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.

Clement MXP mud race review

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clement MXP

clement MXP

I slogged though a mud race in Wisconsin with this tire on the front, and I wanted to write a little blurb about its mud performance.

I didn’t bother to read it’s description from Clement, but the tire looks to be an all-purpose ‘cross tire like the grifo, but leaning toward the more aggressive, muddy side.

The tire would pack in the slime, but would clear enough to see exposed tread. I could feel it grip even though it was gummed up, and it would clear out if I rode through a little bit of water (a pro tip for mud racing: most people avoid clear standing water…use it to clean your tires and bike out).

For a $50 all-around tire, it performed admirably. The PDX would probably perform better in the mud, but this tire rocks in dry grass and hard pack, and it’s available when the PDX is usually out of stock.

SRAM road shifters with mountain derailleurs.


Photo courtesy of Snowy Mountain Photography.

I’ve had a few people ask the question…does it work? With the new single-ring offerings from Wolf Tooth Components (review to come from two teammates), XX1, X01, and people wanting to rock larger cassettes on their ‘cross bikes or mountain bikes with the already proven X9 and X0 derailleurs, there are many setups where a person could want to mate SRAM brifters with SRAM mountain derailleurs.

You can’t see the full bike above (peep the busted left lever though), but I’m rocking a Rival shifter combo with an X9 Type-II long-cage rear derailleur, and a 1×10 drivetrain. It worked great with a 11-32 cassette (could be worse with larger cassettes). It moved my formerly fat butt around a cross course for 2 or 3 races when I doubled up classes. The setup was a blast on the Karate Monkey and made ‘cross racing more fun. Here is a crappy photo of it. Forgive the crappiness, the K-Monkey was setup like this for only a couple months almost a year ago.

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I don’t really any setup secrets, because it was easy-peasy. You just have to make sure you get an in-line barrel adjuster in the shift housing line, because there is no barrell adjuster on the type-II derailleurs, and the brifters lack the adjuster a Sram mountain shifter would have.

I was also rocking Avid BB-7 mountain mechanical discs with the road levers. Again, add an in-line barrell adjuster, and have them set up by an experienced mechanic. They can work well, they just need to be set up well. If you have 10-speed hydro shifters, all the better.

That’s it. Now, feel free to throw some drop bars on your mountain bike, or a big cassette on your ‘cross bike, and thrash a trail, a ‘cross course, or dirt road, or all three.