We've been anticipating the release of Surly's new fatbike for awhile now, and this past week it finally arrived. It was a scary day, because on that day a bicycle that had long been a weightless and flawless imagination was manifest in imperfect reality. Nonetheless, we put the bike together and took it for a ride. And then another ride, and pretty quickly thereafter a third ride.
Fatbikes can be tough to talk about. When something new comes along, many folks who loved the old can feel threatened by the new ("Snowboards are everything that's wrong with the world," said the early 1990's). This feeling is understandable; we are so lucky to find a few things that we truly love in life that we can become very sensitive any time the thing we love is threatened by even the smallest alteration.
Some people have taken to commuting on fatbikes, which probably seems inefficient to many. The thing that's difficult to remember is that if they like commuting on fatbikes, then the rest of us should just shut up about it.
This "live and let live" conversation is one I had to sit myself down and have with myself after my first ride on the Ice Cream Truck. What I mean by that is I may start commuting (amongst other things) on the Ice Cream Truck.
As I descended Apex trail in Golden, all I could think about (amidst all the giggling) was how much shame I should feel for loving the Ice Cream Truck as a trail bike. It's easy to have the perception that the best riders or the most knowledgeable bloggers or the people who are best at life would only ride squishy carbon bikes with 650b wheels. Why? If the Ice Cream Truck is an incredible technical climber and makes me giggle like an insane leprechaun all the way down the front side of Apex, then why shouldn't I love it as a trail bike? If Surly's Bud and Lou tires (26 x 4.8, by the way) can corner at mind blowing speeds and float smoothly over rocks the size of quarts of ice cream, then why should I only ride this bike in the snow? Fine, I'm not going to.
So here are our first impressions: unsurprisingly, it does feel a little heavy on climbs. However, when riding with friends, I was in about the same place in the pack that I normally am. I don't ride with a computer, but the Ice Cream Truck didn't turn me into any more of a straggler than I am already. In terms of it's ability as a technical climber, man, it's pretty unparalleled. You can pause halfway up a slippery rock slab to pump your fist triumphantly and then get going again without losing traction. The side-knobs on the Bud are so effective that if you get too near the uphill side of the trail, the knobs will catch and you will end up in the sage, going straight up the mountain. When climbing steep, loose sections covered in moon dust, you'll still have the lungs to sing your favorite Queen song while you pedal. Seriously, you'll be able to dust these guys:
There is no good way to describe how the Ice Cream Truck descends. It's smooth, fast, and frequently airborne. Forget about brakes. Forget your fears. Forget you are anything but a wraithlike figure moving down a hillside at incomprehensible speeds. You will be Scrooge McDuck swimming through your sprinkle vault.
We may have more to say about this bike once we've come down off our sugar high, but for now we are still licking the last bit of chocolate residue out of the crinkly foil packaging.
Video of the Week
Amazing. Especially the last 3:45 on.