This is my 3rd season with a '12 Surly Mainlander that came with Big Fat Larry tires. They have about 700 miles on them in that time, and during my first fat bike race last week I got to check out a bunch of different tire types. I had been thinking about the Bud & Lou combination for a while, but seeing them in person made up my mind.
Long story short, these tires are freeking amazing in the snow. The BFL's never had traction like these tires do, even when brand new.
I normally ride at 4 to 4.5 PSI in snow, and lately I've been dropping down to 3 PSI with the BFL's in attempt to get more traction. Traction has been getting worse, and with about 3/4 of the tread gone they were getting pretty dicey to ride on anything other than well-groomed trails. You can see what I mean by comparing the new Bud with my old front BFL.
Today's conditions were interesting. We haven't had much snow in the past few weeks, so the trails have about 4' of base, but very well packed down. We had a couple of inches last night, so a little bit of powder on-top of the hard-pack. These trails are used mostly by snowmobiles, so they're pretty regularly chewed up.
It was also very windy today, so I encountered several 8"-12" deep drifts.
The track pattern of the tire is expectedly different from the BFL's, and as you'd expect the knobbier tread really digs into the snow.
I had several epiphanies while riding today. Almost immediately, I noticed how much easier it was to ride in a straight-line. With my BFL's, especially on narrow trails, I really struggled to keep a clean line. I always figured it was just poor skills on my part (certainly partly true), but the new tires made it clear how much I was fighting the BFL's slipping constantly. The best part with this was being able to enjoy riding the beam on some of the single track trails we have in the area without constantly falling off into a +4' deep pile of powder.
The 2nd most apparently thing was I was able to climb trails I had never been able to climb before. Not only was the rear traction much, much easier to maintain, I had to change my forward/back balance less often to get great traction.
3rd, if I did have to hop off on a steep climb, I could never really restart on a grade with the BFL's, unless the trail was exceptionally well groomed (by steep I more than about a 5% grade). With the Bud & Lou, it was trivial. The Lou would dig in even at super slow speeds giving me enough time to get the pedals moving. This is a game changer for me. I only had to do this twice in an entire 2 hour ride, compared to over 10 times the same ride would have been a week ago.
4th, descents! I was able to go 2x to 3x faster on some well-known descents, compared to my BFL's. I would frequently have the front end slide out and end in a crash with the BFL's - usually at least once a ride. I expected (and still do), that was largely a skill thing on my part, but with the Bud & Lou there was effectively no sliding and I was able to bomb down some of the hills. I'll need to be cautious as my confidence builds here, since going a lot faster is gonna hurt when I do finally exceed traction
5th, and this was perhaps the most fun thing today. The 8"-12" deep drifts really showed how much better the tires were. I was able to ride right over them... the couple of times I got a little squirrelly, I just pedaled harder and suddenly the rear gave me so much traction it was almost like I jumped over the drift. Absolutely amazing.
The Bud & Lou have two directions you can mount them then - one is labeled propulsion and one is labeled cornering. I have both tires set up for propulsion, so theoretically, I'd have even more traction if I swapped them around.
One thing you would rightly expect is that the Bud & Lou should be a slower than the BFL's... I'd say in theory, yes, but certainly not for me. Outside of perfectly groomed wide trails, the Bud & Lou were so much easier for me to transfer power to forward momentum that I think I'm significantly faster. Now, I am a back-of-the-pack XC racer, so a fast rider might notice a bigger difference when things get over 10-15 MPH or so.
I still can't get over how awesome my ride was today. They were $130 each where I found them, and absolutely no regrets. If you haven't tried a snow-specific tire like this, do it. You won't be sorry.