The opinions and views described below are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of fat-bike.com
What is this the ICT Ops? With so many fat bike models in the Surly line up, what can this bike possibly offer that isn’t already accounted for with an existing model? Is it just something new and flashy or is there a means for the madness?
My semi-unprofessional opinion is that, the Iceratops is a very versatile bike. It’s hard to categorize just exactly what this is. Yes, it’s a fat bike. But it rides like a mountain bike. “Well Duh” you say? Allow me to elaborate.
At first glance, you can tell this is a Surly from across the schoolyard. Black on black on black with anything written, in white. You can skid right up to the bike rack and mean mug the cool kids without even throwing a chain around this bitch. (Just kidding – don’t do that – Lock ‘er up).
When it comes to the complete set up I think it comes with a solid spec for a ‘do it all’ bike. Between the ICT and the ICT Ops there is only 1 thing that I would have liked to see different and that’s a 1×11 drive train (but there’s a chip for that). This is only a personal preference and it based on simplicity and eliminating the need to maintain a shifter, cable, derailleur and chain ring. I prefer to tough it out with a little less granny gear rather than deal with my chain dropping down into the little ring and not coming back up because I might have never cleaned or greased anything.
The Ops is going to be a bit lighter than the regular ICT. The rims are 20mm thinner and the tires are an inch thinner than the standard ICT and you can feel a difference. If you’re going to try to save weight on a bike, rotational weight is probably going to be the most effective place to lighten up. I’ll go ahead and say that the bike is easier to throw around a hairpin and roll up a hill than what I’m used to.
This bike rides more like a mountain bike than most other fat bikes I’ve ridden. I was impressed with the Krampus when it came out and I can tell there were a few aspects borrowed from that build, for this one. Most of the miles I rode were snow covered singletrack. I’m not talking about the middle section of your local cross country ski trails either. This bike feels more nimble in corners and faster in the straight sections and climbs than I would expect from a steel fat bike. That could be because I’ve been plowing around on a Moonlander all winter long, or maybe it’s because this rig was designed to handle better and spec’d out to go faster than the rest of it’s Surly brethren. I’m leaning towards the latter.
If you don’t have the luxury of building your own bike stable and wanted a “Do Most Things Pretty Good” bike – this might be the ticket. When Surly was blowing these bikes out for $1200.00 – This was THE biggest bang for your buck that you could ever possibly get on a fat-bike, and probably any bike period. I am fortunate enough to own a stable of bikes and I use them all depending on the ride. I really think a person could own the ICT Ops and do 95% of whatever they wanted to do. Groomed paths, snowmobile routes, summer single track, gravel, road (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and this is definitely a sturdy and stable commuter. I kept in mind that if you wanted to turn this into a drift crushing 5 inch wide monster bike, all you would need to do is build up an extra set of wheels. If one were so inclined, one could build up multiple sets of wheels.
I’ll go ahead and say that I consider myself to be an Old Dog. And by that I mean that I don’t see value in a bike just because it is new model, or a different color, or made of a different material, or Special Ned raced one. If John Stamos rode one in a commercial that might be a game changer, but I don’t mind carrying a 15mm box end wrench or a jethro tool around in my pocket when I go for a spin. If you don’t know why a biker might need one of those, just ask your cool uncle when you’re done watching cartoons.
On any given Saturday night I would put Surly in the Old Dog category as well. The Ice Cream Truck Ops is a new trick. While personally I’ve come to love the idea of being able to swap wheels between bikes, I wasn’t able to throw my 5 inch Moonlander wheel up in front of the ICT because of the 15mm thru axle. This is a new trick. Same goes for the back end with a 12mm thru-axle. If you’ve convinced yourself that a symmetrical rear end matters, here ya go. 190mm. Is it any better? I honestly don’t know. Let me put it to you like this: Do you take vitamins on a daily basis? Do they make any damn difference in your day to day? Who the hell knows! If it does – I can’t frickin’ tell. If it makes you feel better, then it works. If it doesn’t, don’t take ’em.
While there was some serious engi-nerding to get Surly caught up with the times, I for one appreciate all of the engi-nerding it took to build a fat bike around 135 mm hubs. There was a time when the term “standard” meant something throughout the industry and wasn’t a code word for “shit that will only fit our brand”. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – Fuck Boost 148. (Charlie – please make a sticker).
Anyway, before I started really digging into this bike I pondered if Surly had sacrificed the utility that I had come to love for the latest and greatest new and improved slicing and dicing BS that the industry was pushing. When I started riding fat bikes, the term “standard” meant something. It meant that no matter where you were and what you broke, if you bought a bike of a reputable brand from a local shop, another local shop could probably fix you up. The bad news is that there seems to be a shit ton of “standards” out there now. The good news is that some are more “standard” than others.
What I found out is that my stuff is really old. The Surly bikes that I have; I’ve had them a long time and times have changed. I’ve moved from a small town setting where everyone has several bikes to a bigger metro area where a garage costs a lot of money. Being able to do more with less creates value. After riding this bike for a while and realizing what makes it different, and why it’s different, and why it rides different – maybe Surly is after a new kind of utility in that this bike can be modified to become whatever bike your little heart desires. It comes with three sets of MDS chips that allow you to go to Single Speed USA without having to borrow a bike. It fits big ass tires for when you want to take a shot at the arrowhead 135, or take the local snowmobile path down to the country bumpkin saloon. It comes with 3.8 Nates so you can still fit it into the old bike rack if you want to.
This isn’t a bike that you’re only going to ride November -March and then hang up in the garage until your 2.0 tires get hard to control. This bike will be better at more things than any other single bike. In my opinion; it is not snow specific, but I wouldn’t say it’s designed specifically for single track. This isn’t the best bike for the Almonzo Gravel ride, but it’s far from the worst.
To wrap this up, I like the ICT Ops because it gives you options if…
- You’re on the fence about how much fat you need
- You’ve got really skinny legs and you aren’t sure how much fat you can handle
- You’re not sure you really want to commit to full fat bike, and to keep it casual and see how it goes
- You might want to go fatter in the future
- You might want to get skinnier in the future
- You might want to give Single Speed a shot sometime
- You can’t afford to buy or keep 7 bikes around
As this complete build is sold I’d give it a solid 4 out of 5 gnomes. Keep in mind that this bike has been designed to give you options and you’re not limited to how you buy it off the shop floor.
Try it out, play around a bit, experiment if you will… with wheels and drive trains of course.
For more information about Surly visit – http://surlybikes.com/
That might just be the most ‘real’ review of a bike I’ve read in as long as I can remember.
Great write up. 100% agree about the standard bullshit, however the BB on the ICT is not standard width. The Moonlander still kicks ass and rides great. Surly makes great bikes period.
Agreed. Love my red Pug for its “old schoolness” and versatility- like swapping wheels to change SS ratios. But the ICT Ops is becoming my year round bike. It just rips single track and snow the way a pugs wishes it could. And versatility? Like you said, 4 or 5in tires? Good. 1×10 or 1×1, cake with the right chip. Bluto & dropper- go, or don’t. Rack, panniers & extra bottles, done. Still versatile, just in the most modern ways.
I borrowed a Pug a few months back and now own one! I totally get the ‘standards’ thing. Part of my Pug love is the old school feel so I hope it stays in the Surly line up.
Interesting review though and good to hear that whatever the direction Surly go, the bikes still deliver.
Very fair review. I own a Pug, wife has an Ice Cream Truck. Both are great, but I must say that I prefer the simplicity (and lower cost) of the Pugsley. I’m glad that Surly keeps all of their fat bike options around to please all of us. Want the latest-greatest, and are willing to use a headset press for your BB, and carry tools to remove your wheels? ICT. Want uber simplicity and lower cost? Moonlander or Pug. I am also a bigger fan of the geometry on the Mooney and Pug – I have tried the newer slacked-out fat bikes (e.g. with 68-69 degree head tube angles), and they all feel slow to me. I owned an old Mukluk for several years, and felt like I was always pushing it around corners. My Pug has more traditional MTB geometry, and feels much faster and more fun to ride. The wheelbase and front/center are shorter, and I go through turns a lot easier (on my local tree-filled Michigan trails). The Moonlander has a very similar quick geometry.
Great review Spinner.
Just one nit to pick…you don’t need a new wheelset to run 5″ tire. They work pretty well on 80mm rims with most of the width that they swell to on 100mm rims.