Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Goodbye to a good bike

Attempting to powder-shred with Pugsley in Spaulding Meadows, Juneau, Alaska.
 I sold my Pugsley.

I know, I thought I'd never write those words. If there was any bike I just assumed I'd keep forever, for sentimental reasons if nothing else, it was Pugsley. I loved this bike. But I didn't love seeing Pugsley hanging on my wall, gathering dust, and never being ridden. I quietly put Puglsey up for sale, and a couple of weeks ago, I mailed him off to his new home in Palmer, Alaska. I like to imagine a bright future of trips to Knik Glacier, beach riding along the Matanuska River, and perhaps even more miles on the Iditarod Trail. A bike like Pugsley deserves to be ridden in Alaska — not languish on a wall in California. Plus, Pugsley *is* just a bike. But I do sort of miss him.

This 16" battleship gray Surly Pugsley came into my life in September 2007. Buying this bike was my method of coaxing myself into signing up for the Iditarod Invitational. I figured if I had the right bike, I could somehow be ready for that kind of expedition (ha!) For the two years prior I was an avid winter cyclist, making do with a full-suspension Gary Fisher Sugar and a hybrid 40mm-rim "Snaux Bike." Anyone who claims that fat bikes aren't superior for their intended purpose as a go-anywhere, all-terrain bike have, in my opinion, simply never actually ridden one in appropriate fat bike conditions — deep but packed snow, soft mud, or sand. Pugsley was a revelation for me; suddenly I had so much more mobility than I ever imagined.

This is a photo from one of my first rides with Pugsley, taken on the Salmon Creek Trail, which was part of my "long" commute to work at the Juneau Empire. Pugsley and I spent a lot of quality time together that first winter, training for the ITI. I expressed my love for my bike in blog posts like "Ode to Pugsley."

Here we are on Sevenmile Lake on the first day of the 2008 ITI. When you go through an experience like that with a bike, it cements a strong love-hate relationship. There were times when I couldn't find the strength to push that heavy bike up a frozen headwall, and I nearly just left it there. Then, minutes later, I'd be coasting down a hard-packed slope, buzzing with elation.

Pugsley wasn't just a winter bike. I made it an ongoing summer project to circumnavigate Douglas Island along the cliff-lined beach. It was always an adventure — crushing mussel shells, steamrolling barnacle-crusted rocks, grinding over sand, racing high tides, mowing down beach grass, and eventually meeting an unworkable obstacle, like cliffs that dropped straight into the sea. Douglas Island is doable with a packraft, but I do believe it would be easier and probably faster overall on foot. Still, trying to use fat bikes for off-trail explorations is a lot of fun.

Beat and I posing with Pugsley in Missoula, on what I believe was Beat's first snow ride. Shortly after this, Beat purchased his aluminum Fatback, and it wasn't long before I started cheating on Pugsley with Beat's bike. I prefer the Fatback for many reasons — it's lighter, more agile, and seems to fit me better (even though it's Beat's bike.) We discussed it and decided that the chance the two of us will ride snow bikes together, ever, is fairly low at this point. It no longer made sense to keep the Pugsley. So I sent him back to Alaska, where I think he'll be happy in the way bikes can be happy — that is, I'm happy because someone else out there is falling in love with a fat bike. 


  1. Okay, I understand your reasons and support that. But Jill, it still makes me sad that you sold Pugsley.

  2. It's hard to give up your baby... I've had this cruiser that I'm in love with for a LONG time, but now that I'm riding a road bike and training for a century, she doesn't get rode. It kills me. And I've thought about giving her up... Makes me kind of sad too.


  3. Noooo never sell a cherished bike, it is like selling a child, all the memories associated with the pugsy will be lost like tears in rain

  4. It's like seeing an old friend for the last time.

  5. Hi Jill,
    You and Pugsley inspired me to get off the couch
    and back in to biking 3 years ago !
    So I bought a Pug and started the long road to
    getting back in shape, Its been the best thing I
    have done in many years.
    Thank You and Pugsley !

  6. I've heard of people sending old pets out to "the farm", but never a bicycle! Hope it (? he? she?) has a good life.....

  7. Sad, brings back memories of a bike i sold Black Beauty. Thinking i would never need it since i was now a roadie; a 1950 Triumph "girls" 3 speed with front basket. 6 years of college, neighborhood runs, then years in the basement collecting dust. I think often of how i could now ride her on daily runs around Portland from my office, I look for her on the streets though it has been 10 years since our parting.

    My Trek and Specialized carbons are efficient & wonderful but my heart is with Black Beauty. I must go cry now.

  8. I sometimes wax nostalgic and/or sentimental about my bikes/old car/gear, because it's a fun way to relive good memories. But I don't develop real emotional attachments to things. I don't even consider such emotional attachments a bad thing, it's just not something I'm inclined toward. For most of my adult life I could fit everything I needed or that was important to me in a single, small car, and don't hesitate to unload the stuff I believe I don't need. I still accumulate things, of course, and I enjoy "getting to know" new gear (like my Moots.) But keeping a bike that I do not use doesn't make sense to me. It isn't the bike that matters, it's the experiences I had with the bike, which still exist to me in photos, writing, and memories.

    Pugsley has been gone for two weeks and I honestly don't regret selling the bike at all. I'm thrilled to think that someone else out there is discovering this sport that has contributed so much to my memories and my personal growth.

  9. I have a reason why I am thinking about a fat bike. I will tell you about it later.

    So long Pugsley!

  10. Danni, If it has anything to do with riding bikes on beaches in Alaska, let me try to dissuade you right now. Seriously, hiking is way better when you don't have to drag around a 35-pound anchor. BUT, if it has anything to do with riding bikes on snow in Alaska, yay! I can't wait for our bike tour to Nome. :-)

  11. Bike tour to Nome? Do elaborate.

  12. I would've bought that bike from you, Jill! In fact, Pugsley is the reason I ever stumbled upon your blog oh so many years ago. Kinda bittersweet, for this reader, anyway.... But you are right - it's better to send things onto a place where they will be utilized and enjoyed more frequently. -Rachel

  13. I have six bikes in my carage, and some of them hang there for the most of the time. For me, my fatbike, the 9:ZERO:7, is *not just a bike*. It is an extension of my body and soul. It is so good that you can put it in the same coffin when I die. I would never sell it. NEVER.

    Ok, yeah, I really love bikes... :)

  14. I just stumbled on your blog. I just bought a mountain bike to get back in shape. Wow .... you are awesome. I didn't know there were girls out there that did cool stuff. You are an inspiration!


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