The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Surly Ice Cream Truck 2018 Review

A steel fat bike with aggressive geometry and braze-ons for racks.
Top Pick Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $1,999 List
Pros:  Steel frame, Dialed geometry, aggressive feel
Cons:  Heavy, low speed handling
Manufacturer:   Surly
By Ian Butler  ⋅  Apr 16, 2018
  • Share this article:
79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 6
  • Fun Factor - 30% 8
  • Downhill - 30% 9
  • Climbing - 30% 7
  • Ease of Maintenance - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Surly Ice Cream Truck is a steel fat bike with a trail bike attitude. A long top tube and semi-slack head tube angle is confidence inspiring and provides an aggressive feel when the speedometer rises. Climbing abilities are solid despite its heft. Seated climbing is recommended as the front wheel can wander understanding loads. The steel construction adds weight but also makes for a far more damp and forgiving compared to aluminum or carbon fiber.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Feel free to ride hard on the Ice Cream Truck.
Feel free to ride hard on the Ice Cream Truck.

Should I Buy This Bike?


The Ice Cream Truck is a great choice for an aggressive rider. The aggressive angles and steel construction help this bike feel comfortable and confident at speed. 4.8-inch tires provide excellent traction on both the ascent and descent. The $1999 price tag is reasonable. Due to its steel construction, this bike is on the heavy side. Due to its slack geometry, low-speed handling can be awkward.

The award-winning Trek Farley is a ripping fat bike. At $1729 this bike is in the same price range as the Ice Cream Truck. The Farley is fast downhill and is remarkably confident on rough terrain One of the key differences is the 27.5x4.5-inch tires on the Trek. Speed and momentum is the name of the game with this bike.

Design Highlights


   square bullet 4130 ChroMoly steel frame
   square bullet Braze-ons for racks
   square bullet Front derailleur compatible
   square bullet Press Fit bottom bracket

   square bullet Suspension corrected fork

High speed handling is razor sharp.
High speed handling is razor sharp.

Downhill Performance


On the descent, the Ice Cream Truck exudes confidence. This bike features more aggressive geometry than the other fat bikes we have tested. The aggressive angles really pay dividends when the trail gets fast and choppy. Cornering abilities are solid and predictable and this bike is surprisingly playful despite its heft.

The steel construction has an enormous effect on downhill performance. Steel is more forgiving than some other popular frame materials like aluminum and carbon fiber. Steel mutes and mellows out rough trail surfaces far better than aluminum or carbon fiber. This is damp feeling is very important. Pair this muted, damp and forgiving feeling with 4.8-inch fat bike tires and you have a smooth and calm ride. The Ice Cream Truck smooths chatter successfully and doesn't translate much of the trail surface to the rider.

The geometry on the Ice Cream Truck feels alot like a trail bike. A long top tube and semi-slack 68.0-head tube angle resembles a modern full suspension rig. The extra length in the top tube allows for plenty of space to move around and plenty of stability. When things get steep, the 68.0-degree head tube angle puts the rider in a confident position to attack the trail. The added running length is stable with a dose of speed. The Ice Cream Truck handles larger impacts well enough. When you push too hard, the massive tires can bounce you around.

The Surly corners well, but it prefers wider, faster corners. The steering is direct, but the long top tube and slack feel isn't the best for navigating tight corners. When you can carry speed through wider corners, the Ice Cream Truck performs well. The Ice Cream Truck isn't especially playful, but it is far more fun at speed.

Despite its hefty steel construction  the Ice Cream Truck scoots uphill.
Despite its hefty steel construction, the Ice Cream Truck scoots uphill.

Climbing Performance


The Ice Cream Truck is an effective climber despite its weight. The seated climbing position is efficient and provides plenty of space to shuffle weight around. Standing climbing is tricky as it can be difficult to balance rear wheel traction and front wheel wander. This bike is surprisingly nimble for its weight and can work through switchbacks well enough.

The Ice Cream Truck is no lightweight cross country bike. Despite its 35-pound heft, it skirts uphill efficiently. The climbing position is balanced and puts the rider in a place to transmit power. The 72.5-degree seat tube angle is definitely slack, but it doesn't translate to a drastic feeling of being behind the bottom bracket. The long top tube provides plenty of space to shuffle weight around when appropriate.

Given its heft, the Surly navigates technical sections well. A slack head tube angle can lead to sluggish steering, this is not the case with the Ice Cream Truck. Working through rock gardens is easy and turning through uphill switchbacks doesn't require a perfectly drawn game plan. It should go without saying that 4.8-inch tires are harder to feed through tight spaces.

One quirk to climbing aboard the Surly is keeping the front wheel planted when standing. This is particularly problematic when the going gets steep. You want to stand up to maximize power transfer but it is very important to keep some weight forward to prevent a wandering wheel. It is possible to loop which forces you to dismount.

The Surly likes some shenanigans here and there.
The Surly likes some shenanigans here and there.

Value


The Ice Cream Truck is a utilitarian steel fat bike. At $1999, the Surly is a step up in price from bikes like the Kona Wo, Specialized Fatboy and Reid Ares. That said, this bike offers unique performance and can easily serve as a bikepacking rig.

Conclusion


The Surly Ice Cream Truck is a fat bike that has geometry that resembles a regular trail bike. Aggressive descending skills and decent climbing abilities make for a viable package. The steel construction provides a damp and forgiving ride. While steel adds serious amounts of weight, it goes a long way in mellowing out the rough nature of a hardtail.


Ian Butler