Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review: Five Fun Days

When loaded with standard bags and modest bikepacking weight, Surly’s Ice Cream Truck is a pleasure to pedal: easy to steer on loose ascents, confident and quick handling down technical chutes, and predictable through twisting treelined singletrack. It’s a capable and flat out fun bike.

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It’s no secret that many of us think of our fat bikes as the Platonic Form of bikepacking rigs. They make short work of terrain that would be a jostling slog on narrower tires, and they open up tracks that just can’t be ridden on other kinds of bicycle. Fat bikes recapture what was compelling about mountain biking from the start, namely a sense of adventure and a glad-to-be-lost attitude, whether on a Saturday ride in nearby woods or for months high in the Andes.

Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review

I rode the Ice Cream Truck unladen for a couple of days on the local trails in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then on a three day/two night Autumn bikepacking trip high above town. The ICT wasn’t my first go with Surly’s steel frame and fork omniterra offerings, as my primary expedition wheel for the last six years has been a vintage Pugsley. Notable innovations for the ICT over the Pugs include 190mm spacing on a symmetrical rear triangle, thru axle hubs, a press fit bottom bracket, clearance for 5″ tires (though the Ops comes standard with 4” tires), and a substantially different geometry.

Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review

  • Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review
  • Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review

It’s that last change that is most notable. The ICT is a genuinely jolly bike, even with a handlebar roll and a couple of liters of water on the forks. It wants to turn. I could enter downhill switchbacks at speed, brake, shift, and lean hard downslope to flick the bike around. It manuals with scarce effort, and that had me whooping like a happy newbie through rock gardens. If you’re willing to muscle the heft, it willingly jumps. Like all fat bikes, it can go over boulder and log piles that you wouldn’t normally point your fully rigid machine at. But in case you want to go around obstacles instead, it gives the feeling of responding to input directly and quickly.

As a mountain bike to take out for a few hours of frolicking whoops and hollers, the ICT is terrific. To be crystal clear: the downsides of most fat bikes are weight, no chance of instantly spinning the rear wheel up to speed, and rolling resistance. The upsides are astonishing traction, unflappable downhill straight line momentum, and complete confidence in slow speed problem solving through technical sections. I go with the upsides every time.

Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review

  • Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review
  • Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review

To read Surly’s advertising, the ICT is intended to be a playful everyday ride and they absolutely succeeded in that mandate. I was surprised to find, though, that as a multi-day bikepacking bike, the ICT is sublime. My view is that a bikepacking bike should feel a bit quick steering when it has no bags on it. The addition of weight hanging off the bars and the fork will then yield a neutral feel. The problem is that quick handling with no bags can easily turn the bike into a nervous handful for everyday riding, while swinging in the other direction can make the bike lamentably slow steering when loaded (that’s my experience of the Pugsley).

The ICT angles right into the sweet spot of great handling with nothing on it, and excellent handling with all the bikepacker’s luggage. We dropped down off of the high point of the route on a kilometers long stone and root staircase trough right up against a barbed wire fence. I let it rip, all grins and laughter. If you’ve been mountain biking for years and want to keep an element of aggressive romping in your fatbike bikepacking, the ICT will accommodate you like few bikes can, and not any that I’ve ridden at its price point. What you will sacrifice is the straight ahead autopilot zoned out feeling that is helpful when you’re riding twelve hour days for weeks and weeks at a time. To compare it to the Pugsley again, the Pugs has this meditative quality in spades, but that—and the ability to use 135mm replacement rear hubs—remains the only reason to prefer the Pugs over the ICT.

Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review

I rode the ICT hard and in reasonably diverse conditions, and I was carrying something close to my standard gear. But that’s not nearly the same as riding a bike day in and day out for months at a time far from maintenance and spares. The nearly new and well maintained bike I rode did every mechanical thing flawlessly just as it should have. Looking it over with an eye toward a big trip, honestly there’s hardly anything I would change out of the box. None of it is fancy but I know first hand that most of it is reliable, since many of those parts–like SLX derailleurs and the Surly crankset–have been on my bike for years. (For what it’s worth, I do not have that reaction to the spec on the new Surly Wednesday.) For the ICT, I would put my own saddle on, cut down the bars, and brush up on how to service the rear hub, which might be a weak spot given how specialist it is.

The Nate 3.8 tires mounted on 82mm wide rims were great in the loamy dirt we encountered. I’d be reluctant to take that tread on a long trip with significant hardpack sections; other tires are more efficient for conditions like that. Speaking of tires, I would not often run 5.0’s on a bikepacking trip, but having the option to do so is handy. Last summer in Norway, crossing wet bogs and snow pocketed tussocky hills not on a track but just following the GPS, persuaded me that the biggest tires have a place in the bikepacking world.

Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review

  • Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review
  • Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review
  • Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review

Press fit bearings take some heat from folks sitting at home in their underwear and commenting on bikes on the internet. The idea behind press fit bearings here is that they allow for more material in the bottom bracket area for welding the chainstays at a wider and thus more stable stance. Generally, rear triangle stiffness isn’t that big a deal for bikepacking, especially when you are not running a rear rack and panniers. But the ICT does certainly track well in choppy conditions. I wouldn’t worry very much about the bearings. One of my best bikes—an ’89 Wicked Fat Chance—has press fits. It’s a straightforward matter to knock them out and put fresh ones in. Carrying around a spare set or two on a tour would be no issue at all, and it beats hauling a special tool for tightening outboard bearings. This is just as well, since we’ve heard field reports from others that weren’t encouraging with respect to longevity. It’s true that tolerances matter a whole lot more with press fit bearings. If the potential for creaking bothers you, make sure you learn how to troubleshoot them.

Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review

Quibbles? I find it baffling that there are no below the downtube bottle cage mounts. My own preference would be for a triple mount there, but having no mounts at all is a head shaking oversight. It would be a relatively quick job to remedy this with a drill and rivnut gun, or even a couple of hose clamps, but there is absolutely no reason why it’s not there in the first place. Secondly, the front triangle is tiny on the size small that I ride. It seems to me that Surly has gone overboard in lowering the top tube. I’m not jealous of the cavernous frame bags that my taller friends are able to use. Or anything.


  • A fat bike that can turn, jump, and play.
  • Great, full on mountain bike handling with bikepacking bags.
  • Solid parts spec, ready to take out on long trips right out of the box.


  • An undeniably heavy bike.
  • Small main triangle.

Build Kit

  • FRAME Surly Ice Cream Truck, 4130 CroMoly steel (S).
  • FORK Surly Ice Cream Truck, 150mm x 15mm thru axle dropouts.
  • SEAT COLLAR Surly Constrictor, 33.1mm
  • HEADSET Cane Creek 40, ZS44/EC44
  • STEM HL, 31.8mm. 7° rise. 4-bolt.
  • HANDLEBAR Salsa ProMoto 2, 31.8mm. 11° bend.
  • BRAKES Avid BB7, Cable actuated. 180/160mm rotors front & rear
  • SHIFTER Microshift SL-M10, 10-speed mountain thumb shifters
  • REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano SLX M675 – 65
  • CRANKS & CHAINRINGS Surly O.D., 22/36t
  • BOTTOM BRACKET Surly Pressfit BB, PF 41/132 w/sleeve
  • CASSETTE Shimano SLX HG50-10, 10-speed 11–36t
  • FRONT Salsa, 150 x 15mm thru-axle
  • REAR Salsa, 197 x 12mm thru-axle
  • SPOKES DT Swiss Comp, 14g/15g Black
  • RIMS Surly Darryl, Single wall aluminum. Welded seam w/cutouts. 82mm width. Black.
  • TIRES Surly Nate 26 x 3.8˝, 120tpi
  • SEATPOST Kalloy SP-342, 30.9mm.
  • SADDLE Velo VL2155, steel rails.
  • WATER BOTTLE MOUNTS 1 inside XS-MD frames, 2 for L-XXL
  • RACK MOUNTS Front and rear rack mounts, triple fork cage mounts
  • EXTRAS Surly Modular Dropout System offers 142×12 thru axle, 10mm QR geared, or singlespeed

Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops Review

Wrap Up

The Surly Ice Cream Truck is a joyful local trails bike and a (perhaps unintentionally) superbly capable bikepacking platform. The high base weight won’t make it magically easier to inch up inclines at twelve thousand feet, but inch up it will – and the way down and all the rollers in between will make for big smiles.*

  • Size Tested Small
  • Sizes Available XS-XXL
  • Weight (as tested) TBC
  • Price $1,850
  • Contact Surly
  • Recommended Uses Trail riding when not trying to keep up with friends; all conditions bikepacking.

Rider’s Background

I have toured and raced bikes around the world for over twenty five years. These days I prefer long rugged bikepacking trips off the beaten path and in culturally interesting places. Drop me a line a

*For this review Joe rented the ICT from the great folks at The Broken Spoke in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

  • Jeremiah Utecht

    It is truly the ICT will not win any weight weenie awards. I have been using mine as a daily commuter and a get lost for fun gravel rig all year waiting for the snow to fly. FWIW the triangle on my XXL is huge. Curious just how different the geometry is between the S and the XXL.

  • I’d hope a triangle on an XXL is pretty darn big (-;

    I imagine Joe is talking about it in comparison with his (non suspension corrected) Pugsley. As an XL frame rider, it’s easy to take cavernous framebags for granted!

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’d hope a triangle on an XXL frame is pretty darn big (-;

    I imagine Joe is talking about it in comparison with his (non suspension corrected) Pugsley. As an XL frame rider, it’s easy to take cavernous framebags for granted!

  • Paul

    I’m actually jealous of the frame bag space of the steel Surly’s compared to my fat tubed aluminum Salsa Blackborow. I’ve hardly got enough space to put 2 water bottles in there. So remember it can always be worse!

  • Joe Cruz

    Thanks for jumping in, Jeremiah. Fair question about the difference in feel between the S and the XXL. Most of the crucial numbers are the same: HT angle 68º; ST angle 72.5º; chainstay length 450. That, of course, only tells part of the story, since a taller rider can be pushed further out over the rear wheel, and the wheelbases are plenty different (1100 vs. 1186.6).

    Are you able to throw yours around the way I experienced the small size?

  • Joe Cruz

    Fair enough, Paul!

  • Jeremiah Utecht

    I wouldn’t call the bike “flickable” but I have not gotten into any spots where I thought it would need to be. Honestly my hunch is it has more to do with the wheelbase. I wouldn’t expect a 29+ to be any better.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Not sure what size your Blackborow is Paul… but with the ICT, there’s only provision for one water bottle cage in all frames up to Medium in size! All the more reason for an underbelly mount!

    I had a brief spin on an (XL) Blackborow the other day… and I have to say, I really liked it.

  • Lewy

    Great write up. I just wish Surly in Australia was more reasonably priced. The same bike here is $5300. When I bought my Fatboy it was pretty much the same price as the US.

  • Caleb

    Do you folks have any further thoughts on the ICT compared to the Wednesday, beyond the base parts spec? The Wednesday’s much more affordable price point makes it tempting, simply with an eye towards upgrading components over time.

    Also, does changing out between 4″ and 5″ tires make enough of a difference in BB height to affect performance?

  • Surly? Press fit? A huh? That seems so out of character for the “Everything made simple” company.

    Then again, they are the only company with that annoying Karate Monkey style track end.

  • Max

    I am trying to decide between an ICT Ops and the new Wednesday. Surly has dropped the price of the Ops to $1,850.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’ve just updated the price to reflect that drop. Ride differences aside, sounds like a killer deal to me. Certainly, it’s a lot of bike for $1850 – given the120 tpi tires, OD crankset, SLX derailleurs, Salsa hubs, BB7 brakes and Microshift thumb shifters – plus the capacity to run 5″ tires if you want to at some point.

  • Cass Gilbert

    As it happens, I’m trying a Wednesday at the moment, so will report back when I’ve had a chance to ride it properly. So far, it’s proving to be a super fun bike – I’ll try and have a ride on a friend’s ICT as a comparison.

    Price/spec/geometries aside, other differences to note include the extra wide BB on the ICT – which bothers some people, but not others. The capability to run 5in tires may or may not be important to you – depending on your intentions. For general trail use and bikepacking, I expect 4in is the sweet spot. But for snow/sand/bog crawling, 5in tires come into their own, as I’ve come to appreciate from riding in New Mexico’s arroyos.

  • Cass Gilbert

    Hi Lewy,

    I may be doing my calculations wrong… But it appears that the more expensive Jack Frost Blue model is priced at OZ$3700 which rings in at around $2700 in the US.

    That same model has now dropped to $2400 in the US. So yes, a few hundred dollars less – but you also have to factor in sales tax here, which can be close to 10%.

  • Lewy

    Yes you’re right they are $3700. It was one shop that had one for $5300 online and I though that was the price.

  • Caleb

    Thanks, Cass—I look forward to hearing your thoughts. I figured that the Wednesday’s ability to run 4.6″ tires would be a decent compromise for softer terrain, but I had been under the assumption that Wednesday was built around 3.8’s, and therefore would have a *high* BB with 4.6’s, and that the ICT was build around 4.8’s, and therefore would have a *low* BB on 3.8’s. Now that I look at the details, I see that the BB drop is very close on the two of them (only 5 mm more on the ICT), which makes them seem even more similar to me.

    Add in the revelation that the ICT Ops price is only $350 more than the Wednesday (thanks for pointing this out, Max—I hadn’t looked into the ICT Ops), and what seemed like a straightforward choice before is now much more nuanced!

  • The super fun, playful feel of the ICT is watered down a bit with 4.8s over 3.8s. As you guessed, the higher bb combined with more rotating weight makes for a stable, but less flickable ride that doesn’t dig into the corners as tightly.

    I have both of the aforementioned tires for my ICT in addition to a 27.5×3.0 set (slightly smaller diameter than 3.8s even) and I really prefer the two smaller diameter tires to the 4.8s.

    One notable difference between the ICT and Wednesday is the rigid fork length: the ICT is on a 483mm for, while the Wednesday is on a 468. Also, the rear end length, 450 vs. 435 respectively.

  • Joe Cruz

    Morgan—Thanks for this helpful perspective on running 4.8’s on the ICT. Very useful.

  • For sure! I’m excited to give the Wednesday a go, as my time with the ICT has been lots of fun.

  • Caleb

    FYI, I just saw the announcement that Surly has put a 50% discount on their overstock Omniterra bikes, which includes the ICT Ops at $1,199! Unless somebody has something game changing to say about the Wednesday, it sounds like I’d be crazy not to spring for the ICT Ops at that price!

  • Joe Cruz

    Whoa, seriously? That’s incredible. Biggest bang for buck on a fat bikepacking rig that I’ve ever heard of.

  • Cass Gilbert

    We’ve heard these rumours! Should have something more concrete soon!

  • Caleb

    Got my ICT Ops ordered for $1,150! While there are some things about the Wednesday that are still appealing to me (including the larger frame triangle), I could not pass up this opportunity. Thanks to you folks for the thoughtful review and all of the feedback; I would not have been prepared to order this without your wisdom and input from the bikepacking perspective.

  • Joe Cruz

    Oh Man! Nice, Caleb. I’m jealous. Keep us posted on how you get on with it, especially on multi-day trips.

  • Mark

    How tall are you and why did you choose the small frame?
    I’m 5’9″ tall and sort of in between sizes between a small and Medium – hence the inquiry.

  • Joe Cruz

    Hey Mark. I’m 5’8″ and I also find that I’m typically (frustratingly) in between most manufacturer’s small and medium. Surlys tend to have a bit of a stretched out top tube. Since evidently I have proportionately shorter arms and longer legs than typical men of my height, I usually break toward the small in order to keep the saddle to bar reach manageable (with, say, a 90 or 100mm stem). That means—and you can see this from the photos—I’m usually running a lot of exposed seat post, which is fine by me if I can get a little flex there and for giving me room to have a big saddle bag.

    If you’re a frame numbers kind of guy, I aim for 50.5cm from tip of saddle (Selle Italia SLR) to middle of bar at the stem, and 73.3cm from top of saddle to bottom bracket center. I can comfortably get that on small Surly mountain bikes.

    Hope that helps a bit,

  • Jonathan Dury

    Yup! I just got my ICT Ops for $1199.00 Smoking deal!

  • Tuck

    Having experience with both, can you give any insight on the Pugs vs. ICT Ops? The new Surly discounts put them relatively close in pricing and I’m having trouble deciding between the two. Thanks!

  • Check out Cass’ latest post… Good insight in there about the different [discounted] Surlys:

  • Joe Cruz

    Hi Tuck. You’re right that I wasn’t doing a full on compare and contrast between the ICT and Pugs. Do check out what Cass has to say about the two options. I fully concur. If I was trying to decide between them, my decision would probably go something like this:

    Am I realistically intending to do a very long bikepacking trip overseas, a month or longer? If yes, then Pugsley (because of the greater availability of parts). If no, then ICT stays in the running.

    Will the fat bike be the main bike I mountain bike on? If yes, then ICT. If no, then Pugs stays in the running.

    When I bikepack, do I mix in long days on dirt where I just want to zone out and cover distance? If yes, then Pugsley. If no, then ICT stays in the running.

    Do I live in a place/will travel to places where I’d use the biggest, floatiest tire? If yes, then ICT. If no, then Pugsley stays in the running.

    If these diagnostic questions leave things at a standoff, get the cheaper Pugsley and spend the saved money on bikepacking bags or on a trip!

    Hope that helps,

  • Tuck

    Wow, thank you for the thorough response. Truly appreciate it! I’ve done some cross country touring roadie style and am in love with the site. Somehow I’ve convinced myself to get a fatty because of it. Realistically my riding will be limited to snow/singletrack but would love to get some time on the Colorado trail this summer and a few other multi-day trips in Moab. To be honest, I’ve just been confused in that all I’m finding online is that the ICT Ops frame is more modern but the components on the Pug Ops are far superior where the ICT will need updates. Either way it looks like I can’t go too wrong as long as it gets me out having fun!
    Thanks again.

  • Robert Kerner

    I’ve been trying to find the sweet spot on the 5 inch tire decision tree as I look to buy my first fat bike. This review, and the others on the site, have been very helpful. Yesterday I had a chance to ride several different bikes by different manufacturers. Two things stuck out. First, the bikes designed to be primarily snow bikes with 5 inch rubber were like driving a stretch Humvee limo! Too much bike on twisty complicated single track. Second, a lot of bikes out there are not set up, out of the box, for bike packing. Out of 60 or so bikes, only the Surlys had mounts on the forks and mounts for racks. A lot of the “snow” bikes don’t appear to be set up to also carry a load. I don’t think you should have to take a drill to your new bike to make it carry what you want to carry.

    I rode an ICT (non-OPS) belonging to a shop owner. I half expected based on Joe’s review to experience a hulking beast, but it was the liveliest of the bunch with it’s 3.8 inch tires and more upright position. And it didn’t weigh significantly more; on the contrary, it was lighter than some of the 5 inch rigs with studded, double tubed tires. Had I not been in the middle of the Berskshires, 3 hours from home, I would’ve went to the shop and bought one! And, out of the box it has the attachment points to throw on some gear and go camping. If you’re on the fence, go find one and ride one.

    It’s great bike. Thank you for the detailed review.

  • Joe Cruz

    Glad that you found this review helpful. And your thoughts are a great source of input for people thinking about these bikes, we really appreciate you sharing.

    I hope that people won’t read my review to imply that the ICT is a bear! Maybe you mean just the fact that it’s a Fat Bike, so compared to a non-fat. I certainly concur that it’s lively and fun with 3.8 tires, and I couldn’t agree more about how sensible it is to have the bikepacking attachment points built in (I still wish there were bosses under the downtube). I loved the ICT.

    Thanks again for the thoughtful note. Whenever you’re next in the Berkshires, drop me a line as that’s one of my local riding areas.


  • Enzo N.

    Can you use any kind of PF41 bottom bracket brand on the ICT? I’m guessing you can just keep on reusing the center sleeve from the Surly BB and just take the bearing cups from other brands.

  • David Negreiro

    hey Joe, is there any good bikepacking in the berkshires?

  • Joe Cruz

    Hi David. It’s funny how I never bikepack on my local trails. It’s an area with some of the most excellent dirt road riding that I’ve encountered. It would be plenty easy to put together a route, and I’ve even plotted a couple of overnighters/two nighters in the northern Berkshires. Obviously it depends on what you’re looking for. Email me at jcruz at williams dot edu.


  • Robert Ambrose

    I was lucky and amazed to find a nearly new ICT Ops on Craigslist for $1000 a year ago. Apparently the guy who bought it on Surly’s sale did not find it an appropriate bike for Seattle. I researched the ICT and compared geometry to the Jones Plus, and then jumped on the ICT for $900. Unfortunately medical issues kept me from riding most of last year, but I could work on my new bike! I ordered carbon 29+ wheels from Light Bicycles, carbon Jones loop bars, a barely used Bluto fork, and a couple other component upgrades, and found I had a super Omniterra. In the light 29+ mode, it just rips trails, super fun. Using the original wheels with 5″ Knards, it’s my beach and snow cruiser. Put on the rigid fork and 3″ or original 3.8 Nates, and its a go anywhere bikepacking ride. Omniterra.

  • Emma

    Did you custom-build your 29er wheels to accommodate the 150 and 197mm hubs?

  • Robert Ambrose built the 50mm wheels with Hope 197 and 150 hubs. I notice they now have a U$ fabrication and shipping operation; cost seems about the same as the direct order from the China factory.

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