Surly Karate Monkey super-review.


Thanks to SnowyMountain Photography for sharing photos!

This is the only bike to make it more than one and a half years in my stead without breaking or getting replaced. To me at least, and in turn, hopefully to you, that fact speaks to the rad level of this bike.

I wanted a Krampus, but at the time it was going to be a 3 month wait, so the smarty-pants owner of Johnny Sprockets put on the closest thing he knew: the Karate Monkey. And I opted to do a custom build instead of the single-speed stock offering from Surly.

I’m large and in charge, so I require at least 10 speeds. I threw on an X9 drivetrain with a 11-32 cassette and a Stylo crank sporting a 33t chainring. Avid BB7’s made a quick appearance, only to be replaced by X0 hydraulic units. Hussefelt cockpit and and a Specialized Phenom took care of the hands and butt, and as always, Shimano MD540’s held the feet.

But the original build only lasted so long. It started out with an e*Thirteen Turbocharger and a Deda dog fang, then it evolved to an e*Thirteen XCX retainer. I started out with Mavic Crossmax 29’s, and Stan’s ZTR Crest wheels laced to Hope Pro 2 Evo SP hubs also graced the K-Monkey for a moment, but these beasts replaced them quickly:

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(Velocity Blunt 35’s AKA P35’s to Hope Pro 2 evo hubs).

Karate Monkey cyclocross barrier

As you can see, my fat ass weeds out sub-par equipmnt rather quickly. Trying to be rad and over-fed at all times takes its toll on weak parts. The frame, though, has had zero problems. Not only have there been no problems, this thing begs for rough treatment. It and and the X9 Type-2 (clutch-style) drivetrain are a match made in heaven. You can pound this rig through anything without thinking twice about laying off the power.

This bike is a lifetime bike. It can do anything, you can put pretty much any part on it, and it performs like a beast. This is how it sits after a muddy-ish cross race yesterday. I could make it wind through twisty, slow, ‘cross courses faster than anybody else in the 1/2/3’s field. Not a problem.

I rode the beast on rooty, rocky, single track all last summer with the rigid fork. In locations that have more flow than blunt obstacles, the bike is ideal. On rougher stuff, it doesn’t mind being hammered through gauntlets of nasty crap. I ruined two wheelsets with this bike. One set of Mavic Crossmax 29’s, and a Stan’s Crest/Hope Pro2 Evo wheelset from Handspun.

I really can’t say enough about it. I’ll be adding photos and paragraphs here and there, as the bike evolves. Up next: 3″ Knard and a 2.5″ Race King.

Day after a ‘cross race in the 123’s yeasterday (11/3)
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The bike now resides with a team-mate with a different color paint covering the steel. I’m going to have him weigh in here with what he thinks. He’s lighter, quicker uphill, and is a newer mountain biker. Stay tuned.

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