2018 Surly Pugsley 2.0: First Ride

Surly’s all new 2018 Pugsley sees a return to it expedition roots – the interchangeable front and rear wheels are back, for true back-of-beyond ‘exploratouring’. But that’s not all: unlike its predecessor, it can now easily swallow 4.3in tires, effectively offering a sweet spot between the monstrous-tired Moonlander and the Pugsley of old. Here’s our first ride report…

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Thirteen years after its debut, a new and refreshed Pugsley is back for 2018. On the day of its launch, we’re heading out to tackle the 2018 Arrowhead 135 in Minnesota, which begins this morning (the forecast is promising -12f/-25c for tomorrow’s campout, so wish this desert dweller luck!). Having spent a few weeks prepping for the ride in New Mexico’s arroyos, read on for a First Ride report…

  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review, bikepacking
  • Surly Pugsley 2018

So what’s the same?

Well, the Pug 2.0 still uses a super-easy-to-source 135mm hub (available the world over, for time eternal I expect), lending the rear end that distinctive Pugsley wiggle, courtesy of the frame’s 17.5mm offset. For those unfamiliar with this now classic design, the concept is this: by cleverly matching an offset frame and a dished wheel you can achieve the required chainline for 135mm hubs, derailleur gears, and fat tires. The new Pugsley still very much a ‘touring’ fatbike and like the legacy Pugsley of old, it’s also non-suspension corrected. Geometry wise, relative bottom bracket height is very similar to the previous Pugsley; although the drop is greater, taller Edna rubber makes up the difference. And it’s still made of good old Surly 4130 Surly Chromoly steel.

2018 Surly Pugsley Review, bikepacking

And what’s different?

For a start, the wheelbase has actually grown by 11mm, further differentiating it from Surly’s ‘trail’ fatbike lineup, like the Wednesday. This offers extra heel to pannier to foot clearance and along with a slacker head tube – to the tune of a degree – helps stabilise the ride under load, which is often what you want when riding snow and sand.

The rear dropout has seen an ECR-style revamp; it’s Rohloff-friendly and can now accept thru axle hubs (142mmx12mm), or 135mm QR hubs (easily shimmed with Surly’s 10/12 Adapter Washers). Wheel removal is a bit of a battle with the latter though, one that involves lowering tire pressure to wiggle the wheel in and out. Up front, the front fork is offset too; the front hub comes ready to accept the cog of your choice for an easy singlespeed fix, should your freewheel self-destruct when you least expect it.

2018 Surly Pugsley Review, bikepacking

  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review, bikepacking
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review, bikepacking

Parts-wise, there’s a 1×11 drivetrain, with a Race Face crankset with Shimano compatible-bearings. A generously-proportioned 11-46T cassette and a 30T chainring is mated to an SLX derailleur, providing precise shifting and plenty of low gears (because who needs big gear inches on a fat bike). This sturdy drivetrain is paired with simple, reliable Avid BB7s, a stout 36 hole wheelset, tubeless ready My Other Brother Daryll 80mm rims, and Surly’s own steel, multi-pronged Moloko handlebars.

2018 Surly Pugsley Review

  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review

In terms of its ride, the new Pugsley is reassuringly familiar; having spent the better part of a year riding a Pugsley across South America, the changes in its temperament are relatively subtle. My biggest initial impression is how extremely capable Pug 2.0 feels shod with Ednas; 4.3in tyres on 80mm rims made short work of all my local arroyos, especially compared to the 3.8in tires (on 65mm rims) that I’ve always run before. Need more flotation? You can even fit in a 5in tire at the back – though you’ll need a symmetrical Moonlander fork to match such a big tire up front. But to be honest, 4.3 Ednas ride so well that I can’t really imagine why you’d want to, except for very particular applications.

The eyelets at the back of the frame have also been neatly repositioned to accept a symmetrical rear rack, like Surly’s own – which is extremely handy. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the fork. In fact, the fork is my only real initial disappointment in this updated design. There’s only one set of three-pack eyelets per blade (compared to two, as we’ve become accustomed to thanks to the Ogre et al). And there’s a lack of mid-blade eyelets, which means there’s no provision for Surly’s excellent 8 and 12-Pack Racks without some unconventional fixes.

Still, when seen as a complete package, my first impression is definitely very positive. The best bikes make you want to ride. And keep riding. This is one incites me to dream up big new trips and simply explore. It lends itself to the most adventurous style of self-supported bike tour, one that has the potential to blend packrafting, beach combing, desert roaming, and rock crawling, taking you to places where other styles of touring bike would definitely fall short.

The new Pugsley has some big boots to fit and a loyal following, given its predecessor’s venerated heritage. There’s a lot more to be said about this new version, but we’ll save the rest for our full review.

Build Kit

Frame and Fork

  • Frame 100% Surly 4130 CroMoly steel, ED coated
  • Fork Custom-butted 4130 CroMoly, non-suspension, 203mm disc clearance
  • Seatpost Clamp diameter 30.0mm (Surly stainless included)

DRIVETRAIN

  • Crankset Race Face AEffect, 30t
  • Bottom bracket Race Face, black
  • Rear derailleur Shimano RD-M7000 SLX GS 11SPD
  • Cog or cogset Sunrace 11-speed, 11-46t
  • Chain KMC X11, Silver

COMPONENTS

  • Headset Cane Creek 40 custom
  • Brakes Avid BB7 Mountain, cable-actuated
  • Brake levers SRAM FR-5
  • Shifter Shimano SLX-11, 11-speed
  • Stem Promax 31.8
  • Handlebar Surly Moloko, Black
  • Saddle WTB Volt Sport
  • Seatpost 2-Bolt, 27.2mm

WHEELS

  • Front hub Surly Ultra New Disc, 36h. 6-bolt disc. Black
  • Rear hub Shimano M525 134mm
  • Rims Surly My Other Brother Darryl (80mm), black, dual hole pattern
  • Tires front & rear Surly Edna, 26 x 4.3 ̋, 60tpi
  • Surly Pugsley 2018 Review
  • surly pugsley 2018 review
  • Surly Pugsley 2018 Review

Three iterations (above), set up for the Arrowhead 137. Stay tuned for an in-depth review, pros and cons, and our final thoughts soon. For now you can get more details over at surly’s product page or their new blog post “Pugsley 2.0, Modern Take on a Classic”.

  • Size Tested XL
  • Sizes available S, M, L, XL
  • place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $1899
  • Availability Completes next week / frames mid Feb
  • Manufacturer’s Details Surly Bikes
  • Kurt Schneider

    Nice looking bike. Happy to see Surly chose to update the frame, again, rather than do away with a classic. (Just did a complete overhaul of my original Necromancer, so it’ll be a while before I need a new fatbike frame.) As much as I appreciate the flexibility of drivetrain options provided by the matching 135mm hubs, there’s something to be said for the wider tire options of the straight fork.

  • Cass Gilbert

    You still get 4.3s and plenty of clearance with the squiggly fork… seems like a pretty nice tire option so far.

  • Johnny Rhubarb

    I really am bummed by the positioning of the rear brake, especially given the Pugsley’s intended use. Over time, water and dirt will accumulate in the housing, causing more and more friction.
    Bigger tire clearance and longer chainstays are nice though, but otherwise it’s hard to improve a perfect bike.

  • Michael Johnson

    Like the original Pugs, will this accept 29+? Yes, well aware of Surly’s other offerings but I have my reasons for inquiring about them on the Pugs. Looks like another awesome Surly bike.

  • Christian

    Looks fantastic. Especially the fact that the new frame is much more rack friendly. Attaching a rack to the original frame and get the panniers far enough back to avoid heel contact is quite a challenge.

    And wow, 36 spoke wheels…. That’s old school touring shit the way I like it. I literally had to enlarge a picture and count the spokes to believe it. A new rim?

    Surly got lazy with the fork though. A real shame that they haven’t maxed out with the eyelets.

  • Kurt Schneider

    No doubt it’ll be an excellent bike. If not for what I just put into the earlier version, I’d have certainly placed an order for the newbie. Enjoy your ride.

  • I don’t see why not, but I’ll ask to confirm…

  • Johnny Rhubarb

    We have a 2017 Ogre in the household where the cable routing is the same, and after 6 months (daily used in foul conditions and little to no maintainance, to be fair), I noticed more friction in the housing. This is not an issue with the Karate Monkey or the old Pugsley, which are not as heavily used, but similar, and have the brake at the seatstay.
    If the bike is used in dry conditions, it’s not an issue, but for sloggy winter use it just might well be…

  • Michael Johnson

    Cass, do you know if it’ll accept 29+?

  • Highly likely… Just got this from Surly: “It can. [we] haven’t laced up a set of standard 29+ rims w/ the offset dish needed for the Pugsley. But the tire should clear.”

  • whoops, sorry… that reply was meant for the 29= question above… sorry for the confusion.

  • Christian

    The rear brake’s new position doesn’t interfere with a rack, which was the case with the old design. But a shame if it leaves the brake and cables more exposed.

  • So, If I understand the new geo correctly, it should be easier/doable to fit bottles and/or maybe a big Kleen Kanteen on the bottom of the downtube of this sucker? I know with my current Necromancer, it’s a no-go. Not enough clearance.

  • Nathan Fenchak

    Surly got so excited about their rear racks that they forgot a fork mid-blade eyelet so that riders could easily mount the front racks that they themselves produce.

  • Bicycle Informant

    Y’all know Surly’s last MSRP was $899 right? What’s with the HUGE price increase?

  • Christian

    Hmmm… I don’t think Surly forgot the mid-blade eyelets. They have meetings and talk about such things. I’m 97 per cent sure they recycled the last older version of the Pugsley off-set fork. I have that fork version on my Pugs and looking closely at the footage above, I would say it’s the same fork with an eye-popping color. So seems they have updated the frame, but not the fork. Saves money and time… And then they can update the fork later with eyelets for more cages and later to happy customers and reinstate order in the universe. But mid-blade eyelets for racks may be a problem with the off-set design.

  • Hi Cass,
    How do you feel with the Avid BB7 brakes in that bike? I am curious because my first disc bike was a Specialized Crux Expert 2013 (much lighter bike than the Pugsley) with Avid BB7 and I never got that bike to brake properly, specially the rear brake, which was placed on the seat stay with the cable running around the bottom bracket (too long and too many curves). Braking was so bad that in some steep descents I had to walk down because I could not stop the bike when going too fast. After studying all other options I went for the TRP Spyre and the difference was like night and day. Since then, I am always curious when I see bikes with BB7 brakes.

  • Johnny Rhubarb

    I realized that just after posting it, cheers!

  • Johnny Rhubarb

    that makes sense, I haven’t thought about the rack issue.

  • Plusbike Nerd

    Unless you are going to be bikepacking in snow or deep sand, I don’t think that Fatbikes make very good bikepacking rigs. Changing to Plus wheels and tires would likely drop about 4 pounds of wheel weight off of the bike. Also rolling resistance would be reduced immensely. This rig must be very slow on hard surfaces like pavement or firm gravel. In addition, going to an aluminum frame would drop even more weight. Can you really feel the difference between steel and aluminum frames when using Fat (or even Plus) tires? I don’t see the rationale for using a steel Fatbike as a bikepacking rig.

  • Doug

    Yea, I will stick with my ECR and 29+. The odds of me every needing to swap front and rear wheels is slim to none.

  • Hamish Osborn

    I think the old Pug makes a great bike packing bike. They aren’t that slow on Tarmac and roll well on gravel or rougher. I like the fact that it’s steel too and yes you can feel it given that the old pug is quite skinny tubes wise and even fatbtyres can be bumpy when pumped hard. I’m not sure it needed changing but on first looking this seems like a good bike.

  • Aulis Veikko

    The last MSRP was a liquidation sale of the old inventory. Prior to that it was ~$1,750.

  • jdawgnoonan

    I traded my old Pugsley for an ECR and the ECR is an amazing machine.

  • Arik Peterson

    Related to the new pug and the old. When will Surly make 27.5/50 mm rabbit holes? Since they are keeping the 17.5mm offset, a pair of 27.5 rabbits is much needed. Keeps the geo very close and you easily have a “snow” bike and a backpacking bike for the summer.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Pedro, the Spyres are easier to set up for sure and I like them. But during very long descents, I find they back out, and need tightening in again fairly regularly.

    I’ve never had an issue with BB7s. Once properly set up (1/3rd spacing on one side of the rotor/pad, 2/3rds on the other) I think they feel really good. You can always up your rotor size at the front if you want the braking to feel a bit easier.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Yes, I believe it should.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Perhaps if there’s lots of gloop on the road, it’s more likely to work its way in. But I’ve run various bikes with brakes positioned on the chainstay for long distances at a time – various Surlys, a Tumbleweed, and a Jones – and I can’t say I’ve had any real issues.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I think the big tires are really where it’s at with this new Pug. You know how it is… you always think ‘XXX tyre size’… why on earth do you need bigger than that? Untll you try it! My first impression of 4.3s is that there’s a noticeable difference in flotation, without nearly as much as the weight/handling effects of 4.8s.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I can check on this. I never have an issue with fitting a 64oz Kleen Kanteen with XL frames. What size frame do you run?

  • I’ve got a Medium now. I would probably get a Large of the 2.0. You ride an XL, how tall are you?

  • Brian

    They sell the wheelset on their website for the original pugs. It’d be highly suspect if the new and improved had less clearance, Clarence….
    https://surlybikes.com/parts/wheels/we4610_rabbit_hole_29_surly_rear_17.5_offset

  • Christian

    Yep, super good idea. Off-set 27.5 rims are long overdue for us off-set folks. Tubeless now you’re at it…..

  • Hamish Osborn

    I have BB7s and Spyres on different bikes. The BB7s seem more robust, easier to keep set up and have always worked perfectly. I will stick with them on my Pug. The Spyres work ok but fine tuning is more annoying than the Avids

  • Laurent Duverge

    Looking at the front-on shot of the front wheel and fork, the wheel does not seem to be parallel to the fork blades. Is that so in real life, or is it an optical illusion?

  • Cass Gilbert

    This is so the front and rear wheel are interchangeable, as they’re both offset, There’s a short explanation in the post.

  • Cass Gilbert

    6’1″. I’m sure you’ll be able to fit a reasonable size bottle on the L and XL frames at least.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I have an ECR and a Pugsley (the old one). Although I prefer a Plus bike for longer trips that mix pavement with dirt, I don’t think there’s anything that comes close to to a dedicated fatbike for true backcountry exploration. Touring on a fatbike puts me in a different mindset. It encourages me to explore tracks and trails (whether sandy or not), to pour over satellite imagery, and to be especially creative with my tours!

    Personally, I like steel as much for its resilience during transportation as its ride quality. But there are certainly lighter aluminium frames and if you intend to beach/coast riding regularly, perhaps there’s an argument against steel.

  • There’s no such thing as universal bike setup for all kind of riding. Nothing beats fatbike for real off-road bikepacking and exploration.

  • Cass, right on, thanks. I appreciate the intel and you getting back to me.

  • Laurent Duverge

    Thanks Cass. I get it now. Never seen that before, as I have not seen a Pug Mk1.

  • Cass Gilbert

    It’s a clever workaround that let’s you use fat tyres with 135mm hubs front and rear… easily found in almost every nook of the world!

  • Simon

    Enjoyed this report Cass. I have had my Pugs for a couple of years and love it. Although the new one does of course get the n+1 itch going!
    In the meantime, how do you feel the Moloko bars add to the Pugs character/riding style?
    I am tempted to try out a pair on mine.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Thanks Simon. Personally, I’m more a fan of the Jones H-bar, as there’s less forward sweep before they curve back, and they have some rise to them (.5 or 2.5in depending on the model). But the Moloko’s are definitely worth experimenting with; it’s nice how you can attach a big winter roll without any additional hardware and the prongs are surprisingly useful. They certainly make sense on a bike like this – as with the ECR – I’ve just found I need to run a shorter, more upright stem to bring the cockpit inwards and up.

  • Simon

    Thanks for the reply Cass. All the best.

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