Floating on a ‘Fatbike’

Day 2-4Ski+board Deputy Editor Rosie Barcroft explores Studland Beach, Dorset on a new mode of transport.

I felt like a minor celebrity. People stopped as I went by, pointing before talking amongst themselves. Sadly, this had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with my mode of transport.

I had hired it from the new local hotel, THE PIG-on the beach. It had oversized tyres, thick, black tread and a giant frame. And on it I was flying across Studland Beach in Dorset, the sea air in my face, grinning like a maniac.

It was a Fatbike. A Surly Pugsley Fatbike to be precise. Built to survive, the frame is constructed from 4130-chromoly steel with a double-butted front triangle (basically increased thickness near the joints for strength).

Making easy work of the sandy terrain

Making easy work of the sandy terrain

Fatbikes first originated in 1987, when Simon Rakower from All-Weather Sports in Fairbanks, Alaska put SnowCat rims on normal mountain bikes for a safer ride. Over the next 18 years, the design evolved as more people wanted all-terrain bikes that could cope with mud, sand and snow — leading Surly bikes to release the Pugsley frame in 2005.

Since then, other manufacturers such as Trek and Specialized have entered this market, constructing their own versions. But as one blogger said: ‘In the fat tyre world, the Surly Pugsley reigns king’.

The Pugsley is named after Pugsley Addams, from ‘The Addams Family’. Much like the bike, he wasn’t what one would call a ‘looker’. However, the ride was never supposed to look good, it was just supposed to work.

Studland Beach

Studland Beach

And work it did. I bounded over ruts, stormed over seaweed and as long as I picked up enough speed, could glide through shallow waves.

I found there was a metre pathway along the beach, just above the shoreline just below the sunbathers that was ideal Fatbike territory. Unfortunately, it was also a popular walkway with the locals and day-trippers. But it meant I could answer a few questions: “What is it?” “Where did you get it from?” and one of the more eager ones, “Can I have a go?” The young man, who had asked, beamed excitedly as I came to a stop, dismounted a little awkwardly (I was a little bit small for the frame) and offered him the handlebars.

THE PIG-on the beach

THE PIG-on the beach

“We had one guest who took one out in the morning, and bought one on his way back in the afternoon”, said Lora Strizic, the General Manager of THE PIG when I returned it a few hours later. I could easily see why.

Yes, it was heavy, the gears a tad clunky and it wasn’t the best looking bike in the box, but it allowed you freedom and speed on surfaces that were usually off-limits.

And as Dave Gray from Surly Bikes said: “Riding a Pugsley in the lowest gear over soft and loose terrain, is a lot more fun than pushing a bike that isn’t rideable in the same conditions.”

I just hope I’ll be able to try one on the snow this winter!

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Rosie Barcroft


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