I bought my Surly Moonlander a few years back. I knew I wanted a designated fat bike to ride on snow trails so I decided that 100 mm rims and 5 inch tires were the best option for me. There were few 100mm rimmed fat bikes then but my local bike dealer carried Surly so I chose to go with the bike that pioneered the super fat tires, the Surly Moonlander.
As the years have gone by, more and more manufacturers have started putting out lighter and faster fat bikes. I have remained loyal to my steel steed however. My primary “skinny-tired” mountain bike tends to get most of the upgrade attention, but I have not neglected my Moonlander. Each year I have been sure to throw an upgrade or two at my fatty. It’s safe to say that I now have a pretty unique Surly build that gets a lot of attention from people who see it.
So what have I done to it?
My first upgrade was putting some Easton Haven 711 mm carbon bars on it left over from my old mountain bike. From there I decided to drop the front derailleur and go 1x. Who needs all those tall gears for snow-biking anyway? In order to do this I had to find a Wolftooth 28t narrow wide ring specifically designed for Surly OD cranks. To compensate for the loss of my front granny, I put a 42t Oneup cog on the back, and a OneUp Radr cage for good measure.
Next on my list were brakes. The stock cable brakes are totally fine until your pads start to wear and you are tired all over from a long day in the saddle. I threw on some hydraulic Shimano Deores and have not looked back. At this same time I ditched the stock saddle which was heavy and uncomfortable. I replaced it with a WTB Volt saddle. Very comfy for long rides and pretty darn light to boot.
Next I began to look at ways to perhaps lighten the bike a bit more. After doing some research online I found out about the carbon Sarma Hoboy fork option. The axle to crown length was almost identical to my stock Moonlander fork and Sarma offered an option to support the quick-release hubs the Moonlander was spec’d with. Sign me up! That upgrade alone dropped almost 1.5 lbs off of my front end! Also, the fork simply looks super cool.
I saved my best upgrade for last, the wheels. I love the flotation 100 mm rims with aggressive tread give you on looser snow. Even with the weight penalty of super-wide rims, being able to float sure trumps having to put your foot down and trudge through deep snow all the time. With that in mind I decided that I still wanted wide 100mm rims, but they had to be lighter and tubeless-compatible as well. After being impressed with the quality of my Sarma Hoboy fork, I decided to order some Sarma Naran 100 mm carbon rims and had the rear wheel built to support the Surly Moonlander offset 135 mm hub spacing in the rear.
Needless to say, the Sarma Naran wheels were by far the most performance-enhancing upgrade. The wheels breathed new life into my old-school bike. I lost around 2 lbs of rotational weight. That is huge. My old wheels don’t seem like much of a hindrance on short rides, but spinning all of that weight compounds over long rides. My new wheels also set up great for tubeless. That meant additional weight loss and improved traction. Months after having them on I have had no sealant leakage issues whatsoever. Overall, with the lighter wheels I spin up faster and can ride much longer with less fatigue and less traction issues. Pedaling my Moonlander now feels like it’s a completely different bike than the one I bought a few years back.
When I bought my Moonlander it weighed in close to 38 lbs. Now I am sitting around 31 lbs. Not bad at all for a steel-framed bike with the widest rims possible and beefy Bud and Lou tires.
I have been asked a few times, why all these upgrades for an old, steel Surly? The answer is simple: Bike equity. When I upgrade parts, I keep in mind which parts I will take with me when I move on to another bike. While I have no plans to get another fat bike just yet, I will definitely re-lace my Sarma rims and put them on whatever fat bike I purchase next.
Build List Upgrades:
- Sarma Naran 100mm wheelset (Sarma front hub, DT Swiss 350 rear hub)
- Sarma Hoboy carbon fork (QR, 450 mm a to c)
- Easton Haven carbon bars (711 mm) with Oury grips
- 28t Wolfttooth Narrow-Wide chainring (designed specifically for Surly cranks)
- Oneup 42t range-extending chainring
- Shimano XT RD-M786 rear derailleur with Oneup Radr Cage
- Surly Monkey Nuts
- WTB Volt Saddle
- Welgo MG1 platform pedals
- Shimano Deore Hydraulic Brakes