Joe’s wheels: 29″ wheels for Surly Pugsley

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Wheels for Joe Cruz.

 

Front 29″ wheel for offset Pugsley fork

Rim: Velocity Synergy O/C

ERD: 604 mm

Spoke bed offset: -4mm/+4mm

Hub: Surly Ultra New Singlespeed Disc, 135mm

Center-Flange: 34mm/38.5mm

Flange diameter:58mm/58mm

Spoke hole diameter: 2.4mm

Hub offset: 17.5mm

Spokes: DT Swiss Champion, 2.0mm

Number: 32

Cross pattern: 3x

Left Right
Spoke length 291.7mm 295.5mm
Bracing angle 4.1° 10.1°
Tension distribution 100% 41%
Pugs29front

 

Rear 29″ wheel for offset Pugsley frame:

Rim: Velocity Synergy O/C

ERD: 604mm

Spoke bed offset: -4/+4

Hub: SRAM X7

Center-flange: 34.5mm/20.5mm

Flange diameter: 58mm/45mm

Spoke hole diameter: 2.4mm

Hub offset: 17.5mm

Spokes: DT Swiss Champion, 2.0mm

Number: 32

Cross pattern: 3x

Left Right
Spoke length 291.7mm 294.9mm
Bracing angle 4.1° 6.6°
Tension distribution 100% 62%

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All calculations and graphics from Freespoke.

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Pugsmorphology

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The bike has been through a series of changes since it was purchased from a Craigslist seller in Seattle last December. It came with a narrow upright handlebar, heavy Large Marge rims, and a worn Endomorph tire. It had been ridden without regular maintenance. As a result of neglect and preference, I have replaced almost everything on the bike at least once. The Pugsmorphology includes no fewer than:

8 different tire models; Endomorph, Larry, Nate, WTB Nano (29×2.1″), Schwalbe Big Apple (29×2.35″), Maxxis Holy Roller (26×2.4″), Schwalbe Big Apple (26×2.35″) and Surly Larry 120tpi ultralight

4 handlebars; narrow steel bar, Salsa Bend 2, Salsa Cowbell 3, Surly 1×1 Torsion bar

3 rim models; from Large Marge to Marge Lite, and one Salsa Semi-Disc 29er

2 forks; standard Pugsley 135mm offset and 100mm symmetrical for a dynamo hub

all on 1 purple frame.

December, 2011: Ride the 594 bus to Seattle, walk up Capitol Hill and hand over $1150, cash. I have just closed the riding season in New Mexico and am on my way to Alaska for the winter. I am carrying all of my camping gear and install it on the bike before heading out into the rain. Some bags and a Brooks saddle make the unfamiliar bike, mine.

(Many images link to related articles.)

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Winter in Alaska. This is not my daily commute, but riding around Anchorage is never less than spectacular. Riding to the Knik Glacier is the highlight of my life on a bike, thus far.

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Following a winter of record snowfall and wrenching on Mukluks at The Bicycle Shop, I begin to plot my exit strategy. For the immediate road ahead, 29″ wheels are calling. I begin by building a SRAM 506 hub to a Salsa Semi-Disc 29er rim. I first mounted a WTB Nano, and later, a 29×2.35″ Big Apple.

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Lael’s Revelate Vischasa leads me toward a full complement of modern bikepacking bags, while I explore the Pugsley as a 29er, partly.

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29×2.35″ Schwalbe Big Apple.

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I call the Carradice Camper into service. For the first time on a longer trip I plan to carry a camera and a laptop computer, along with the necessary bundle of chargers. The saddlebag eases the strain and creates a safe harbor for the netbook.

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Half-fat is a half-finished experiment. I intend to build a 29″ front wheel to turn my Pugsley into the Salsa Fargo that I have avoided buying all winter. The Fargo would be a great bike, and like my Stumpjumper and my High Sierra, it is a sensible option. Senseless– the Pugsley promises unknown opportunity and fun, although I cannot imagine riding several thousand miles of pavement on fat tires. The most important factor in selecting the Pugsley for travel is that I already own it.

If I am to ride 29″ wheels out of town, I expect to send 26″ wheels and fat tires to myself later in the summer. The complication and expense of the idea keeps me awake at night. There must be a better way. How can I enjoy paved roads, dirt roads and dirt trails all on the same set of wheels? Surely, pedaling the first 3000 miles on 4″ tires is a waste of rubber, and money; and building two sets of wheels and tires is wasteful and complicated.

The solution is closer than I expect. 26″ mountain bike tires in the 2.3-2.5″ range fit nicely onto 65mm rims. Voila! It’s that easy. I have been working on fatbikes all winter and this concept has never arisen– it’s always considered that a 700c/29″ wheel is required for alternative uses. I reach for the biggest 26″ tires available– 2.4″ Maxxis Holy Rollers– which bridge the gap between my needs on dirt roads and on pavement, for much less weight and expense than a true fatbike tire. When the time comes, I can simply refit fat tires to the bike. One set of wheels, two pair of tires– easy.

With my bike still set up half-fat, Lael tests the “baby-fat” concept of a smaller tire on a 65mm rim. She is a wearing a Surly Marge Lite rim over her shoulder, yet to be laced into my dynamo hub. A 2.3-2.5″ tire would not work on a larger rim such as the Surly Rolling Darryl, which is 82mm. As well, other fatbikes such as the current (2011) Salsa Mukluk feature a lower bottom bracket than the Pugsley, and would be compromised by this rim/tire combination. The Pugsley is lowered by over an inch, although the effective bottom bracket height is about the same as on Lael’s Surly LHT.

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I like riding drops. The Salsa Bend 2 bar served me well all winter, but I decide to leave town on a 44cm Salsa Cowbell 3 handlebar with Ergon grips. The drops are minimally flared, much like the randonneur-style bars that I’ve ridden in the past.

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The recycled pink tape cushions the hands. I finish the bars with a durable black, cotton tape. The Ergon grips require cutting and filing, shortening and enlarging the inner diameter from 22.2mm to 23.8mm. Other modifications include three rivnuts to the underside of the downtube to fit a Salsa Anything Cage, which cradles a 64 oz. Klean Kanteen.

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With drops and 2.4″ tires the bike rides well and is proof of concept. I think I will ride this: a hybridized purple fatbike with dirt jumping tires. This is a touring bike.

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Considering the amount of pavement I expect, this is even better. Several days after purchasing the Holy Rollers, I seek trade for a Schwalbe Fat Frank or Big Apple. Nate, a local rider with a garage full of hyperpractical bikes, comes through with some lightly used 26×2.35″ Big Apples. He is happy to have some brand new Holy Rollers for one of his own FrankenSurlys. How did I meet Nate? He responded to my Craigslist ad for a Surly Nate tire. One fender installed, one more to go…

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Fenders, generator lighting, 2.35″ slicks, drop bars with Ergon grips, and a peanut butter jar mounted to the fork– this is an Alaskan road bike. On my third day out I encounter snow at less than 2000ft, in June. Smooth tires– briefly– are regrettable.

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The Big Apples cushion the ride on dirt roads at lower pressures, but cornering at speed on loose gravel is scary. Traction is excellent on sealed surfaces. Compromises are the nature of such a bike.

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From Alaska to Banff, the route covers nearly 75% pavement, even though I seek off-pavement routes when possible. Despite additional wheel weight (in comparison to a typical touring bike), the Pugsley passes road miles with ease, including a handful of hundred mile days through Canada. With endless sun and mosquitoes, riding is an ideal means to multiple ends, including the lower States and the mosquito-free mountains. Comfortably perched, I ride south at a rapid rate and reconnect with the Divide in Banff. Several weeks later in Bozeman, Montana, I rebuild my rear wheel with a Marge Light rim, losing a pound of aluminum in the process. Refit fat tires.

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For a period, drop bars and fat tires coexist. This is a fine combination when riding open roads, such as on the Divide. The big tires (re-)extend the abilities of the bike, while the drop bars allow me to efficiently and comfortably ride longer distances. Lael and I plan to ride some of the Colorado Trail when we reunite in August, and I begin to (re-)consider an upright bar. I enjoyed the Salsa Bend 2 bar all winter. Something similar will do just fine.

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A Surly 1×1 Torsion bar arrives, taken off the used bike that Lael will soon be riding. Her Raleigh XXIX is sourced from Craigslist and comes with the Surly bar, although an On-One Mary is quickly on order. She may never ride a bike with another handlebar– to her, the Mary is perfect. I am happy to gain the added control of a wide bar and an upright position, especially with the monster traction provided by fat tires at low pressure. A week or two of singletrack in Colorado assure me that the new bar is the right choice.

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It’s not an aggressive position, which suits much of our riding. The bike rides like a Cleland– slowly and assuredly, it travels onward overland. As such, it is not a dedicated trail bike, but a “trail tourer”. Much like a fine automobile, it offers comfort and safety along with performance.

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Short of a climate control system and a stereo, it is fully-equipped. The stereo is on the to-do list (wouldn’t that be great!), while the lights are always on.

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As my fat-year closes, I’ll share more personal thoughts regarding life on a fatbike, including explicit disclosures and dissatisfactions. Mostly, it’s sweet remembrance through rose-colored glasses.

Moonrise on the Colorado Trail.

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One bike for all seasons, Part 2

Schwalbe Big Apple 26×2.35″ on a Surly Marge Lite, a 65mm singlewall rim with cutouts at a featherweight 690g.

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You might have noticed I’m riding a snow bike with smooth tires and drop bars.  The purple Surly Pugsley that got me through a snowy Anchorage winter is now a road bike with really big tires, or a mountain bike with a drop bar and smooth rubber, or a really burly touring bike without, “what are those things called?”.

“Saddlebags?  Oh yes, panniers.”

Is it a mountain bike?  Yup.  A road bike?  Yes.  A touring bike?  Definitely.

These are the questions that will follow me around this summer.

I’m aware that’s it’s a lot to ask of one bike, but I’m asking.  The response so far has been positive.

Schwalbe Big Apple 26×2.35″ on Surly Large Marge.  This is a 36 hole, asymmetrical rim in the double wall DH version, weighing in at 1150g.

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I decided to ride the Pugsley as an experiment.  It is an experiment in multi-functional bike design, but also in the bicycle lifestyle where one “bike” can transport me through a snowy winter, a season of exploration around the continent, and then through the challenges of riding bikes in rural southwestern US and Mexico, on rough tracks and trails.  I’d like to ride this thing in the Sierra Madre and the Copper Canyon, or perhaps the playas and arroyos of Baja.  Perhaps a Baja fatbike and packrafting trip is in the cards.  I want only one bike, but I want to travel without limitation.

It’s hard to leave behind my 1985 Schwinn High Sierra, which I’ve ridden over the last two years of bike touring.  It passes paved miles casually, and excels on most dirt roads.  More rough terrain challenges the bike and rider, but I was riding 1.75″ tires and slightly bigger rubber could have extended the range of the bike, at the expense of the the paved experience.  When I arrived in Alaska this past December, I came prepared with a secondhand Pugsley purchased in Seattle.  A 1985 Specialized Stumpjumper also awaited with a pair of studded tires for icy conditions.  Thus, I had two bikes: a snow bike and an ice bike.  Come summer, and the touring season, I looked for a one-bike solution.  The problem was, I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving the capacity for 4″ tires behind, but riding fat bike tires on the road down to the lower 48 didn’t sound like fun either.  I could ride the Stumpjumper, as I had the High Sierra?  Rather, I thought it would be fun to ride the Pugsley on singletrack later in the summer, in places like Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.  In the Pugsley, I had found a rigid frame that would allow me to explore new places.  But what about the transport phases where miles of paved roads are necessary?  I enjoy riding pavement at times, and a long day in the saddle can easily land you 100 miles closer to a destination, or an interesting trailhead.  Sometimes you just have to get somewhere.

I considered several solutions to “generalize” the functionality of the Pugsley.  Alternatively, I was looking to “optimize” it towards multiple different riding conditions, including: paved road touring, dirt road touring, and eventually, single track or sandy rides on 4″ fat tires.  And if I returned to AK for the winter?  I considered, in theory or in practice, the following modifications and judged their merits especially based on price, convenience and performance:

1) Build 29″ wheels front and rear for an all-road tourer such as the Salsa Fargo.  While 29×2.1-2.3″ tires would take me far, I would build, ship, or buy fat tire wheels later in the summer when I desire the extra suspension and floatation.  I would also have to ship or source fat tires at that time. 

This requires the cost of a new set of wheels, which are not prohibitively expensive on the Pugsley as it uses 135mm hubs all around, unlike the more expensive 170mm hubs on other fat bikes.  Wheels would need to be built or shipped later in the trip, which is complicated and a little costly, especially if the expense comes when I am not working.

Below, as far as I got with 29″ wheels before the obvious complication (and cost) had me looking for other solutions.  The rear wheel used a SRAM 506 hub, which is a quality loose-ball bearing hub with a taller non-drive side flange, which is optimal for dealing with the 17.5mm offset of the Pugsley as it reduces the spoke angle and tension on that side.  I rode this half-fat setup for several weeks with a Schwalbe 29×2.35″ tire in the rear.

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2) Ride fat tires (4″) all summer and avoid pavement.  It’s not impossible to ride pavement on fat tires, but it’s not optimal for long stretches.

Twenty five psi in the Surly Larry or Endomorph tires, or the 45North Husker Du tire make for a better ride on pavement than you’d expect.  It’s a little heavy, but it rolls well.  Still, for the cost of the tires, it’s absurd to wear them out in almost exclusively paved conditions.  It was tempting to retain full fat bike capacity, but I wouldn’t have experienced days of good “road” riding, pushing twenty or thirty miles at a time to roll over a hundred miles in a day, and by the time I reached Montana, my tires would be toast.  Elsewhere, fat tires would be a great excuse to stick to dirt, but 2000 highway miles stand between me and the dirt tracks of the lower 48.

3) RIde fat bike wheels all summer (wide rims, such as 65mm Surly Large Marge or Marge Lite), with a smooth 2.25-2.5″ tire for mixed road riding, including many paved miles on the AlCan Highway.  Buy some fat tires later in the summer, and mount them to the existing wheels.   Sounds simple, but does it ride well?

This solution was a revelation, as most discussions of retrofitting a fat bike for alternative uses focus on 29″ wheels and the available rubber, such as smooth touring tires and 2.1″ knobbies.  For the Surly Pugsley, which has a higher bottom bracket than most fatbikes, the smaller tire does not lower the bike enough to create any issues in use.  Actually, the BB height of a Surly LHT (26 x 2.0″ Schwalbe Big Apple) and a Surly Pugsley with 26×2.35″ Schwalbe Big Apple tires (on 65mm rims) is almost exactly the same.  The Big Apple rides well on pavement and is relatively long-wearing (with a reflective sidewall!); it features enough volume to be capable and comfortable on dirt roads, and opens up some more challenging riding as well.  With these tires, I could ride every place I’ve ever toured before.  The trick: when I decide to ride some Coloradan singletrack or the beaches of Baja, I only need a pair of 4″ fat tires to be riding fully fat again.

A pair of Maxxis 26 x 2.4″ Holy Rollers mounted to Surly Large Marge rims got the ball rolling on this project.  I prefer the Schwalbe Big Apple for mixed terrain which includes pavement.  Medium-wide singlewall rims with cutouts such as the Surly Marge Lite can lighten the bike and make “road” riding on a fatbike more tolerable.

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There is no harm in riding a bike with unused tire clearance– better to have it, than to wish for it.  A large volume tire serves multiple functions: with higher pressures, it rolls well on smooth terrain, but with lower pressure it suspends, and floats and provides traction.  An undersized tire may roll fast on smooth surfaces, but will quiver as the road turns rough.  It is often stated that a narrower tire is a “faster” tire.  This does not hold true when the road turns rough, where a large tire may be faster.

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I’d realized how versatile fatbikes could be earlier this winter.  At the time, my discoveries were focused on the Salsa Mukluk which is better suited to a 29er conversion than smaller 26″ tires for summer trail riding or touring.  It also readily accepts a suspension fork.  See “One bike for all seasons” for my previous thoughts on riding fatbikes all year.

My experience nearly plagiarizes Joe’s decision to ride his Pugsley in South America, despite a perfectly good Surly Long Haul Trucker in waiting.  Discussions of function aside, fatbikes are fun and we’d both hate to travel somewhere fun without them.