Surly Big Fat Dummy

13 Nov 2018

Having lived with it for a few months now I promised Ash I would write a few words on the Surly Big Fat Dummy for the blog.  Having made the decision to buy it, after much procrastination, it has been something of a revelation for me.  Initially I had been thinking about it purely from the point of view of whether I really did enough hauling of stuff to need such a bicycle; at first glance the Dummy might not meet expectations of an everyday bicycle but really it is when you think of what it can do from taking kids to school (the rear deck will take seats and is rated for loads of something like 250lbs) to picking up groceries, shifting furniture, farm work, taking a kayak to the beach….


It has long made no sense to me at all that something as fun as time in the surf has to b bookended by something as soul-destroying as dealing with summer holiday traffic and parking charges. My surf kayak straps easily to the side of the bike with an  inflatable spacer dropped into a pannier to make sure it clears my legs.


I've found it to be a very fun bike to ride whether I need to carry a lot of crap or not, and as well as finding unexpected reasons to use it I find myself making excuses to take it rather than a normal bike on occasions when I don’t need to carry much stuff at all. Those big tyres mean I can choose to take the path less travelled regardless of load, and it has proven to be a really quite capable tool for singletrack; the sheer momentum it carries gives a wonderful flowing feel to off-road adventures. The frame is very stiff so even with a load on board the handling is excellent, and really just feels like a normal bike. I've not found weight to be any issue at all, and it does come equipped with suitably low gearing for hauling a lot of stuff up Cornish hills; it is most certainly not a chore to ride.


Carrying another bike for whatever reason is no issue at all... the bags it comes with are enormously versatile and accommodate a 700c/29er wheel very nicely indeed!


The only change I've made from the stock build is to swap out the heavily dirt-oriented tyres it came with to something a little more allround for mixed road and dirt use. I've found the Vee Tire Mission Command rubber I substituted rolls easily on asphalt while still having plenty of traction for the sort of dirt one finds in Cornwall. I'm keeping the original tyres for some off-road touring adventures, something for which I think it has heaps of potential, despite its bulk.


On my way to collect a chainsaw... the nature of the bike meant I could travl via a more interesting route than the road.


Importantly, well.. to me anyhow, is that it is also a terrific machine for challenging people’s preconceptions of what is possible by bicycle. Drivers mostly seem to think it’s a stupid idea judging by the looks on their faces, something I find perfectly ironic, while other folk seem utterly baffled by it and either want to know where the engine is or what the point of a tandem without a second seat is… or simply can’t wrap their heads around it at all.  I already hardly use my car at all, essentially only for when I have to carry a lot of stuff, and this bike has reduced my car dependence even further while simulatneously adding a great deal of fun to the equation. That can only be a good thing.


It is a capable bike on singletrack...


The Dummy in these pictures is an older model year that came with 26" wheels and 5" rubber. The latest iteration from Surly retains the clearances for that sort of rubber but comes stock fitted with 29" x 3" plus-sized rather than fat wheels. A change that should broaden the appeal I think as I would expect those to roll a little faster and increases options for tyre choice to faster rolling, more road-oriented designs like the Surly Extraterrestrial.

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