Surly’s “Racing Sucks” schtick and steel frames keeps some weight weenies off their bikes, but those guys in Minnesota accidentally made the perfect Iceman Cometh bike.
The 29+ game is on the rise, with lots of local riders putting 29 inch rims and 3″ tires appearing on accommodating fat bike frames likes the Salsa Beargrease or Borealis’ Yampa or Echo. The O.G. (original gangster) bike, however, is the dedicated Surly Krampus. Surly spent a lot of time on the frame in order to get the wheels in the right place, bringing in the wheels to keep it snappy and fast. It comes with a 1x set-up, complete with MRP chain guide with a 34t front ring matched with a full 11-36 out back. This range was perfect even at high speeds, turning a 100 cadence at about 27mph for one 800 meter push on flat pavement.
FULL DISCLOSURE: It’s still heavy. My Krampus set-up is just a snot rocket over 33 pounds, and roughly 32 pounds with just pedals and one bottle cage. It’s heavy enough to be very noticeable when the trail goes up. The steeper the climb, the more it feels like you’re doing leg presses, churning at a slow cadence rather than bouncing like you would on a lighter bike. The positive aspect comes in the form of all the traction of 3″ inches of rubber on the ground; you have all the bite in the world. Indeed, with tire pressure nailed, you should never spin out, no matter how loose or steep the grade. (As a measure, I weight 162 pounds and run 9psi front and 11psi rear, with tubes)
The Knard tires are pretty solid options, especially for the Vasa and, more generally, Northern Michigan. They are perfect in the sand and on fast, open stretches with little resistance. They come up a bit short in slick black mud, but that’s such a rarity around here that it’s hardly an issue. Investing in the 120 tpi version saves some weight and if you go to the tubeless ready Velocity Dually rim option, it’s a no brainer to get the lighter tube along with it.
It was the Krampus what was selected for this past Saturday’s Gear+Beers Iceman Practice ride, complete with JANDD frame bag for a second pair of gloves, more food and some repair supplies for the 200+ riders making the trip with us. After a merry jaunt out to Kalkaska, I joined the 2 hour group for the return leg. It was the only steel bike, the only 29+, but I never felt at a disadvantage. On the steeper stuff, I could ride any line I wanted, while other bikes were stuck to one line, creeping and crawling.
The obvious advantage came on the countless sand pits that dot the 29 mile course. While even great bike handlers like Ryan Kennedy or Josh Zelinski weaved and zigged through the sand, I rode straight through it. Some I could even stand up and accelerate in, making an easy pass out of panic/freak-out/near crash.
Does the traction, the sand-sailing, and the general bad-assery make up for weighing more than most 3 year olds? That depends. If you can mash, stand up, and man-handle a bike, it’s not so noticeable. If you sit and spin, it takes more of a toll, especially on the short and sharp stuff that dots the final forty minutes of racing at Iceman.
If you’re looking for a Krampus, Ec has a full size run to rent and sell, and it’s certainly worth a test ride. The only knock aside from the weight is the goofy, single-speed ready dropout that can allow the wheel to turn. Interestingly, Surly looks to be phasing out the old dropout style and replacing it with the MDS set-up, Module Dropout System. It looks like only the ‘Ops’ version of the bike will be available in the future, with its very cool powder and matte black paint job looking pretty darn sweet.
If you want to see some very cool stuff going on in the 29+ world, especially with the Krampus, check out this Facebook page. People love this bike and are doing some very cool stuff with it out in the world.