Is it possible to wheelie the Big Dummy???
Short answer, yes.
This weekend I wanted to figure out what it would take to wheelie the Big Dummy. In my opinion, it has two wheels and therefore it can do a wheelie. Now for those of you who have ridden a Big Dummy, you know it is virtually impossible to do any sort of a wheelie by yourself. Yes, you can hop and get the front wheel off the ground for a split second, awesome, but I don't think that is “riding” a wheelie. To ride a wheelie, you need to balance on the rear tire, and to do this on the Big Dummy, your going to need a counter weight.
Fortunately, Surly recently hired a new counter weight named Andy (A3). Like me, he is an enginerd for Surly and also recognizes that wheelies are rad. The weekend after Thanksgiving, Andy was especially plump with counter weight and he rolled over to my house to tackle the Big Dummy wheelie experiment.
A couple days earlier, I was in my garage trying to figuring out ways to waste even more late night hours and I came up with a great idea. The Boxxer fork being neglected on my garage wall, would easily mount up to the Big Dummy. Opportunities like this don't come around every day and I had to try it out.
To my surprise, the long travel sus fork on the Big Dummy was actually pretty rad. First, the longer wheel base of the Big Dummy allows it to accept drastic changes to the front fork length with minimal change to the head tube angle. Second, because the weight bias on the Big Dummy is much more forward than the average bike, a lot of pressure gets put on the front tire and I was seeing about 50% sag in the Boxxer fork. As a result of the sag, the bike had about 4 inches of positive and negative travel and it road smooth like a big old Cadillac.
The day Andy came over, we needed to figure out a cockpit for him to hang off the back of the bike and perform his counter weighting duties. We put our heads together to create something stunningly simple with breathtaking beauty; Surly proto bars, a random stem, a 1X1 fork, a bent metal tube, black duct tape, a tie down strap, and one bungee for good measure, wow. The beast was ready.
We headed out to the street confident in our design, wary of our abilities. As we expected, it wasn't difficult to get the front tire off the ground. A 3..2..1 countdown and me and the front tire were headed skyward. The problem was side to side balance. It felt like neither Andy or I had any control over the bike tipping. I couldn't get much control up in the air on the front and Andy didn't have a chance maneuvering the bike and me around from the rear cockpit.
Regardless of the challenges, we continued to ride up and down the street trying to harness our collective Evil Knievel wheelie abilities. Fortunately, we didn't have to worry about flipping backwards because the frame behind the rear tire would hit the ground. On the other hand, when the frame hit the ground, the front wheel and me would fall back to the ground in a hurry. This is where that Boxxer fork came in handy, soaking up the entire imapct. It would have been a rough ride on the stock rigid fork.
In the end, we did managed a few legit wheelies. We got the bike up to the balancing point and then got a few decent pedal strokes in before we toppled over. A lot of it may have been luck and it wasn't as far as we had hoped, but we were pretty happy with our first round results. We figured out that it was indeed possible to ride a wheelie on the Big Dummy, but it was just far more difficult than we had expected.
This is not the end of our Big Dummy experiement. The bike will stay setup this way for a while and we will definitely try riding wheelies again. Honestly, this is the first of many things I really want to try on the Big Dummy. Jumps and two person downhill come to mind first… really the options are endless, ha.
Stay tuned for more Big Dummy fun in the future….