Surly Nate Tire Review

26 07 2012

Fat knobby rubber…

The Nate is Surly’s 4″ knobby fatbiking tire. It comes in 27tpi & 120tpi versions. I was shooting for the 120tpi tire, but ended up with the 27tpi model instead. Prior to this tire being released the only options for the Pugsley were the Endomorph and the Larry – both of which are smooth tread tires suited for soft conditions use. Of course a lot of fatbikers used the Endo & Larry for trail riding since they had no options. The arrival of the Nate last year sparked a lot of interest amongst fatbikers for new terrain that could be conquered with knobby traction.

The 27tpi Nates have a spec’d weight of 1730g with a wire bead and price of $90 vs. the 120tpi version at 1280g with a folding bead and a price of $150. I would definitely suggest you go with the lighter 120tpi Nates despite the high cost. Saving over 2lbs is worth it for bikes that are already on the portly side and more importantly the reduced rolling resistance because of the softer carcass will pay you back on every ride you do. I only have the 27tpi version due to an order snafu and if I could do it over I’d hold out for the 120tpi tire. Fattires last a long time so it’s worth the investment.

You should also be aware that riders have noticed hundreds of grams in variation between tire weights for the same model. So if you have access to a LBS with a bunch of fat tires definitely weigh them all and buy the lightest. The difference could easily be a pound over a set of tires at no increase in cost.

My Pugsley with Nates…

Even though I’ve had a fatbike for years I was taken aback by the sight of the Nate’s aggressive knobs and the heft of the tire. It’s sort of like bringing a chainsaw with you on a backpacking trip…you are definitely serious about your campfires or in this case traction! My experience with the Nates has been in Vancouver Island’s wet rainforest during winter and spring. That means slick rocks, slippery roots, mud, steep wet dirt climbs and moss. The Nates did not disappoint in the traction department. When inflated properly they’ll hook up on anything other than roots which are near frictionless when wet. Like all fatbike tires you have to get the pressure right to coax maximum performance out of these bad boys. If they are overinflated you’ll bounce around uncomfortably and wonder where all the traction is you read about online. Despite the big footprint and aggro knobs you do have ride with skill and finesse the bike even with Nates to get traction on steep slippery surfaces. The Nates give you a shot at stuff you wouldn’t have a hope of climbing with Endos & Larrys. You still need to bring your “A” game ;)

Descending Nates hook up well and let you ride your Pugsley much more aggressively in sloppy conditions that you could previously. The same applies to braking.

Fat + Knobs = Nate

The downside to the stiff, heavy carcass and big knobs is that the Nate is noticeably slower than the Endos & Larrys. I’ve done 140km days fully loaded on the latter tires. I wouldn’t even consider that with these 27tpi Nates. That’s okay in my books as I wouldn’t use the Nates if I didn’t need the traction they offer so when they are on my Pugsley I have no other choice and long days in the saddle are probably not in the cards. Although I’m sure the 120tpi version of Nates would be better in this regard I don’t think you’ll see me rolling around on any model of Nate just for fun. When it dried out here I pulled them from my Pugsley and they’ll sit in my garage until this coming winter.

I haven’t used Nates in sand, but I hear they kick up a lot of sand and don’t work as well as Endos & Larrys unless you are trying to climb some steep dunes. I’ve read mixed reviews on snow. For packed trails and steep snow climbs they seem to perform well. For floatation missions – especially rolling over a crust they break through more than a smoother fat tire. In slimy mud they shed the goo well, but in sticky clay-esque mud they’ll pack up and you’ll have to clean them out frequently.

Back when my Nates were clean…

The bottom line with the Surly Nate is you get great traction, but there are some downsides. If you can’t make your riding work with smoother fat tires this may be just what you need. On the other hand I think the Endo & Larry are better general purpose fatbike tires and for loose conditions riding.

Other options:

  • 45 North has come out with a tire called the Husker Du [4″] in a lightweight casing and soon a studded version. The non-studded Husker Du has smaller knobs than the Nate so it likely doesn’t have the same traction potential, but it rolls much better. I haven’t tried a set, but I suspect they’ll be a decent year round fatbike tire for folks that want 1 tire to do it all. The studded version offers traction on ice at the cost of weight and rolling resistance.
  • Surly has come out with 2 new 5″ knobby tires called the Bud & Lou – in front and rear specific tread patterns. I don’t know if they are going to prove significantly better than the Nate enough to make the massive weight gains worthwhile, but they will look awesome on your Moonlander ;)

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2 responses

31 07 2012
Scott Gamble

Might make a good front snow tire.

3 08 2012

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