Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops fat bike - long-term MBUK test - video

Larger-than-life trail tank

At Mountain Biking UK magazine – sister brand to BikeRadar – we ride our long-term test bikes hard for a year, constantly scrutinising their performance, to bring you the truth behind the marketing waffle. We also use them as test beds for the latest kit, chopping and changing parts to help you decide which upgrades are worth spending your money on. In this new video series we'll be giving you a closer look at some of our rides. 

Long-termer #3: Matt Orton's Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops fat bike

MBUK deputy art editor Matt Orton is something of a fat bike aficionado. After testing a titanium Travers for our sister mag What Mountain Bike last year, he signed up for the Rovaniemi 150 snow race and pestered Ison Distribution into lending him this steel Surly for a year. Over to Matt:

I’ve had a thing for chunky rubber for a few years now and despite early ridicule and a hefty course of electro shock conversion therapy I’m still a believer. Fat bikes aren't as sluggish or unwieldy as they look, and I've had more fun riding fats than a lot of other bikes. They may not be for everyone, but I'd definitely recommend taking one for a spin.

Surly is the godfather of fatbiking, and its latest wide-rimmed offering is a trail-focused ripper with slack angles borrowed from Surly's 29+ Krampus. The regular Ice Cream Truck boasts incredibly fun 5in tyres, but the Ops version is more UK-friendly with its stock 4in set-up. This is my only long-term test bike this year so taking an alternative ‘slim bike’ out isn’t an option – it’s fat all the way. After a few months ripping up the trails (and just about anything in front of me, for that matter), here are my thoughts...

Highs 

Steel is real deal: Transitioning from last year's lightweight titanium fat bike to steel wasn't as traumatic as first feared. Yes, it's definitely heavier and lets you know it, but so what? Pedal harder, damn you! It’s more capable on the climbs than you'd expect and is no problem on the descents, with the added bonus that it'll get you fit in no time. 

Forking awesome: The ride of the stock steel fork was a pleasant surprise, so I was far from itching to swap it out for suspension. Its comfort and responsiveness mean it'll be welcomed back for bikepacking and XC adventures.

Lows 

Shifting issues: The MicroShift thumbshifters had to go fairly early on. They were really bloody good once I got used to forcing my thumbs from their naturally evolved position under the bar but I found it impossible to make rapid changes in fast and tight terrain – so, pretty much every trail centre I rode at with them. If your regular riding has a different focus, then I’d say keep them.

Narrow handlebar: I’m finding the 710mm Salsa Pro Moto 2 bar too narrow for my liking. I’ll be in the market for something in the 780mm range to add some leverage to cornering.

What's next?

Any opportunity to save some weight will be a high priority, especially in the wheels. Going tubeless will be the first step of the diet, with carbon rims being the ultimate weight loss method. Some tweaking of the RockShox Bluto fork will also be needed to get it dialled in for UK trails and appease those who get upset at the thought of fat bikes' undamped suspension. The huge contact patch makes finding the right tyre even more important than usual and the recent explosion in the fat tyre market means there are plenty to chose from. 

The lowdown

The surly ict ops in all its beastly glory: the surly ict ops in all its beastly glory
The surly ict ops in all its beastly glory: the surly ict ops in all its beastly glory

Surly rubber - nate is your mate!: surly rubber - nate is your mate!
Surly rubber - nate is your mate!: surly rubber - nate is your mate!

Thumbshifters aren't for everyone!: thumbshifters aren't for everyone!
Thumbshifters aren't for everyone!: thumbshifters aren't for everyone!

Matt hitting one of the fod's many technical dh trails: matt hitting one of the fod's many technical dh trails
Matt hitting one of the fod's many technical dh trails: matt hitting one of the fod's many technical dh trails

Man and machine : man and machine
Man and machine : man and machine

MBUK's 2015 long-term test bike fleet

For 2015 we've ordered in some of the coolest, most exciting and interesting bikes the industry has to offer so we can put them through their paces and let you guys know just how they hold up. We've got quite an assortment too, spanning a good mix of wheel sizes, disciplines and price brackets, from a steel fat bike to state-of-the-art carbon trail bikes. Look out for more long-termer videos on BikeRadar soon.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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