‘Adventure’ is right up there alongside ‘enduro’ on the list of overused cycling buzzwords. But if adventurers like Shackleton or Hillary were alive today and opted to use a bicycle for their expeditions, they would probably ride fat bikes.In fact, they would probably ride Surly’s Ice Cream Truck. Despite its funny name, the Ice Cream Truck is a go-anywhere, do-anything fat bike worthy of weekend or weeklong adventures.
- Highs: Will boldly take you where few bikes have gone before
- Lows: Given its heft, you’re not going to get anywhere in a hurry
- Buy if: You’re looking for a reliable bikepacking partner with a little extra baggage
Frame and equipment: all about versatility and reliability
Like all of Surly’s models, the Ice Cream Truck is constructed from no-frills 4130 chromoly steel tubing. It’s strong and stiff, albeit a bit heavier than high-end steel tubesets. Surly uses an electrophoretic deposition (or ED coating) process to protect the inside of the tubes from corrosion, a must on a rig that might spend a lot of time exploring coastlines.
Surly opted to incorporate a 132mm-wide, press-fit bottom bracket — a first for this company that prides itself on making curmudgeon-friendly frames that can be built up with parts you may already own. Surly chose to take this approach because it allowed for the chainstays to be pushed further apart, thereby increasing tire clearance.
The Ice Cream Truck can clear the largest fat bike tires on the market
The rear end uses Surly’s modular dropout system, which allows the Ice Cream Truck to use a 197x12mm thru axle with a Shimano direct-mount derailleur hanger, a 190mm quick-release, or to be set up as a singlespeed.
This theme of versatility carries on through the Ice Cream Truck’s many braze-ons and eyelets on the frame and matching fork, allowing for a nearly limitless combination of racks, frame bags, cages and fenders.
Surly offers the Ice Cream Truck as a frame with fork for US$825 as well as the complete model we tested here, which retails for US$2,700.
The complete build features SRAM’s very capable Guide RS brakes alongside a Shimano SLX drivetrain with an XT rear derailleur. The Crankset is Surly’s own O.D. model with a 36/22t chainring combination.Rolling stock is also provided by Surly, with the company’s Bud and Lou tire combo mounted on 100mm-wide Clownshoe rims.
In total, our size medium tester weighed in at 35.5lb / 16kg.
Ride and handling: lumbering onward with determination
The Ice Cream Truck is not particularly agile when compared to “skinnier” fat bikes such as the Trek Farley and the carbon-framed Borealis Echo, let alone traditional, mountain bikes, but that’s not the point. What the Ice Cream Truck can’t go around, it can go over. In fact, it will take the rider pretty much anywhere, so long as they’re willing to patiently spin and take in the scenery.
The Ice Cream Truck’s relaxed, 68 degree head angle inspires confidence on rocky descents and give the front end a reassuring ice-breaker-esque steering feel when breaking trail in deep snow.
Climbing isn’t this bike’s forte, given its heft. But the double crankset with its 36/22t chainring combo allows the rider to sit and spin. While there are a lot of benefits to running a 1x setup on fat bikes, there’s no substitute for a granny ring when trudging through deep snow or sand.
Granny rings still have a place on fat bikes
If you’re not an experienced fat bike rider, pedaling the Ice Cream Truck will take come getting used to. The 132mm-wide bottom bracket gives the bike a very wide stance — even compared to some other fat bikes on the market.
Surly’s Bud and Lou tire combo are the modern day equivalent of Panaracer’s venerable Smoke and Dart tires.
Upfront, Bud’s straight-line knob’s slice through soft terrain and keep the front wheel tracking true, while Lou’s paddle-like tread pattern delivers an incredible amount of traction. There are faster options for groomed trails and hardpack, but for snow, sand other loose train conditions this 26×4.8in tire combo works extremely well.
The fat bike family tree sprouts new branches every year. There are now superlight carbon fat bikes for racing, full suspension fat bikes, 27.5+ and 29+ models that are almost fat bikes, and true 27.5in fat bikes are on the way. In the midst of these niches within a niche, the Ice Cream Truck stays true to the core mission of the fat bike — traversing terrain that would otherwise be unridable.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Surly Ice Cream Truck, TIG-welded 4130 chromoly steel
- Fork: Surly Ice Cream Truck, 150mm spacing
- Headset: Cane Creek 40, tapered 1 1/8 – 1 1/2in
- Stem: Kalloy, 70mm
- Handlebar: Salsa ProMoto 2, 710mm
- Brakes: SRAM Guide RS, 180mm front, 160mm rear rotor
- Front derailleur: Shimano SLX FD-676D with Problem Solvers direct mount adapter
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore XT RD-M786 SGS
- Shift levers: Shimano SLX 2×10
- Cassette: Shimano SLX CS-HG81-10, 10-speed 11–36t
- Chain: KMC x10RB
- Crankset: Surly O.D. 36/22t
- Bottom bracket: Surly Press Fit 132mm
- Rims: Surly Clown Shoe, 100mm
- Front hub: Salsa 150x15mm thru-axle
- Rear hub: Salsa 197×12 thru-axle
- Spokes: DT Swiss Comp 14/15g
- Front tire: Surly Bud, 26×4.8in, 120tpi
- Rear tire: Surly Lou, 26×4.8in, 120tpi
- Saddle: Velo w/chromoly rails
- Grips: Surly Lock-on
- Seatpost: Kalloy, 30.9mm