I’m something of a fat bike fan boy, regularly riding my fat bike in terrain better suited to a full bouncer.
So I have to admit to being more than a little excited when Surly launched what is arguably its ultimate fat bike, the Ice Cream Truck, last year. Sporting 100mm-wide rims, 4.8in-wide tyres that wouldn’t look out of place on a motocross bike, and designed to be ridden pretty much anywhere, the Ice Cream Truck is the latest in Surly’s ever expanding line of fat-tyred bikes.
As one of the oldest, commercially successful manufacturers of fat bikes and components in the world, Surly has a good pedigree in the world of fat bikes. Its branding and image isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but at heart, Surly is definitely on the cutting edge when it comes to innovation. Don’t believe me? How about the Karate Monkey, one of the first popular production 29ers on the market? Or how about the Pugsley fat bike – bringing fat tyres to the masses?
Surly has invested heavily in producing fat bike tyres such as the Endomorph and the Nate, which are a regular feature on the scene. Meanwhile, in the Krampus frame and Knard tyre, it’s effectively created the ‘oh so hot right now’ plus size tyre market. Not bad for a brand that many look upon as just another steel bike maker. Despite its dirt bag, retro grouch image, there are clearly some very smart and innovative folk working for Surly.
Offered the chance to ride an Ice Cream Truck over the Forth Fat biking weekend courtesy of Pat at ison-distribution.com, Surly’s UK distributors, I didn’t need to be asked twice. The lure of the widest wheels on the market was too much to resist. With only two days to form an initial opinion, I quickly set about replicating the set-up on my current ride. Off came the Salsa flat bars and grips, to be replaced with a 710mm aluminium Jones loop bar. For the pedals, I stuck with my tried and trusted Times.
The important stuff
Perhaps the most striking feature of the bike, other than the obvious, is the sparkle blue paint job. Everyone who asked me about it, and believe me there were a lot, commented on how nice the bike looks. However, what lies beneath is what really interested me.
Close inspection of the frame reveals some neat welding work and several design cues indicating this isn’t just another of the ‘pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap’ steel frames that have flooded the market in recent years. The top tube is an externally tapered affair with a profile that reminded me a little of a baseball bat. The downtube features a rather neat strengthening gusset, while at 132mm the bottom bracket is probably the widest I have ever seen.
Out back, the frame employs a modular dropout system that can be run as a bolt-thru, quick release or even sliding axle singlespeed set up. The entire frame features an electrophoretic deposition (I had to ask what it was too) that improves the corrosion resistance of the frameset.
The frame decal describes the steel used as plain old 4130 chromoly but there is nothing plain about it: it’s triple butted and shaped. Surly doesn’t shout about the quality of its frames nor the design process behind them, but given that the ICT’s frameset can also run a 29+ set up with ease, it has potentially one of the strongest and most versatile steel hardtails on the market.
Shut up and ride
At this point, I could drone on about the various parts on the bike, but to what end? Two days isn’t enough to comment on such things. Suffice to say everything worked as expected with the exception of a broken chain. ‘Nuff said.
So how does 35lb of steel bike ride? Surprisingly rapidly, truth be told. 100mm rims paired with what are unquestionably the grippiest tyres on the market, Surly’s Bud and Lou, do not make for a fast sprinter but once I wound them up to speed, the bike rolled along like a true trail bomber. On tarmac, the analogy is apt, particularly given the comment from riders in front that it sounded like a Lancaster Bomber was heading in their direction.
I missed the start of the group ride so had to play catch up. Riding through hard-packed, tree-lined singletrack at a comfortably fast pace, the bike could be thrown into corners safe in the knowledge that even rapid changes of direction could be accommodated. The Ice Cream Truck has an uncanny ability to egg you on to push just that little bit harder to see what it is capable of.
Despite the overall heft of the bike, the ride belies its weight. Very quickly, I forgot about such things and was able to just enjoy the ride for what it was: fun. On sand, whether hard packed or soft, I can’t think of any other fat bike I’ve ridden that can beat it. On jagged rocks and seaweed-strewn rock, I found myself searching out the hardest, most technical lines. Every time I tried something that I expected to struggle on, the bike shone as it got me up, over and through sections that I wouldn’t normally even contemplate.
So what now?
After two days of riding, I’m hooked. My brief dalliance with this trail monster has left me hungry for more. The sheer bloody minded capability of the bike has already gotten me contemplating some silly route ideas. I’m itching to see how it would run in 29+ mode, while the option to lighten up the wheel set by going tubeless and trying carbon rims has me intrigued. Do I want one? Hell yeah!
|Product:||Ice Cream Truck|
|Tested:||by CJ for two days of Forth Fat 2015|