By : Chris Zito
When Surly first came out with the Pugsley I found myself one Christmas Eve riding the shores of Lake Michigan wondering, “Could cycling get any more fun?”. Well, it has. It’s called the Knard 26×4.8.
Obviously, there has been a ton of evolution in the “fad” that is referred to today as “Fat-biking”. It seems that every time you turn around somebody is coming out with a new bigger better product. Well the reprobates at Surly have certainly iced the cake on this one. The Knard 4.8 tires could very well have sold me on what a fat bike tire should be. From the moment I hit the road on these bad boys I knew that they were special. They hold all of the same characterisitics as their predecessors the Knard 29×3. They perform phenomenally wherever, whenever you ride, grass, sand, single-track, or gravel. On the beach, or in the streets, the Knards will please you beyond your expectations.
Let’s start with the dirt. Riding trails is a dream. The grip and tack they provide is incomparable. There is the obvious cushion you get from having the bigger tires, but the handling is superb at even lower psi’s. The control I experienced reminded me of the no-slip, hang on to your hat, just point where you want to go performance of the Kenda Small Block Eights. However, you don’t have to concern yourself with the silly little things like slipping on rocks or roots because the Knards just eat em up and spit em out.
My favorite fat bike “medium” (for lack of a better term) has got to be riding the beach, and the Knard has just made that heaps more fun. In the deep sand it’s the same as any tire, straight lines, low gear. But when you hit the hard pack sand on the shoreline they roll like a hot knife through butter. The grip is spectacular. The wide tread hooks up beyond the point where other tires in the past have washed out. Tight circles are no issue. On my maiden beach voyage the Knards carried me to 2 derby victories against some formidable opposition. In the deeper water where you get to the point that your tires want to begin to float, they grip the rocks below and keep you well grounded. Logs and boulders and babyhead rock gardens are no factor for the agility of the Knards.
Now, whoever would think of a 5” tired fat-bike as a city bike? Well, YOU should! The performance of the Knards in the city has absolutely blown me away. Lets talk pavement. At a higher pressure (don’t ask me for numbers, cuz you ain’t getting any. I’m the type that applies pressure by what feels like it’ll work.) the Knards roll through the streets and alleys handily and resistance free. Like any fat bike tire you have to stay at a higher cadence and the Knards are quick to respond and accelerate to a maintainable momentum, rolling through and over uneven pavement, potholes, train tracks, and road debris like a champ. I was amazed at the way they hooked up on the gravel while turning, beginning a slight slip, only to re-hook and grab hold all the way through the turn. And trust me, cemetery gravel is greezy at speed!!
On the grass, as with any fat-bike, across field or through the park, they are a blast. On the side of a grassy hill they hold securely, biting into the turf and carrying you beyond a point where other tires will give out and dump the rider on their hip. In the light to moderate rain the tread design puts up minimal spray and minimal to no slip while cornering. You just have to mind the paint and manhole covers.
I’ve seen the evolution of the fat-bike and fat-bike accessories since the birth of the Pugsley and ridden a good number of tires in a wide variety of conditions over the years. From the original gum-walled Endomorphs to studded “winter” tires, Nates, Larrys, Big Fat Larrys, and Buds, but I find the Knards to be champ of all tires thus far. They give you everything you can ask for in a fatbike tire with their agility and grip and all round excellent performance. I rode these tires on gravel, cinders, sand, pavement, stairs, grass, through a few taverns, on the single-track, and in the water, and at no point was I disappointed in their ability to conform, adapt, and harmonize with the conditions dealt. A very well thought out and superbly engineered product. I would rate these tires at 9 Braaaps out of 10. The only reason they don’t get a 10, is because I have met the derelicts at Surly and know there has to be some fault in the product, I just couldn’t find it. And no, I did not mount them tubeless. I am not a gram shaver, don’t care about weight*, prefer my races with a beer in hand rule, and am already having a blast riding a 30lb.+ steel fat bike.
*We know that tubeless is not really about the weight savings, but when Zito gets on a roll, it’s best to just let him go. I like ‘old school’ crustiness, but I also like to run tubeless, especially on bigger tires…not that there’s anything wrong with riding with tubes either. ~gomez~