Thursday, November 19, 2020

Hiding From The Wind

The Snow Dog rides again!
 Well, it was supposed to be really windy on Wednesday, so I postponed plans to go bagging more gravel roads and did something a little different instead. I decided to take a spin on the ol' Snow Dog, my 2011 Salsa Cycles Mukluk fat bike. The Snow Dog hasn't been ridden a whole lot until this year because I had other, more capable fat bikes that went further afield in worse conditions than that old Mukluk ever could. I think the first gen Mukluk is a cool bike, but it is a unicorn rig in the fat biking world now days. 

It was a shocking bike in late 2010 when it was introduced. Ten years ago you couldn't get a fat bike at a bike shop and ride it out the door. Well, not unless that shop put one together for you from scratch. That would have been a Pugsley, and it would have likely cost you about $2500.00 unless you had a lot of spare parts to put on it. Wheels would have had to have been built by hand, a special crank set and bottom bracket would have needed to be sourced, and your tires and tubes would have been Surly products. Nothing else was available. That old Endomorph tire was kind of an oddball too. Not everyone got on with it. 

But when Salsa Cycles announced the Mukluk in 2010, they also announced a new tire for it as well. The 3.8" Surly Larry was a welcomed addition to the fat bike world and made a lot more sense than the Endomorph for many riders. What is more, you didn't have to buy the tires separately. They came on the bike as it was a complete package. A turnkey fat bike out of the box was a completely new thing and at the price the OG Mukluk went for, approximately $1800.00 plus taxes, it was a huge value over building a Pugsley from scratch. So much so that a couple of months after the Mukluk announcement, Surly announced a complete Pugsley would also be offered. The frenzy to get in line to buy these rigs was crazy at the time. It was the start of about a three to four year run on fat bikes that has never been matched since. 

The Surly Endomorph. Remember that tire?
The thing about the Mukluk that made it pretty much the fore-bearer of the fat bikes you see today is that it had a symmetrical frame and fork, not the offset fork and frame that the original Pugsley featured. This appealed to people's sensibilities more, but the reality was it did not affect performance, really. It just looked 'right'. Otherwise, the two bikes at that time, the Pugs and Muk, were essentially the same deal with different frame materials.  

So, my 2011 Mukluk has a pretty 'mountain bike-ish' handling from the 90's era, much like a Pugsley would, with maybe a bit of a nod to a slacker head angle, but not by much. The top tube is maybe a bit stretched out compared to an old MTB, but again, not by a lot. In fact, I run a longer stem on my Mukluk than I do on almost any other bike I own. (It's the stock stem, by the way) They stuck a really long head tube on this bike, which is odd, and with the 70mm rise carbon Milhouse Bar I have on there now, this bike has a very upright riding position. I have had to re-learn how to ride this bike since putting that bar on it.

And re-learn I did on the Green Belt. The wind was just getting on with its blowing when I left and in the woods I was shielded from its fury. The Green Belt is actually in pretty good shape. However; the freeze-thaw cycles have kicked in and the top layers of dirt were greasy mud. You have to be very careful when cornering on that stuff. I know from years of experience. Especially with the minimally treaded Larry 3.8" tires, which are still the original treads I got with the Snow Dog. There isn't much for grip there! However; this makes the Larry a killer tire for gravel. I wish that it was still in production just for that reason alone. But alas! The Larry is no more and it never was made in a tubeless version either. Too bad!

The Marky-Mark trail is in pretty good shape for going into the Winter.

Anyway, with the more upright position I have now, I stuck the Redshift Sports ShockStop seat post on this bike and it is awesome! This makes riding this bike so smooth it is ridiculous. While the original set up here was 3X I have it 1X now with a 9 speed rear end. I may dig up something to make this a lower geared rig as I found that with a 32T drive ring I was maxed out in a couple situations on the low end. I know that this Winter that won't work in deeper snow. 

But for woods cruising this set up with the really wide bars and upright seated position is fun. I went on a loop that took me to the Marky-Mark trail and I rode it both ways. It's in really great shape, I am happy to report. I look forward to cruising through once we get a little snow to work with. I do have some burlier 45NRTH rubber I can use that came to me on the Ti Muk 2 when I got it, so I may swap over tires here when Winter comes......if it comes. 

I may commute some on this bike, and I may do some gravel travel on this bike, but it needs upgrades and I just don't know.... Quick release 170mm rear and 135 rear brake standard front wheels are so out of date now I almost cannot justify it. That was one odd concession to the Pugsley Salsa made when they designed this bike. They felt that maybe some Pugs owners would jump over and get the new Muk, but would want to swap parts. In order to keep things in the Pugs standard, which was predicated on a built in fail-safe using two rear wheels, one single speed put on the front and the standard cassette rear, both 135mm spaced quick release, Salsa made their Mukluk to work with that. So, if you had a Pugs wheel you wanted to use in the Mukluk's 170mm spaced rear, Salsa offered this left side rear drop out spacer which made your Pugs wheel work in a Mukluk. As it turned out, this was all over-thought and almost no one went this way. 

So, eventually everything went through axle. The way it should have been from the get-go and of course, almost any fat bike worth its salt has a 150mm spaced front end. So, upgrading this bike, which has a straight 1 1/8th steer tube, by the way, is kind of a tough thing. I'll probably just maintain what I have and not spend a lot of money trying to make this what it isn't. Anyway....

I had a good ride on it Wednesday and that is what matters....


baric said...

If you didn't already have a good stable of fat bikes, I was going to suggest maybe a new Surly Wednesday in purple for your Wednesday rides. Sounds like it would fit the bill nicely but it also sounds like it's spec'ed pretty closely to the old Mukluk which you already have.

Guitar Ted said...

@baric- Actually, I almost bought a Wednesday when they first came out. I do like that bike.