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Old 12-17-12, 02:35 PM   #1
freediver
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ATV trail bike options

I normally tour (2-3 day jaunts really) with my family. My Big Dummy or the tandem (with child's stoker) seem to fit the bill pretty well for those journeys. However, I found myself with some kid-free time last summer and decided to piece together a little 170 loop that left from my house and connected up with three different trail so that I could avoid roads as much as possible.

Everything went great until I hit the the second trail- that was to connect me to the third some 60 miles later. It was an ATV trail (Cheese country trail) that was so crappy I only made it 11 miles in two hours after I crashed a couple times and tweaked my knee I decided to pull out a map and find an alternate route home. So much for all of my advanced planning and actually believing what people had written on some of the trail review sites.

So, I decided that I was going to look I to a new bike for Christmas. At first I was thinking of using the parts off of my existing winter bike and build up a Surly Troll. This would be the cheapest route and allow me to change things up in the future. Then, I started reading through lots of threads on the MTB sites, fat bike sites, bike packing sites, and numerous other blogs. I think I've started to get the itch for a Pugsley instead. I'm just wondering if this Is total overkill for the summer bike tours I want to do? There are other ATV tails around the state that could be connected into some nice long tours of a couple hundred miles off road. I was more than impressed with the riders that I bumped into along the way- they all slowed down and gave me a wide berth. I now see that there is even an off road trail/race that goes from one end of the state to the other. Lots of possibilities for the future.

So, Troll, Pugsley, or just a LHT with some really knobby tires? The rigid mtb that I was using had 1.5 slicks on it and may have worked better with some better rubber. It's going to be replaced no matter what because I need some thing with a taller stack height for my neck- crashed my bike on the ice last winter and pinched/tore things in my neck. I just haven't decided what to replace it with. I do live in Wisconsin so a fatbike would be somewhat useful in winter- just not sure if it will be more useful than the studded tires I already have.

Thanks for reading through all of this,

Jon
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Old 12-17-12, 04:31 PM   #2
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I ride a Troll and I've found it adequate for everything I've tried to use it on, except for extremely sandy conditions. I have not tried it on snow, nor on extremely technical or downhill MTB trails, nor on especially atrocious dirt roads, but it's served me well. I think it's one of the top choices for an off-road touring bike for a reasonable price. The Novara Safari from REI is a lot cheaper and is more of a touring bike (whereas the Troll also serves as an MTB) and then there are others in the price range of the Troll too, which you are probably aware of (Ogre, Fargo).

Haven't ridden a fatbike, but it seems like it might be overkill for general touring. I'd love to have one, but I don't live in a place where the conditions merit it, and there's the cost of course. If you ride a lot in really snowy winters, it could be a good bike to have around, and that might make it worth it for you to get.
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Old 12-17-12, 04:53 PM   #3
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I'm using a Origin 8 CX700 with 700x47 Schwalbe Smart Sam tires. It's been overkill both on and off-road in Illinois. I'm not convinced that a tire bigger than 700x50 is needed in the midwest.

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Old 12-17-12, 05:18 PM   #4
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I ride some of the same trails as you with my Fargo. I run 2.1" Vulpines or 2.35" Rampages with success. I like to ride gravel and forest roads as well. I have had the same itch for a Pugsley/Mukluk but ultimately feel that the Fargo does the job better. If you are going to ride in snow or sand, then a fatbike is the way to go. Another offroad tourer could be the Surly Krampus, a fatbike lite that is more agile. We're fortunate in Wisconsin to have so many types of roads, paths and trails to ride along with many wonderful kinds of landscapes to explore. Good luck!
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Old 12-17-12, 06:12 PM   #5
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I used to use a Giant TCX cross bike for some light touring and it worked fine for all of the crushed gravel and forest road trails that I would normally ride. What I came across on this ATV trail was too much ot handle. I know some of the trails up by Black River Falls are all sand that is soft and deep. It seems like a fatbike could handle it without and issue, but I'm wondering if just a wide, knobby tire on a Troll could accomplish the same thing for a lot less money.
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Old 12-17-12, 07:50 PM   #6
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No clue about touring, but I've ridden some pretty crappy Jeep/ATV/offroad trails with 26x2.35 knobbies on my hardtail. Wasn't necessarily easy, but doable. The Troll's 2.7" clearance should make it more doable. Plus, no special components needed.

No clue about snow and ice, as I'm a Southern boy. Just the mention of snow will see the supermarkets cleared of bread, eggs, and milk. An inch will shut the city down for 3 days.
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Old 12-18-12, 07:30 AM   #7
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I'd say a Surly Pugsley.
They make every trail feel a lot easier and more confortable. Also, you can have a secound 29er/700c wheelset and run whichever conventional tires you want.
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Old 12-18-12, 08:39 AM   #8
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I live a couple miles from the Cheese Country and ride it quite often. I have a Fargo and Mukluk and ride both on there with very little issues at all. I did a 5 day bike trip on the Fargo this summer and it handled great on the paved roads, rail trails and the Cheese Country. I think it is a super versatile bike. Sure you are going to push a little more rubber on the paved roads, but in bike touring you aren't in much of a hurry anyways. I also take it out on the gravel roads in SW Wisconsin and I can hop on off road trails without any issue.
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Old 12-18-12, 09:56 AM   #9
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I live a couple miles from the Cheese Country and ride it quite often. I have a Fargo and Mukluk and ride both on there with very little issues at all. I did a 5 day bike trip on the Fargo this summer and it handled great on the paved roads, rail trails and the Cheese Country. I think it is a super versatile bike. Sure you are going to push a little more rubber on the paved roads, but in bike touring you aren't in much of a hurry anyways. I also take it out on the gravel roads in SW Wisconsin and I can hop on off road trails without any issue.
Another Fargo in Iowa county! Do you ride your Mukluk at Governor Dodge? I occasionally see a fat bike track there. I live east of Hollandale and often ride in the Mineral Point and Dodgeville areas.
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Old 12-18-12, 10:17 AM   #10
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Only looking at QBP's brands?
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Old 12-18-12, 10:44 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by freediver View Post
I normally tour (2-3 day jaunts really) with my family. My Big Dummy or the tandem (with child's stoker) seem to fit the bill pretty well for those journeys. However, I found myself with some kid-free time last summer and decided to piece together a little 170 loop that left from my house and connected up with three different trail so that I could avoid roads as much as possible.

Everything went great until I hit the the second trail- that was to connect me to the third some 60 miles later. It was an ATV trail (Cheese country trail) that was so crappy I only made it 11 miles in two hours after I crashed a couple times and tweaked my knee I decided to pull out a map and find an alternate route home. So much for all of my advanced planning and actually believing what people had written on some of the trail review sites.

So, I decided that I was going to look I to a new bike for Christmas. At first I was thinking of using the parts off of my existing winter bike and build up a Surly Troll. This would be the cheapest route and allow me to change things up in the future. Then, I started reading through lots of threads on the MTB sites, fat bike sites, bike packing sites, and numerous other blogs. I think I've started to get the itch for a Pugsley instead. I'm just wondering if this Is total overkill for the summer bike tours I want to do? There are other ATV tails around the state that could be connected into some nice long tours of a couple hundred miles off road. I was more than impressed with the riders that I bumped into along the way- they all slowed down and gave me a wide berth. I now see that there is even an off road trail/race that goes from one end of the state to the other. Lots of possibilities for the future.

So, Troll, Pugsley, or just a LHT with some really knobby tires? The rigid mtb that I was using had 1.5 slicks on it and may have worked better with some better rubber. It's going to be replaced no matter what because I need some thing with a taller stack height for my neck- crashed my bike on the ice last winter and pinched/tore things in my neck. I just haven't decided what to replace it with. I do live in Wisconsin so a fatbike would be somewhat useful in winter- just not sure if it will be more useful than the studded tires I already have.

Thanks for reading through all of this,

Jon
For off-road touring, I'd suggest an off-road machine with suspension fork, at the very least. A full suspension bike wouldn't be a bad idea either, especially something like the Specialized Epic. With a lockable front fork, the Epic is rigid when you need it to be...those road sections...and suspended when you really need it. A suspended bike (front and/or rear) has advantages over rigid bikes that aren't just related to comfort. A suspended fork allows you better control and rear suspension aids in climbing. That suspended bikes provide comfort from impacts is just an added bonus. For the bags to carry stuff look into the 'bike packing' gear from Relevate Design or similar manufacturers.
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Old 12-18-12, 05:47 PM   #12
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Seeing as this is Wisconsin, and not Colorado, full squishy seems overkill- especially for touring. If I lived someplace with actual mountains I might think different.

I'm also not worried about the rail-to-trail routes as they are smooth enough to ride on with my road tandem fully loaded with kids in tow. My cross bike with 38's also worked great. Pretty much everything I've tried works well on those. Fenders helped whe the ground was wet, but things never got so soft, or rutted, that I ever needed much more than that.

Bigfo, what kind of rubber were you running on the Fargo? I was wondering if a 2" knobby would be enough to make it through, or if the Pug would just be that much nicer. As it was I got to south Wayne and bailed out onto the road for a very hilly ride up to Yellowstone Lake. Next morning I got up and made my way to darlington so I could zip home on the Military ridge trail. I never realized just how hilly that part of the state was until I got off gravel trails.

I had heard of riders doing the entire length of the cheese country trail on cross bikes, but they must be a hell of lot better rider than I am- or have some sweet tires with a good amount of tread. If it could be do e on a LHT with proper tires so much the better. Still not sure how that would work on the soft sand trails up north.

As far as brands go, I'm looking for anything with handle bars above seat height. I have something I could build up into a 26" adventure bike- with the right frame. The Troll seemed like and obvious choice without getting too spendy ( Rivendell, Soma, Tout Terrain, etc.), and is readily available in all my local shops. The Pugsley is cheaper than the 907 I tired and I like the idea of 135 spacing over the 170 on the mukluks. I'm open to other ideas as long as I can get them from a local shop to be serviced.

I guess another route I'm interested in at some point in the future is this Trans-Wisconsin trail I've read a,little bit about. They mentioned in on the Adventure Cycling website and it appears to have been put together by some dualie motorcycle enthusiasts. Looking at photos of the trail it looks like soft sand and mud the further north you go.

Thanks for all the replies so far,

Jon
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Old 12-18-12, 05:55 PM   #13
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See if they can get a built up bike with an uncut steerer, so you can decide the handle bar height,
by riding it.. typically a frame size gets the fork precut for the frame size..

check with your favorite bike shop.
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Old 12-18-12, 06:05 PM   #14
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That's what I had them do with my Big Dummy. I planned the same route with any other Surly bike I looked at. If all I need is bigger rubber on a standard mountain bike I guess I could always put some more aggressive tread on the Dummy.

Just waiting for this storm to hit us so I can try a fatbike in the snow and see how much better it rides than the 2" studded tires I'm currently running on my winter bike. If the ride is a lot better it might be worth the cost of the bike just to ride around town- with ATV trail touring an added bonus. I've read conflicting reports of how they handle on ice so I'm pretty keen to find out for myself.

Jon
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Old 12-19-12, 04:29 AM   #15
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Another Fargo in Iowa county! Do you ride your Mukluk at Governor Dodge? I occasionally see a fat bike track there. I live east of Hollandale and often ride in the Mineral Point and Dodgeville areas.
Those tracks are probably mine! I live right in Dodgeville so it's easy to get out there without a car.

Free diver I run 2.1 Nano's on the Fargo, they are a good all around tire and handle fine.
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Old 12-19-12, 09:11 AM   #16
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Seeing as this is Wisconsin, and not Colorado, full squishy seems overkill- especially for touring. If I lived someplace with actual mountains I might think different.

I'm also not worried about the rail-to-trail routes as they are smooth enough to ride on with my road tandem fully loaded with kids in tow. My cross bike with 38's also worked great. Pretty much everything I've tried works well on those. Fenders helped whe the ground was wet, but things never got so soft, or rutted, that I ever needed much more than that.
"Mountain bike" is just a name. It doesn't mean that the bike can only be ridden in mountains or only on steep trails. When you say

Quote:
It was an ATV trail (Cheese country trail) that was so crappy I only made it 11 miles in two hours after I crashed a couple times and tweaked my knee
that just shouts "mountain bike!" Maybe not a dual suspension but at least a bike with a front suspension. Another advantage of a mountain bike for touring is that it opens up parts of the world that you wouldn't necessarily want to do on a bike that would cost you 2 hours, 2 crashes and a tweaked knee. Additionally, suspension front and rear is going to provide you with more suspension then 4" of uncontrolled bouncy rubber is going to provide at the same or less weight. 4" of tire may be nice on sand or snow but it's just a basketball when you are on rocks.

You are correct that a cross bike...or a touring bike which is better for touring than a cross...will handle a railtrail. I've done the length of the Katy once, and most of it another time, on a loaded touring bike and had no issues. But I've done railbeds here in Colorado several times that I wouldn't want to even attempt on a loaded touring bike. For those I pull out the mountain bike. As an added bonus, I can explore connecting roads and trails that I couldn't even attempt on my touring bike.
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Old 12-19-12, 11:32 AM   #17
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It is good to see a few cheeseheads on here! I live in Madison as well ad love the **** out of the rail trails here in southern Wi. This summer I tried the Cheese Country for the first time and was also defeated. My plan was the Badger trail to Monroe, then Cheese Country to Darlington. After that roads to Potosi, the up the Miss. river to LaCrosse, then the rail back to Reedsburg and roads to Madison. I bailed the Cheese country after about 10 miles, then took roads to Darlington. I have a Co-Motion Pangea with Conti Top Contact - 26 x 1.9 inch. I want to do part of the trans wi next summer, and am in the same boat as you. I can't afford a new bike so I think I am going to try the biggest tires I can fit and see if that works in the sand. I think the biggest I can go and keep my fenders is 2.1 inch, I don't know if that will be enough. keep us posted with your choice, I would love to hear how fat-bikes work on some of Wisconsin's ATV trails.
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Old 12-19-12, 11:40 AM   #18
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Hi cyccommute. The problem with the ATV trails here in Wi is not so much technical riding, it is the trail surface. The trail is a combonation of sand and gravel, neither of which is packed at all. Some of the gravel has 2 or 3 inch rocks, but nothing bigger. For this surface, I don't think suspension would help much. A 4 inch tire however might be just the ticket.
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Old 12-19-12, 12:58 PM   #19
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I got a chance to try a necro pugsley in the snow today. First I went for a ride on my current winter bike with 2.0 studded tires first and then I went over the route with the Pug. I couldn't believe how much more stable the pug was on the crud I was riding in. I might just have to get one for winter and have it do double duty on the ATV trails in the summer.

Anyone using the necro pug? I was looking for the standard one, but was offered a deal on a necro. I as thinking that the interchangeable wheels on the standard pug and the triple rings would make me favor the cheaper one, but I'm open to opinions and those with Fatbikes experience.

I've owned both rigid and front suspension MTB bikes and the squish wouldn't help that much on the trails I'm looking at. Good to hear that other shad the same issues as me- because now I have an excuse.
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Old 12-23-12, 04:02 PM   #20
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Made my decision! I got a nice price on a surly necromancer and, along with my trade in, got the price down enough for my wife to agree with me that I deserved a new bike.

After a few test rides in our recent snow fall I decided that even if I don't get a chance to ride on any ATV trails next summer, it will more than pay for itself for winter riding around town.

I was a little hesitant to jump up to the necromancer for touring, but the everything cage mounts on the fork, the price, and the nicer parts spec convinced me that I didn't need the triple crank.

Jon
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Old 12-23-12, 07:12 PM   #21
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Nice choice!

On the moment that you are climbing a rocky loose trail or riding some damp soft terrain you'll know the Necro was a good choice for touring. I doubt you'll miss the triple crank
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