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  1. #1
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    First bike pack trip - CO trail - which Surly?

    Hello all,

    I am going to try a 5 day bikepack with 3 friends in September. The plan is to start the Colorado Trail in the Denver region and head West for 5 days or so. We'll see how far we make it. The point of this thread is to ask advice from the heads assembled here on which bike to take for the journey. I have a Surly Karate Monkey and a Surly Pugsley in my basement. I can't decide which bike to take. I am comfortable on both. The Karate Monkey is currently set up as a fixed gear, but I can cannibalize another bike to make it a 2x6 geared rig with a rigid fork (KM fork). The Pug is a 2010 standard unit. It only needs a wheel rebuild (going to drill out the Marges and replace the front SS hub with a second Shimano freehub) and will be run 2x9. Either bike can run the luggage I need (frame bags and such).

    Anybody have any opinions or experience to share? I would appreciate your thoughtful input. I am tempted to go with Pugs for the comfort and traction of the 4" tires, but the added weight over the KM will not be insignificant. In the end I am not so freaked out about the weight...I probably should be... Thanks!
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  2. #2
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    Depends on the trail, I guess. I own two bikes, a Salsa Fargo and a Salsa Mukluk. If there is a significant of road on the route I take the Fargo, otherwise the fatbike.
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  3. #3
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    I agree with outsider also maintaining the tires and tubes on the pugs would be a big deal replacement tubes are crazy heavy too.

  4. #4
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    Good point. Unless there was another fattie in the group and we could share the burden... I think I should experiment with a tubeless Marge set-up between now and take-off.
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  5. #5
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    Fat tires like the Larry generally last longer than regular mtb tires.
    Also, you don't need to carry, or even use those Surly anchor tubes. All I use (and many others) on my Pugs are Schwalbe ultralight freeride tubes, 185g

  6. #6
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    here is a tubeless set up on a pugs and this guy is legit i have gone tubeless and wont go back even bigger advantages for pugs Fatbike Tubeless | gypsy by trade

  7. #7
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    The CT has a lot of climbing, so I would lean toward the lighter bike, but that's me. Does the KM have a sus fork, or are you running it rigid? If the latter, it would probably change the equation in my mind.

  8. #8
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    The Pugs would be more comfy, but I would go with the KM just for the amount of climbing and hike-a-biking you're gonna be doing. There are some really techy sections but overall a lighter bike would wear you down less with the amount of miles you're going to be putting in. I would also go geared.

  9. #9
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    There is a lot (and I mean A LOT) of hike a bike and I think most riders on the CT try very hard to lighten the load. So, unless it is your strong desire to do it on a fattie, you're best bet for comfort and less stress on the body (and mentally) is a lighter bike. I think an average rider spends 40-50% of their time walking on the CT so pushing a heavy bike (loaded with gear) uphill for long stretches of time must be considered. However, you must pick a bike that fits with your intentions and goals. If it is possible, try to test ride each type of bike on the CT for a day to get a feel for each bike on the trail.

    As far as gearing goes (i.e. the choice between gears and SS, not what type of gearing), I think that is a personal choice more than anything.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by FTC Rider View Post
    There is a lot (and I mean A LOT) of hike a bike and I think most riders on the CT try very hard to lighten the load. So, unless it is your strong desire to do it on a fattie, you're best bet for comfort and less stress on the body (and mentally) is a lighter bike. I think an average rider spends 40-50% of their time walking on the CT so pushing a heavy bike (loaded with gear) uphill for long stretches of time must be considered. However, you must pick a bike that fits with your intentions and goals. If it is possible, try to test ride each type of bike on the CT for a day to get a feel for each bike on the trail.

    As far as gearing goes (i.e. the choice between gears and SS, not what type of gearing), I think that is a personal choice more than anything.
    40-50% hike-a-bike is a bit overestimated imo. Since OP is only riding for 5 days, most of the hike a bike is during the second half of trail which they may not reach. There's only a few hike-a-bike sections from Waterton Canyon to Breckenridge. Once you get to Breck there's definitely more hiking involved.

  11. #11
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    unless you are riding though a lot of deep sand, take the KM with gears.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by buddhak View Post
    The Karate Monkey is currently set up as a fixed gear, but I can cannibalize another bike to make it a 2x6 geared rig with a rigid fork (KM fork). The Pug is a 2010 standard unit. It only needs a wheel rebuild (going to drill out the Marges and replace the front SS hub with a second Shimano freehub) and will be run 2x9. Either bike can run the luggage I need (frame bags and such).
    I've bikepacked on my Pugs and a 29er HT. Both work fine. Take whichever one makes you smile the most. If the trail is rough the big tires on the Pugs can really take the edge of the terrain. OTOH if it's smooth you'll probably be a bit more efficient on the KM.

    Having said that you are choosing between two great bikes. There is no way to make a bad choice.

    I would carry a DH bike tube as spare rather than a Surly fat tube on the Pugs. You'll likely not need it so just bring some patches and deal with flats as needed. You can run tubeless on the Pugs if you think flats are likely. I rarely get flats on my Pugs even in thorny places like Baja. Just came back from 7 weeks down there and had zero flats on my Pugs.
    Safe riding,

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  13. #13
    zrm
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    I would go with the lightest, most efficient option you have.

  14. #14
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    I've never ridden the CO trail but I'd highly consider taking the pugs unless you'll be trying to keep up with 3 other guys that aren't on fat bikes and want to go fast. The extra traction and cushion would be highly appreciated in rocky terrain. If you ride the KM, I'd make sure you run the fattest tires you can fit and possibly a suspension fork. I think either bike will be fun and useful when it really comes down to it.

  15. #15
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    I thru rode the CT last summer on a steel hard tail with a fox fork. Glad I had the fork for some sections. In my opinion you're far better off on the Monkey. Find a full cassette or gear range if you can or you'll be walking a bunch if your easy gear isn't easy enough. A lighter bike is easier to pedal up a hill. As everyone says there's a lot of climbing on the CT.....they're not lying.
    Good Luck, the CT has some absolutely beautiful sections. You guys will have fun.

  16. #16
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    A big thanks to the many who have responded to this thread.

    I was personally leaning towards the Pug for the reasons CycleAddict mentions. But I hear what everyone else seems to be saying, that the weight advantage of the the KM would be welcome. The KM is rigid and I have neither the budget nor desire for a new suspension fork. I have Panaracer Rampage tires that I like just fine and are as wide can be. The plan as it stands is to go 4-5 days on the segment immediately to the West of the first wilderness section. So essentially before Breckenridge. I can get just about any gearing I want on the two bikes (as low as 20t x 34t in both cases), but I will simply have fewer gears on the KM due to the Hope SS 29er wheel I currently have.

    I won't be the weakest rider out there. I was hoping the traction and cush afforded by the Pugs tires would make it worthwhile. It is a great bike, to which any who has owned one can attest. Unfortunately, not only do I lack bikepacking experience, but I also I have no experience riding at elevation in CO. I have some thinking to do...
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  17. #17
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    Since you have no experience at elevation, I would recommend starting at Lost Park over Kenosha Pass. It's a bit further drive but It's a fun section and that first climb is long but a very easy grade to warm up the lungs.

  18. #18
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    Kosayno,

    Thanks for the tip. After some extensive Google Mapping it looks like the segments from Kenosha pass to Turquoise Lake (Leadville) might be doable in the time we have available. We will see.


    EDIT: It just struck me that "warm up the lungs" might be a euphemism for "baptize your lungs with burning hurt." Can't wait.
    Last edited by buddhak; 01-29-2013 at 07:39 AM.
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  19. #19
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    Even for intermediate riders with lots of breaks and enjoying scenery, from Kenosha to Leadville seems really short for 5 days. You can't actually ride to Turquoise Lake because of the Holy Cross Wilderness. You actually have to catch the detour at Wurtz Ditch Rd which is only 2.5 miles into segment 9. So from Kenosha to Wurtz Ditch Rd is only 83.5 miles.

    If you hop on the CT from the Lost Park campground where segment 4 comes out of the Holy Cross Wildernes and ride to Kenosha it's another 23ish miles. You do have an easy 4 mile detour down creek and then a short climb back onto segment 5 to go around the Lost Creek Wilderness. Like I said before, the climb from Lost Park is very easy but its about 7-8 miles through a nice mountain meadow. This section can easily be done in one day even if you go at a leisure pace. Most bikepackers miss this little gem because of the detour but it is well worth the extra hour drive from Kenosha Pass. And if you hit in late September, the aspens on this side are better than the more popular aspens on the west side of Kenosha heading towards Breck. If you do start this on the weekend, be prepared for the hoards of hikers and bikers at Kenosha Pass.

    Google maps? Haha. If you don't have any CT resources I can make you copies for the segments you want out of my CT databook.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by kosayno View Post
    Even for intermediate riders with lots of breaks and enjoying scenery, from Kenosha to Leadville seems really short for 5 days. You can't actually ride to Turquoise Lake because of the Holy Cross Wilderness. You actually have to catch the detour at Wurtz Ditch Rd which is only 2.5 miles into segment 9. So from Kenosha to Wurtz Ditch Rd is only 83.5 miles.

    If you hop on the CT from the Lost Park campground where segment 4 comes out of the Holy Cross Wildernes and ride to Kenosha it's another 23ish miles. You do have an easy 4 mile detour down creek and then a short climb back onto segment 5 to go around the Lost Creek Wilderness. Like I said before, the climb from Lost Park is very easy but its about 7-8 miles through a nice mountain meadow. This section can easily be done in one day even if you go at a leisure pace. Most bikepackers miss this little gem because of the detour but it is well worth the extra hour drive from Kenosha Pass. And if you hit in late September, the aspens on this side are better than the more popular aspens on the west side of Kenosha heading towards Breck. If you do start this on the weekend, be prepared for the hoards of hikers and bikers at Kenosha Pass.

    Google maps? Haha. If you don't have any CT resources I can make you copies for the segments you want out of my CT databook.
    Yeah, I know, not exactly topo maps and a guidebook. I'll get there. I am just getting a rough cut idea of what the itinerary will be. This is super helpful, Kosayno. I can't thank you enough for your input. It turns out our trip will be 4 days and 3 nights because of parental duty constraints. Do you still think Lost Park to Leadville is too conservative?
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  21. #21
    Dinner for wolves
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    Another questions for you, Kosayno: Do you have any recollection of segment 8? Is it a difficult section? I am wondering if going from the middle of segment 6 THROUGH segment 8 to Uncle Bud's Cabin (near Turquoise Lake on Segment 9) is a pipe dream.
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  22. #22
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    Following ko's sage advice, you'll begin with a mellow cruise up this lovely valley (opposite direction I'm headed in pic). Be sure to take it all in, despite your burning lungs.
    Les grimpées, je m'en fou!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by buddhak View Post
    Another questions for you, Kosayno: Do you have any recollection of segment 8? Is it a difficult section? I am wondering if going from the middle of segment 6 THROUGH segment 8 to Uncle Bud's Cabin (near Turquoise Lake on Segment 9) is a pipe dream.
    Segment 8 is fun and has some excellent views. From Highway 91 it starts easy and then it can get a bit difficult climbing up to Searle Pass and then Kokomo Pass. The descend from Kokomo Pass down to Camp Hale is awesome and then the climb back up to Highway 24 beginning seg 9 isn't difficult.

    The toughest part you're gonna hit is seg 7 from Breck to Copper Mountain. You'll do a lot of walking there. I recall it taking me over 6 hours to do this segment which is only 12.8

    Seg 6 Kenosha to Breck is the best on your itinerary and you should start from Kenosha and not the middle of the segment. The descend from Georgia Pass to Swan River is gonna destroy your wrists with a rigid setup but the next descend once you ascend from Swan River is one of the best on the whole CT. The thing though is to be careful and not get lost. From the Swan River up, there's different trails and irc, there are at least 4 intersections that aren't marked which way the CT is. I remember always going left at those unmarked junctions and didn't get lost. This could mess up you time frame if you do turn wrong at the junctions. Same goes for seg 7, a few unmarked junctions So be careful.

    Just a question, how important is it to get to Turquoise Lake? I've backpacked seg 9 to Turquoise Lake and didn't find anything particularly special about the lake. Like I mentioned, the easiest exit out of seg 9 is at Wurtz Ditch Rd 2.5 miles into the segment and then catch highway 24 into Leadville. From Leadville you have to take another road to get to Turquoise Lake.

    For an intermediate rider at touring pace, seg 6, 7 and 8 could take you three days. Seg 4 from the exit of Lost Creek Wilderness and 5 including a 4 mile detour can take 1/2 half day.

    Here's an overnighter I did last year as a traing ride when I was a little out of shape: I Heart Bikepacking and the whole CT: Durango or Bust!!!
    Whatever you do you're gonna have fun.

  24. #24
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    Nothing special about Turquoise. Just using it as a place holder (from space, at least). Thanks for the advice, again. No wonder segment 7 looked so short...should have known it was a ball breaker. I suppose that is part of the whole experience. I will read your travelogues, for sure. And I just ordered the maps/databook set. I am stoked to do this. I am probably going to put the pugs on a severe diet and just use the fatty - in defiance of all the good advice I have gotten here. The thought of riding the KM rigid scares the crap out of me moreso than pedaling the pugs up mountain.
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  25. #25
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    Can I suggest checking out a trace of the route in google earth? I am preparing to race the trail in July, and flying through has been useful for getting an idea of what each segment is like. Toby Gadd has a gpx up on his site for the race route. You will need to convert it to a kml file for google earth.

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