Finally, the snow has fallen, and we are in prime fat bike season. But just before the addicting white stuff was laid out in front us, I got to spend some time on the new Surly Krampus for 2017. Let’s just say the ride was surprisingly good, and somewhat addictive.
The Surly Krampus 29er plus aligns itself with one of this year’s biggest trends; progressive geometry. The frame is constructed using Surly CroMoly “Natch” steel tubing which is butted and flared in sections to increase stiffness. Also carrying on tradition are mounting lugs everywhere, no surprise here. New for Surly in 2017 is the Gnot-Boost hub spacing which is explained here in Surly fashion. Basically, rear frame spacing is 145mm and relies on a little frame flex to accommodate for both 12 x 142 and 12 x 148 (boost) axles. For 135mm QR hub adapter spacers are available. The dropouts allow for geared or single speed setups. Chain tensioning is possible via the horizontal dropout yet for geared setups the wheel can be installed and removed vertically. The front fork is spaced 110mm and comes with a thru axle; front hub adapters are also available. Gnot-Boost seems like a fine design for Surly as last I checked steel is still the only material they use to make their frames. Steel naturally can handle this flex better than most other frame building materials. For $1500 the complete bike comes with a mid-range 11spd drivetrain and disc brakes, and 29” wheels comprised of Surly’s hubs laced to comfy Alex MD40 rims. Framesets are available starting around $625 in Andy’s Apple Red or Dark Black. Follow the link below to take you right to the Surly Krampus homepage.
The bike I reviewed came from another tester who had converted the drive train to a 30×19 single speed setup. The other change was from the stock Surly Dirt Wizard tires to a Vittoria Bomboloni front and a Sulry Knard rear, both 29×3. This setup, with some crank brothers pedals, weighed in at 29lbs 5ozs. I tested a size medium which fit me great. I’m 5’9” tall and weigh 165lbs, fresh off thanksgiving. Tires were aired to 10 psi front and 12.5psi rear. This felt great and helped to contribute to fantastic traction on the Southern Kettles trail system in Wisconsin.
This year Surly changed quite a bit in frame geometry. From 2016 the head tube angle is half a degree slacker at 69 degrees. Seat tube angle is steeper at 73 degrees, was 72.5. Chainstay went from 446mm down to 435mm and the bottom bracket dropped 5mm to 65mm. One of the first things I noticed was how familiar it felt to my personal trail bike. Overall geometry is laid out with no uncomfortable surprises. My preference is to ride a smaller wheel (bmx roots) and to have the ability to flick around the bike at will. However, the Krampus felt right at home. The 780mm wide handle paired nicely with the big wheels, where normally I would look to trimming. All this contributing to the industries progressive frame geometry trend. So, getting comfortable with the Krampus wasn’t as bad as the name lead on. (No children were harmed.)
Traction on climbs was very good due to the minimized back end steeper seat tube. 435mm chainstay length and 73-degree seat tube angle hit the mark. Keeping the rear axle more directly under my center of mass helped avoid breaking free on anything loose and prevented loss in power from wheel slippage. The steel frame is plenty stiff and was most noticeable hammering on climbs and sensed as I rolled over the washboard rock gardens. The massaged main tubing contributes here. There also is a solid thicker plate of formed steel on the drive train side only, that connects the bottom bracket to the chainstay. It’s not the prettiest thing, but the stiffness and power transfer was a plus, have you seen the mythical Krampus? I assume using this formed plate over tubing was in an issue of space, allowing for a shorter rear end and still giving plenty of clearance for chainring(s). Also, the curvier seat tube contributes to tidiness. This 29er has a very solid and reassuring feel. I had no issues keeping the front wheel down on long sustained climbs or letting it all out downhill. Leaning back for manuals and catwalks was a breeze and really up’d my fondness score as well.
This bike is most fun when I kept my hands off the brakes. The dropped bottom bracket kept me low and allowed me to enter corners at higher speed. The 69-degree head tube angle is predictable and led me around corners with lots of momentum. Even with a slacker head tube angle the huge cut in rear end length shortened the wheelbase this year to 1112.6mm (med.). Which is perfect for our twisty midwestern trails. I’m glad to see the 40mm Alex rim this year, down 10mm in width, as I did feel rim contact on a few rocks through the corners. An adjustment to air pressure would help however the trade-off would result in less traction and for me to slow down. I can only imagine the number of rim hits had I used last year’s wheelset with a 50mm rim. As mentioned, I was not riding the stock Dirt Wizard tires, these likely would be more absorbent to rock hits. The wheel setup is extra grippy and is a necessity to maintaining the momentum through corners.
All things said this bike is a solid choice for a reliable all-around trail bike. The components selected match the bike great and the price point is very approachable. It rides best once you have it rolling and kept it rolling. I also could see this being great for off-road bike packing and some marathon events. The Gnot-Boost spacing allows for a lot of wheel choices for you to build however you like if you decide to build it up or swap wheels. If you’re looking for something totally enduro or to handle true downhill this is not for you. For an extra smooth ride add 130mm fork and be on your way. For the value, perceived durability, and versatility I give this a 4.8 out of 5 gnomes! Have fun and hold onto your kids! (cuz of Krampus n’stuff)