Surly Big Dummy frame & fork review£750.00

Utility bike frame and fork with a fun name

BikeRadar score4/5

From the people who brought us the Pugsley, the Steamroller and the Karate Monkey comes the latest zany-named creation, the Big Dummy. 

While it’s clear Surly likes to have fun with its designs, this is one bike with a serious undertone. With petrol prices on the up, the Big Dummy provides a stepping stone to a car-free lifestyle without many of the compromises you might associate with making such a shift.

Using Xtracycle’s tried and tested modular FreeRadical concept (a bolt-on ‘boot’ that boosts a bicycle’s capacity), the Big Dummy is rated to a substantial 90kg capacity. 

Over the past couple of months, we’ve hauled everything from garden waste, shelves, massive boxes, people and even other bikes. 

On the one hand, the Xtracycle system takes time to master, requiring more creative thinking to figure out the best ways to pack on cargo than other load haulers, such as the Burrows 8 Freight – and there are times when a centre-mounted kickstand would come in very handy. 

On the other hand, there’s no denying its versatility, with a modular system that allows you to literally plug in different supports, depending on the load you’re carrying.

The Dummy comes as a frame and fork option and once built up with a mix of mechanical disc brakes and suitably tough components, tipped the scales at 19kg. 

Despite this, it’s surprisingly enjoyable to ride around town and handles far better than its 2.12m length would suggest, once you get used to its larger turning circle.

Like all Surlys, tubing comes courtesy of tough 4130 chromoly steel and benefits from their reassuringly pragmatic approach to frame design – it’s riddled with eyelets, providing points for four water bottles, mudguards and a front rack, plus there are mounts for a kickstand, a Rohloff-friendly dropout and clearance for 2.5in tyres

So why invest in one over the cheaper Xtracycle conversion kit, or the Kona Ute?

For the most part, this will come down to how much you really intend to use it, as there’s no doubt the Dummy is far superior at hauling cargo loads over long distances, both on and off road. It’s incredibly stiff laterally, thanks to its oversized, tandem-like down-tube, though you still need to take care to load the two sides evenly and adjust your riding technique – sitting and spinning works best.

We’d even consider touring on a Dummy if you really needed to carry everything and the kitchen sink, though its sheer size can be a real issue for transport, whether in a car or on a train. 

Which, despite its versatility in the city and beyond, brings us back to how specialist this bike really is: ultimately, it only makes a worthwhile investment if you really intend to use it to its max. With all the modular add-ons, the Dummy certainly isn’t cheap. 

But if you’re really dedicated to cutting back your reliance on cars in the city, we’re sure it won’t be long before you make your money back – quite aside from the fun you’ll have in the process, and the health and environmental benefits too. 

This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
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