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A Parable about a Viking and the Big Fat Dummy

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In the fat-bike marketplace, we’ve seen a lot of gimmicks in the past couple of years.  For example: carbon, full suspension, symmetrical rear ends, the color Orange, etc. etc.  More and more I’ve been seeing fat bikes on the trails all year long.  Fat Bikes are becoming THE choice for riders that want a bike to ride everything, because they can roll just about anything.  Now you can get a bike that does more than just everything.  Now you can ride anything, and bring stuff too.

Homemade Big Fat Dummy circa 2011

Several years ago at the very first Pugsley World Championships a fella brought his own homemade Big Fat Dummy which was fashioned out of a regular Big Dummy with a Pugsley fork extensions welded into the cargo rear end to allow for the bigger tire.  Ezra took 3rd that year behind Hollywood Jay Henderson and Decorah local Trevor Rockwell.  As the post race celebration ticked up a few notches I asked Sov why they didn’t make a fat version of the Big Dummy.  His explanation was simple – because even if they made it, you wouldn’t buy it.  I must have been drunkenly persistent (imagine that) so to shut me up – he drew me a picture.  At the time he was probably right.  This was before the big non-Q companies were in fat-bike market place.  Since those companies didn’t have a dog in the fight they wouldn’t be promoting fat bike culture, and definitely not anything that would create interest in a fat cargo bike.

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Bar Napkin Recreation

From then until now obviously the fat bike scene has come a long way.  Today you ain’t cool if you ain’t got a fat bike.  Manufacturers have had the time to allow the fat bike to evolve and figure out what people will actually buy with discretionary income, after beer and brownie mix, of course.  Some people are only looking to dip a toe into fat bikes and keep it as close to their existing comfort zone as possible.  They just want a fatter version of what they already have.  That’s fine, but that’s not as fun.  For those of us that want to push the limits of possible and are interested in how far we can go on the these new capabilities, the Big Fat Dummy is the next step in fat bike evolution.

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Personally when I bought my Big Dummy in 2010 I thought I would use it sparingly as an occasional grocery getter and a way to get to commute without having to wear a back-pack.  It quickly became my go to bike for anything other than a trail ride, including trail work.  It’s extremely functional, it’s fun, it’s different, it’s capable.  Haul beer, tools, dogs, kids, adults, surfers, etc.  The guy with the big dummy is the pedaling equivalent of your one friend with a pick up truck..  The only capability that was missing, was those you get from a fat bike, stability and traction in sand and snow.   Want to ride on the back?  Want to surf on the back?  Want to haul another bike on the back?  In a group ride I’ve seen a guy get a flat, and Ron “Chewey” Moffit put the flat bike in the side bag and the dude rode on the deck while Chewey pedaled both of them, to the bike shop.

When Gomez worked his gnome-sourced magic and hooked me up with the prototype of my dream bike, I said one thing.  “Welp, let’s race this rig.”  For a lot of us, a race is just a ride with a party at the finish.

COULD you race this bike – absolutely.

WOULD you race this bike – that’s up to you.

SHOULD you race this bike – ask your doctor.

We decided to enter this tank in the Sweaty Yeti and the Fat-Bike Birkie.  The Sweaty Yeti is a multiple lap format that you can race individually or in a relay team.  The course consisted of about 6 to 10 inches of day old snow.  In that deep snow, it was a bit difficult to get enough weight on the back wheel to keep it from spinning out.  I was able to stand up and hang my weight as far back as possible and it did make a difference, but not quite enough.  So what the hell, this was a rig built for hauling, and I was rolling empty.  It just so happened that Steve left his doe target laying around so I threw it on the deck to help out with traction.  It really helped.

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Sweaty Yeti

The Dummy was the star of the post race shenanigans (Sorry to steal your thunder Mike McColgan).  The suggested hauling capacity is 400 lbs with rider and cargo, but we all know those numbers are posted well below the mysterious point of failure, which we have not found yet.

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During the race I ran about 20 psi front and rear.  I know- that’s a lot, but gravity likes me a lot better than your typical spandex wearing rock shock jockey and less air means more cushion pushin’, so I run high pressure.

I’ve taken my regular Big Dummy a lot of places it was never really meant to go, so handling an 8 foot bike wasn’t much of an issue.  There was a little bit of a trick to getting that back wheel to stay in a track or on a ridge which I did my best to manage with the placement of the front wheel.

Taking a lessons learned approach I decided to start the birkie with some weight in the back to help keep that rear wheel from spinning out on the climbs.  The only weight I had was an 18 pack of High Life.  The first lap was a little rough but I could make all of the climbs as long as I stayed off the ice.  The usual 40K route was iced due to ice and the course became 5 laps of King of the Hill.  I’m told that there was over 900 ft of climbing per 5 ish mile lap.  I believe it.  I’ve never used a granny gear so much in my life.  As other racers passed me they asked about the beer.  “If you can grab one, you can have one!”  I might be getting soft in my old age, but I opted to have just one in the 10 below wind chill and kept riding to stay warm.  I didn’t break any Birkie records, and there wasn’t a Cargo Bike Class (hint, hint) but I didn’t fare to terribly and I had a hell of a fun time.  Click here for my result.

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2017 Fat Bike Birkie – Photo Courtesy of American Birkebeiner Foundation©

What does it weigh?  It’s heavier than your other bike, but it’s lighter than you.  Guessing in the neighborhood of 50 lbs or so.  It handles like a 6 foot long bike.

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Tim was so excited to ride it, he couldn’t even wait to take it out of the box.

You’ll have to have a challenge figuring out a way to get it from one place to another if you’re not going to ride from point A to point B.  Since this bike wasn’t built with just racing in mind, let’s take a look at what else you could do with this thing.  It looks like a beast, but it really doesn’t ride like one when it isn’t loaded up.  Speaking of loaded up, our record haul was 168 beers, and we only stopped there because we ran out of money.  The rig could have handled more, our wallets couldn’t.

For more info, check out the Big Fat Dummy on the Surly website and the Surly Blog Post on the Big Fat Dummy.

To wrap this up, this isn’t the bike for everyone.  This is the perfect bike for those of us who think to get stuff done with our bikes before the car or truck.  The people who drive a pick up or a van and always have a multi-tool on them.  The people that you find when you need help getting something done or figuring something out.  If you’re one of those people, get one of these before the doomsday preppers hoard them all.  You won’t regret it and I’ll all but guarantee you that if you buy this bike – you’ll never lose another derby again.  Unless you derby me – because I already bought one.

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Surly posted recently that these bad mamma jammas are now in stock, except for Mediums, which will be back in stock in April, so visit your finer bicycle retailer and ask for Surly by Name. For further information about all of Surly’s Bikes-Parts and Chaos visit – http://surlybikes.com/

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7 Responses to A Parable about a Viking and the Big Fat Dummy

  1. Gomez March 22, 2017 at 2:40 pm #

    The 1st rule of Derby is Derby someone else’s bike.

  2. fat&single March 22, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

    is the name of the bike “big fat dummy”
    or is that the name of the rider?

  3. Benji March 22, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

    A wonderful parable…

  4. Wade March 23, 2017 at 1:35 am #

    Beer Truck, can you say beer truck???

    Kinda like college students and Volkswagens, how many 30 packs can be strapped on that bike???
    Looks like a hella fun bike, indeed!

  5. thub March 24, 2017 at 5:39 pm #

    Great review Spinner. Way to rock that badass bike in some races!