Pugsley 29er Wheels…

8 03 2013

I love my Surly Pugsley and I have considered building up a 29er set of wheels for it a few times over the years. The Pugsley has a 17.5mm offset of the rear wheel to the right so the chain clears the big fat tire. That works great with the wider fat rims out there as they have enough real estate to offset the hole over to the right so that the end result is a strong wheel with reasonably even spoke tension on both sides. My Large Marge rims [shown below] have the spokes offset ~13mm to the right for example.

Note offset spokes...

Note offset spokes…

With narrower 29er rims you can’t move the spoke holes over as much so there are some compromises to be made that are worth looking at.

What’s normal?

Standard rear MTB wheel...

Standard rear MTB wheel…

I like strong wheels with even spoke tension, but most mountain bikes roll along just fine on rear wheels that are tensioned at 100%/60%. So that’s worth keeping in mind.

Offset Fork + Zero Offset Rims

Zero offset rim in the rear of the Pug...

Zero offset rim in the rear of the Pug…

If you build a Pugsley a set of 29er wheels using standard zero offset MTB rims [spoke holes centred in the rim] you get the spoke tension shown in the images above and below.

The rear wheel uses a SRAM X9 hub and the spoke tension is 100%/45%.

The front wheel uses a Surly 135mm SS hub in the Pugs offset fork and the tension is 100%/30%

Neither of these options looks that great, but I know folks that have built up 29er wheels for Pugsleys using zero offset rims and they can work if the rider isn’t super heavy and/or the use is gentle [ie. road commuting vs. loaded dirt touring].

Surly SS hub in Pugs offset fork...

Surly SS hub in Pugs offset fork…

Offset Fork – 4mm Offset Rims

Velocity Synergy OC 4mm offset rims with SRAM X9 rear hub...

Velocity Synergy OC 4mm offset rims with SRAM X9 rear hub…

Nick over at the Gypsy By Trade Blog posted about building a Pugsley 29er wheelset using 4mm offset Velocity Synergy OC rims. As far as I know these offer the most offset in a “standard” 29er rim.

The rear builds up with a tension of 100%/62% – so that’s essentially the same as our “normal” MTB rear wheel at the top of the post. Although this wheel has slacker spokes on the driveside vs. the “normal” MTB wheel which has the slacker spokes on the disc brake side. I’m not sure if that matters a lot – anyone have a comment on that?

The front builds up with a tension of 100%/40%. A normal MTB front wheel is around 100%/70%. But the front wheel sees less abuse so perhaps this is just fine as long as you aren’t on the really heavy/rough end of the use spectrum. I’m keen to follow Nick’s blog and see what happens.

Surly SS hub in offset fork with 4mm offset rim...

Surly SS hub in offset fork with 4mm offset rim…

Offset Fork – 7mm Offset Rim

7mm offset rim in rear of Pugs on SRAM X9 hub...

7mm offset rim in rear of Pugs on SRAM X9 hub…

Surly has released a 50mm wide Rabbit Hole rim that takes 29er tires as well as their new Knard 29 x 3.0″ uber wide rubber. It has a 7mm offset and fits into a Pugsley frame/fork no problems. I wish Surly has pushed those spoke holes out another couple mms to get better tension with the Pugsely offset frame/fork. It looks like there is enough real estate on the rim to do that.

The rear builds up with 100%/78% spoke tension which is nice.

The front builds up with 100%/48% spoke tension which is better than the 4mm offset rims, but still quite a bit short of the 100%/70% tension of a standard MTB front wheel.

So you are getting a more balanced build with these wide rims, but they are heavier [~200g/rim compared to the Synergy OC rims]. OTOH – they are wider so if you want to run wide 29er rubber including 3.0″ wide Knards the weight penalty may be worth it on that count.

Surly SS hub in Pugs offset fork with 7mm offset rims....

Surly SS hub in Pugs offset fork with 7mm offset rims….

Zero Offset Moonlander Fork – Zero Offset Rims

Moonlander symmetrical fork with zero offset rim...

Moonlander symmetrical fork with zero offset rim…

If you have a Necromancer Pugsley you have a symmetrical Moonlander fork that takes a 135mm front hub. I don’t have the specs on Surly’s 135mm front disc hub so I used the same Surly rear hub as the other examples. It gives you a pretty good idea where things are headed although the spoke tension with the front 135mm hub may be a bit worse since the right flange doesn’t have to make room for a cog.

For a zero offset rim I got 100%/89% spoke tension which is great. You could use 4mm or 7mm offset rim to get an even stronger wheel.

Pugsley 100m Symmetrical Fork – Zero Offset Rim

100mm front hub in Surly Pugsley 100mm symmetrical fork...

100mm front hub in Surly Pugsley 100mm symmetrical fork…

Surly sells a 100mm symmetrical fork for the Pugsley at a cost of ~$99. That would allow you to use an existing standard 29er MTB wheel which you may own or can buy pre-built for a lot less than a custom wheel build. You can also swap this wheel into another MTB you own. The spoke tension is 100%/70% – which what most MTB front wheels would be.

Note this would be the same result as using a 29er suspension fork with your Pugsley.

IGH + Pugsley Offset – Zero Offset Rim

Alfine 8 in Pugsley offset frame with zero offset rim...

Alfine 8 in Pugsley offset frame with zero offset rim…

If you are like me and want to use an IGH with your Pugs you find out that it’s a challenge with 29er wheels. As you can see from the example above of an Alfine 8 in the rear of a Pugs with zero offset rims the spoke tension balance is poor at 100%/30%. It’s essentially the same as the tension achieved with the Surly SS hub in all the examples above so your best case using a 7mm offset Rabbit Hole rim is ~100%/50% tension balance.

Some Other Ideas

Here are some additional things to consider:

  • a wider flange to flange spacing will make for a stronger more stable wheel all other things being equal
  • it may be possible to drill new spoke holes on Surly Rabbit Hole rims further to the right than the stock ones
  • you can use two rear cassette hubs in your Pugs to avoid the funky spoke tension you get with a SS/FG hub up front

So what should you do?

The very first thing I would do if you are going down this road is to evaluate how tough you are on wheels. That will let you know how important getting strong wheels should be to you.

  • how much to do you weigh?
  • how much gear do you carry?
  • how rough is the terrain you ride?
  • are you a finesse rider or a smasher?
  • how much do you ride?
  • how well do normal MTB wheels last under you?
  • how much attention do you want to spend on your wheels?

Next up you need to consider some of the other factors like:

  • how frequently do you plan on swapping wheels?
  • how far from help do you ride?
  • do you have an existing 29er front wheel you could use?
  • do you want to ride narrow 29er rubber? [less than 2.4″]
  • do you want to ride uber wide 3.0″ 29er rubber?
  • do you want to use a suspension fork?
  • what is your budget?

There is no set answer.

  • The more abuse you will dish out the stronger your wheels need to be.
  • If you want to swap wheels once a season a fork swap is no big deal.
  • If you want to swap wheels twice a week swapping forks will get old fast.
  • If you own an existing 29er front wheel you like getting a $99 Pugsley 100mm symmetrical fork is a great idea.
  • If you ride far into the backcountry you won’t want to take a lot of risk.
  • If you are never more than a few miles from the car you can afford to have a wheel failure.

Don’t use a Pugsley

If you haven’t got a fatbike and using a 2nd set of 29er wheels is important to you than you may well be better off buying one of the symmetrical rear end fatbikes being sold. Without the offset rear end you can build up some 29er wheels without much trouble although you will need the correct size hubs for your frame so an off the shelf 29er wheel set won’t work.

What would I do?

Well I’ve talked myself out of a 29er wheelset for my Pugs. Using an IGH doesn’t get me a good wheel build even with a Rabbit Hole rim. I don’t feel like swapping wheels and the fork every time I want to run 29er wheels either. So that sort of leaves a whole bunch of not so great options on the table.

I think the better plan for me is to have a dedicated 29er MTB and leave the Pugsley on fatbike rubber. I have a garage and I have the existing 29er parts to outfit a frame at a cost that wouldn’t be much more than a custom set of wheels.

Having said that if I was a one bike guy and owning/storing a second bike was out of the question I’d switch my Pugsley over to a 1 x 9 derailleur drivetrain and use a Moonlander fork upfront. I’d run Rabbit Hole rims because I’ll either run a 2.4″ or 3.0″ tire. I like wide rubber.

Comparison to my existing Pugsley wheels…

Alfine in Pugs with Large Marge rim...

Alfine in Pugs with Large Marge rim…

Since we are going to town on wheel calcs the images above and below show my current Pugsley wheels. The rear Alfine has a spoke tension of 100%/92% with a Large Marge rim that has 13mm offset [same offset as Rolling Darryl rim]. The front Surly FG hub in my Pug’s offset fork has a spoke tension of 100%/69%. Both ends are pretty strong in theory and that’s backed up by a lot of abuse with zero issues.

It’s nice to be able to ride your bike as hard as you can without having to give a second thought to your wheels.

Surly SS rear hub in Pugsley offset fork with Large Marge rims...

Surly SS rear hub in Pugsley offset fork with Large Marge rims…



13 responses

8 03 2013

Awesome post Vic. Very useful information indeed. Just the sort of information a LBS should be able to provide, but sadly can’t.

9 03 2013

I have a couple of questions (I still have not see a fat bike in the flesh I was hoping to see on in Vancouver but the couple of stores I visited did not have them). My questions are can you run normal 26″ wheels on pugsley without any offset 30mm rims with 2.1 or 2.4 tires? What software did you use for all your calculations? GREAT POST love all the maths.

9 03 2013

@adruve – you can run regular MTB wheels and narrow rubber without special offset wheels, but the wheels will sit 17.5mm to the right of center.

The software I used was Freespoke – http://kstoerz.com/freespoke/

9 03 2013

Adruve – if you want to ‘see’ what Vik’s saying, have a look at this post: http://joecruz.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/pugsley-wheel-experiments/

All done as a prelude to taking a Pugsley to places without fat-bike spares….

10 03 2013
alan g

i considered the 29er pugs wheels for a while as well, but also eventually decided against too. one more thing for me was the rate of wear with an alfine cog. if you have 2 alfines to deal with, you will need a chain for each wheelset, as the alfine cog tends to wear somewhat fast. the result could be chain skipping on the cog. this was info via someone who tried it on flickr, so ymmv.

hadn’t considered the rabbit hole rims yet, definitely some potential there.

i came to the same conclusion – just buy a 29er, but also see the merit in having one bike. i built up a karate monkey and love it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/40010668@N06/8128386318/in/set-72157631839768598

this is an incredibly thorough analysis!

10 03 2013

Adruve – one thing to mention about using “normal’ zero offset MTB wheels on a Pugs is that you need 2 rear wheels…not a rear and a front.

17 03 2013
Andy D. (Big Dummy Daddy)

Nicely detailed post with a lot of options to ponder, especially in tandem with Nick’s wheelbuild post. I’ve got a NecroPug and my itching for a set of 29er wheels is getting more difficult to ignore. I’m hopeful that a few more options for offset rims will appear in the near future. For good or bad, I’m nowhere close to being a one-bike guy, so a dedicated 29er could also be an option. However, I really like the concept of having a 29er/29+/4-inch fat/5-inch fat enabled Pugsley to avail the best traits of each.

18 03 2013

@Andy – I buy and sell bikes with reasonably frequently. I know there are newer fatbikes with some cool features, but I stick with my Pugs. That says something.

When you read about Joe Cruz’s exploits on his Pugs and the fact he loves his as well…so much so he had it updated with a shit ton of braze-ons and a sweet paint job….now he’s sunk the $$ into having Nick build him a 29er wheel set so he can ride it more – even though he owns some great 29er MTBs already. That says even more.

Nick’s a big fan of the Pugs. Doug [MN Bike Commuter] got one of the early purple Pugs he is still rocking. My buddy Aaron and his GF love their NeckRos. The list goes on…

For a pretty straight forward steel fatbike the Pugsley has a lot of satisfied customers.

All that to say it certainly deserves consideration for a 2nd wheel set.

It’s too bad that the Pugs [and pretty much all fatbikes] need special wheels. So all those $$$ you dump into a 2nd wheelset can only be used on the Pugs and not shared with another 29er frame.

That’s what keeps me from doing the 29er Pugs wheels myself. I keep thinking I might as well just have a 29er MTB + the Pugs.

If I travelled more or had less storage spave the 29er Pugs would be a no-brainer.

20 03 2013
Andy D (Big Dummy Daddy)

Vik, thanks for corroborating some of my internal thought patterns by outlining your own. I’ve wanted a fatbike since I first saw a custom one-off with welded and ground rims and two tires sewn together to make a double wide, more than 20 years ago. It was only after the advent of the original purple Pugsley that I seriously contemplated dropping the cash, as a custom was and is out of the question for me. After years of following adventurers via blogs (such as your own), I finally pulled the trigger on a Pugsley for much of the same reasoning as you’ve put forth.

I’ve had my NecroPug for a little less than a year, but in that time I’ve quickly grown to love riding it, and find that I grab it more frequently than my other bikes. In that time, I have realized it is much more adaptable and at least as useful as my venerable Big Dummy. Truth be told, if I had to get down to only one bike, my Pugsley would likely be the one.

I can’t really say that I need a set of 29er rims, or that I even really want to swap fat tires for anything skinnier, but I am intrigued by the possibility, in part merely because it is a possibility. Yet, the whole reason for the bike is what fat tires can do that skinnier tires can’t. Like many things bike related, there are logical fallacies inherent with any potential “upgrade.” For the money involved with building a new set of special purpose 29er/Pugsley wheels, I am as likely to scrap the idea and pop for a Bud/Lou combo instead. After all, if there is virtue in fat tires, reason supports even greater virtue in fatter tires.

20 03 2013

@Andy – having a few sets of Pug’s tires makes a ton of sense and definitely more bang for your buck than 2nd wheelset. I know BFLs will fit on 82mm rims in a Pugs, but I am not sure the knobby 4.8″ tire will fit in back. I’d confirm that before you spend the $$. You are 100% up front with a Moonlander fork on your Neckro.

25 04 2013
Cale Wenthur

Ahhh glorious information Vik. Just what wading through the swamp of MTBR didn’t get me. going for a set of Rabbit holes for my pugs since the hundo’s are really really slow and really really heavy.

11 03 2014
Josh Miner

Sorry to ask a question that is probably answered above, but spoke tension graphs and calculations aren’t exactly my thing… I just bought a Pugs built up with an Alfine 8 rear hub with the express intent of using my existing 29er wheels off my Karate Monkey (also Alfine 8 rear hub) on the Pugs. Summer 29er / winter fatbike. Your post leads me to the conclusion that the Pugs frame offset will prevent me from doing this without building a set of 29er wheels on offset rims (which I am happy to do — I am *definitely* going to have one 29er/fat bike). My question is what rim to go with — the offset 29er rim or the Rabbit Hole. Is it just whether I want the flexibility of being able to run the 3.0 Knards on the Rabbit Hole, or are there other issues? What about the 47mm Northpaw rim from Schlick? Thanks in advance!

11 03 2014

@Josh – I would use a rim that has some offset to improve the spoke tension for a Pugs 29er wheelset.

The Rabbit Holes work fine. I have seen several Pugs w/ RHs and reports are positive. I’d probably go this route.

I’m not sure if the Shlick North Paws are offset or not. I haven’t seen much about them on people’s bikes so it’s more of an experiment than RHs.

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