Long Termer: Surly Ice Cream Truck – Part 3

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By Sanny

Ever since committing to riding a fat bike as my only mountain bike, I’ve come to realise that what I had previously  ridden as my bike of choice was somewhat lacking. Full suspension, big wheels, chunky tyres and a dropper post – that’s what I needed. Or so I thought. I’ve regularly ridden my own personal fat bike for the last couple of years, a Salsa Beargrease, and it has never failed to put a smile on my face. But when it came to big mountain days, I thought I would always opt for my full suspension rig.

Well you would, wouldn’t you? Who wants to drag over 35 pounds of bike with wheels that weigh the thick end of 3 kilos each up, over and down? You’d have to be crazy. Take suspension out of the equation? That just won’t work! …but hold that thought, I’ll come back to it in a bit.

Surly Ice Cream Truck

Wearing in, wearing out

The last two pieces I wrote concentrated on how the “Truck” rides. As you would expect, even the first few months of riding don’t tell you a lot about componentry unless they suffer a premature failure. However, several months in and I feel able to comment properly.

First off, what about the brakes? I have had what I could charitably describe as lousy experiences with SRAM group brakes previously. Avid Elixirs, in my experience, are a pain to keep running, regularly require re-bleeds and are somewhat temperamental if you are in the habit of running down the pads to the backing plate. The SRAM Guides here, however, have yet to miss a beat. They have proven to be consistent and reliable stoppers. Even dragging the brakes on long or steep mountainous descents in Scotland and the Lakes, they have proven their worth. While they do not have the anchor dropping feel of Shimano brakes and the lever reach adjuster is a little bit fiddly, they work – which is a massive step forward from my Avid Elixir brakes of old. Whodathunkit?

Surly Ice Cream Truck

The drivetrain continues to run smoothly after well over 1500 miles of use. The XT clutch rear mech shows no visible signs of wear other than the inevitable flesh wounds that come from riding rocky terrain, and the front SLX derailleur and shift levers continue to function faultlessly.

The only time I have had an issue has been from me not quite seating the rear wheel in the dropout correctly. Despite being a bolt thru design, I’ve done this a couple of times. Pilot error, I guess. The bottom bracket, despite being a press fit design which I normally detest with a passion, is still going strong. A couple of incidences of creaking were tracked down to the left hand crank; a quick Allen key adjustment and the world was a better place again. The headset is still running smoothly too, while the hubs have proven to be faultless throughout the test.

The wheels continue to run true – which is remarkable given the number of times I have felt the dull clunk of tyre and rim on rock. I run my tyres soft in technical terrain so I had expected at least a ding, but there is none to be seen. I suspect I wouldn’t be able to say the same had I been running 400g carbon hoops. The tyres are showing a little wear with some tell tale threading, particularly on the back tyre. It’s nothing of concern though.

Surly Ice Cream Truck

Meanwhile, back on the ride

As I said earlier, you’d have to be two sandwiches short of a picnic to even consider the Truck as an all-mountain rig, wouldn’t you? Well, after several months, I beg to differ. What started as a bit of an experiment has morphed into the Truck being the bike of choice for all my adventures. The notion crystallized on a recent jaunt over the Cairngorm Plateau. I had just ridden beneath the Northern Corries, as stunningly imposing as ever, and found myself riding up, over and around trail obstacles that previously had me well beaten. A stone pitched climb that I previously couldn’t ride  passed underneath me with relative ease; the combination of a 22 tooth granny ring, a 36 tooth large sprocket and traction bordering on the obscene proved unstoppable. Cresting the shoulder of the mountain, the trail drops away and comprises a challenging mix of loose rock and awkward step downs. Normally, ridden at speed on any other bike, I would be as much passenger as pilot making progress like a hyperactive pinball but with the Truck, I felt in total control. Who needs suspension when you have this much traction and momentum in the heavy wheels to carry you through the chunk and gnar? A heavy, rigid bike should not be this fun or this capable on the downs… Everything I thought I knew about mountain bikes was being questioned.

Surly Ice Cream Truck

Approaching the high point, a boulder field stood between me and the trig point. On foot, it is awkward, each step a delicate game of skill where balance and control are the name of the game. One mis-step, a slip or a loose rock and it’s a recipe for pain. I’d tried riding it previously with limited success. With a little trepidation, I dropped the tyre pressures, dropped my saddle (dropper posts have a transformative effect on technical trails) and thought I would give it a go. Nothing ventured, I thought. While bumpy and thrutchy, I was definitely riding. Not just that but I was enjoying it. With the Truck, new trails were opening up right in front of me. Lines that were previously impossible became doable. The best way I can describe it is as if you have been suddenly given trials skills without the practice. Add in the ability to float over sopping wet trails where a normal bike or even walking would be a trial and the possibilities for adventure riding open up. While never one to seek out gloop and filth, being caught out on it between glorious lines of singletrack means that the options for connecting the dots on the map multiply.

Surly Ice Cream Truck

So several months in and not only am I not riding my other mountain bikes, I’ve no great desire to do so either. The weighty wheels, initially expected to be a hindrance, are turning out to be the Truck’s biggest asset. I won’t pretend that you don’t notice their heft, particularly on group rides or after several hours in the saddle, but are nowhere near the pain I was anticipating. How the hell did that happen?

For balance, I’ve been trying desperately to think of things to criticise but other than the paint being a little easy to chip and the Truck being noticeably weighty when lofting it onto my shoulders for hike a bike sessions, it has failed to let me down so far. What it lacks in zip and outright speed, it more than makes up for in terms of sheer bloody capability when the trails turn technical both up and down. Now that I definitely did not expect.

Surly Ice Cream Truck

Review Info

Brand:Surly
Product:Ice Cream Truck
From:Ison Distribution - http://Ison-distribution.com
Price:£2399
Tested:by Sanny for

Comments (0)

    Dammit now I want a fatbike.

    Sanny,
    Awesome, proFat write up. How do you find the ICT as an all day bike ? What sort of mileage/climbing would you be happy doing on it in a day?

    Great stuff Sanny.

    I guess the current £700off the ICT will make them even more popular.

    I have been SO pleased with my Pug. As much as it’s old school and viewed as uncool (but then so is praising fatbikes) I just love riding it.

    Hi guys

    I’ll happily ride the Truck as an all day bike. I adjust my expectations of speed as trying to go as fast as a 29er is a fools errand.

    The longest ride I have used it on was fully loaded up for the Capital Trail. I have ridden in the Cairngorms and up the likes of Helvellyn. You do adjust to the added weight of the wheels and tyres.

    Hope this helps and thank you for the questions and nice comments.

    Cheers

    Sanny

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