Surly’s Number 7 and tubeless Extra Terrestrials

AUSTIN - The Surly branded Revelate Ranger frame bag finally arrived, and it’s nicer than I thought it would be. Surly worked with Revelate to make frame bags for all of their current frames. I assume the other bags are all made in Alaska like everything else from Revelate, and have a stellar, custom-like fit, as this number 7 bag has. It’s really quite brilliant, and to make things even more better, the frame bag comes packed in a Surly-branded bag akin to a tent bag; a ripstop, polyurethane-coated bag with a drawstring and a cord lock (the common spring button thing). 

So, yes, I’m using it as a tent bag as you can see on the front rack int he photo.

(I know that packing job is terrible; it seemed OK at the time. I’ll do it better)

The bag is a little different from my original ill-fitting Ranger. The front of the bag has a plastic strap (like on the stirrup strap on the bottom of my gaiters) with a locking buckle, instead of the daisy chain loop meant for a Velcro strip. Otherwise, the X-pac fabric is the same, the zippers are the same (although the zipper garages are bigger), the pocket arrangement is the same, the inner divider is the same — the overall burly construction and brilliant quality are all wonderfully the same. What’s missing is inside: the mesh pocket on the downtube side and the daisy chain on the top tube side. I found the mesh pocket good for a Crank Brothers multi tool, tire levers and other small things; and, the daisy chain loops good for attaching a pump. Neither omissions are deal-breakers, especially given the custom fit of the bag for the price and availability of an off-the-shelf Ranger.

OK, more about the Surly Extra Terrestrial tires I’ve been running recently — and plan to run for Burning Man and my Great Divide tour after. A few weeks ago I bought a tubeless kit from Orange Seal, meant for two mountain bike wheels. The other day I finally got to the tubeless setup. It was easy. I removed the hilariously cheap hot pink duct tape I had as my original rim tape and cleaned the rims and tire beads with warm soapy water (I should probably clean up the rest of the bike like this). Orange Seal includes O-rings for inside and outside of the valve stems, but I needed neither. The DT Swiss FR 570 rims I’m using have a nice rubber grommet of sorts, so I didn’t need the smaller O-rings intended for the outside of the rim. I also didn’t need the larger ones for the inside. Given the robust shape of the inside of the valve stem, I don’t see how anyone would need it. I don’t know, maybe on some rims (or older stem design?). After I installed the valve stems, I mounted the tires without sealant to see what would happen. It worked curiously well. I inflated with a floor pump (valve core still in place) and the tires inflated with the reassuring percussive pop as the tire beads slam into the grooves in the sides of the rim. I inflated the front to 2 bars, and the rear to 2.5 bars. The front seemed to not leak at all while the rear showed some bubbling in a couple of places on the rim. 

Although I was curious to see how long the tires would remain inflated, I wanted to get on with the conversion. I deflated the tires and, using the included valve core tool, I removed the valve cores. After mumbling “what the fuck is an ounce?” I realized each wheel gets half the included bottle of sealant. Oh, right. OK. Why didn’t they just say that in the beginning? So far, none of this is out of line with other reporting on tubeless tire conversions or installations. Roll the wheel a bit, lay it horizontal on one side, then the other, roll it around more … you get the idea.   

Fast forward to earlier today. The tires still have air, although I haven’t checked exactly how much yet. Here are some extra things you may want to know: The Extra Terrestrials roll nicely through small amounts of sticky mud and seem to handle the small amount of actual singletrack I found near my house. It happened to be raining for days so everything was wet outside, which gave me a chance to ride through puddles and some mud in my first outing on my touring-loaded Troll, and the first ride on tubeless Extra Terrestrials. While my initial packing job isn’t great, I’m pretty stoked with the tires. 


More on my Extra Terrestrial experience

AUSTIN - In an effort to test out the new Surly Extra Terrestrial 26 x 2.5 tires in something other than my apartment parking lot or my 5-mile (8 km) round trip to class, I rode around Ladybird Lake on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail in downtown Austin. It’s about 10 miles (16km) of decomposed granite and other dirt, mixed with stretches of pavement with a variety of concrete surfaces and parts that hover over the lake on what they call a boardwalk (although it’s a long bridge with a concrete surface). 

 I generally take Shoal Creek Boulevard to where it meets the Shoal Creek trail at 38th Street and becomes an off-street trail through a greenway. This adds a bit of asphalt to the other mix of hard surfaces.

But this is about bike tires, let’s continue on to that: 

 My most immediate comparison to how the Troll rides with the Extra Terrestrials is to the expedition tires I ran previously, Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 26 x 2.15 Evolution. The Mondials are big (by traditional standards) and sturdy and meant to go everywhere from the smoothest pavement/tarmac/bitumen to tracks that may only loosely resemble a “road.” 

To be honest, if Schwalbe made a 2.5 version of the Mondial, I imagine I would not be the only one very happy about it. I rode the Mondials everywhere from fierce dust storms in Black Rock City to warm swamp mud and gravelly clay-loaded sticky mud in Austin. 

 Enter the Surly Extra Terrestrial 26 x 2.5. They are big and heavy, but in my unscientific arm’s length test, seemed lighter than the Mondial. The ETs were a bit tighter to mount than the Mondials, which themselves were not easy to mount. The ETs are tubeless ready as well as the rims on which I mounted the tires. The ETs are stiffer and a little heavier than Surly Dirt Wizard 2.75, but a little more pliable than the Mondials.

As one would expect from such a big increase of tire volume, the ride is smoother. The bumps are still there, the static from spider-web broken pavement and rough, unpaved surfaces is still there; it’s just muted. It’s just smooth. 

 I ran the rear tire at 2.5 bars, the front at 2. The tire’s maximum recommended inflation is something like “why would you do that?” at 4.4 bar. 

My first guess at a good pressure seemed to work out nicely so I left it there. I want to test the tires at a lower pressure like 1 bar, but not really at anything higher than 2.5. The rims have a maximum of 3 bars (is this just a DT Swiss thing?).  At 2 and 2.5 bars, the tires didn’t feel sluggish on the street; if anything, they felt pretty fast since the tire absorbs static.

On my ride I came to the where the bridge over the creek in Roy Guerrero Park was destroyed a few times over by repeated flood. The area around the demolished bridge and collapsing banks had become a construction site, but without the pile of rubble that used to be a concrete bridge. I climbed down the dusty banks as I had many times before, but unlike those other times, the debris on the creek bottom was clear the bottom was smooth - ish. It looked like a good place to see how well the ETs did on deep sand and silt. 

 Ha! Nope. I don’t think deflating to a bar or less would have helped. ETs not meant for that kind of riding, although another bike touring blogger, Getting Nowhere, did the same tire switch and was able to ride firmer beach sand. This is big fat bike territory. The silt was almost as fine as playa dust, it seemed.

But back on the hard pack trail and subsequent “actual mountain biking,” one has to do for a short stretch over rocks, partially buried logs and some mud to pass through the disc golf course, the tires excelled. While I always thought of the Mondials as legit mountain bike tires, the ETs were just better. 

They gripped better and rolled smoother, just like the Dirt Wizards, but without the clumsy feeling I had with the DW. It could also be the slippery and super sticky mud was dried, or I finally took a good line, I’m not sure. What I do know is how easy it was to ride through where I needed to push a little before.

I realized with a defeated exhale that I may need a back pack for my Great Divide ride coming up two days after I return from Burning Man (I have pictures on my website from previous years). I looked around, asked the internet questions, read reviews and looked at prices. The best option was the Osprey Talon 22 (size S/M), although Cass Gilbert (not the architect) is not a fan of back packs. 

 If I could redo my shit-carrying plans, I would go with a Surly rear Nice Rack and small/front panniers in the back, instead of the Revelate Pika seat bag; hence, negating the need for a back pack. I’ve already spent more than I should have outfitting myself for my upcoming trips, so buying another $300 of gear to carry stuff is a bit much. 

 My biggest issue with bags attached to me is back sweat. One giant problem with messenger bags (I was a NYC bike messenger for a year) and two-strap back packs is they seem to make clothing trap more heat and disable the ventilation. 

Messenger bags kept a permanent cloud of sweat right under my face, although they allow one to get to the bag’s contents fast.

The Talon seems to get away from some of that with the design of the back with mesh and ridged areas where the bag meets my back. It’s not perfect, but not bad either. 

Some of the more elaborate ventilation systems greatly reduce the volume of the bag, or made the bag bigger than it seems like it should be. 

The Talon also features a wonderfully nice amount of adjustability (and it comes in two sizes) and practical ways to carry your shit, like waist belt pockets and smaller organizing pockets elsewhere. It has a sturdy provision for an ice ax and a means to carry ski/trekking poles on the left shoulder strap. Just above that is a small elastic mesh pocket with a purpose that eludes me. 


The Troll goes Extra Terrestrial

AUSTIN - I wasn’t completely sure about the Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 26 x 2.15 Evolution I mounted to replace the Surly Dirt Wizard 26 x 2.75. I mean, they’re burly tires meant for the craziest expeditions over the most unridable surfaces with an elephant strapped to your bike, with an expectation for ridiculous amounts of wear. They’re smooth enough on pavement/tarmac/bitumen and handle dirt roads, hard packed trails and moderate soft surfaces with aplomb.

I blame it on Surly. They released what looked like the perfect tire and I had no intention of buying them and was perfectly happy with my Mondial/FR 570 combination. Nope, not spending more money. I was on the fence about running the Mondials tubeless (they seemed more than sturdy enough,
and mounted solidly on the tubeless-ready rims) … but I probably wasn’t going to do it.

Well, the perfect tires I wasn’t going to buy, Surly 26 x 2.5 Extra Terrestrial, arrived today, along with a tubeless kit from Orange Seal. I mounted the tires onto the DT Swiss FR570 (33mm outer, 27.5 inner) with a degree of effort. The rims are on the small end of the width for which the ETs were designed, so I was happy if they fit a bit tight. Also, being tubeless, I was especially happy, although I mounted them
with the “thornproof” tubes from my idle Surly Dirt Wizard 26 x 2.75 tires (which are for sale!). I’ll get to the tubeless this weekend. I figured 2 bars in the front and 2.5 - ish in the rear would be a good starting point. The rims have a maximum of 3 and the tires … well, more, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t imagine such a big tire at more than 3 bars, especially with a cutout rim like the Surly Rabbit Hole (which now I wish I still had laced. Damnit) where that much pressure will bulge the hell out of the Surly rim strips and make it difficult otherwise.

These tires aren’t something lightweight for race day; no, they’re sturdy with a reassuring heft. Holding an ET with an extra thick tube in one hand, and a Mondial with an extra thick tube in the other, the ET seemed lighter, which is interesting because it’s noticeably bigger.

A few laps around the parking lot reveal they roll a wee bit like a larger wheel and are fairly smooth over asphalt static and speed bumps. It’s not rocket surgery, they’re big tires.

I should be writing a German paper instead of mounting new tires, giving them a quick test and taking pictures. I’ll have more pictures, more writing and some long term testing coming up from Burning Man, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and other adventures.

More information:


The red, bulging rim strips

AUSTIN – The bulging of the Surly rim strips in the Rabbit Hole rims was driving me a bit crazy. At 2.5 bars it was just too much – I’m sure it was structurally fine, but it annoyed me.

It looked like the tubes (these aren’t tubeless, yet) would stretch too much and eventually the strips would also. It also looked like it was a puncture or tear waiting to happen.

On my way home from class, I stopped at Breed & Company, half a local Ace Hardware store and half fru-fru housewares and fancy confections.

I decided to use something like reflective tape or digital camouflage tape (it’s like cheap duct tape, but
comes in colors and patterns). I forgot how cheap the cammo tape was – I could see through the outer layer to the layer below on the roll – and I wasn’t really sure how I would get it around the rim with the proper side out.

I walked a few aisles over to the mailbox numbers, where the safety tape was. I saw the various reflective tape in different colors and configurations, but it was all adhesive and sold in 24” lengths. I bought a few of them and a roll of Gorilla tape (and a box of strawberry shortcake cookies. Every hardware store should have cookies) and rode home to put it all together.

To keep from being wasteful, I cut the tape in half, which was enough to cover the rim cutouts, if I lined it up perfectly (I did not). Given the reflective tape was adhesive, I had the extra fun of removing backing and getting the tape as tight and centered as possible, lining up three joints, before two tight layers of Gorilla Tape. I know a non-adhesive version of the reflective tape exists, and I’ll use it when I
eventually redo these wheels. I hope it will also be in longer lengths so I don’t have as many seams.

A perfect day for a small bike ride

AUSTIN – Weather warnings and watches murmur and squawk as creeks flood, thunder rattles the windows and lightning rips holes in the churning sky.

Perfect day for a small bike ride.

We weren’t riding small bikes; I mean it was a short ride. I mean … my new Surly Troll is a size small, but Justin’s Origin8 29er something is a bigger size, but that’s not important now.

As with every other ride and adventure, we made up plans last minute and changed then enroute. We both made our way to Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery, which is close to where he lives and even closer to where I used to live in Hyde Park. It gives me a chance to ride through the unpaved alleys in the neighborhood, an opportunity I never pass up.

I should mention that he and I have four or five multi-year conversations going at the same time. They never really begin or end, and generally overlap and punctuate each other. So, a quick meeting to start a bike ride turned into an hour-long discussion physics, philosophy and the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, among other things.

We found a pedestrian bridge over a creek on our created-as-we-go route northwest. I pointed out a large tree with roots that encompassed a rock strewn bank of the creek. They grew over everything and
under the water, across to the other side.

Justin decided to check it out by climbing down to a concrete wall with a broken sidewalk on it, past the “no trespassing, private property” sign. Austin has many ruins like this: old bridges and concrete
walkways and tunnels around and through creeks. Some look like they were destroyed in floods 100 years ago, some look like they were never finished, or were built half-assed and never maintained. This sidewalk, or whatever it was, looked like a combination of everything: cheaply built, poorly maintained and partially destroyed by some epic flood.

I was still nursing the ankle I destroyed in Iceland a few weeks prior, that was my excuse for not exploring the mangled and curious concrete structure below. 

I thought we should head to an area north of 51st Street, bordered on the west by Springdale Road, and on the east by Ed Bluestein Blvd/US 183. It’s right behind a hotel and apartment complex.

The entrance is technically Rangoon Road, but it doesn’t have any signs and it’s not paved. Maps show the road going farther than it actually does (although satellite images are more accurate). In the area, there are jeep tracks, single track and a swamp-like access road for a utility, with a bridge over Little Walnut Creek. Just riding the access road and the flat parts of the jeep track are an adventure in mud, swamp water and thick vegetation. If one rides the singletrack up the 10000 percent grade, deeply
rutted hills, then it’s a whole different thing.

This is where I wanted to go with Justin.

We headed in that direction amid showers and dropping temperatures – just as forecast.

Our path wound through the Hyde Park, Cherrywood and Mueller neighborhoods, keeping to grass and unpaved bike paths whenever possible.

“Let’s go up there,” Just said, pointing to the plateau of sorts in the middle of Mueller.

Mueller is a planned community on the grounds of an old airport of the same name. It has green spaces, sidewalks and the homes have garage doors in alleys behind the houses. The center of the community is slowly coming together, with lots of undeveloped areas of various nature.

We rode down a new street. It was only asphalt and sidewalks that more resembled a marina choked with mud and coarse gravel than a planned community.

“I wonder how muddy this is,” I said as I pedaled into it, mud immediately clinging to both wheels, frame, fork as I started to get bogged down. The mud had a variety of pebbles in it, which helped jam up the bike even more (and helping to remove some of the new “Steve’s Pants Blue,” paint, as
Surly calls it).

The plateau was a block away, which we rode on the brand-new street. More mud, more gravel, more bog. More pebbles, less speed. More wheel spinning, less rolling.

We pushed our mud-laden bikes through a swamp of some sort choked with undergrowth, and up a mud hill, rear wheel dragging along. I found I could roll the bike backward to dislodge the larger pebbles, and roll forward collecting more pebbles.

The rain became more than a forecast or suggestion of a possibility. The dark clouds and wind gave way to light rain, which cleared, then began a little harder, then cleared, becoming a bone-crushing torrent,
which also cleared.

That mud was as angry as the sky and it intended to show it.

With some more pushing and climbing, we reached the top and took in the view of downtown – distant under threatening skies, lightning to the west, oddly bright skies to the east. In a strange stroke of luck, I found a piece of bent rebar to carefully dug the mud out of my bike, making it mostly
ridable, if not very heavy and ungainly.

Back down we went, navigating ruts and mud, to the bottom. More swamp, more vegetation, more mud.

We reached the new cycletrack where we took a break and made plans to ride to Cherrywood Coffeehouse, in a roundabout sort of way, after we addressed the mud jamming our bikes, and giving he and I an “adventurous” appearance.

After a short break, we pedaled around a bit, stomped our feet. I found a wooden stake and dug more mud out of my bike and off the wheels. Justin said he found a working spigot on a new and unoccupied house. I pointed to the new and unoccupied houses and said that was not where he was.
Some nice family let him use their spigot, unbeknownst to them.

We were rolling again, with some woops and shouts of approval from a woman on the sidewalk as the remaining mud flew from our wheels in a developing rain shower. The more we rode, the messier we got, the lighter the bikes became; all whilst leaving muddy tire tracks for a curiously long distance.

Under threats and promises of rain we arrived at Cherrywood, where we found an outside table on the patio. We had an umbrella above us, and a corrugated-plastic sign on the fence next to us, so we were covered in an oasis of relative dry.

As always, we continued our simultaneous conversations, while adding plans for next time: north, farther south. A few overnight tripsfor fun and so I can prepare for the Great Divide.

From there we parted ways, until next time.

We were plotting a “proper” way to continue the ride, as lighting was striking the ground in the distance

Justin driving me around in his pedicab

Justin, again, but also not on the aforementioned ride

After the pedicab ride.

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