I got my Surly Bud 4.8 tire yesterday and took it for a spin. We got close to 12 inches of snow on top of several inches that were already on the ground making it pretty much impossible to ride in the powder with anything but a snowmobile. I decided to just ride in the snowmobile tracks and with ‘Bud’ leading the way I had more fun than I thought possible.
I bought the Bud because I was tired of running chains on my front tire and still having it wash out when I hit powder or drifted off the trail. Chains really beat no-chains but I still felt like it could be even better with the right tire. The Surly Bud was the right tire.
Designed specifically for the front tire on fatbikes it has long ridges in the tread that run parallel with the tire. 7mm ridges which is about twice the tread depth of the V-Rubber mission 4.0 tires they were replacing. The V missions weighed in at about 3.1 lbs and the Bud was closer to 3.6 lbs. Mounted on the rim it was about a pound lighter than a V-rubber mission with a slipnot chain on it. For the size of the tire and the tread depth I was really surprised that the tire was so light and supple at 120 TPI and a kevlar bead. I mated it with an 80mm rim which I think is the ‘right’ size for that tire and used the Q-tubes which worked great even though they are only advertised to support a 2.75″ tire. Although this tire is sold as a 4.8 it only measured 4.35 on a 80mm rim. The tire mounts in one of two directions, one for cornering and the other for propulsion. I tested it on the ‘Cornering’ direction, but when I mount it on the front motor of an AWD ebike I will turn it around for ‘Traction’. This tire just looks awesome on the bike. My 4″ tires look absolutely puny compared to these monsters. The ‘Bud’ is designed to be mated to it’s rear tire brother ‘Lou’ and many fatbikers seem to swear by this tire combo. Once I got out on the trail I could see why.
I went at least 50% faster than I ever felt safe going with just chains on, the front tire would start to slip in the powder and turn sideways to skid out and I could gently bring it back under control before I lost it. There is a certain joy to be felt riding around in the snow completely out of control, it reminds me a lot of the 3 years or so I spent Mountain Unicycling (Muni for short). On the Muni you are constantly falling off and making hundreds of corrections a second just to not land on your face. The minute you think you’re going to fall off, it’s already too late, you’re toast. Riding in deep powder is like that, you have to relax and just let the bike drift where it wants to go. It’s great cutting back and forth across the trail and sliding up the side of small embankments, it reminds me a lot of skiing or snowboarding in the woods.
The Bud was amazing, it would start to slip, wobble a bit then it would catch and track again instead of washing out. After a while I learned to relax and not over-correct once my bike started to lose it. Most of the time I could get it back together and only occasionally did I end up with my nose plowed into the thick powder on the side of the trail.
I ended up going much father than I normally go from my car and before I knew it my battery had died. The snow was so deep I ended up spending several hours walking back to my car. Where I went off the snowmobile trail the powder was knee-deep and I was practically wading through it. The 4.8″ tires just floated up onto the snow and the bike was able to be pushed along with almost no effort. It was a totally surreal feeling.
When I got back to the road my housemate just happened to be driving by. I threw my bike up on his roof which had almost 8″ of snow on it and he drove me the last couple of miles back to my car. It was an epic day, thanks to the Surly Bud.
Rating System is 1(worst) to 5 (best)
Powder – 5 : The only tire I’ve used that is better is it’s rear tire brother Lou. This tire works better on the front tire than the Lou as there is WAY more lateral traction.
Mud – 5 : See ‘Powder’ above.
Ice – 4 Surprisingly good.
Singletrack – 5 Great as a front tire, rolls over anything.
Road – 2 Great for scaring innocent women and children with the road noise.
Rolling Resistance – 2 : More than any tire out there.
Weight – 3 : About what you’d expect.
Stay tuned for tales from his evil twin ‘Lou‘.