We’ve had quite a few articles from riders in Australia over the years and site contributor, Mark Peterson, put out his tentacles to uncover this on from his Bro, Troy, in New South Wales.
Written and shot by: Adam Troy (August, 2014)
Location: Shellharbour, NSW, Australia
Fat bikes. They are freakish looking things. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them when I first saw some images (shot by the local bicycle dealer). I even remember asking where on earth (in Singapore) you’d use such obese beasts!
Originally I was chasing an Ogre – something which could cart the kids easily; was comfortable, and could take obstacles like gutters and the odd jump. But when I was in the shop ordering said bike, I had a brain snap – “how about a fat bike?” I asked innocently. Wouldn’t that be better due to the suspension afforded by the tyres? Sure! Replied the shop owner.
It was settled. My new fat bike was on the way. Two or so agonising weeks later, Bella was delivered – she is a Surly Pugsley “Ops” in canvas green. Outfitted with a Nuvinci N360 hub, front and rear Surly Nice racks, Marge Lite rims, BMX style handlebars and stem – she was perfect.
I went through the usual protective new bike stage which involved gazing at her for minutes on end and being extremely careful about leaning her against things etc…….a couple of weeks later I unwittingly invited myself to a serious off road outing…….. It started off innocently enough (riding around in the north east corner of Singapore, on pavement, until we got to the muddy marshes – and then all hell broke loose! Ploughing through mud, small rivers, rocks, branches, heck, MARSH land….I knew I was using this bike for exactly what it was meant for – smashing through the thick, gooey stuff! And the Pugs did it SO EASILY. All bets were now off – Bella came back that night with all manner of scars (and loads of missing paint) and finally, finally, I was able to look at her as a tool, not something that was to be mounted on the wall to be gazed at.
What followed was many, many more months of tropical rainstorm laden, muddy tracks, rock gardens and general abuse. Bella took all this in her stride – even the stately Brooks leather saddle, which kept coming up like new after being properly dried out. On top of all this she would carry both my boys (on front and rear seats) with ease. I was well and truly hooked on the FAT. The fat bike scene in Singapore is huge (and growing by the minute), so there were plenty of like-minded lads to go storming around with…….
About a year later I had to return to Australia – and so I lovingly packed her up and stuck her on the plane – excitedly planning which beaches and trails I was going to use her on the day I landed. I didn’t actually unpack her until the 2nd day – after which I carefully put her back together, did a quick 2 minute spin to make sure everything worked as it should – and then I found a place in the garage to hang her safely out of harm’s way. And there she hung. For six months.
I felt terrible about it, truly – unfortunately, it was the start of summer and I used every spare second I have to go surfing……….silly me, I COULD have done both. When winter reared its head and I was waiting for my new wetsuit to arrive, I decided to pull Bella down and go for a ride. Holy. Heck. MAN I’d MISSED it! Surly has designed these things to be so much fun to ride as to almost be unbelievable. It makes you feel like a kid again – you smile and laugh and catch yourself pulling wheelies as often as possible. I’ve owned mega buck carbon jobs that weren’t even CLOSE to being this much fun. Go Surly. They have it dialled.
And so it has started up again, I am out riding almost every day, alone, looking for new routes and the best places to ride. I have a pretty cool loop now – with very little traffic, and as much hard pack as I could find (which sadly isn’t a lot). My rides are getting longer and longer. They’re also getting dangerously faster. I now need knobbies again, because I’m going around those hard pack roads at speeds that are causing my front end to drift (maybe I’ll mount some Knards, but only for the front). The drifts are fun yes, but also pretty scary as I’m locked in to my SPDs with nil leg protection…….yikes! This leads in nicely to the handling. I used to ride motorbikes a fair bit – and let me just say – with the Pugs, I can take corners at silly speed, practically with my knee dragging. Those tyres afford SO MUCH CONTACT to the road that you can afford to really reef it over. I don’t think my roadie could lean at even a quarter of what the Pugs does. It’s all about rubber and contact patch. The Floyds have LOADS of it. Traction, traction and more traction! It instils a huge amount of confidence….even the roar of the fresher rubber as you lay her down for a fast turn……just amazing.
It’s safe to say that I’m the only fat bike rider around here. I get pointed at EVERY SINGLE TIME I ride, be it by kids (and yes, adults too; boys and girls) – who always exclaim something positive when they see Bella. “Whoa! Look at those wheels!” And “Hey! Do you take that thing off-road?”. But usually, just “Hey guys! Check THAT OUT!!! THE WHEELS!”. It never gets old. I do wish there were other riders locally – maybe soon. For now I’m more than happy rolling around town as the local attraction……. The bright orange Bike Bag Dude frame bag probably doesn’t help…..
This brings me to what is probably going to be the most serious mod to Bella yet. Because my average route is around 40 kilometres now (and expanding weekly), I have grown very tired of pedalling through my beloved Nuvinci hub. I can feel it robbing precious watts from me – and sometimes it just feels as if the brake is permanently on. And so a derailleur setup (1×11) is on the way – there is no substitute for direct drive. That I will lose a couple of kilos in the process will be fun too………this mod along with my tubeless project should change how the Pug Ops feels enormously – I cannot wait! Interestingly, the Nuvinci hub is both the best and worst thing – the best in that you can dial in the exact “gear” in lightning quick time, whether the bike is moving, stationary…..and it really does take nano-seconds. The worst in that it absorbs far too much power. It will be a marvellous day indeed once the brains over at Fallbrook Tech work out how to match the derailleur system for sheer efficiency. Even the famed Rohloff hub is known to rob power…….they look so good though! Much like a single speed does…….
Not surprisingly, I don’t look at fat bikes as freakish anymore. In fact, even normal 29er bikes look like skinny weirdos to me now…….
And so there you have it. I’m a fat biker for life now. I can’t go back. I have ridden Bella more in one month than I did on my road bike for a year. And I’m addicted. I get all fidgety and cross when I don’t go for a ride………..
GET YOURSELF ON A FATBIKE!