Sunday, April 13, 2014

Day 13: Surly Krampus Review and Ride

The trail at Alum Creek was finally marginally acceptable to ride, and my folks had the kids for the day, and it was 70 degrees by 11:00 this morning, making an unusually good day to be out. I loaded up my bike gear, dropped off the kids, and headed for the trail.

My previous rides on the Krampus haven't gone well, due to various  mechanical issues. However, a new (used) chain from my bin seems to have solved the issues, and the drivetrain gave me no issues at all today:

My setup is an X7 rear derailer with a Shimano 11-36 nine speed cassette, driven by a 32t rings on some sort of old Sugino 94 BCD five bolt crank. Grip shift isn't so popular these days, but I still like it:

A 700mm wide Bontrager riser bar with a 70mm stem give me a pretty modern cockpit. The brakes are Shimano Deore hyraulic, my first time with hydros. They work well once I got them setup. That wasn't easy the first time around.

Overall, I had a good time on the Krampus. I didn't get the eye-opening revelation I had when I first demo'd it, but I think that's partly due to my spring "fitness."  The biggest demerit I could find with the Krampus was that it was hard to get it going. Sure, the big, heavy tires are naturally slower to get up to speed, but I think I'll be able to manage it better in a few months. Then again, those big tires were great across the many small roots at Alum Creek--they just seemed to disappear beneath me. And there are a LOT of roots at Alum.

On the other hand, the tires aren't as competent at bigger hits. Several times today I bottomed at the front, the rear, or both ends of the bike, getting the wince-inducing feeling of my rims hitting the trail. Clearly, my tire pressure was too soft for my speed and my line choice (I was running 13~15 psi); this is something I'll have to experiment with.

Handling was a bit of a surprise for me. The Krampus is about two degrees slacker up front than my typical 29ers, and in the past I haven't been a fan of lazy front ends. However, for whatever reason, the Krampus was able to steer capably around the trail. Perhaps the big tires make pinpoint line selection less important. I also appreciated the shorter rear end of the Big K--I have the wheel slammed forward, for a chainstay length of around 445mm, and I was able to pop the front end up as needed.

Vik B has described the Krampus as a rigid bike with extra cushion, not a full suspension replacement, and I think that's a very accurate description. The 29+ wheels are great on small roots, but bigger hits--and by bigger, I mean larger than two inches or so--still require you to use your rigid bike skills to move smoothly along. When I got home from my ride today, I took my 26" FSR out for a quick spin up and down the street. I had a thought that the Krampus could replace the FSR, but now I don't see it: the FSR handles big bumps much more capably than the Big K. This is starting a rethink of my recent Need-Want-Have assessment.

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