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2019 Surly Ice Cream Truck Review – By Tony Grande

 

Sometimes I’m not sure of who I am.  A father, a husband, a surveyor, or just Kato’s roadie who drinks for free (even if it means stealing L7’s beer, but that’s a story for another time).  We all have different parts to play throughout our lives, sometimes balancing out multiple facets of ourselves within a single day.  Many are of the opinion that Fat-bikes are a one trick pony, winter riding in the snow, but those of us in the know realized how multi-faceted a Fat-bike can truly be.  Surly’s new Ice Cream Truck is no different.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen a few different characters pop out of this bike.

For the first couple of weeks, I rode the ICT bone stock on a bunch of Singletrack, and this bike loves it!  After a weekend of back-to-back laps at Rock Cut, swapping between my 2015 ICT (henceforth Delta Tau Chi named ICT-OG) and this new incarnation (Delta Tau Chi named ICT), I felt comfortable riding the Plutonium Sparkle Green Machine right away.  The first thing I noticed was how quickly this bike felt compared to my ICT-OG.  Part of that comes from the fact that my bike is 3 pounds heavier at 38 pounds, whereas the ICT comes in at 35 pounds (sans pedals).  The ICT is 1-pound lighter in each wheel compared to my ICT-OG (both sets weighed with tubes, tires, rotors, and cassettes).  Couple that rotational weight savings with the quick engaging freehub and the ICT felt like a rocket vs my ICT-OG.

At the Beulah Boogie race in Zion, IL the ICT began to live up to the hype as a Trail Bike.  This place is filled with tight root filled single track, some off camber, with a Midwest staple – punchy, technical climbs.   Bud & Lou hooked up on everything, they never slipped while rolling with about 8psi front and rear. The ICT handled the climbs like a Billy goat.  Normally I sit and spin up climbs, but this bike felt better when out of the saddle, weight over the front end, and hammer. It felt very snappy and fun to rail through the flow sections. We had a lot of fun that day.  As a side note, Crazy Chris Daisy proclaimed me Best Dressed, so I got that going for me!

After the first couple weeks, some of the bits and bobbles were beginning to stand out to me.  Little things took a bit of getting used to, like the Shimano SLX vs the XT I run.  SLX is a workhorse groupo and performed as expected without a single issue.  Bud & Lou felt lighter and more supple than the Maxxis on my ICT-OG.  The WTB Volt 135 saddle was feeling ok-ish, but the stock grips and I were not getting along as they are of the thinner variety.  Couple the grips with the Salsa Rustler bars and my neck was getting beat up.  Performance wise, I had zero issues with the combo, just personal preference.  As I mentioned before, with my neck issues I need a bit more upright riding position and some cush at the grips.  One thing I love about my Surly’s is how they lend themselves to change.  I swapped out my Surly Sundowner bars from my KM to get my riding position a bit more upright and swapped the stock grips for a pair of Oury lock-ons.  FYI – Surly’s Open Bars are super comfortable, if my sister wasn’t borrowing my spare pair I would have thrown them on.

I’m fortunate to have some fun single track within a mile or two of the house, and what the trails seriously lack in elevation gain (the plaines) they redeem themselves with tight, twisty, log jam filled joy for me and many others.  The ICT again showed me how agile and quick it was.  Control up and over some of the sketchier logs jams was awesome. – Quick side note about the SRAM Level brakes, they work.  I haven’t ridden with anything but BB7’s in forever, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but they stopped me when I needed to stop.  I’m not one who grabs a handful of lever too much, just little taps to scrub speed here and there, but when a handful was needed it was there. The only oddness about them was a bit of play in the pads.  They are held in place with a cotter pin, so they move a bit.  The only time I noticed it, besides at a stand-still with the front brakes locked up, was riding downhill and modulating speed with the front brakes.  Not something your gonna do all that often. – Now back to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.  The ICT rides quick on tight trails and gets up to speed swift coming out of corners.  Bus & Lou are awesome tires, they were holding lines on wet leaves like nobody’s business and the Sundowner bars and grips added a bit of comfort to the ride.

Some of the most fun I’ve had with my ICT-OG has been on the beaches of Lake Michigan.  The beaches on the left coast of the lake have an interesting makeup that varies from sugar sand to gravel that’s more akin to riding on marbles than gravel.  I was excited to try out the new ICT at the beach and figured it would be the perfect place to play with the chainstay length.  With the rear axle all the way forward in the dropout, the chainstay is at 440mm, 10mm shorter than my ICT-OG, which is why the ICT feels more nimble to me.  The newer Surly dropouts allow you to lengthen that by sliding the axle back (Pro Tip – remember to take the rear brake caliper along for the ride on the slide;).  I brought the axel back 14mm for my initial out and back, from the campgrounds at Illinois State Beach to the Lost River, carefully staying along the shore.

Riding sand is kinda like riding fresh snow, you need some momentum and float to stay on top of it.  With Bud & Lou hovering around 5psi, the float was easy, and keeping the momentum wasn’t much of a problem either.  The thing is, at this beach the gnomes aren’t hiding in the sand, they hide in the marbles!  The ICT had no problem in the stone, it felt stable, and I didn’t need to use much body English to hold my line.  A nice enjoyable Sunday stroll down the beach.  Once back by the campgrounds, I slid the axle all the way forward again for my second round.  What a difference that 14mm made!  In the soft sand I began to notice the back-end getting a touch squirrely on me, but it wasn’t too bad.  Then I hit some marbles and the gnomes started messing with me.  It took a lot more energy to hold my line this time around as I had to keep my weight forward and try to get some of my MASS in front of the rear wheel to be more centered on the bike.  I didn’t realize the ride would change that drastically.  It was cool to experience such extremes.  It’s awesome that this bike could be dialed in for fresh snow AND groomers just by sliding the axle back and forth.

I try to get out for a ride 2 or 3 nights a week, after the little man is in bed (that is NOT a euphemism!), riding through the local parks and whatnot.  As I mentioned before, there is not much elevation change around here, unless it’s long and gradual, but there is a sledding hill to climb, and I climb it a lot.  During these evening “sanity restoration intervals” aboard the ICT I had a few epiphanies –

  • This seat is not so bad, I’m liking that I forget about it for long periods of time.
  • I really enjoy climbing with this bike, both seated and standing. The front end doesn’t want to lift or wonder on me.
  • This new freehub engages quicker than my Salsa hub, maybe the noise isn’t so bad after all. Mine is way quieter, but I’d put up with the noise for the faster engagement.
  • I noticed that when in the lowest gear (largest cog on cassette), the chain makes noise as if it was cross chained. Looking at the angle of the chain it looks a bit extreme, but there are 2 spacers on the drive side of the BB.  One could possibly be swapped out and moved to non-drive side to cut down on the angle some.
  • I really like the new style dropouts. As mentioned above, the adjustability is awesome.  I’ve also found it easier to drop the rear wheel out and to pop it back in.  My paranoid self would like a Tuggnut type apparatus to make it easier to hold the axel from slipping (which didn’t happen to me), but I’m paranoid like that.
  • I found a garden of Buddhas in my town that I never knew was there, and it is awesome!
  • I have fallen in love with Bud & Lou. I originally thought about swapping tires, but I just couldn’t bring myself to it.  I’m thinking that come spring time my current tires are going to be replaced with the sweet sweetness of Bud & Lou.

With our time together drawing to a close, I dressed the Green Machine back up in its stock duds for a few final rides.  One of them being at Silver Lake Park, where I met up with GNorm, his buddy Rod, Tom, and his pal Mark.  That place is a blast.  It has a bit of everything from nice flowy goodness to gnarly ups and downs.  I was able to keep within earshot of the guys most of the time, but I got spanked, and It was fun.  I ride alone so much that I just get in my groove, sit in my cadence, and spin.  When riding with these guys, I push myself, ride a bit out of my normal comfort zone, and pushed myself and the bike.  I may not be fast, but damn do I have FUN!  So, on what became my final ride with the ICT, I was reminded of everything I came to love about it.  This thing climbs like a Billy goat, especially loving the technical ones (climbs not goats).  It is quick and maneuverable, especially at speed, and has no problem holding a line.  The ICT is just flat out fun to ride!  Glad to go out on a high note.

I have been reminded by my wife that I am not in the market for a new bike any time soon (spousal approval generator ran out of gas and we have a new camper to pay for), but if I was looking, the 2019 Ice Cream Truck would be at the top of my list.  It’s well equipped to rip right out of the box and the dropouts increase its versatility.  Whether you’re looking for a fatty to shred the gnar, grind out some miles (all those steel zits for packing!), ride the marbles, or hit the groomers when the snow flies, the ICT is ready to play whatever role you need it to on any given day in any season. It is a multi-faceted bike.

With my only nit to pick with the ICT being the standover height, which didn’t bother me throughout the test, I feel confident with a rating of 4.5 out of 5 flaming pumpkins for this pistachio colored marvel.

BBR Test Pilot Grande signing off, CHEERS!

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5 Responses to 2019 Surly Ice Cream Truck Review – By Tony Grande

  1. KB November 12, 2018 at 10:13 pm #

    Really diggin the way it looks with those Sunrise bars.

    Sounds like the only thing she didn’t get to see was snow!

  2. SurlyMike November 13, 2018 at 8:04 am #

    Just got one! I’m putting those same Sunrise bars on mine since they were on my Wednesday before that. Nicely written review!

    • Erv Spanks November 13, 2018 at 11:33 am #

      Thanks! Enjoy the ride, Cheers!

  3. JP Syverud November 17, 2018 at 8:46 am #

    Great Read. Love those bars! Hopefully it will see some snow soon!

    • Erv Spanks November 19, 2018 at 7:00 am #

      Thanks JP!