SURLY Krampus – Mid-Term report: by c_g
OK, the SURLY Krampus, the first of its kind (SURLY calls it + 29+ platform) has served for enough miles on the trails to drop you some of our thoughts. For the tech into of the bike with the built spec and a few weights ago here. Guitar Ted’s impressions from the Outdoor Demo of Interbike can be found here.
Here a couple of observations on the Krampus before we get into the ride itself:
• The officially communicated chain stay length of 446 mm is the most forward position of the dropouts, but not the effective chain stay length when running the wide combination of the Knard tire and Rabbit Hole rims on the rear. To achieve a rub free ride you will need to slide the wheel at least 8 mm back. No big deal with the horizontal track stye dropouts, but important to know.
• As you can guess, air pressure is a crucial thing when running the Knard 3“ tires. Since the tires are undamped suspension, and all you have to cushion those blows from the ground, we took great care to get the pressure right. Too much and the ride gets bouncy, too little and you have constant rim strikes. For our riding weights of 85-90 kg (or 190-200 lbs, incl. clothing and gear) we found 0,75 to 0.85 bar (or 10.5 to 12.5 PSI) to be the optimum for all around MTB riding.
The first short round we took the Krampus up on a mixed ride with some road stretches taking us to the trail. What pleasantly surprised us from the beginning on was that you would feel you are riding a big bike, but that it never felt slow or sluggish. Somehow SURLY managed to make the Krampus handle and ride just like a (slightly heavy ) rigid 29″er – this may read simple, but it was quite a surprise for us. The thing with the „big bike“ actually wasn´t bad, and had soon been solved completely when we slid in the cockpit on the super wide (780 mm!) SALSA Whammy bar, giving us an effective 720 m width which made the Krampus feel a bit more nimble and … well almost „normal“.
When we hit the trails there was immediately this breathtaking sensation of smoothness. Small vibrations and obstacles were virtually swallowed (when the pressure has been set right ). It feels like you were floating on top of the trail and you begin to wonder why all bikes do not feel this smooth. Kind of like the feeling you had when you first rode a 29″er after having been on a 26-inch bike.
When we hit bigger roots and obstacles, they immediately threw us back into reality – showing that the Krampus IS a rigid bike still … only one with lots of „float“. Up to a certain amplitude of shock, the suspension damping of the tires is incredible, but beyond you will need to apply the same active riding style as on any rigid bike to keep the bike under control at speed. Don´t try to compare the Krampus to a hard tail or full susser – both can be run faster and more aggressively if speed is your prime parameter (… but not so when measuring by the „FUN-factor“).
Once you got acquainted with the riding style the Krampus requires – and it took me a bit of riding to get there – the Krampus is guaranteed to deliver a fun ride under most conditions. Our tester “martinoo”, found himself immediately at home on the Krampus and rocked the trails like suspension were a thing only sissys would need.
When describing the SURLY Krampus´ handling it would best best be defined as neutral and understated – a lot more so than we would ever have anticipated from a bike this different. More than once when coasting the trails we forgot altogether that we were not riding a standard 29″er. Only the slightly higher self-stabilizing effect of those huge (and heavy) wheels at higher speeds would show the difference.
The frame is a true “steel-is-real” kind of ride: neither stiff nor harsh. Not the stiffest and most direct bike we have ridden, but no wet noodle either. While we could induce some lateral flex in the front, it was nothing affecting the ride or handling at all. It is difficult to call out the frame´s damping characteristics separate from the tires/wheels on this bike, but for now I´d say it is a good steel quality ride with no peculiarities.
I have to say that having ridden mostly lighter bikes, and for sure lighter wheels, that at first I was a bit bummed by the slow acceleration. It only took me a few rides to come to terms with it though, as the Krampus simply is not that kind of bike. Don´t consider the Krampus if you look at it as a high performance or even a racer´s bike, which it simply is not going to be.
But let me drop a few lines on the other peculiar item of the Krampus – the wheels. Those bigger than life Knard 3,0“ tires and the Rabbit Hole rims are heavy (1150 g for the 27 TPI version Knard, plus 400 g for a tube, no separate rim weights) and they take some energy to come up to speed, but beyond that they are doing really well.
The tires roll surprisingly smoothly (in my eye the Knard is a bit like a mutated Racing Ralph), by the huge contact patch you get incredible traction and they look simply cool (in my opinion, that is). Ascents that usually are a real challenge, become easier and it is only the 1×10 that has me giving up occasionally, not the tires. The long wheelbase and weight sure assist in the bike being glued to the ground on even the steepest climbs. And even the downhills were mastered extremely well – as long as you would watch your terrain and adapt the speed accordingly, you´d have plenty of control and braking traction to get you through everything. When I rode too aggressively, the Krampus did bounce me off the trail occasionally, but the Knard always saved me from crashing. It has been mostly dry in the recent test period, so we haven´t ridden a lot of sloppy conditions yet, but with fall being as it is around here, this is sure to change soon.
SUMMARY: To this point we are positively surprised by the SURLY Krampus. It presented itself as a 29″er rigid bike with a very nice and neutral handling: Exactly as SURLY had intended it, the Krampus is much less a fat bike in 29″er format, but much more a 29″er with particularly wide tires (does that make sense to you?) The awesome voluminous tires have spoiled us with such traction, control, and comfort over smooth or moderately rough grounds. The performance is well mannered throughout to the extent that it needs to be ridden to be believed.. We still have some time on the bike ahead of us and will be looking at all the options the bike provides. More on this Soon here.