Q&A – Surly Big Dummy

In the mailbag this week :
Phil is wondering if the Surly Big Dummy is worth the money, owners of the Big Dummy give him input?

Surly big Dummy

Hello there! I was just checking out your website and I wonder if maybe you ever checked out Riding The Spine .com. Three hardy souls modified these bike somewhat and rode them from the tip of Alaska to the tip of South America in something like three and a half years.


I went to the bike shop, where I got my Surly Long Haul Trucker, today to check out the price and to say the least, STEEP and not cheap. In your opinion, is it worth the money to get one? I would think anything that would take you from Alaska to South America mostly off road would be well worth the money.

Thanks for reading my Big Dummy lust letter. Later Phil

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15 thoughts on “Q&A – Surly Big Dummy”

  1. xsehcx says:

    I say do what I’m working on saving for. LHT with 26″ wheels, and put the free radical buy xtracycle on it. I found one person on flickr says it works great.

  2. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    A Big dummy is on the top of my wish list..

    If the attention to detail is anything like my Long Haul Trucker, then it will be a able to do everything.. I’ve worked on setting up a Trek 520 and looked at other touring bikes and Surly thought of many details that aren’t thought of, untill you try to intall the same equipment on other bikes… and you wonder why it was so much easier on the Surly…

    One thing I’ve learned, bikes that get the work done are worth every cent and somethings are just are worth the money..

  3. Jim says:

    How much is the bike? Some people have a different perspective, and what’s “STEEP” to some is cheap to others. When you’re making a trip like that, you need the security you can only get from a good bike, and good bikes cost money.

    I’ve only heard good things about the Surly bikes, though I’ve never tried one. I’m a full-time commuter year-round here in Edmonton (range of conditions). I have my own ideas for what I’d like in a commuter bike (racks, fenders, disk brakes, cyclocross geometry, flat handlebars, Rohloff internal hub, reflective paint treatments, etc).

  4. Liam says:

    I bought a Big Dummy about a year ago, after having an Xtracycle for 8 years. Worth the difference? Absolutely. I’ve since gone from regularly rotating between five bikes to riding nothing but the Big Dummy. Admittedly, it’s not the best bike for century rides or brevets, but it’s been a while since I’ve done one.

    That’s what it really comes down to for me. You have a few options when it comes to cargo bikes. Some are cheaper. Some carry more. But the Big Dummy will carry plenty and still ride like a mountain bike. You can use it to give a friend a ride, carry a week’s worth of groceries home, and do a serious off-road tour. It’ll even handle singletrack while carrying two cases of beer without a fuss. Try doing that on any other bike!

  5. jamesmallon says:

    Surly is putting out a Big Dummy this year built-up for under $2K. Information here: http://www.surlybikes.com/blog

    Whether that is a good deal, depends on their parts, but also on the riding you intend to do. In my experience hiking you are better off making your load radically light, than buying heavier boots and a stronger backpack: the engine stays constant – you. If you need to haul water through a desert, the Big Dummy is it. If you need an urban cargo bike, the Kona Ute is half the price. If you can scale down your load, but want to roll over everything, the new Salsa Mukluk is an improvement on the Surly Pugsley.

  6. Robert says:

    I’d say if you frequently find yourself wishing you could take a friend or a whole bunch of stuff with you on a bike then the Dummy is worth it. For the money, it is a very solid bike, and it does carry things and particularly people very well.

    If you rarely want to carry people but often want to carry washing machines or other large bulky items over reasonably unbroken pavement a bakfiet is likely a better choice. Anything that I can lift and move by myself has been fair game for the Dummy, but beyond that you could quickly run into issues. Really large items end up on top on the Dummy’s deck or off to one side which messes with the bike’s stability. (The kitchen table and my bed were two very interesting items to move by Big Dummy.)

    If you only ever really plan on carrying people, buy a tandem. People are really heavy, particularly up hills when they aren’t helping pedal. That said, if they are young’uns there are some great child seat and stoker bar offerings for the Big Dummy.

    For me the Big Dummy has been a great bike. I use it as my primary bike and daily commuter. I pick up people frequently and often carry loads ranging from groceries to boxed bikes, so it sees a very mixed duty. It is also just a fun bike to ride.

    As far as the price: It isn’t cheap, but it is a good value. A lot of the cost is the frame, and the rest is a pretty solid component set. Mine is a custom mix of parts, but is spec’d very close to the stock offering. The primary differences are excessively beefy wheels, and a SRAM drivetrain. (I like SRAM, and I like to build wheels, there isn’t really anything wrong with the stock offering.)

    Get some frame saver into the frame first thing, keep air in the tires and oil on the chain, and the bike should last more than long enough to recoup your investment. You could get bikes that do certain things better, but not one that does everything as well as the Dummy.

    Did I mention it’s fun? 🙂

  7. Gardengnome says:

    Well. I’ve not riden or owned one, but I do commute and use extensively a Kona Ute. The BigDummy’s I’ve seen around town (Davis, CA, a bike nut city), look really nifty.

    It depends on the use you want/need. If you want to do your grocery shopping, commute to work, and don’t mind having access to a car/truck the BD might be overkill.

    If you want to go fully car free or have an off road adventure (as described in the letter)…well….i can’t help you, but the BD is probably a good choice.

  8. Adam Kimball says:

    The big dummy is a life-changer. Everyone who I’ve met that has one agrees. After a few months of living with this bike, the cost of it goes from steep back to cheap. If I had to replace mine and the price was $3k, I wouldn’t think twice about it. The perfect vehicle.

  9. Sean says:

    Worth every penny.

    I bought my Big Dummy over two years ago, in the first release of army green framesets. I was able to build it up fairly cheaply at the time as I had lots of parts in my bin from old mountain bikes. It was like a recycling project really 🙂

    But caution – I upgraded everything and tricked it out. It is addictive that way. I repainted the frame, fork, racks, kickback. Upped the wheels to Large Marges with Alfine hubs. Put big phat tires on it. Put lots of custom woodwork into it. It’s pimped out now.

    I now use it to boot around in my suburban area, to get groceries and run errands to the hardware store, etc. Yes, it saves on gas and wear and tear on the car. The payback was very quick as a result and it will last for years. I’d love to put a Stokemonkey on it to make it an ebike.

    That said, I put more miles on my CrossCheck these days – the Swiss Army knife of bicycles. It’s more convenient and a little faster for my daily commute, though I did use the Dummy nearly every day for the commute the first year and got very strong doing that.

    Check it out here:


  10. Johnny says:

    Yes. The current models on closeout are a particularly good value because they are spec’d much higher and cost less than the new model’s MSRP.

  11. Rod says:

    A little long for my liking but I like the style nonetheless.

  12. Marcus says:


    Hey everyone. I bought a Big Dummy 3 years ago for commuting to work. Rode it for one summer and then my position at work changed. I now have to drive for my job. Anyway the bike has been in my basement essentially unused for 2 years. Willing to part with it for $1000. I probably spent about $2000 on the build. I don’t want to ship this because of its size. So an arranged pickup would be the only way. I am in Northern Michigan. The bike is in excellent condition. It is a 16″. If interested send me an email. I can send pics and component lists.


  13. KDC1956 says:

    Surly bicycle are great they do cost a little but I my self have two of then the Surly LHT and the Surly Big Dummy the BD I built my self from a frame only the cosy of my BD is over 3800.00 but I have what I really like now too.To me it is worth the cost.

  14. Sean says:

    Absolutely. I had a xtracycle for a long time and enjoyed it. About 3 years ago I stepped up to the Dummy. It was well worth the price of admission. It is the most ridden bike in my stable of bikes (which includes a big dollar MTB and carbon road bike). It gets used like my car for most local errands. I cannot recommend one enough. Check out the blog on Surly’s site for long tail bikes. I recommend using 26″ wheels with some fat tires. You will not be disappointed.


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