Sunday, April 27, 2014

Day 27: Surly Krampus Review

P2 was in good shape this morning, somewhat rare for spring, so I took advantage and headed out for a ride this morning. There were just a few muddy spots, but most of the tread was firm and packed, making for nice riding.

I was riding my Krampus again, and stopped to take a quick picture when I saw this new rope swing someone had installed:

Shortly after, a fellow on a yellow Yeti full susser passed me. There's enough 20 year old racer wannabe in me that I don't like getting passed, and I pushed the Big K to stay ahead of the next two guys that were behind me. In the end, I stayed well ahead of them, but I don't have any other pictures from today's ride for my efforts.

Now that I've had several rides on the Krampus, it's time to offer a quick review.

When I was planning on the Krampus (or a 29+ bike in general), I had a hope that the big tires could replace the suspension effect of my 26" wheeled FSR, allowing me to downsize my mountain bike fleet. It hasn't worked out that way: to get the tires firm enough to prevent the rims from bottoming, the ride becomes much like a rigid bike. Further, the frame is beefy and quite stiff, which I think transmits more trail chatter. It's dangerous to compare to a bike that I haven't ridden in close to a year, but the memories of my Soma Juice have it to be a smoother rider.

So if it can't supplant the 26er full sus AND the 29er, how about just as a 29er? Well, there again I'm a little disappointed. The stiff frame combined with the heavy wheels and tires (and, very likely, my spring fitness) make even the slightest hills feel like I'm throwing out an anchor. I couldn't see riding this bike single speed--I spend way too much time in the big end of my 36t cassette. The big tires are fun in short bursts, but I would never take this bike around the 26 mile Mohican State Park loop, for example. Maybe YOU could do it, but I sure can't.

There are certainly many aspects of the Krampus that I do like. The riding position is quite comfortable, even with the bars a bit lower than I normally favor (usually I run them about level with the seat, these are about an inch lower). Surprisingly, the slacker front end is working pretty well for me. It's a joy to point downhill, and doesn't wander too badly going back up or threading through the trees. The big tires corner great, and they do float over smaller roots and bumps. The sparkly green paint is stunning in the sunlight. Even the track ends + discs + gears haven't proven too troublesome as I've gotten used to them (and because I've rarely had to remove the rear wheel).

Perhaps the Krampus just isn't meant for a guy that still has lycra shorts in his riding kit.

At one point this winter, I looked at my growing fleet of seven bikes and decided I could pretty painlessly downsize to just the two Surlys: the Krampus for off road, and the geared Cross Check for road work. With some riding this spring, I'm doing a 180 on that direction: I'd rather have a combination of the FSR and a lighter, livelier single speed for mountain biking; and the CC is back to fixed gear mode with the Buzz brought back to life as a town bike. Four bikes, but still some churn to get that mix right.


  1. Thanks for the review! Much appreciated. / Per

  2. I think four bikes for an enthusiast is about right and what I regularly have: racing road bike; cyclocross bike; utility kid Burley Piccolo & trailer hauler; full suspension MTB. I cannot really put either of the four into the service of the remaining in order to get down below four.

    1. Yep, I'm circling around to four as well:
      - "fast" road: fixed gear Trek
      - utility: Breezer now, but waiting on the VO Camargue
      - mtb 1: FSR full sus 26er
      - mtb 2: rigid 29er, lately a Sette Razzo carbon

      It's nice to have two mountain bikes when I ride the same trails a lot.


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