SURLY Krampus –Final Review: by martinoo and c_g
And once more a bike review is drawing to an end. The SURLY Krampus has been our steady companion throughout the last 4 weeks …. and what fun weeks these have been!! With its super wide 3“ Knard tires and the 50mm Rabbit Hole rims in 29″er format the SURLY Krampus is the first one of its kind – a new category of bikes that SURLY aptly calls „29+“.
If you want to recapture our into to the bike or our mid term ride impressions go here or here. Like stated there, the Krampus really rides a lot more like a well behaved 29″er (with lot more float) than like a fat bike. Incredible what a difference those wide tires and the volume make when riding!! Admittedly, it is a heavy bike with heavy wheels – but you primarily notice that when accelerating. Particularly noteworthy to me is how well the wheels soak up vibrations and small to medium bumps. When things get rough it still behaves like a rigid bike, requiring an active riding style.
Another great trait of the Krampus is how the huge contact patch of the tires creates an extraordinary grip – despite the tame and shallow tread design. Since the last report, we have had plenty of chances to ride the Krampus in wet to muddy conditions and even then it would fare nicely and with plenty of traction. I think it is less due to the compound but more to the contact patch that helps those little square knobs to find a hold even when riding wet roots and slippery surfaces. Obviously deep mud is not the bike´s do well ground as the huge Knard will simply start floating on top rather than cut through to firmer grounds.
Of course (ans some of you commented on this before) we were also curious to find out how the Krampus would do as a true 29″er. For this we took our set of test wheels by ACROS, mounted them and went to ride.
Much to our positive surprise the Krampus did show the same perfectly neutral and nice handling as before … maybe a tad more nimble, but still very good. If you are very sensitive about such things, you might notice that the front end now felt a bit more agile, with the rear end reacting just a bit slower, but it all was well within what you would find on other „normal“ 29″er bikes as well. I went running it with different chain stay lengths and in the shortest setting (still plenty of clearance ;)) it was hardly detectable anymore. Really surprising has been how the „tiny“ 29″er wheels do not look dorky on the Krampus … It still looks good in my opinion.
On those rides with a regular 29″er set of wheels we had not experienced any peculiarities or deficiencies in the ride. Ultimately we found our earlier experiences confirmed that the Krampus truly is a versatile 29″er (though with a PLUS added ;)).
Of course we also reversed the process and rode the Knard/Rabbit Hole front wheel on a regular 29″er bike. For this we equipped our testing platform, the BERGAMONT Revox with the SYNCROS Carbon rigid fork since no current suspension fork will hold the Knard. The end result was a hybrid rigid bike at a performance oriented 10.5 kg (23 lbs) – the 29+ wheels alone added 2.5 lbs over the stock 29″er wheels.
Strangely enough the handing turned out to be a bit awkward and the lack of weight somehow didn’t shine through as much as we had hoped. Somehow the heavy wheel up front lent so much steering stability to the Bergamont that its very short (and agile) rear end suddenly felt off balance – unfortunately there was no way to ever fit the rear wheel into any regular 29″er frame. The results may be different with longer, more relaxed frames, so should you follow this route yourself, let us know how it went.
Somehow the rides we did in this configuration ended without giving us the expected „WOW“-effect, nice, but nothing we would favor over the more standard hard tail set up.
(The only thing we didn’t have the material to check for was if it were possible to run a Knard tubeless (e.g. on a VELOCITY P35) – thus save the 400 g worth of inner tube and lighten up the handling. With the claimed weight of the 127 TPI tire (850 g) there is a full 650 g (or 1.5 lbs) to be potentially saved. Pure theory, as it may prove very hard to convert such a tire tubeless.)
“That is quite some volume tire up there – I only hope it does not ride as massively as it looks.” – were some of my first thoughts to the SURLY Krampus.
First Impression: Since I am a bit taller than c_g, the 18“ frame felt a bit compact for my taste, but still within my comfort range. The first surprise: Assisted by the super wide bar, the Krampus actually steers and turns rather nimbly. On my first rides (lots of trails with plenty of roots and rolling terrain) I choose the correct gearing ratio and had left the shifter untouched ever since. („Would this be possible on that bike even?“). Surprise No. 2: The Krampus takes a bit more effort to get to speed than my regular NINER SIR, but it wasn´t nearly as bad as I has anticipated.
Like mentioned above – the Krampus actually rides nicely agile – no trace of sluggishness. Even after massive trail mileage I can only attest that the Krampus is far from boring or slow turning. Only in slow speed turns and switchbacks did it take a bit more effort to turn – an effect I attribute to the large contact patch when ridden at low pressure (which is where the bike performs best in my opinion). The Knard´s ability to roll over roots is too good to be believed, small ones simply get soaked up, and medium ones only require a bit of unweighting the front and even big ones can be tackled confidently with a bit of active riding. Only at speed the bigger obstacles can throw you off as the wheels float then rebound so abruptly that the rider can be catapulted off the trail if not ridden accordingly (No mistaking, you are riding a rigid bike – but it feels almost full suspension soft on small obstacles). Worth mentioning is how well the Krampus would climb – even without any weight shifting I made it up the steepest grades I could pedal up – the front would be firmly planted to the ground.
On my next rides I was running more on forestry roads. Besides the ground had been saturated and soft from the recent rain. Sounds like the perfect conditions fort he Krampus, right? Over the rooty sections I again was amazed by the float, even though I got some serious slipping over bigger, more rounded roots. On the gravel, on soft over hard pack sections and crossing erosion lines the Krampus felt perfectly at home – as long as I could pedal, the bike would carry me through and up. … much better than with a standard 29″er (and made me feel invincible ;))! On those stretches of soft, soggy grounds I also rode the Krampus in single speed mode, but there I felt like someone had plastered the tires with glue. It took a LOT of effort to keep the bike at speed. In really deep grounds it was quite contrary and while control was low, I simply floated atop all the goo rather than sinking into it. Overall I had lot of fun on the SURLY Krampus but, on most rides after 1.5 to 2 hours I would feel that this bike was soaking more pedaling energy out of me than my rigid 29″er which I am accustomed.
No doubt, the SURLY Krampus with all its special features is one of the most interesting bikes we have ridden this year. For us SURLY´s concept of 29+ makes perfect sense and we hope to see more come from it than only the Krampus. Somehow the ride time on the
Krampus has taught us that the bike is not different for difference´s sake, but actually rides really well – maybe not from a performance point of view, but surely if you were to measure the fun while riding. When riding the Krampus you are sure to have fun – be it in geared or SS-mode. I´ll rephrase a commentary on the last post that said it fittingly: „… and be 8 years old once again.“
To our surprise the Krampus is a very neutral maybe even slightly agile handling bike, with absolutely no peculiarities or special characteristics. A bike that behaves well and inspires lots of confidence without ever feeling boring. 29plus keeps the promise – small obstacles are smoothly swallowed in a fashion unknown before and only on rough grounds did we really miss any suspension. It is an inherent trait of the system that at speed over rough grounds the undampened float can get bouncy, but again: horses fo courses. The only real drawback of the bike is the higher energy output it requires accelerating and keeping at speed on some surfaces.
Since the SURLY Krampus will be available as frameset and complete bike, there are plenty of options to build it up to your liking, apart from the too short seat post (and non stock 160 mm front rotor) we had little to complain in terms of trail worthiness.
In its stock 29+-config the SURLY Krampus is a really fun bike. For some that seek simplicity and pureness it may have all you want for a One-And-Only bike, but from our perspective (fast XC touring and alpine trails) it still ticks all the boxes for a great second or third bike. What is more, when considering the well balanced riding character with standard 29″er wheels, we cannot help but give the SURLY Krampus a full two thumbs up as a versatile platform for both 29″er and 29+ riding.
Keep up the pace SURLY – we are looking forward to what else you will come up with in the 29+ format over the future.
c_g & martinoo