When I got my Surly Pugsley there were no complete bikes available. I had to buy a frame/fork and then build the bike from a bunch of new and used parts that fell to hand. The Pugsley’s fat tires and offset drivetrain meant there were more than a few moments of uncertainty as I assembled it. Choices of fat bike specific parts were limited at the time. You could pick from any tire as long as it was an Endomorph and the only offset rims were Large Marges. Happily it was actually a pretty easy build once I started turning wrenches.
Like most people that ride fat bikes I was first attracted by the freakishly huge rubber they roll on. I held off for a couple years after the Pugsley was launched telling myself it was too specialized and I’d never make good use of it because I was not a snow bike racer type. What sealed the deal for me was a test ride on someone else’s Pugs. After you get over the big tires and start pedaling you realize it’s just a mountain bike that can go places its skinny tired brothers can’t. It rides trails just fine, isn’t bad on pavement and can dirt bike tour like a champ.
After that ride I knew I could get a lot of use out of a Pugsely so I dug deeper into the bike design. Like many other Surly bikes the Pugs is packed with features and is incredibly versatile. I liked the fact it had horizontal dropouts because I planned to use an internally geared hub [IGH] and didn’t want to use a chain tensioner. I also liked the fact that there was a derailleur hang if I changed my mind and wanted to use something more standard in the future. The fact you could swap the front and rear wheels made a lot of sense to me. I built my “front” wheel up with a disc brake fixed gear hub so in the unlikely event my IGH failed I wouldn’t be stuck a long way from help. The geometry of the Pugs is pretty standard for a classic mountain bike and it works great from street to trail to sand and snow.
My Pugs has seen a lot of action in the 4+yrs I’ve owned it. We’ve been to Baja Mexico several times. We’ve been to Burning Man and Shambhala. We’ve ridden the Canadian Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail. And of course we’ve ridden a lot of snow and ice in Alberta. My initial build has held up really well. I tore the bike apart last year to repaint its battered finish and was surprised that other than a new chain, new BB bearings and new cables/housing the bike really didn’t need anything to keep rolling another 4yrs.
I will admit that as new fat bikes and parts have hit the market [including the Moonlander] I get the occasional urge to upgrade my fatty. So far I have resisted those urges pretty well. I did put a Larry tire on the front of my Pugs and swap between different saddles and bars depending if I’m touring on the Pugs or doing shorter techy rides. I’ll probably upgrade to some lighter rims this year and rebuild the wheels using the original hubs and spokes if possible. Beyond that I’ll just keep riding the beast. Not bad for a guy prone to upgraditis! Mostly what’s keeping my wallet happy is the fact the Pugs works so well that upgrades wouldn’t make it that much better.
Now don’t read into this post a retrogrouch sentiment suggesting my aging Pugs is the ultimate fat bike and everything that has come since is just hype. If you gave me a Moonlander, a 907 or a Fatback I’d jump on them and probably enjoy the heck out of them as well. They are certainly different to my fatty and in some ways I can see they’d be better. However, looking at the overall picture there are still some things I like a lot about my Pugs and nothing that I have seen yet makes me feel like I’ll reach new levels of awesomeness over my Pugs.