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.
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.
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 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!