Rebecca says some things about the new Karate Monkey OPS.
The Karate Monkey OPS is both new and old; the frame has seen very few changes since Surly first released the Karate Monkey many years ago (one of the first production 29ers on the market, if you can remember that time before there were things other than wheel sizes to talk about). Well, now Surly has changed a couple of things about the Monkey frame, and for the first time they're selling the stock model with Shimano Deore components and a suspension fork. Because she knew you'd have questions, and also because she really wanted to, Rebecca recently took the OPS model out for a ride.
First, let's get the techy business out of the way. The Monkey OPS now has a 44mm headtube. Just think about how much more karate is possible with a 44mm headtube. Also, the rear dropouts are modular, allowing you to run a 12x142 thru-axle, horizontal, or standard dropouts. Shimano Deore mostly means: gears! On an out-of-the-box Karate Monkey! Doesn't that karate your mind to pieces?
Rebecca has been riding a full suspension carbon 29er for awhile now (Santa Cruz Tallboy), and she hasn't ridden a hardtail since she was just getting into (i.e. "hating") mountain biking. Thus, she was as skeptical about the Monkey as she was excited. Climbing is her nemesis (much as Batman's nemesis is throat cancer), and lugging a steel bike up a hill just didn't sound like fun to her. However, at the top of Evergreen Mountain, she said, "I've been smiling all the way up this climb."
If you've ridden with her, you know how weird this is. At the top of most climbs, if she says anything at all, it's usually more like this.
The next thing she said was, "This bike is my mistress." You can thank me for not publishing photos of the PDA that followed. Instead, here are photos that show how nice that sparkly orange "Spray Tan" color looks in the sun.
On short, technical climbs, Rebecca surprised herself by cleaning things she's never cleaned before. As you know, hardtails are known to climb well. Rebecca found the difference to be dramatic.
At one point during the ride, during one of the rare moments when I was able to catch up to her, she said the Monkey was putting her in a different state of mind. "I can feel the ground underneath me, and I'm paying more attention to the trail. Full suspension lets you kind of zone out."
When it came time to descend, she sent me off first, thinking she'd need a few minutes to get comfortable shredding on a hardtail. I stopped to take a picture and then didn't see her again until I got to the parking lot. Part of that has to do with my own style of descending on a hardtail, which often goes a lot like this, but much if it had to do with Rebecca riding that Monkey as if they were giving free pie away at the trailhead.
As we loaded the car, I asked how she'd liked the descent. "I wasn't going any slower," she said, "but everything was a lot blurrier."
Here, speaking of blurry, is the picture I stopped to take.
Some folks may be unimpressed by the Deore components. When I asked Rebecca what she thought about them, she said, "Oh, what? I wasn't even thinking about them." That's pretty much exactly what you want out of your components--to remain invisible during your ride. The way that Shimano's technology keeps trickling down to lower and lower component tiers has made for some extremely solid Deore parts. The rear derailleur has a clutch and the brakes feel better than my two year-old SLX brakes (which, despite being a tier below the XT "standard," are still performing flawlessly now into their third season).
If you have any questions about this bike, feel free to ask Rebecca, but just to warn you she's going to get excited and you won't be able to interpret much of what she says. Her answer will involve a lot of sound effects and as she stands there talking she will become increasingly out of focus.