dog musher trading out his Alaskan huskies for a team of wolverines. That’s even how two Nates look on a bike!

Nates are to Larrys what Larrys were to Endomorphs or Large Marges were to SnowCats.
Go get one, or even two, and change your fatbike riding style: no more reserved, cautious maneuvers or pucker-factor slalom rides down snowy hillsides. Ride like it’s warm & sunny and you’re on the best hardpack singletrack of your life.
Anyone want to buy two lightly used Larrys?!?!
Sell yours now, before anyone else reads this article or gets a Nate for themselves!

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6 Responses to Dear Nate, I love you.

  1. MrDaveyGie November 9, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Agreed. I have a Nate for my back tire and BFL on front with my FatBack. I don’t think anything will grab better then the job Nate does.

  2. matt hampshire November 13, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    i’m loving runing two nates over in the muddy UK so much. the tyres mean I can enjoy my fatbike all year round whatever the trails are like . great work surly. but can we have some more stock as there are lots of folks that can’t get their hands on them

  3. Josh Spice November 14, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    I was impressed yet again today by the Nate… we were barely able to ride a trail down a low angle grade in the woods due to super soft, dry, fluffy powder that had been ran over once by a snowmachine. Lots of cutting up the trail, washing-out, and squiggly tracks were made.
    However, I was able to ride all the way back up it after we decided to not continue on and find a better trail. One of the pioneers of winter biking in Fairbanks said, ‘Let’s see how that rear tire does, Josh.’ I was up for the challenge and so was Nate. We were all impressed with its ability to hook up and climb through the cut-up fluffy stuff.
    Nate 3, Snow 1.

    • Chris November 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

      This is the first report I’ve seen of the Nate on a 100mm rim. Have you tried it on the front? I’d be really interested in cornering performance with that wide a rim. And any thoughts on 100mm rim vs 80mm rim for this tire?

      • Josh Spice November 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

        A friend of mine put it on the front on an 80mm and pretty much said the same thing.
        The Nate has about the same profile on my 100s as the Larry, maybe a tiny bit flatter. Hard to tell when it’s that wide, though.
        My bike corners pretty darn well. I think with a Nate up front, I could lean the bike into turns.
        100mm rims make any tire better. The tire will never be flat or square, so I don’t think cornering is an issue in regards to tire profile.

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