Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's payback time

What a difference 30 degrees makes.

We spent hours today in the kind of solitude we would consider normal in March in the bike shop, at least in our normal climate. Outside, showers dimpled the surface of puddles reflecting the gray sky. After days pushing 80 the temperature struggled to maintain 50 for a while. I'm not sure it ever made it.

Along with the early bugs and the peep-frogs, the little swarm of buzzing cyclists has vanished.  It's a bit of a good thing, considering how much work we have to get through from the recently-departed pseudo summer. From the look of the forecast, put the shorts away for another month and a half. The weather always makes us pay for its early indulgences.

When I thought we would still be in the last staggering steps of our pathetic winter I made arrangements to get us a Surly Pugsley for the sales floor. As it worked out, winter left in a hurry and the bike was delayed. It's finally together now. We even got lucky and got the Neck Romancer when Surly was unable to provide the basic models originally offered.

 This bike is a real-life cartoon. You cannot take yourself seriously when you're riding this. Everyone's immediate reaction is, "what the [expletive] is THAT?" The choices start at "heck" and go all the places you might guess but the sentiment is identical. Really. What IS that?
 The signature element of the bike is the enormous tires.
 Front and rear treads look like familiar patterns but spread across four inches of surface. At their maximum rated pressure of 30 psi the tires barely distort under my winter flab weight of "169." I have not tried them at the low end of 8 psi, but a rider happened to drop in today who has been riding a winter commute from West Alton to Gilford, on the other side of the lake, on a Pugsley. On the rare few snow days he ran at 10 psi.

 The big tires need a wide rim. The stock Large Marge on the original basic Pugsley is only 65 mm wide. One big plus about the Neck Romancer is that it uses the Moonlander fork, so it will accommodate the 82 mm Rolling Darryl rim for wider tread contact.
 Look at those shifters. Alas, they do not have a friction option, but it's so refreshing to see a top-mount thumb shifter that's well made rather than cheap plastic to be thrown to the poor sufferers at the low end of the price range. They remind me a lot of the last of Suntour's good ones.
The Neck Romancer comes with the Mr. Whirly Offset Double crank to keep the chain clear of the rear tire. The clearance between the front derailleur and the crank arm is insanely close -- like a 1970s racing bike. I knew more than one rider who cleaned the front derailleur cage right off his bike when the outer limit screw was not set just right. Be warned. 

Surly fat bikes have a 100 mm bottom bracket shell requiring a bottom bracket assembly to match.

 At the back end is a track-style dropout with hanger and a normal Shimano Deore derailleur and cassette.

 Brakes front and rear are Avid BB7 cable discs. I like cables because they're stupid simple. I'm starting to get used to hydraulics, but then you get into fluid compatibility with seals and all the joys and delights of air in the system, juice leaking out and accidentally clamping your pads in a death grip on each other because you forgot and squeezed the lever with the wheel out of the dropouts. That and the fact that they make it sound so easy to "push the pistons back into their bores" when changing pads, but it isn't always. Everything has its price.

 The kick stand was Steve's brainstorm when the bike wouldn't fit any hook or display rack in the shop. It's even black, so it matches the stealth color scheme.
 The frame looks tiny but it's nice chromoly. The bike isn't even that heavy. Most of the bulk is full of air, after all. The bikes even float, as shown here.

 The fork has more studs than a punk rocker. I don't even know all the things one is supposed to attach there. Maybe they just slap attachment points on there like a backpack designer adding accessory straps. You'll find a use for them!

While I took advantage of the somewhat drier afternoon to take these pictures I took the bike for another little spin around the parking lot. It is surprisingly agile. It feels, in a word, normal. You can lay it way over on those big, round tires and boof it off of curbs, but you can also just ride it and not think much about it.

 The next thing I rode was about as far in the other direction as you can get. I just about killed myself on this Cannondale Synapse. I almost hooked it into the wall when I got distracted for a moment.


RANTWICK said...

Mmmm. fat bike... So tempting. Arg.

cafiend said...

I know, right? I've heard from a couple of people that there will be studded tires available for these bikes by next winter.

Jaret Parker said...

They're awesome, not built so much for speed but stability. I have a Surly, Moon Lander; it's a great bike with big Lou/Bud tires I can ride up to a curb the bike just climbs right up with no issues at all. People always are asking about the bike every time I take it out riding. If your thinking about buying one, just do it man; you won't regret it.