Whilst walking the halls of Eurobike, it doesn’t take long to be swept up in all of the carbon fibre full suspension plus e-bike wizardry that dominates most exhibitors display stands. Everyone wants to have the most cutting-edge designs on show, and the more exotic and lightweight, the better. So when you come past the Surly Bikes booth, it’s a highly refreshing experience.
Known for their range of no-bullshit steel framed rigid bikes, Surly offer a distinctive range of mountain bikes, off-road touring bikes, commuters and cyclocross bikes, amongst things like rims, tyres and cockpit components. Despite their relatively simplistic appearances, Surly has a knack for producing genre-bending bikes that often end up creating their very own niches. Take the original Pugsley, which kicked off the fat bike movement. Or the Karate Monkey, which was one of the very first 29er mountain bikes on the market.
For 2017, the Karate Monkey returns to the fore with a new frame and fork that have been redesigned with updated geometry, along with new dropouts that offer additional wheelsize versatility.
We reported on the news of the new Surly Karate Monkey last month, but we had a chance to see one up close during Eurobike 2016.
The Surly Karate Monkey has been redesigned for 2017, with a new frame and fork that offer the ability to fit regular 29in wheels, or 27.5+ wheels (shown here).
The Karate Monkey frame uses a 44mm head tube that allows you to fit both tapered and straight steerer tube forks.
Taking design cues from the Instigator 2.0 trail bike, the Karate Monkey updates its steel tubing to be a little beefier, with trumpet-style profiles that offer added strength at each junction point.
There has never been a more appropriate time than 2017 for Surly’s ‘Fatties Fit Fine’ adage. Surly have always offered masses of tyre clearance with their steel bikes, but the new Karate Monkey amps up the clearance so you can squeeze in 29×2.5in or 27.5×3.0in wide rubber.
Horizontal rear-facing dropouts allow for adjustable chain tension if you’re running the Karate Monkey as a singlespeed.
The dropouts are also hiding another clever trick that Surly call ‘Gnot Boost’ spacing. This is another feature that Surly has been using for over a decade, with their original Cross Check frame using 132.5mm rear dropout spacing that allowed you to push them in to fit a 130mm road hub, or spread them out to accommodate a 135mm mountain bike hub. On the Karate Monkey frame, the Gnot Boost spacing is 145mm. The concept is the same, so you can either squeeze the dropouts around a 142x12mm rear hub, or spread them open to fit a 148x12mm BOOST rear hub. Or you can even add a spacer inside the driveside dropout, and it’ll fit 135mm rear hubs. How versatile is that?
On the other side of the dropouts is a slotted mount for the rear disc brake, which allows you to adjust the calliper as you adjust the wheel position.
Updated geometry on the Karate Monkey sees it equipped with a 69-degree head angle, and longer top tube lengths across the board that better suit shorter stems and wider bars. Chainstay length goes down to 423mm in its shortest position. Don’t want to run a rigid fork? Surly states the Karate Monkey will take up to a 140mm travel fork, though we’re guessing that’s with the 27.5in wheel setup.
The yellow Karate Monkey on display in Surly Bikes booth was outfitted with wide rims and Surly’s own Dirt Wizard 27.5×3.0in tyres.
The Dirt Wizard tyres use a folding kevlar bead and a 60tpi casing
An aggressive tread pattern is designed to provide grip in loose and varied conditions, and Surly claims the 48a durometer rubber offers a good mix of grip and durability. It certainly feels quite soft and tacky to touch.
Surly is synonymous with steel frames, and the Karate Monkey continues that tradition with 4130 tubing that has been double butted to reduce weight and increase vibration damping.
Like the Instigator 2.0, the Karate Monkey is updated for dropper post routing for both internal and external options. Otherwise cabling for gears and brakes remains external. Further no-nonsense features include the threaded bottom bracket shell.
More versatility comes from the many mounting points you’ll find on the Karate Monkey frame and fork. It’ll take front and rear pannier racks, multiple bottle cages, Salsa’s Anything Cage, and you’ll be able to fit mudguards too.
We love the yellow colour, and we also love the simplicity of the full rigid frame along with big fat 3.0in wide rubber. This looks like it could be a lotta fun.
Also on display at Surly Bikes booth was a singlespeed version of the Karate Monkey, complete with a 29in wheel setup.
Same-same, but different. The Karate Monkey will take up to a 29×2.5in wide tyre in its big wheel setup.
How’s that purple colour? Maybe it needs some purple Hope bits and pieces to take it to the next level?
Classic Surly head tube badge on the oversized 44mm head tube.
Don’t want a derailleur? No worries – the horizontal dropouts on the Karate Monkey allow you to move the rear wheel back and fourth to adjust chain tension.
No replaceable derailleur hangers here. Because of the strength and flexibility of steel, the hanger on the Karate Monkey frame can be bent back and fourth without fear of breaking like an alloy hanger. Great for field repairs when you’re in the middle of nowhere.
Plenty of mud clearance with the Maxxis Ardent 2.25in wide tyres fitted to the display bike, though we’d probably fit something a bit toothier for British conditions.
You want to mount stuff? The Karate Monkey will take it all.
We wonder how much weight you’d save by removing all of those bolts if you’re not using them?
The Surly Karate Monkey will be available as both a frameset and as a complete bike later in the year. UK pricing will be updated as we get it. Premier Partners