Personalizing and Modifying your Fat Bike

An article by the Prof.

2014 Surly Pugsley

2014 Surly Pugsley

One of the fun things about getting a new bike is personalizing and modifying it. Ideally, we would all start with a frame and build it up exactly like we want. But in reality, most of us start with a stock fully built-up bike. But that doesn’t mean we have to keep everything that the bike came with. Some will want to immediately upgrade to better components, or swap things out with components they like better and may have laying around in a box or on another bike. For example, I know some people that are not crazy about the thumb shifters that Surly is putting on their fat bikes; they will swap them out for Shimano Rapidfire shifters. New bikes usually come with crummy seats, grips, and pedals (if they even come with pedals), so those are often the first things to go.

Some of the things you may want to swap out include:



Chainrings or cassette (you may want lower or higher gearing)

Cranks (better quality)

Deraileurs (better quality)

Handlebar (wider, more rise, different style, etc.)

Rims (you may want a lighter drilled out rim, like the Marge Lites)

Tires (more aggressive for snow and mud, less aggressive for road riding, etc.)

Pedals (these tend to be a very personal choice: clipless or platform are the usual choices for fat bikes)

Aesthetic or comfort


Hand Grips

Bar ends

Handlebar (more or less rise, or a different style)

Add-on Accessories

Frame, handlebar, and seat bags



Salsa Anything Cages

Java cages

Bottles, dry bags, etc.



When I recently got a Surly Pugsley I made a few modifications, some aesthetic and some more substantial.

A couple rides on the stock seat felt like straddling an axe head. I knew the seat had to go. I’m a big fan of Brooks saddles and have them on two of my other bikes. I took the Brooks saddle off  my commuter and put it on the Pugsley to try it out. Perfect. Yeah it’s heavy,  it has no padding, and it is leather and takes a bit of care, but Brooks saddles are supremely comfortable. So, I bought a nice brown B17 saddle for the Pugsley and I am very happy with it. It seems to suit the bike very well.

Brooks B17 saddle, dark brown.

Brooks B17 saddle, dark brown.

The next thing to go was the stock handle grips. They weren’t terrible but also were not that comfortable for trail riding. I put them on my commuter where they feel much better. I went with Specialized Body Geometry Contour locking grips. They are really comfortable and I like having a locking grip so if I have to take them off, I don’t have to cut them off and buy a new pair. I went with brown to tie into the color of the saddle.

Specialized Body Geometry Contour grips.

Specialized Body Geometry Contour grips.

I then decided for some cosmetic modifications. I liked the white accents on the blue frame and decided to get white platform pedals, white water bottle cages and white rim strips. I think it turned out nice. I may even get white cable housing sometime as well.


White Bontrager bottle cages

Odyssey Trail Mix platform pedals with removable screws.

Odyssey Trail Mix platform pedals with removable screws.

White rim strips

White rim strips

Now my Pugsley is not totally “stock” and in my opinion, looks much better. I can see it and easily distinguish it from another blue 2014 Surly Pugsley.

Below are before and after shots. In the first photo, it does have the black Brooks saddle from my commuter bike and the new hand grips.





In a later post I will discuss accessories you can add to your fat bike, like bags, racks, lights, and so on.


  1. I just bought my New fat bike and you absolutely said everything almost in perfect order of my thoughts exactly a little personalization separates it from any other and a sense of pride for your new ride is greatest feeling . Very well said and a Happy 4 Seasons to you

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