Editorial – Do I really need a Moonlander?

Riding Companion.

Back in July 2011, news slipped out that Fat was getting Fatter. There was going to be a new, bigger and better fat-bike on the block, the Surly Moonlander. It would have 100 mm rims as standard and be shod with a larger version of the 3.8” Fat Larry tyre, the Big Fat Larry, a monster tyre at 4.7” wide. I wanted one. I did not even know how much they would cost but I wanted one. No thought processes involved.

Then I started thinking, as I should have anyway.

Okay, what do 100 mm rims with 4.7” tyres really offer me over the 65 mm Large Marge rims and 3.8” Fat Larry tyres on my current Surly Pugsley?

Now, here in the south of Scotland, we don’t really get all that much snow, but once or twice a year the Blessed White Stuff falls serenely from the sky coating the land of William Wallace in a lovely blanket of fresh snow just for the few, (but increasing) band of fat-bike brothers that live in the area. But is that enough reason to spend a likely couple of grand on another bicycle? Yes, the wider tyres would offer me additional floatation, but only for a few weeks, or even days, a year when there’s snow?

So, we don’t have much snow but we do have lots of beaches, and where there are beaches, there’s sand, lots of it – at least while the tides out! The East Lothian and Northumberland coastline offers amazing opportunities for off-road fat-bike riding. Could this help me justify the Moonlander?

Again, I asked myself what’s the benefit of a Moonlander over a Pugsley?

And again, increased floatation was the answer. This would allow me to ride more of the soft stuff, like the wind-blown shifting sands found in the dunes and the wet, quicksand-like conditions that are also common in the area, particularly around Lindisfarne, in Northumberland. It appears that the Moonlander would indeed be a useful addition to my fat-bike collection but it does seem to only offer a small niche of additional capabilities over those of the Pugsley.

Then some further doubts started to cloud my mind. I read that the 100 mm Clownshoe rims are single-wall construction with cut-outs to help keep weight down – which is all and fine. They have a single layer of aluminium whereas the Large Marge rims on the Pugsley are dual-layer, having two layers of aluminium. I know from experience that Large Marge rims cope with everything I throw at them.

In fat-bike circles there does seem to be some concern about single-wall reliability in terrain conditions other than sand and snow. One sales outlet states, with reference to the Surly Rolling Darryl rim, “designed for snow and sand riding and is not meant for aggressive cross country riding.” However, there does not appear to be much talk about actual failures, so perhaps this is not something to be concerned about? I’ll have to keep an open mind on this one, I think!

So, other than the points mentioned above, that’s all the concerns I have about the Moonlander. Basically, it is worth purchasing a Moonlander for the limited additional capabilities it offers over the Pugsley, and how will the single-wall rims cope in general-terrain use?

Well, in the end I decided not to buy a Moonlander, so for me at least, it would appear not. So, what did I do instead – answer, I built another Pugsley. Seems a bit daft, I know, to have two bikes the same, but I really like the Pugsley, it does everything I want it to do. And it does it very well, without complaint. The only weak line is me, the rider, and my limited technical abilities on difficult terrain. But then again, I just get off and walk!

So, why would I want to build another Pugsley?

Well, the main reason was to have a fat bike that was easier to manhandle in difficult terrain. My first Pugsley has racks front and rear as well as full fenders, and when loaded up with panniers (including mucho camera gear), tends to be rather awkward to manage when not riding, for example, on narrow and steep coastal paths (See Pugsley on Patrol 92) or track-less mountain routes (See Pugsley on Patrol 95) Yes, I could remove them for such rides but that’s a load of hassle and takes about an hour each time. Extravagant, I know, but there are worse ways to spend your money.

However, time flies, as they say, and the Moonlander has been available for a while now. In fact, friend and fellow Pugsley rider, Coastkid, has splashed out his hard earned greenbacks and is now the proud owner of a Moonlander, and a fine looking beastie it is too, resplendent with its tartan saddle and rim tapes. He is well known for his enthusiastic riding style, sorry, fine-tuned technical riding skills, and his Moonlander is holding up well, despite having tackled some pretty rough terrain on the rocky beaches of East Lothian. If a single-wall rim can survive that, they should be able to cope with my easy-going riding style! Nice one, Coastkid!

So, considering going for something in-between, wheel set based around Surly 82 mm Rolling Darryl rims. I’ll use the existing hubs, tyres, tubes, etc, from my original Pugsley, which is stripped down for a rebuild and paint job anyway and will go for the stronger non-drilled rims, even if they are a wee bit heavier. Just need to decide whether I should I paint them or paint them not.

So, that’s the plan, still provisional mind you, as it will cost around £320 for the privilege and that would also buy me the latest GoPro Hero 2 video camera! Oh, the decisions, the decisions.

Gary Buckham


  1. Moonlander or Necromancer is the question, for me.

    I’d want to know the physics of the ride-difference between the ‘rolling weight’ of the two rims. I figure the single-wall Moonlander rim is safe with all that cushion in front of it. Which set of wheels has more inertia?

    I’d also want to know which has the narrower ‘q-factor’, not that either is narrow… but I do like it as narrow as can be.

  2. I’ve been loving my Moonlander. I built it up with a Rohloff and have it decked out with frame bags. It rides like a dream and ao much so i haven’t really touched my Pugs since ride one.

    On the subject of rim/tyre/wheel weight:
    The 82mm Daryl is only 150g lighter than the Clownshoe.
    The ultralight BFL is 1200ga the ultralight Larry is 1350g.
    The ultralight BFL is the lightest fat bike tyre other than tyre floyd.


  3. I’m not a sand rider (yet) but I have to say that in my experience riding Larrys on Rolling Darryls and another bike with BFL’s on Clown Shoes, I’ll never go smaller with respect to rim width and tire size. The wider rims and bigger tires (but probably mostly the wider rims) handle low tire pressure much better than the narrower rims and tires. They don’t crimple nearly as much at low tire pressures – below 5psi – and just roll smoother. It’s very noticeable especially between the Endomorph and the BFL. The weight difference is, well, not that big of a deal IMO if you’re already riding a fatbike. Try it out if CoastKid will let you swap for a day! I think it’s well worth the weight.
    There should be no difference in Q-factor since the BB shell is 100mm for both bikes, it’s the front chainline that is different with the Moonlander vs. Necro and needs to be pushed to the outside.

  4. I give my single wall 80s hell in the summer. Haven’t seen a problem yet.

  5. I’ve had a similar dilemma to yourself, but for me the big issue was the limited gear range on the standard Moonlander – I did not want to lose a chain ring. Consequently I am now running a Pugsley with the 3.8 on the back, and a BLF on the front, on Large Marge rims. Since my duallie broke down it has been my do everything mountain bike, (down here in Australia it has seen limited snow), and I’m loving it. Just that bit more forgiving up front, and no shock to leak or pivots to grease, plus cheaper than a rebuild. Still, it’s a heart as well as a head choice you have to make. Good luck.

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