Surly Bikes Review

Table of Contents

Surly Bikes are a Minnesota-based brand that’s best known for two things — steel frames and fat tires. Their popularity skyrocketed from the release of the Pugsley and their now legendary fat bikes. Surly also brought this style of mountain bike to the forefront of cyclists’ attention.

They have since then branched out to other types of mountain bike models, including cargo bikes like the Big Dummy. Surly now even sells an electric bike made for long trips and transporting passengers.

If you’re interested in Surly bikes, here’s what we’re going to cover in this article.

  • What kinds of bikes does Surly make?
  • What are fat bikes?
  • Are Surly frames good?
  • How much does a Surly bike cost?
  • Are Surly bikes and Surly beer related?
  • Is Salsa a good bike brand?
  • Are Surly bikes good?

Surly Bikes

What Kinds of Bikes Does Surly Make?

Surly launched the Pugsley, in 2005 — their first widely available fat bike model, and it revolutionized the market. Bikes with fat wheels soon became popular among off-road fans.

Surly and Salsa, another fat bike brand, soon saw massive sales increases every year. By 2013, this sector of biking was already making around $30 million.

According to the brand’s website, they make “serious steel bikes for people who don’t take themselves too seriously.”

What characterizes Surly is not only their tough frames but also their wide tires. This, together with the rims, makes the Surly bikes stable and able to absorb impact and vibration well.

However, with Surly, you’re not limited to fat tires or even a mountain bike, because they also have versatile riding options for city streets. Surly has since expanded their range, both for off-road touring bikes and everyday commutes.

Surly also makes bike components — including the signature fat bike tires that other manufacturers use. Chances are if you’ve tried riding a fat bike, you’ve already ridden on Surly tires.

What Types of Surly Bikes Can You Find Today?

Surly bikes have come a long way from the first version of Pugsley, and they now offer a range of options for all tastes. Surly does lack machines for the racing category. Their bikes are for fun, recreation and travel, not for speed.

Their rides are split into four disciplines:

  • Pavement.
  • Trail.
  • Touring.
  • Hauling.


Surly has four models made for the tarmac. Given the Surly specialization in tougher terrains, their road bikes, especially the Straggler, are also well adaptable to the occasional gravel grinding and bumps.

They’re ideal for commuters, bikepacking and just riding around town. If you’re planning on more off-road riding, pick a Surly pavement model with wide, heavy-duty tires.


Trail and off-road options are where Surly bikes truly shine. The brand currently has five different trail bikes, from their classic fat tire model Surly Krampus to the massive 5-inch wheels of the Ice Cream Truck. A Surly bike’s fat wheels are designed for snow, mud and other surprises you might find on a trail.

These are the kinds of Sur ly bikes you can ride when you’re not really sure what you might encounter on the road. They’re also for those who live in colder climates and want to bike year-round.


For touring bikes, Surly also carries a range that spans from commuter-friendly pavement bikes to fat-tire mountain bike options, like the Pugsley. Surly has eight models for long-distance cyclists and bikepack touring.

The Surly Pack Rat sports a front-loading design, which allows you to keep your belongings at arm’s reach. It’s specifically calibrated to carry weight at the front without losing balance — a smart option for commuters.

On the other hand, the Surly Troll is an off-road expedition bike that’s made for versatile, long-distance touring.


Surly has three different models with long tails, built to keep the bike stable while allowing more room for cargo. They also have the stiffness and stability needed to transport passengers or attach a trailer.

The Surly Big Dummy is best for road riding, while the Big Fat Dummy with its wide tires is made for carrying cargo on trails. Surly now also offers an electric bike, the Big Easy, with a long tail and the brand’s signature off-road tires.

Don’t know what you’re looking for yet? You can use this Surly handy bike finder to pick the model with the right characteristics for your riding style.

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What Are Fat Bikes?

Given that Surly is the brand that popularized fat tire bike riding with the Pugsley, I wanted to give you an idea of what this type of bike is made for.

Fat bikes give you stability, traction and support, and most of all, fun. As the name implies, what defines them is their oversized tires and generous rims designed for heavy-duty mountain biking. The tires may be about 3 to 5 inches wide, and the rims are usually between 26 and 29 inches.

Obviously, you can’t just put fat tires on any bike. Everything on the bike changes to adapt to those big tires — from the fork width to the frame balance. This is why Surly also specializes in making frames that can fit maximum tire sizes.

If you’re looking for a super-fat bike, check out the Surly Ice Cream Truck, ideal for 26-inch rims and 5-inch tires. Another great option is the Krampus, made for 29-inch rims and 3-inch tires.

Where Can I Ride a Fat Bike?

You can take a Surly fat tire bike anywhere unpredictable and tough. Those wide rims have enough strength and grip to push through snow, sand or mud. If you need more traction for snow, you can let out a bit of air from the tires.

Snowy conditions are where the fat bike shines, and it’s no surprise that Surly originated in Minnesota — famous for its cold winters. If you’re living in a region with a cooler climate, a Surly fat bike can be an ideal investment. And, when the snow melts, you can still ride your bike on the trails.

Big tires also reduce the impact of rough trails on your butt. The steel frame and the tires absorb vibration effectively — so you won’t be as tired when you ride. This means you can clock-up more miles!

However, a fat tire bike is not the best choice for long-distance racing or speed. Fat bikes are heavier, and their super-wide tires can make riding more of a challenge on your muscles during long trips.

If you’re looking for a Surly bike for travel or everyday life, their touring models and commuter bikes are likely to be more suitable.

Are Surly Frames Good?

Cyclists have their preferences between different frame materials, and Surly only manufactures steel frames. If you’re not sure whether this material is right for you, I’ll give you some insights on the benefits and drawbacks.


Surly bikes are tough. They won’t bend easily, even under a heavy load, which often makes them more durable than aluminum or carbon fiber bikes. This is especially important for touring and in a cargo bike like the Big Dummy.

This aspect also makes a Surly bike safe. If it does break, a steel frame won’t snap in two like aluminum, but instead bends slowly. I find a Surly a smart investment if you’re looking for a frame that’ll last you for years.


If you do damage your bike, which is a possibility with heavy-duty use, a Surly bike is more straightforward to repair than aluminum. This is especially relevant if you’re traveling long distances or even outside the country with your bike.

Wherever you are in the world, you can probably find someone to fix your Surly frame. With carbon fiber or titanium, you can’t simply find a welder to repair your ride and get back on the road.


This material is not as rigid as aluminum, so it absorbs movement much better. You won’t feel all the bumps on the road, and your Surly frame will remain stable when you ride. This is why it’s used on both mountain bike and fat bikes.

Surly frames are also favored by cyclists for touring bikes and commuting because they can be used on many different types of surfaces.


As for the disadvantages, these types of bikes are the heaviest you can ride. If your bike’s weight is an important issue, a Surly bike will likely not be the right choice. Materials like aluminum, carbon or titanium are much lighter.


Given that you have to move more weight when you’re pedaling, Surly bikes might be slower than other types of bicycles. If breaking the land speed record is not top of your priorities, it won’t be an issue. But, it’s important for competitive riders.


Steel contains iron, which over time, ends up rusting, and as it does, it loses some of its strength. If this happens to your bike frame, it might become unsafe. You’ll have to take good care of your Surlybike to prolong its life.


These types of bikes tend to be more expensive than aluminum bikes. For those looking for a low-budget option, Surly bikes may not be the right choice. They’re a mid-priced option for cyclists looking for a quality-build, long-lasting bike to have fun with.


How Much Does a Surly Bike Cost?”

Surly bikes are reasonably-priced for quality bikes, although they’re not as affordable as a mass-produced aluminum bicycle. There’s not much variety in pricing, the highest being the electric long-tail model — Surly Big Easy.

However, most of their models are mid-priced, so you won’t have to dig too deep to have fun with a Surly bike.

Are Surly Bikes and Surly Beer Related?”

Surly bikes and Surly beer are not related, even though both companies come from Minnesota. The bicycle brand predates the beer.

Before Surly Brewing launched, representatives of the two companies got together and reached an agreement on the use of the name Surly. Surly bikes get to use the word “Surly,” while the beer always uses “Surly Brewing” to avoid confusion.

Is Salsa a Good Bike Brand?”

Salsa is another brand that’s loved by bike enthusiasts. They’re a part of the same parent company as Surly — QBP. Their bikes, from pavement to mountain bikes to fat tire models, are also made for adventure. However, their price range is wider, with some off-road models, far more expensive than a Surly.

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Are Surly Bikes Good?

Yes, Surly bikes are quality, relatively inexpensive bikes. They also have an extensive variety in their selection nowadays. From their original fat bikes to pavement, gravel, and long-distance cargo hauling with the Big Dummy — Surly offers bikes made for fun.

Surly bikes can be versatile for off-road riding, as well as commuters who want to enjoy some leisure time with their bike on the weekends.

The massive tires allow you to glide over gravel, snow or sand. The Surly trademark fat tire bikes are also practical for cyclists who don’t want to abandon riding during the winter months.

Still, whether a Surly bike is the best for you depends on what you want from a bicycle. If you’re looking for speed and are mostly riding on pavement, Surly might not be your first option. Given their specialization in steel bikes, a Surly bicycle can also be heavy to pedal.

One thing is certain, they’re a biking brand that aren’t afraid to break from the normal cycling trends — and for them, it’s paid off.


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