Friday, September 20, 2013

Pugsley, Mk II

2013 Surly Pugsley frame, size XL, or 22".
Last summer, after approximately six years of pondering the purchase of a Surly Pugsley, I finally made the leap. I was not disappointed. Riding fat tires is a lot of fun on any surface. The Pugsley has played a big role in my long streak of consecutive days of riding a bike, currently at 270 days. Whether in the depth of winter or on a dusty summer day, heading out for a ride on the Pug is great any time of year.

I can unequivocally attest that fat tires equate big fun. The only running concern I've had about the Pugsley is the frame size. I'm about 6'2", and have a 89.5 cm PBH measurement. I'm fairly tall, sure, but I'm not a giant. I have a 22" Surly Big Dummy, which seems to fit pretty well for my mostly around town trips. I also have a 58 cm Surly Cross-Check, which at times I have wished was instead a 60 cm. When I was in the market for a Pugsley, I couldn't quite decide between a 20" and a 22", out of concern about standover clearance between the top tube and my nether regions while on the soft surfaces likely to be encountered on a fatbike.

Apart from standover clearance, I own bikes that have effective top tube lengths similar to both the 20" and 22" Pugsley, and tend to prefer those with a longer top tube. However, nothing beats an actual ride on a bike to be sure. The problem was, I had difficulty finding Pugsleys of any size to test ride. I was able to try a Large sized Salsa Mukluk, which seemed a decent fit, but in the numbers, is somewhere between the 20" and 22" Pugsley. I'm a steel-frame sort of guy, so I didn't seriously consider the Mukluk, though I'm sure it's a great bike.

I scoured internet forums and reviews, reaching the conclusion that random impressions of fit among a wide range of people, even of similar height to mine, is not particularly helpful. When the time came, the issue of standover clearance must have been at the fore, as I made the plunge toward a 20" frame. The bike rode great and the giddiness of playing with fat tires made me initially unconcerned about the flagpole length of seatpost sticking out of the frame.

My 2012 Surly NecroPug, 20".
I certainly had plenty of standover clearance with the 20" frame, yet I noticed that I had my saddle slid all the way back on the rails for my torso to feel about right, and even then I noticed that I often rode with the bottom of my palms on the handlebar with my fingers wrapped around an imaginary bar about an inch or so in front of the actual one. For all the times that I felt a little cramped along the top tube, I realized that I never once felt greatly appreciative of the copious standover clearance.

Eventually, I thought about the situation. I acknowledged that riding a fatbike is now part of my DNA, and that I'm in it for the long haul. But what about the options? A lot has happened in fatbikes in just the last year, with new models popping up regularly. Yet, though my experience, I greatly enjoyed the versatility of the Pugsley; it can accept the full range of fat tires, from the stock 3.8" fatties, to 3.0" 29ers on Rabbit Hole rims, to 4.8" super fatties with a slightly modified drivetrain. I'm also not particularly interested in carbon or aluminum for reasons of expense and/or dependability, nor am I interested in sacrificing versatility by committing to a bike limited by tire size options. So, weighing the possibilities, an upsized Pugsley frame was the answer I chose.
Meet the new boss, not quite the same as the old boss.
I couldn't get a 22" NecroPug frame with the blacked-out stickers as they were sold out and discontinued, but I could get the new plain vanilla black (or what Surly calls Apathetic Black) Pugsley frame. No problem. All my parts transferred over perfectly, with the exception of the front derailleur, as the design changed from an e-type to a direct mount. The new frame came with the direct mount adapter, so all I needed was a direct mount SLX front derailleur and some new cables and housing.

Park HHP-2. It's nice to have the right tool for the job.
I don't have the vast amount of standover height with the new frame as compared to the old frame, but it is plenty, and in the few rides that I've done since the switch, I'm much more comfortable. This frame just feels more correct for me. I can't definitively say that for anyone out there who, like me, is potentially on the cusp between the 20" and 22" Pug, that the 22" is better. I can say that for me bigger is better, and that I doubt if I'll ever be concerned about standover clearance.

Parts swapped over, the new 22" Pugsley is complete.
Today, just for kicks, I stole the newish geared rear wheel off of Julie's Raleigh XXIX, along with the old single-speed rear wheel from her XXIX and slapped them on the new 22" Pug. The result: even more reason to love the Pug. Instant 29er.

29er wheels on my new 22" Pugsley.

WTB ExiWolf 2.3" tire with plenty of clearance in the Moonlander fork.

The non-offset wheel looks a little odd in the rear, but the rear of a Pugsly looks a little odd no matter what. Plenty of tire clearance even though the centerline is 17.5 mm closer to the drive side. 

The non-offset rear wheel tracks a little to the right of the centerline, but it doesn't seem like much of a problem. No matter what an evolutionary biologist may tell you, bilateral symmetry is overrated.

Like this, the Pugsley could easily be mistaken for a Karate Monkey at a casual glance. 

Looks more or less normal, even from the back.
I've now been pondering a 29er for some time. Following my little experiment with 29" wheels on the Pug, I now know that I have a geared 29er at my disposal already. However, I still have a bit of an itch for a dedicated single speed 29er, which is another pathway to two-wheeled fun. For whatever reason, finding a used Redline Monocog 29er (in the 21-inch size) has piqued my interest. I'm still trying to lighten my load a bit, so I probably won't act on a Monocog anytime soon, but I do know, with my proclivities, something is bound to happen at some point.

In the mean time, I am likely to have a used but in good condition 20" Pugsley frame for sale, likely offered as a good deal to my loyal readers. Look for more details here soon. Until then, happy trails!


  1. Congrats on the bigger Pug. Dialling in the fit on a bike you ride a lot is very important and worth the effort/cost. I hope enjoy it a ton! :)

    BTW - I'm totally over worry about standover clearance on my MTBs. I have little to none on most of them and in decades of crashing, falling and stopping awkwardly I have never damaged my "boyz'. Conversely I have managed to injure my junk in a variety of other non-bikey ways in the same time. That's taught me SO highly over rated on MTBs.

    1. I concur on the value of bike fit. I've generally opted for the larger frame when between sizes, as often seems to be the case for me. I guess with the Pugsley, I fell into the standover hype associated with fatbikes. I, too, have not damaged my boyz in a bike-related setting since the days of riding BMX bikes on dirt mounds in a construction area, circa 1979.

      Thanks for the link to the Necro Pug stickers. I saw that they also had orange stickers, which might look nice on a black frame.

  2. BTW2 - Necro Pugs stickers are ~$15 if you want to go back to the Special Ops look!

  3. Switched to white cable housing to match the new decals eh?

    I'm betting you're going to like the bigger frame. The only time I wish my 22" 1x1 were smaller is when I'm straddling the toptube at a stoplight and the temp is -10F or colder.

    Does your framebag still fit well enough?

    Trying to decide if your old 20" would be a good fit for the Mrs. I'll have to crunch a few numbers and see.

    She's due for a fatty this year, and will likely end up on an Ops Pug or similar.

    1. A haven't done a full test, but my framebag seems to fit well enough. I may have to reevaluate that after some time, though. Crunch away with those numbers, and let me know.

      Good to see that you're among the living. I was beginning to wonder when your blog went dormant, but then realized I've done much the same from time to time. Academic demands can intrude on precious blog time :-)

    2. Oh, and I forgot to say that the housing looks white, buy it's some fancy silver braided Jagwire housing that I splurged on for the build. It actually doesn't truly match much on the bike, but I like it anyway.

  4. I'm interested in the frame. Esp if you are interested in bikey trades...

    1. Glad to hear of your interest, John. I may be up for some trading, though I'm trying to reduce my holdings a bit. What do you have in the offering? You can contact me directly if you like, at bigdummydaddy appended by the standard Google mail address stuff.

      A Pug would definitely be a fun machine for what I've seen of your river property, and if Spokane gets hit with a lot of snow again this year.

  5. Just curious, what's your saddle height? I'm 6' and ride a 60cm LHT, 22" BD and a 20" Krampus. My PBH is 90 and saddle height 80cm. The Krampus feels okay I guess but there is a mile of post showing. I have really grown to like the feel of my BD. I may be parting with the Krampus in the future and might go with an ECR or Pugs, likely in XL.

    1. My saddle height is 79.5 cm. In addition to my 22" Pug, I ride a 22" BD, XL Krampus, which actually works out to 21" seat tube by Surly measure, 58cm Cross Check which I'd get in 60cm if I were to do it again, 21" Redline Monocog, which fits great, and a 22" Salsa Horsethief. In times past, I generally rode 20" frames, which were, in retrospect, too small. A small frame and a very hunched over riding style was considered sporty and faster in the '90s. Now that I ride more slowly, I like to explore and poke around, and prefer a larger frame with bigger rolling diameter tires.

      Your experience may vary, but my BD and Pug have a very similar feel in fit, as did an ECR (XL) that I test rode. I rode a few size L Krampi, enjoying them, but never getting past feeling they were a bit small, both in seat tube and top tube length. Of all my Surlys, my XL Krampus probably fits the best, perhaps because it's a kind of in-betweener 21" with a long top tube.

      I often feel I'm in between sizes, and have mostly narrowed it down to the observation that Surly (and many other brands) seem not to have a head tube that is as long as it should be to be adequately proportional in the larger frame sizes. Designers seem to want to get bar height even or a bit higher with the saddle for small and medium frames, but throw that objective out the window when it comes to larger frames. It seems they allow a fork steerer tube sized around a typical length needed for small or medium frames to dictate a head tube length in larger frames that's too short. My XL 29er has a seat tube that is 5" longer than that of my wife's size small, but the head tube is only 10 mm longer. Doesn't add up to me. But I digress.

      You and I have similar dimensions, and it sounds as though we've both gravitated to Surlys in XL. Considering you feel comfortable on a 22" BD, an XL ECR or Pugsley sounds like a reasonable assessment. Best of luck with your quest, and let me know how it turns out.

  6. Surly has Pugsleys on sale with a rim set so of course I'm revisiting this page. I don't need another bicycle at all but am so tempted to pick up a Pugs. If I like it I'd most likely sell my Krampus to further fund the build. I toured for 5 days on my 22" BD and it was great. Given I just want to ramble rather than rail on singletrack, I think the Pugs is the way to go. I'll post back if I pull the trigger. Thanks so much for the info in the previous response.

    1. As soon as I saw the Pugsley frames plus rims were on sale, I checked to see if I could get an extra small for my 11 year-old daughter. They were sold out in that size, unfortunately, so I'm pondering a size small and let her grow into it.

      I think if you have the opportunity to pick up a Pug, you won't regret it. Many of your Krampus parts should transfer right over, and you could even use the fork and wheels (remember to offset the rear) in 29+ mode. You'll need a crankset with a 100 mm spindle (the Surly OD cranks in 100 mm are also on sale) and two 135 mm hubs to build up the wheels, but then you're good to go.

      The clearance sale Pugsley frames are a boon to anyone wanting to get into fat tires. I'd say strike while you can, though it should be noted I'm not the most judicious in maintaining a concise bike fleet. That said, there are few bikes as adaptable and reconfigurable as a Pug, and it's built to last forever. Good luck!