Friday 20 March 2015

Surly Moonlander; A review 3 years on, Now that 5" Fatbikes are becoming mainstream these days, and whats next???

The Surly Moonlander is a first generation Fatbike being the first 100mm rim 5" tyre Fatbike available off the shelf,
There is a lot more companies producing bikes with these rim and tyre sizes these days,

Are they that much better?, or are they just jumping on the band waggon?, well some maybe are, but some do offer something different with wider inline hubs with bolt through axles making a stiffer chassis, or optional  front suspension forks, or more trail orientated geometry.
While the old Moonlander has maybe not caught the public eye as newer stuff floods the Fatbike Forums and Facebook pages it still has a loyal following and it is still is an amazing fatbike to ride in the right conditions.

It is funny how a new paint job on the same old bike has attracted a lot of attention recently...

though it does also have a new drive train...  :)

So what am i buying next?
Some friends have asked me if i am interested in a newer generation Fatbike,
`Of course i am!` i always reply, but in my current job i am going to struggle to raise the money needed to buy something new this now.

So what would i like to buy now?, be it 3,4,5" tyres? front suspension?. full suspension etc?
I would probably stick with the QDP Salsa/Surly camp as i still think Surly make the best rims and tyres, Prove to last the distance in all three Fatbike tyre sizes, and both offer a steel or alloy frame, which i would chosse for the coast and rocks before carbon.

3" tyres;
I would like a Krampus frame set-i have the wheels already and you know i rave about 29+ for normal MTB type riding...

4" tyres;
This is the size i am totally happy with my current Pugsleys, as i think for my riding where 4" Fatbikes are ideal the Pugsley is still the perfect ride, as i have already blogged it is still; Fit for Purpose

5" tyres;
I did have the first ride in the UK of the Surly Ice Cream Truck last April at the second Forth Fat Fatbike Gathering when Tyler and Trevor from Surly arrived and unpacked them on the Friday...

The Ice Cream Truck is an ace rig and i would love to own one, with the Bluto front suspension fork added it would be an amazing rock crawler which would double as a 29+ with a Rabbit Hole wheel set.
The other bike i have an interest in is the Salsa Blackborow 1 geared 5" Fatbike,
pic from Salsa website;

Here is a wee Surly film about the ICT;

And a wee film from Salsa about the Blackborow;
Salsa Cycles Understanding Blackborow from Salsa Cycles on Vimeo.

My future Fatbike line up;
I see me keeping the two black Surly Pugsleys, the Moonlander, and if my job changes, or improves i hope to add a Krampus 29+ frameset to build up a bike,  and add a new generation in line 190mm rear hub fatbike like the ICT or Blackborow,

Keep on Trucking...
In the meantime i will keep on rolling with current stock! :)

Moonlander Review;
So back to the Surly Moonlander,

It has been 3 years now since the Moonlander Touchdown;
SURLY Moonlander - Touchdown from coastkid71 on Vimeo.

Here is another version of that first film...

But still the coolest Moonlander film is this!, credit to the maker Janne Peippo...
Quick trip to the Moon from Janne Peippo on Vimeo.

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 or any other 4" tyre Fatbike because it is fatter then sorry it is not...  but hold on there until you hear me finish...
The Internet was full of people venting there views of the Moonlander and since the other new 5" Fatbikes be it ridged or front suspension or indeed now full suspension Fatbikes, saying bigger 5"  is better everywhere being bigger - some of them have not even ridden one!, but bigger is not always better,
But i think bigger is better bigger when it is for mission specific...

Mission Specific?, where even a 4" Fatbike can struggle...
If the ride is on the low tide exposed rocks or in deep soft sand in the dunes 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 many places been a lot more work on the pugsley as it does not have the same float with it`s narrower rims and tyres.
Anywhere you go where the terrain is softer sand, loose pebbles and shingle, want to leave less of a footprint and cause minimum impact like on the fragile Salt Marshes here on some of our coastline, or you require more grip like 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 it is quite easily on a 5" Fatbike...

5" Downside?
Riding my big Moonie on the road is a real drag compared to the pugsley, and the steering is a bit weird,

So you think `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...

Some good upgrades on the stock Moonlander;
I have not spent much money on altering my Moonlander to set it up how i want. The 135mm Hope Pro 2 rear hub is a 7 year old item off a spare 29er wheel set. Being a 135mm rear hub also allows any hub option to be used; Single speed using an even stronger trials hub, or internal gear hub (IGH) like the Shimano Alfine 8 or 11 speed, all makes this a very versatile bike build...

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

Could it be better?
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,

Running those big tyres below 6psi with inner tubes;
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.

Going tubeless?
Some friends have, and i plan to do so too soon, but i will be going split tube tubeless with 24" tubes, this will solve the problem of riding at real low pressures in the dunes to make the most of the bike, but then not pinch flat once onto rocks at the same pressures...

Mission Specific;
So use if for `Mission Specific` riding in areas where other smaller less volume 3" and 4" tyre Fatbikes begin to struggle with less float and grip that requires a lot more effort and this bike really big heaps of grin factor...

My Moonlander specs for 2015;

Frameset; 18" frameset
      Rims; Clown shoe 100m, tartan 70mm ribbon, Surly rim tape behind
  Rr Hub; Hope Pro 2
  Fr Hub; Hope Fatsno 135mm
 headset; Hope headset
     stem; Hope 90mm
     Bars; Funn 750mm, 50mm rise,  25,4mm diameter- These will be swapped out soon for a shorter 70mm stem and wider FUNN 785 bars, i am loving these big bars shorter stem these days!
Grips; Ergon
 Brakes; BB7
 Cranks; Surly Mr Whirly, 33/20 toothe rings
   Chain; Shimano Dura Ace XTR
Cassette; 11/36t Shimano LX
rear mech; Shimano SLX
  Ft Mech; Shimano XT
   Shifters; Microshift thumbies
       Seat; Brooks C17 Cambium
 Seatpost; White |On One- to be replaced with a dropper post in the future,
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,

Where can it go with ease?, here is some films on the coast from the last year

Surly Moonlander; Dune Surfing and Rock Crawling... from coastkid71 on Vimeo.

Sea of Rock; Surly Moonlander Fatbike; Rock Crawling-Carr Rocks, Seacliff, East Lothain from coastkid71 on Vimeo.

April 2014; Surly Moonlander sand ride; Ravensheugh Dunes from coastkid71 on Vimeo.

Surly Moonlander; Peffersands Dunes, March 15 from coastkid71 on Vimeo.

Ace fun this bike!

More soon...

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