Surly Big Dummy Review

What’s long, green, a little heavy, great fun and has the potential to change your life?

It’s the Surly Big Dummy. A long-bike or cargo-bike it could have many classifications. What appeals to me the most is how fun it is to ride.

Now that I’ve had it for a few months I have a much better idea of the bike’s intricacies and handling.iphone 002

In short I love it. My wife loves it. It’s starting to change our lives. Where we’d normally drive to the shops we get on our bikes and ride. When I feel like a ride and my wife’s a bit tired I take her on the back and that means we’re together and I get a decent ‘work-out’ on the bike. All this cycling is changing her, too. She’s excited to ride and has purchased a new Avanti Metro 8.

My (our?) main use for it is shopping but I also enjoy commuting to work upon the big green carrier. My work-commute is 67kms round trip and I spend about 2 hours 40 minutes in the saddle. The handling is very nice. Moderately relaxed steering geometry only becomes twitchy on tight corners. Frame geometry is configured toward upright riding: think town-bike or Amsterdam-bike. It’s no problem to get the bike through the anti-bike devices that guard bike-paths around Melbourne. I’ve never clipped anything whilst riding it. Any clipping of objects is done whilst wheeling the bike: usually coming in the back door.

The Xtracycle Freeloader Bags can fit a great deal of stuff but to truly get the most out of the bike I think a cheap motorcycle-type cargo net adds to it capability significantly. And when you have those little cargo nets you will get the most out of a set of wideloaders.iphone 004 There’s enough space to carry a brand-new, in box, 6 litre slow cooker; without the wideloaders. I’d be hesitant to do this sans-cargo net, though. My trip was successful because of the cargo net.

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If you have a modicum of fitness you won’t be particularly slowed by the Big Dummy rolling on Schwalbe Big Apple tyres at 60psi. I’ve found that it only slows me about 1-2kph compared to my Cannondale Bad Boy 8 on Continental Sport Contact tyres at 90psi. The weight of the Big Dummy is about the same as a low-end steel frame hybrid: one of those over sized steel-tube ones that are built to look like they’re aluminium but are just plain mild steel.

Having my wife ride on the snap-deck is really good fun and great resistance training. It lets you find out what your knees can handle. It’s also really nice to be able to have her right next to me and able to chat regardless of how hard I want to ride (but she doesn’t like it when I take the bike faster than about 30kph). It may be read as a slight against her but she’s the heaviest load, with shopping, that I’ve taken on the Big Dummy. Including the shopping I’m estimating about 85kgs. Added to my 90kgs the bike was close to its stated limit of 180kgs. I didn’t find this difficult until a hill near home that is about 5% gradient for 300metres or so. Then I felt it on my knees. If anyone thinks that’s the bike they’re wrong: it’s clearly my gear choice &/or fitness level. I wouldn’t want to carry much more than that on the Big Dummy and agree with its stated weight limits. If one was to want a bike with higher loads then consider the Yuba Mundo.

It’s in my nature to think of ways to improve things. The Big Dummy has few additions or modifications that I’d make. They are:

  1. It’s not really the bike but change the saddle (most people will do this so that they have a better fitting cushion for the pushin’, anyway). I’ll be fitting this Charge Spoon Wiggle Edition.
  2. Chain-slap will scratch up your frame after a few kilometres of bumps. Put in some protection. At the moment I’ve got some packing foam on the frame until I decide on something more aesthetically pleasing.
  3. To avoid chain-slap an idler would be a good addition. Terra Cycle make these ones.
  4. Total-dreaming: I’d love to put a modification on the Big Dummy to have a belt-drive to a Rohloff gear hub. This would require some kind of mid-mounted hub that operates as a 1:1 transmision from cranks to the Rohloff. Something like the awesome Chupacabra of a person who goes by the name Goat might be appropriate.

Overall the Big Dummy is big green fun. If you’re on the fence, get off and get riding the Big Dummy.

Surly Big Dummy Review

5 thoughts on “Surly Big Dummy Review

  1. circleachris says:

    I’m a framebuilder ( contemplating building myself an xtracycle variant, and I wanted to do belt drive as well, using a tandem belt and sizing the rear end accordingly. Is the lack of variety of belts/cogs/sprockets why you mention needing a transmission?

    1. Hi, I mention the 1:1 hub because of the “Chupacabra” from It’s just an intermediate transmission, I guess to use standard chains and bits. The only real shortage I know of is tandem parts in general. Big Dummy still has significantly shorter chain and cables than a tandem, from what I understand. Have you got a page for this project that I can link to?

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