This is our third annual roundup of trail bikes that aren’t priced to the stratosphere. We could call them affordable, budget, real-world, blue-collar or college-fund-friendly, but someone would take offense at our assumption of disposable income level. It doesn’t really matter though. These are great bikes for the price, and we’ll leave it up to you about what to spend. Each bike was hand picked, not just for its price, but its components, geometry and modern features. From Issue #189.
Get an overview of all of the bikes in this test, here, and keep an eye out for full reviews of each.
Tester: Katherine Fuller
Age: 29, Height: 5’4”, Weight: 120 lbs., Inseam: 30”
Sizes: XS, S (tested), M, L, XL
P.J. O’Rourke opined in a 2010 issue of Car and Driver about why he chose a Jeep Wrangler as his daily vehicle. He described the utilitarian machine as “three things not easily found these days: straight, square and forthright.”
O’Rourke wrote of irrational love, acknowledging he would rarely use the Wrangler off road and explained that cars are largely outward manifestations of our inner selves. All of that essentially sums up how I feel about the Surly Wednesday: It’s a bicycle that is “straight, square and forthright” and deserving of your irrational love no matter how you intend to use it.
Building on a decade of fat bike design experience, the affectionately cantankerous Minnesota company cross-pollinated its lineup to create a bike equally capable of crushing your local trails as it is wandering off for loaded touring. Not as shreddy as the aggressive Ice Cream Truck but more singletrack-curious than the old-school Pugsley, the Wednesday carries on the “Addams Family” nomenclature and offers four-season ride capabilities.
The use of 4130 chromoly steel and voluminous rubber mean you can have a lot of fun plowing over rough stuff. That is really the only way to ride the Wednesday since its 100 mm wide bottom bracket means you’re not daintily threading rock gardens. You might be pedal striking more than usual on your favorite 12 inch singletrack until you get used to the Q-factor girth.
The Wednesday won’t respond to dainty, last-minute wrist flicks like a svelte carbon bike, but that’s actually part of the fun. Handle it aggressively and see how big of a smile it puts on your face. Whenever the trail turned playful, its front end was more than willing to rear up and launch over rollers on fast descents. Yep, this is a pudgy rigid hardtail that wants to go airborne.
The seat tube and head tube angles are each one degree in the slacker direction than the venerable Surly Pugsley, a bike I have owned for a few years. The Wednesday’s top tube is also a full inch longer. The difference is noticeable on long, steady climbs and hour-long grinds over flat ground where I found the more laid-back, stretched-out ride of the Wednesday to be slightly less comfortable for the job. A simple parts swap to a more upright cockpit, and ditching the stock seatpost for one with no setback, should help make it more suitable for non-rowdy cruising and touring.
Front hub spacing is 150 mm and rear is 177 mm (symmetric) and—hooray— the bottom bracket is threaded. Thanks to track dropouts with 20 mm of fore-aft adjustment, you can move the rear wheel (relative to the wheel/tire combo you are running) to achieve a rear chainstay length of 17 to 18 inches. With the rear wheel fully aft in the dropouts, it fits up to a 4.6 inch tire on an 80 mm rim. With the wheel slammed full-forward, you’re looking at 3.8 inch tires on the same rims.
Take advantage of that adjustability based on how you want this bike to ride. I can imagine that a shorter stem and a 100 mm suspension fork (which slackens the bike and raises its bottom bracket) would make it even more of a blast on singletrack. You can endlessly mold the loveable Wednesday to your whims thanks to its versatile frame design that accepts an internally-routed dropper, has room for 29plus tires and features numerous braze-ons.
The SRAM X5 build kit, tubeless-ready rims, 3.8-inch Surly Nate tires and Hayes MX Comp mechanical disc brakes all make sense for keeping the price down and offered a reliable ride experience. With the right pressure, the Nates’ aggressive traction is phenomenal on wet trails and climbing on snow, but they are painfully sluggish rolling on smooth, dry ground.
“So, what can a person of modest means do to get a life?” O’Rourke asked at the end of his Jeep Wrangler story. He was writing about cars but, if you feel that way about your bikes, try a Surly Wednesday; you just might like how “straight, square and forthright” it is. It’s one of the most fun, versatile fat bikes out there.
- Ultra-low maintenance without suspension or hydraulics
- Grows with you better than the clothing your mom said you’d “grow into”
- Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy
- Wide load can be cumbersome on skinny trails
- Balloon tires don’t negate that it’s still a rigid hardtail that can beat you up
- It’s heavy and, oh, who the hell cares
- Wheelbase: 43.3”
- Top Tube: 22.7”
- Head Angle: 69°
- Seat-Tube Angle: 73.5°
- Bottom Bracket: 12.5”
- Rear Center: 17 to 18”
- Weight: 35.6 lbs. w/o pedals (specs based on size tested)