2018 Surly Pugsley 2.0: First Ride

Surly’s all new 2018 Pugsley sees a return to it expedition roots – the interchangeable front and rear wheels are back, for true back-of-beyond ‘exploratouring’. But that’s not all: unlike its predecessor, it can now easily swallow 4.3in tires, effectively offering a sweet spot between the monstrous-tired Moonlander and the Pugsley of old. Here’s our first ride report…

Thirteen years after its debut, a new and refreshed Pugsley is back for 2018. On the day of its launch, we’re heading out to tackle the 2018 Arrowhead 135 in Minnesota, which begins this morning (the forecast is promising -12f/-25c for tomorrow’s campout, so wish this desert dweller luck!). Having spent a few weeks prepping for the ride in New Mexico’s arroyos, read on for a First Ride report…

  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review, bikepacking
  • Surly Pugsley 2018

So what’s the same?

Well, the Pug 2.0 still uses a super-easy-to-source 135mm hub (available the world over, for time eternal I expect), lending the rear end that distinctive Pugsley wiggle, courtesy of the frame’s 17.5mm offset. For those unfamiliar with this now classic design, the concept is this: by cleverly matching an offset frame and a dished wheel you can achieve the required chainline for 135mm hubs, derailleur gears, and fat tires. The new Pugsley still very much a ‘touring’ fatbike and like the legacy Pugsley of old, it’s also non-suspension corrected. Geometry wise, relative bottom bracket height is very similar to the previous Pugsley; although the drop is greater, taller Edna rubber makes up the difference. And it’s still made of good old Surly 4130 Surly Chromoly steel.

2018 Surly Pugsley Review, bikepacking

And what’s different?

For a start, the wheelbase has actually grown by 11mm, further differentiating it from Surly’s ‘trail’ fatbike lineup, like the Wednesday. This offers extra heel to pannier to foot clearance and along with a slacker head tube – to the tune of a degree – helps stabilise the ride under load, which is often what you want when riding snow and sand.

The rear dropout has seen an ECR-style revamp; it’s Rohloff-friendly and can now accept thru axle hubs (142mmx12mm), or 135mm QR hubs (easily shimmed with Surly’s 10/12 Adapter Washers). Wheel removal is a bit of a battle with the latter though, one that involves lowering tire pressure to wiggle the wheel in and out. Up front, the front fork is offset too; the front hub comes ready to accept the cog of your choice for an easy singlespeed fix, should your freewheel self-destruct when you least expect it.

2018 Surly Pugsley Review, bikepacking
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review, bikepacking
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review, bikepacking

Parts-wise, there’s a 1×11 drivetrain, with a Race Face crankset with Shimano compatible-bearings. A generously-proportioned 11-46T cassette and a 30T chainring is mated to an SLX derailleur, providing precise shifting and plenty of low gears (because who needs big gear inches on a fat bike). This sturdy drivetrain is paired with simple, reliable Avid BB7s, a stout 36 hole wheelset, tubeless ready My Other Brother Daryll 80mm rims, and Surly’s own steel, multi-pronged Moloko handlebars.

2018 Surly Pugsley Review
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review
  • 2018 Surly Pugsley Review

In terms of its ride, the new Pugsley is reassuringly familiar; having spent the better part of a year riding a Pugsley across South America, the changes in its temperament are relatively subtle. My biggest initial impression is how extremely capable Pug 2.0 feels shod with Ednas; 4.3in tyres on 80mm rims made short work of all my local arroyos, especially compared to the 3.8in tires (on 65mm rims) that I’ve always run before. Need more flotation? You can even fit in a 5in tire at the back – though you’ll need a symmetrical Moonlander fork to match such a big tire up front. But to be honest, 4.3 Ednas ride so well that I can’t really imagine why you’d want to, except for very particular applications.

The eyelets at the back of the frame have also been neatly repositioned to accept a symmetrical rear rack, like Surly’s own – which is extremely handy. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the fork. In fact, the fork is my only real initial disappointment in this updated design. There’s only one set of three-pack eyelets per blade (compared to two, as we’ve become accustomed to thanks to the Ogre et al). And there’s a lack of mid-blade eyelets, which means there’s no provision for Surly’s excellent 8 and 24-Pack Racks without some unconventional fixes.

Still, when seen as a complete package, my first impression is definitely very positive. The best bikes make you want to ride. And keep riding. This is one incites me to dream up big new trips and simply explore. It lends itself to the most adventurous style of self-supported bike tour, one that has the potential to blend packrafting, beach combing, desert roaming, and rock crawling, taking you to places where other styles of touring bike would definitely fall short.

The new Pugsley has some big boots to fit and a loyal following, given its predecessor’s venerated heritage. There’s a lot more to be said about this new version, but we’ll save the rest for our full review.

Build Kit

Frame and Fork

  • Frame 100% Surly 4130 CroMoly steel, ED coated
  • Fork Custom-butted 4130 CroMoly, non-suspension, 203mm disc clearance
  • Seatpost Clamp diameter 30.0mm (Surly stainless included)


  • Crankset Race Face AEffect, 30t
  • Bottom bracket Race Face, black
  • Rear derailleur Shimano RD-M7000 SLX GS 11SPD
  • Cog or cogset Sunrace 11-speed, 11-46t
  • Chain KMC X11, Silver


  • Headset Cane Creek 40 custom
  • Brakes Avid BB7 Mountain, cable-actuated
  • Brake levers SRAM FR-5
  • Shifter Shimano SLX-11, 11-speed
  • Stem Promax 31.8
  • Handlebar Surly Moloko, Black
  • Saddle WTB Volt Sport
  • Seatpost 2-Bolt, 27.2mm


  • Front hub Surly Ultra New Disc, 36h. 6-bolt disc. Black
  • Rear hub Shimano M525 134mm
  • Rims Surly My Other Brother Darryl (80mm), black, dual hole pattern
  • Tires front & rear Surly Edna, 26 x 4.3 ̋, 60tpi
  • Surly Pugsley 2018 Review
  • surly pugsley 2018 review
  • Surly Pugsley 2018 Review

Three iterations (above), set up for the Arrowhead 137. Stay tuned for an in-depth review, pros and cons, and our final thoughts soon. For now you can get more details over at surly’s product page or their new blog post “Pugsley 2.0, Modern Take on a Classic”.

  • Size Tested XL
  • Sizes available XS, S, M, L, XL
  • place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $1899
  • Availability Completes next week / frames mid Feb
  • Manufacturer’s Details Surly Bikes
Cass Gilbert

Rider Profile

I’ve been embarking regularly on two-wheeled explorations for the last twenty years. Most recently, I connected the length of the Americas via the road less traveled, explored Mongolia on a fat bike, and helped create the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route. Given my love for mountain biking and backcountry touring, my ideal journey fuses the two, keeping to quiet dirt roads and singletrack where possible.

  • Height: 6’1” (1.85 M)
  • Weight: 165 lbs (74.8 KG)
  • Inseam: 35” (89 CM)
  • Current Location: Santa Fe, NM
  • Favorite Route: Peru Divide
  • Favorite Local Trail: Discount/Jawbone


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