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.