A Surly Man’s Rag (Surly Anagrams)

There’s a man in this town with a garage full of bikes.  Most of them are steel and many of them are Surlys.  A few– horses of a different color– have names never intended.  A heat gun and a steady hand allow for some anagrammatical tomfoolery.  The Big Donkey is a half-fat longtail that hauls solar panels and firewood into forest lands for hydrology studies.  The Karate Mummy is actually a push bike for a very small boy, who asks if he can put pedals on his bike.  The little guy has got some fancy clipless pedals exhumed from a parts box and he’s inspecting the would-be bottom bracket region.  A bike like this is meant to teach the balancing technique of two wheels; the rider shuffles along the ground as on a velocipede.  “Pedals?  It’s not quite that simple”, the Surly man explains.  Someday.

The Surly man, Nate, first appeared on my doorstep in response to a Craigslist ad for a fatbike tire.  The not so surly Nate rides a Big Donkey to which he has now mounted a 3.7″ Surly Nate tire.

The little black velocipede known as the Karate Mummy has a full complement of Surly decals including the “fatties fit fine” chainstay logo, “SURLY” on both fork blades, and a “Large Marge” sticker on the 12 inch rims.  It looks a lot like daddy’s green 1×1, which is actually a dinglespeed with two cogs and two chainrings.  Perhaps daddy’s rig should be named the 2×2 and the Karate Mummy be renamed the 0x0, for the lack of pedals and gears.  The Surly man might have to invest in a Surly Ogre to get two good zeros (0’s) for the project.

The Surly Man’s Rag is worth a read, where he is known as the Bike wRider.  Most recently, the fat-front Big Donkey teamed with a genuine Big Dummy for some dirt riding and hydrology studies.  My favorite posts feature Little wRider on the black 0x0 velocipede, aka the Karate Mummy.



For improved traction over my worn Endomorph tire, I mounted a Surly Nate tire on the rear. In an effort to gain as much traction as possible in all conditions, it is mounted in the more aggressive direction. The Endomorph provides an ideal snow tire in theory, mimicking the homemade tires made by racers who were previously forced to customize downhill tires with razor blades. The charactersitic chevron pattern does “paddle” through snow, although I think the benefit of the Endopmorph is quickly lost as the tread wears. As they say that Campagnolo gear “wears in” while Shimano “wears out”, the Endomorph is wearing out on every ride that is not limited to fresh snow. A deeper tread would ensure the tire “bites” right out of the box, and that it continues to perform through it’s wear life.

The Endomorph catches better mounted in reverse, as a cupped paddle catches more water. The Larry tire also performs well mounted in reverse, as it shares many features of the Endomorph, excepting the lateral ridges connecting arrow-shaped nubs. It is thus better suited to lateral forces, such as steering, and cures one of the problems of the Endomorph on hardpack– it easily slides sideways. The Larry, as a rear tire, also works well in reverse.

The Nate is a dog. It bumps along like a mountain bike tire on hard pack and pavement, but unlike the others, when climbing out of a rut or slamming on the brakes, it rises to the task. Both other tires slip and slid around as if they weren’t paying attention or didn’t quite know what I was asking. Sometimes one tire goes right and the other goes left and I am sideways in an intersection– not good. The tall, siped, angular knobs on the Nate never spin me round in traffic. It, like many early mountain bike tires, delivers ultimate traction from an aggresive randomized pattern. It looks like there was a little guessing involved in the tread design. Still, the question to which Nate is the answer must have been, “How much traction, absolutely, can we provide?”. I expect that a newer generation of fatbike tires, specifically for mixed conditions riding in the winter, especially for commuters, is on the horizon. This may include an aggressive tire that rolls a little more nicely than the Nate, and a studded 4″ tire. For now, the Nate appears to be a great platform for installing studs. Now I have access to studs and a stud driver and a drill. Do I dare? If I find the time.

A new tire from 45North, called the Husker Du, is available. Another tire from J&B is expected soon.