Surly’s Big Dummy is an extremely versatile urban bike.
Reviewed by Jason Eaton in May 2014
When Family Bicycle asked me to review Surly’s Big Dummy I immediately started thinking of how much beer, groceries and other necessities I could ride down the road with on this bike. As an exceptionally proud owner of a Surly Disc Trucker I was stoked to be able to spend a week on another Surly. I am also the guy who will ride to a party pulling a bamboo trailer with a cooler full of beer. So the Big Dummy is my kind of bike. I am fascinated with the idea of using a bike for all things that people normally use a car. It makes that trip to the grocery store, kickball game or to Lawrence an adventure vs. a traffic riddled hell. Logistics become somewhat of a sport as you learn to plan for the weather and what’s on your to-do-list for the day. Finding the perfect lights, clothing, apps, waterproof bags, grocery panniers, fenders & racks are all part of the fun. Finding the bike to replace the car is different than finding a bike to ride on trails on nice weekend days.
A solid commuting, grocery getting, kid hauling bike needs be be capable of carrying all of your cargo and stable carrying the extra weight. This will likely mean that the bike will have a longer wheelbase and a lower center of gravity. You want this bike to be stable. The bike needs to have extra mounts for racks, beer cages and accessories like a tire pump. The Big Dummy has all of this. Plus you can haul a kid & a keg at the same time with it.
A little over a year ago I sold my first commuter bike, a Specialized Globe, to a dude named Karlton who is now the brewer at the Kansas City Bier Company. Not so coincidentally our kickball team is now insanely lucky to have the brewery as our sponsor. The night of our first game I just so happened to have the Big Dummy so Karlton and I thought it seemed right to haul our pony keg to Gillham Park from the brewery. I knew the bike was up to hauling just about anything. I’ve seen pictures on the many bike blogs of people using the Big Dummy to move with in cities like Portland. But an 85lb. keg, my not so small ass, my 9 year old daughter and a bag of Cheetos?! I wasn’t sure but my friend Theresa at Family Bicycle said – “Go for it, it’ll be fine.”
We ended up making it to the park with ease. No injured children, dropped Cheetos or beer on the trail. The cargo bike performed just as it was designed to perform and happily sped down the Trolley Trail weaving around amused joggers and walkers. You did need to keep both hands on the handlebars with a full load but I feel that is to be expected.
Surly has done something special with the Big Dummy. It rides much like a mountain bike and often I find myself forgetting that I was riding a long tail cargo bike. I was jumping over curbs and tearing across fields with cargo and didn’t think anything of it. The Big Dummy is stout, stable and perfectly designed to be the everyday do anything bike. With Kansas City being an extremely hilly city it’s important to me that everything I ride be geared in a way to make the climbs manageable. Surly has outfitted the Big Dummy with super low mountain bike gearing and also equipped the machine with an adequate high range for pushing those downhill sprints.
The Dummy is built on a 4130 steel frame that is the same steel that my Surly Disc Trucker is built on. I dig steel and like many touring/commuting bike enthusiast I find the ride of a steel bike to more forgiving than that of an aluminum bike. Surly designed the Big Dummy to be compatible with Xtracycle’s xtracycle.com line of plug-ins. Their plug-ins expand the utilitarian uses for the bike so you can safely and comfortably carry anything from multiple kids to an adult to 10 – 30lb bags of mulch. Surly outfitted the bike with very effective Avid BB7 disc brakes that stop it in a hurry even with a load. The Continental Town and Country tires were pumped up hard and were confidence inspiring. Surly didn’t skimp on anything on the bike. It’s built to last. My daughter and I had a blast commuting to dinner, school and running errands on the Surly and we hated to give it up.
I will say that I did break the Big Dummy’s chain on my first day with it. I was in a higher gear and dropped all my weight on the the pedals to sprint across the intersection of 58th and Wornall. I was fortunate to have this happen in one of KC’s friendliest neighborhoods. When I got across Wornall a super cool teacher named Ken from Border Star Elementary just happened to be walking down the trail and just happened to have his pickup right there. Ken quickly offered to take me and the bike up to Family Bicycle in his truck.
Other than the one incident with the chain the Big Dummy outdid itself. I’d highly suggest that everyone who is halfway interested in doing more on a bike take a look at the Big Dummy.