Interview With Chris Zito – Pugsley Pioneer

FBC – Tell us a bit about your life and how bikes fit in.

Z- I got into bikes in the early 90’s when looking for a job and a friend suggested that I work for his company, Breakaway Bicycle Couriers. The guys at Rainbow Jersey got me on a cross bike and eventually onto the fixed. The messenger thing took me to Minneapolis where I eventually moved above One On One bike studio, was introduced to the wonders of the single speed mountain bike, and the Wednesday Night Ride. A gig at QBP put me even deeper into the bike scene/culture and access to all sorts of bikes and bike products. After being voted off of Q-Island I was lucky to watch the evolution of, land some PT work at, and spend many hours in and around the “home for wayward QBPers”, One on One Bike Studio. Unfortunately, during these times of exposure I always had at my disposal, the best mechanics around. Never got too techie, I just like to get on and ride. As I once heard a wise old sage-O say, “Bicycles are freedom”.


The culture in the Twin Cities is off the hook. There is a great camaraderie amongst all the cyclists there that I have yet to see in any other city. I eventually fell in with the Minneapolis Mafia, a group of bicycle psycholists that like to ride hard and play harder, and it’s all been down hill AND up hill from there!!

FBC – Do you have any stories about the birth of the Pugsley from way back when, up there in Msurlyapplesauce?

Z- I remember when they came out. One of the Surly lads brought one on the WedNiteRide and, as it does to pretty much everyone that sees it, I was mesmerized. I was fortunate to be able to borrow one over the X-mas holidays and bring it back to Milwaukee, where I instantly took it to the beach that was at the time composed of half snow and ice, and half sand and water. I remember thinking about how much fun the Surly lads and Minneapolis Mafia would have riding this beach. I was caught hook, line and sinker on the concept.

FBC – How old is cousin Zito’s Purple Pugsley?

Z- Old. First generation. It was one of the original demo bikes in the Surly fleet, that, after a few years of use and abuse, was retired, re-built, and is still running. Running rough, but running. As many times as I think it may be on it’s last legs the ol’ horse just keeps getting back up!

FBC – From what we know, your Pug has led a storied life. Anything stand out as above and beyond the call of duty?

Z- For me there really is no above and beyond for a fat bike itself, it’s all about the rider. The Pug has taken me places I have never been able to ride before, but the limitations are mostly due to fitness and skill level of the rider.


At one point I decided that I would try it out on the Dakota Five-O, an arduous 50-mile race in Spearfish, SD. The day before the race I headed out to see how it would run and pointed my way up the Tinton Trail. I got to the top of TT, fell over and threw up. That year I decided not to race but enjoy the wildlife in and around the lovely town of Spearfish instead. That’s a whole lot of climbing on such a beast. The bike could easily have handled it, I think it was more of a case of not being in good enough shape to handle the climbs.


On the other hand, I was able to snub my nose at the boring paved trail on my commute into Minneapolis, and ride the train tracks between Hiawatha and Snelling Aves, and have heaps of fun tearing it up on the dirt and gravel along the way. A ride not really easy on any of my other bikes.

FBC – You just recently returned from living in Austrailia for a couple years. What’s the fat-bike scene like down under?

Z – I knew one guy (aside from the crew at Dirtworks) that had a Mukluk, he was a trials rider/bike shop employee. He was absolutely ape-shit about his rig. Considering the way that Aussies are about new and different stuff, and the tendency for things to burn there, my prediction: wild fire! With the endless amount of outback and thousands of kilometers of beach around the country the possibilities are endless. Western Australia in particular has Kilometers and kilometers of beach and one of the largest tidal changes in the world that would make for some truly world-class adventures.


Oh, and there is the Nularbor Plain.

FBC – Now that you’ve returned to the states, what do you think about the explosive popularity of fat-bikes in uh-mur-ckah? How has it changed since you left?

Z – It’s great! I always knew how fun it was, and the popularity was only to be expected. Six or seven years ago on the FTTM there were three Pugslies(?), this past year there were so many I lost count! I find that impressive and exciting. Also, back in the day when people used to see a Pug they would say, “Where did you get that bike!?” Nowadays it’s, “Oh! You got one of those bikes!”


Obviously there has been an tremendous spurt (he-he.. he said spurt) in the popularity of the fat bike.

FBC – You are fortunate to have grown up on the bluffs and beach around your home. How has fatbiking changed your perception of the beach?

Z- The best ride I think I have ever had was the aforementioned X-mas Eve ride on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was the first time in the 35+ years that my family has lived there that I had ridden on that stretch of beach. That beach is always a great place to hang out and escape from the “masses” and the Pugsley just makes the experience so much… I don’t know, Braaapier!! I hope to explore more of the shores of Lake Michigan in the near future.


The 3rd of July full moon ride from Port Washington to Harrington Beach was pretty braaptacular, and I am pretty confident only a sampling of the potential the shores that the Great Lakes region has to offer.

FBC – Have any tips for fat-bike newbies?

Z- Don’t jack up the PSIs. It’s not made for getting across town quickly, it’s made for getting there anyway you want! Have fun, explore, try to ride places and obstacles that you never have, or even considered for that matter. The squish is your friend, and it will keep a smile on your face. Clipless not flat. Look where you are going, not where you are. Let the bike do the work. If your hands hurt, you are probably holding the bars too tight, wait a minute… that’s all kind of basic rules of cycling. Isn’t it? Just do what makes you feels good ride your fucking bike!

About Greg Smith 1127 Articles
Greg Smith, known to many site visitors as Sven Hammer, founded in 2011 and the site quickly became the #1 online community for all things Fat. You can currently find Greg outfitting Everyday Cycles; a Milwaukee, WI retailer of gear for fatbikers, adventure cyclists and urban assault riders.


  1. Loved the interview. Have had my Pugsley for a few months now and love it. Do a lot of beach riding. Would love to see an article about care for a bike that spends a lot on time on the beach and in salt water,

  2. I love sand riding w/ the pugs but need to figure out how to keep if from ruining my drive train!

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