SNOWBASIN, UT (BRAIN) Monday July 23 2012—Mike Clark has sold more than two-dozen Pugsleys and Moonlanders this year at Velo City Bikes, and so it was no surprise to see him at the Surly exhibit at 9:30 Sunday morning.
“We’ve had a blast with them,” said Clark, whose store in Western Michigan along the Great Lakes gets ample snow in the winter and summer tourists have miles of lakeshore sand to plow through on fat-tire Moonlanders.
And how fat is a Moonlander tire? It’s 4.7 inches of phat rubber riding on 100-millimeter rims. The slimmer Pugsleys ride on 3.8-inch tires and 65-millimeter rims. Alex Rims in Taiwan manufacturers them.
But Clark, like others at QBP’s dealer event, was waiting to grab the new Krampus, what Surly staff has dubbed a 29er Plus. Surly had only six on hand for dealers to test ride, and they were gone.
The Krampus is a throwback to another era when mountain bikes came without suspension. Instead, the Krampus floats on 3.1-inch tires with an outside diameter of 30.5 inches. Or 29er Plus. Dealers were waiting at the expo to test them, and they will have to wait until November for frames and wheels, with complete bikes, priced at $1,950, available in early spring.
Pat Scharfe, a buyer from Missoula Bicycle Works in Missoula, Montana, finishing a test ride on the Krampus, immediately whipped out a camera to take a photo of the green machine. “I’ve been riding 29ers with suspension and riding this, it’s like fun again. It’s an instant smile,” he said.
So what is it about these uber-fat Surlys that seems to put the fun back into riding? After all, an entry-level Pugsley retails for $1,650 and a Moonlander rings the cash register at $2,350.
Eric Sovern, whose unofficial title is “Surly Mouth,” said the Surly legacy dates back to the 1990s when a “couple of goofballs” wanted QBP management to let them design and sell steel, single-speed frames. Those “goofballs,” Wakeman Massie and Paul Ziegle, were into single speeds and had developed products like the Singulator and others under QBP’s 1X1 brand.
After much cajoling on their part, Steve Flagg said the company reluctantly gave them the greenlight to design and order 160 frames—the minimum order they could place. The frames sold out immediately.
QBP had discovered a market and the line needed a name, Sovern recalled. So QBP held a contest. The winner was their “hippie in-house lawyer” Matt Moore, Sovern said. “And you can print that,” he quipped.
That set the stage for Surly’s rise as a brand that combined sturdy simplicity with an attitude and price that makes it a favorite among some dealers. And as QBP expanded the line with models like its original 29er, the Karate Monkey, the Long Haul Trucker, a touring bike, and the Cross Check for the cyclocross crowd, maintaining its cult cache has been a challenge.
Flagg, when asked how many Surlys have been sold over the years, smiles and says he doesn’t really know, but it's been in the thousands. Other companies are apparently taking note. Flagg said the company recently fielded some inquiries from Specialized about its super-sized tires. “Maybe they’ll have something for 2014,” he said.