Sunday, 6 May 2012

Surly Moonlander Review - Mission Specific...

It has been 3 months now since the Moonlander touchdown, here is another version of the film i made...

People keep asking me to do a review of my Surly Moonlander - from a beach riders point of view..
Well if you want me to say it is better than a Surly Pugsley because it is fatter then sorry it is not...
The Internet if full of people venting there views of the Moonlander, saying it is better everywhere being bigger - some of them have not even ridden one!, but bigger is not always better...
bigger is for mission specific...

If the ride is mission specific for the Moonlander then it is an amazing bicycle in the right environment...

Let me explain,
everywhere i have ridden with my Moonlander i have done so on my pugsley, but it has in places been a lot more work in places on the pugsley.
However go anywhere it is softer sand, loose pebbles and shingle, or requires more grip as on slime covered rocks exposed at low tide then you enter a whole new world of riding a bicycle easily where it really should not be possible...but is...

Ride the Moonie on the road though and it is a real drag compared to the pugsley,  but i already knew that before i bought one as more tyre contact area is of course going to drag more...
Just pump up the tyres then?, well yeah you can do that but you defeat the purpose of the bike and create a crazy rebound from those tyres if you mix tarmac pressures with roots and rocks....

Again it is Mission specific, run it under 7 psi, stay off tarmac and fast trails and this bike off road is quite amazing and its grip is mind blowing, your bike skills will run out before it`s grip does...

I have not spent much money on altering my Moonlander to set it up how i want. The Hope Pro 2 rear hub is a 7 year old item off a spare 29er wheel set...

Along with the Hope external BB, same with the  Hope headset...

In my own opinion a loose bearing hub like the shimano XT and the flimsy Shimano Deore rear mech have no place on a bike like this built to ride in extreme places. I am not going to repeat my own views on open bearing hubs on off road bikes but you can read it here..., if you want to go beach riding and expose a bike to salt water then sealed bearing hubs is a no brainer...
The original BB bearings lasted around 100 miles, and many owners have had similar fails. I think it is something to do with the amount of preload on the bearings, there is a BB spacer in a bag, with out it fitted the crank nut tensioner tightens fully, like this there is no play, but you can tension bearings when it is installed, as i have done with the Hope bearings.
While on a rant why fit a 36t big ring on a bike meant for snow, or for myself sand?, it is far too high geared and the jump to the 22t granny ring is far too much, the bike would be a lot better with the optional 20/33t Surly MWOD ring combo,

I have been experimenting with different inner tubes, first i tried  lighter tubes but now use stronger and Schrader valve (car type)  tubes for quick inflation with compressor/ air line at a garage.
Again more rubbish has been written on line about using lighter tubes in 100mm rims and 4.7" Big Fat Larry (BFL) tyres. Fit a 2.5/2.7" tube as can be used in a pugsley sized rim and 3.7" tyre to the Moonlander and the increase in volume means the tube is so stretched so much it takes little impact on rocks to explode the tube as it is so thin - i have done this twice, try and patch a 2.5/2.7" tube then inflate it in a 4.7" BFL tyre/100mm combo and the patch will peel off as it inflates.
Surlys own tubes are ideal if your happy with Presta valves, they have removable valves if you want to add Stans Juice to prevent thorn punctures, a must do here in East Lothian due to the Hawthorn hedges on country roads. I prefer Schrader valves and am now using Michelin Airstop 3.00 x21" motorcycle tubes...

Interestingly these are only 50g lighter than Surly tubes yet way thicker and a lot higher quality...

These are the No1 tube used for Motorcycle enduros and Rally Raid events, and £14 each so a  worthwhile investment.
Despite adding Stans juice to prevent thorn punctures the complete wheels are still quite light due to the rims being single wall. and despite the worries of fragile rims being single walled and machined for lightness they have been fine despite rock riding. I think you will pinch flat (as i have done 2 times) before you bend a rim.

So use if for `Mission Specific` and this bike rewards...

My Moonlander specs;

Frameset; 18" frameset
      Rims; Clown shoe 100m, tartan 70mm ribbon, Surly rim tape behind
  Rr Hub; Hope Pro 2
  Fr Hub; stock Surly hub
 headset; Hope headset
     stem; Hope 90mm
     Bars; Funn 750mm, 50mm rise,  25,4mm diameter
    Grips; Ergon
 Brakes; BB7
 Cranks; Surly Mr Whirly
   Chain; Shimano Dura Ace XTR
Cassette; 11/36t Shimano LX
rear mech; Shimano XT
  Ft Mech; Shimano XT
   Shifters; Microshift thumbies
       Seat; Gusset Tartan
 Seatpost; Surly
Seat Clamp: Hope
     Pedals; Superstar
      Also; Cycra gaurd down tube crud catcher
               Rear Crud Catcher
               Surly Hip flask & cage
               Blackburn stainless bottle cage

Bike was built with stainless allen bolts, all connecting surfaces, threads, bearings packed with WURTH graphite grease,

Future items to add; Carbon seatpost, Hope 135mm front hub, custom Hope disc rotors.Swap out 36/22 MWOD to 33/20tooth front MWOD rings.


  1. Hi Bruce!

    Thanks for usefull review!
    I am now in doubt. Does it mean that time of Pugsley is gone?

  2. Hi macsimka, No i think the pugsley is still a perfect bike, and can do everything, including more miles easier, i would not replace my pugsley with a Moonlander, but it does mean having to run 2 fat bikes now!

  3. Thanks! I still love my Pugs, but I do not want to miss opportunites offered by the wide wheels of the Moonlander.

  4. Big layout but you could save up for a Moonlander, then sell the pugsley and build a 2nd wheel set with 82mm or 65mm rims and 3.7" tyres for trails and stuff!

    1. I thought about this, but I very afraid for a little bit low clearance for Moonlnder with Larry 3.7".

  5. Great no BS review of the Moonlander, Coastkid. Its got to be hard to be objective about a bike with such a cool identity, but I've gotta admire your practical attitude to the bike's pros and cons out there in the real world.

    What i'd really like to see next is a similar review of the pugsley as a trail bike. Imagine if you only had access to the coast a few times a year - would you still be riding the pugs? I ask because i'm tempted to get one as a low maintenance alternative to a hard tail that's still more capable than a standard rigid bike.

  6. I can do that no probs castle Dave.
    I would deft have a pug for riding natural trails even if only at the coast a few times a year. Though it would be close run with my 47mmm rim 2.5" 29er Karate Monkey!,

    If there is a lot of road work between trails the fat 29er, more natural trails then a pug. i will put something together soon -:)

  7. That's awesome! I look forward to your review.

    I think this is quite a popular question at the moment - people like the idea of fatties but want to know if they work for general trail riding.

    In theory i'd rather have a pugs than a 29er because I can always build a pair of 29er wheels as a second set for the pugs. But that's just a theory and I'd love to hear your thoughts after years of experience of fat biking in the UK ...

  8. Hi,
    thanks for the review. What would you recomend for a commuter fat bike used on a 50/50 mix of road and beach.

  9. Hi, probably the Pugsley if your doing some roadwork, the stanard model is a superb bike for the money.
    Take some time to prep it with some frame saver, repack the BB bearings and hubs checking the cones are real tight and it will run and run...

  10. I want you to know I replaced my Salsa Mukluk Surly tubes with Michelin Airstop MD 21 motorcycle tubes as you did - and I absolutely LOVE the result - having Schrader valves is so much easier! Your upgrade is the best mod I seen in 2012! Cheers!

  11. Hi, Still had no thorn flats with the Michelin tubes yet!, they are deft a winner!

  12. I am thinking about getting my first fat bike and the local dealer is pushing hard for me to go moon over pugsley. I plan on doing trails and beach with the bike. They are saying the moon will blow away the pug on the beach. From what i have read it sounds like the pug is better on the trails. Do you agree? If I can only do one or the other and want to be able to do both beach and trails which would you suggest? Would I be able to go with the moon and purchase a second wheel 80 wheel set and have the best of both worlds?

  13. Hi, It is indeed hard to decide which to get if only 1 bike, You could go for the Moonlander and then also get a set of Rolling Darylls and build a 2nd wheel set.
    I think the dual spoke holes are the same width on the rims so you can build the same rear offset,

  14. Building wheels on Rolling Darylls rims for the Moonlander you may encounter some problems. The dual spoke holes on the Rolling Daryll rim have not the same width as the holes on the Clown Shoe rim.

    Common Rim Offsets:
    -Surly Rolling Daryl: 12.5mm
    -Surly Clown Shoe: 20mm
    -Vicious Cycles Graceful Fat Sheeba (offset or “center-drilled”): 12mm
    -Surly Large Marge Offset: 14mm

  15. Ah, well then that s that idea no use then!, thanks macsimka!
    Other option if you riding regular trails is a black pugs with the 80mm rims. It uses the Moonlander fork so a BFL could be fitted if you want, the wider rim black pugsley is a good `half way house` between the regular pug and the moonie

  16. Well the decision was made for me. I woke up to a new moonlander under the tree today! Went for a ride and it was incredible. Would you guys mind interpreting macsimka's above response for the fatbike rookie....can I get a second smaller wheel set for the moonlander or will I be fine in the trails with the 100s that it comes with? Thank you both.

  17. Hi, coastkid! :)
    May I ask something?

    I have a moonlander bike too.
    I'm going to replace front hub(surly hub) with a "HOPE pro2 front hub"

    Is it possible?

  18. Yes it will be fine as it too is a rear disc mount the same as the Surly hub.

    I am waiting on a Gold Hope Fatsno front to arrive for my Moonlander too!

  19. Hi again coastkid! :)
    Today I read a curious issue in MTBR.

    What do you think of this?
    Is there some problem with 'Hope fatsno front hub'?

  20. Hi, I think what has happened is that the hubs are sent out with a 10mm diameter axle/fork tounge spacer when they need the 9mm as fitted to the regular Hope Pro 2 hub.
    I know Hope will swap these free of charge if this is needed. If you are in the USA i imagine your shop will get them from the importer for free too.
    I hope to get my fatsno hub any day so will let you know on here,

  21. coastkid:

    Did you need to drill out your rims to fit the Schraeder valve on the Michelins? My LBS folks seemed to think I'd need to do that, and suggested I instead convert to tubeless and use my Surly tubes already installed as backups.

    Curious as to your thoughts on this...

  22. Hi Michael, I just gave the hole in the rim a little file with a round file, did not take much effort,
    I don`t know about going tubeless so cannot comment, sure someone on MTBR Fatbike Forum could advise there,

    Thanks for your reply -:)

  23. Just got my Moonlander a month ago and having a blast riding the beaches and perfecting wheelies again like the good old days. Thanks for your inspirations.
    Ive been looking for the Michelin Airstop 3x21 tubes but can't find the same ones in your photo and there are so many different options I'm not sure which to get. Can you add any more specifics? thanks

  24. Hi Roger, Here is a link you can copy and pate to the same tube on UK eBay;

  25. Thanks for that.
    Seems odd that the the Surly tubes are 26" but the Michelin tubes are only 21" (?)

  26. Did you ever swap out the 36t for the 33t chainring?
    I just ordered one this week...

  27. Hi Roger, still to replace the stock 36t!, on it`s third chain and near the end of it`s life. The Surly rings have lasted well!
    It will be replaced once the present chain reaches it`s wear limit with a 33t!