Note: These are not reviews but are simple ride impressions based on the demo tech set-up. All bikes were ridden on the Bootleg Canyon demo loop. Keep in mind that a short ride is not a review, but merely gives us, (and you out there), some idea of what we’re looking at here.
Interbike ’13: Ride Impressions- Surly ECR- by Guitar Ted
Last year when I demoed the Surly Krampus I felt that the newer wheel format, dubbed 29+, was perhaps a great idea for a bikepacking type set up. The bigger diameter wheel should really make small trail chatter nearly invisible and the big, three inch wide rubber would float you through looser terrain with more stability. The Krampus ride seemed to bear this out. Well, Surly was obviously way ahead of me on those thoughts. Now we have the ECR and its purpose, back country camping, is easily apparent.
Some may ask, “But what is so different here? Why is this not a Krampus with braze ons?” Well, it has some significant geometry differences, such as a slightly lower bottom bracket and a slightly steeper head tube. Add in the Troll/Ogre type rear drop out, several braze ons added to the fork, and the Jones handle bar and the ECR not only looks and handles differently, it has a whole new set of tools one can utilize as well over that of the Krampus.
With all of this in mind, I set out on a bit of a different test for this rig. On the way out to the demo area I grabbed a bottle of water and headed for the gravel road that leads up into Bootleg Canyon. This road features some loose, deeper patches of gravel and my thought was to determine how stable the ECR might be on this sort of surface while drinking a bottle of water and steering with one hand. Why? Because as a tourist, you will be doing things like this and your bike needs to be stable and predictable.
The ECR definitely passed this test and I feel that bodes well for the purposes this bike will be used for out in the wild. However, it also needs to be a mountain bike, so after I was finished going up, I went down the single track. Obviously, the ECR is a fully rigid bike, and it isn’t the trail slayer the Krampus is, but it isn’t bad either. It did a fine job getting me around the loop and safely over the rocky bits. That said, it would be really nice to have the option of putting an approved suspension device on the front of this bike. Maybe that will happen soon…..
So, how does this stack up to hard tail 29″er touring type bikes and bikes like Salsa Cycles Fargo? Bikes that can also do bike packing and do it well? I think the ECR’s niche is in its versatile drop outs, 29+ sized rubber, and the fact it is a Surly. The ECR can handle internally geared hubs, go single speed, and pull the trailers Surly makes. The ECR has the 29+ tires, (Knards for now, although the Dirt Wizzard is said to be coming as well in this size), and those tires make a big difference in how the ECR can handle looser terrain, mud, and even packed snow. Of course, the mere fact it is a Surly will be all some need to be convinced this is a rad idea. My take is that it seems to be well sorted for a good bit of adventure off the grid.