I like to think of myself as a minimalist or utilitarian or consumerism anarchist. I can get away with this kind of thinking because I own three pairs of pants. However, I own this koozie that looks like a handlebar grip and I'm drinking a Le Criox from it, so clearly I am to minimalism what Kanye West is to modest restraint. But hey, it's my life and I can live under whatever pretense I like.
Anyway, I like to think of myself as minimalist. This makes me somewhat at odds with the bicycle industry, which puts itself through annual contortions to come out with 'new' products that are often the same or worse. Sure, we progress. Bikes are better than they used to be and we must fail to succeed, but evolution is a slow process. I avoid most trade shows because it's not worth my time and energy to fly across the country to see a new ultrasonic chamois or telescoping handlebars.
However, when Surly called and said, "Do you want to check out some new stuff at Saddledrive?" we said, "Only if you're exclusively making crit bikes now," and they replied, "Yeah, fat crit bikes." And so we went.
Over the last few months, a few of you asked us whether Surly was going out of business. You likely asked because of their low inventory levels on popular bike models and even some staples like cogs, rim strips, and Tuggnuts. The answer is no (you can read more here). The new stuff we saw at Saddledrive is just the tip of an iceberg of rad innovation that will sink the Titanic of your ennui. We didn't get to see everything Surly has in store, but the rumors we heard make it difficult to sleep.
Was it worth flying across the country to see what we saw? Yes.
The Karate Monkey, Cross Check, and Troll have all been updated to one degree or another. If you want to feast upon technical data, you can read all the specs here.
The Cross Check frame remains the same, but will be offered in a flat-bar build for $875. Yeah, I know! We rode it, and it rides like a Cross Check. It just costs less. Knards! A rear rack! A WTB saddle! Dreams are coming true.
The Troll is no longer suspension corrected. It comes with better tires and a new rear axle spacing. Look at the size of the frame bag you could put in there. If there is a place you want to go, this bike can get you there.
So that's one bike with an updated build kit and one frame that's been improved.
This Karate Monkey has been totally reimagined and the results are screamalicious.
The Karate Monkey has been around long enough that almost everyone has owned one. It's gone largely unchanged since it was one of the first production 29ers in 1842. It's been all kinds of rad for all kinds of people for so long. Why would they change it? To make a great thing even better.
When I first saw that sticker I laughed, then I thought about it and I understood that the new Karate Monkey is about freedom. Run a dropper if you want. That little brace that ran from the seat tube to the top tube is gone, as is the bend in the seat tube, so you can run a 30.9 dropper with a ton of travel. Run a fork with up to 140mm of travel if you want. Bikepack if you want. Commute. Run different wheel sizes. Have an "old" 135mm rear hub with a quick release? Great. Do you have a fancy new boost wheelset? Fine. You are free. Do whatever you want to this bike and it is going to respond with poise, grace, and competence. (For goodness sake do not buy it because it's the new hotness and then hang it in your garage for a decade. You are free but that's just wasteful.)
The top tube is longer than the Instigator's! The head tube is two degrees slacker than it used to be! It has trumpeted tubing like the Ice Cream Truck and Instigator instead of gussets. Prettier! Stiffer! Internal dropper post routing! All of the braze-ons! Ehrmagherd!
There are two stock builds on the way: a single speed 29er in Stand Back Purple and a 1x11 with 27.5+ wheels in Rhymes with Orange.
Both are so rad.
We also rode the Ice Cream Truck. It will be back later this year in a new color and with a new build spec, but we rode the old sparkly blue one that's been around for awhile. New products are so constantly made available that it's easy to forget that "old" bikes (less than two years old) are still mind blowing.
The Ice Cream Truck is unassuming. It may not look like a fun and capable trail bike, but it's a total blast. Our first impressions of the bike were favorable, and nothing has changed.
Here's the takeaway: Surly has new stuff and it's exceeds not only expectation but desire. Surly has old stuff that's exceptional. If you already own one, don't forget you already own one of the best bikes available. Are the new bikes better? In my opinion, yes. Is your old bike still great? Objectively yes! I won't be getting rid of my old Karate Monkey any time soon.
The future is uncertain. The Earth may completely disappear out from under you when you're in an airplane. You never know. Ride good bikes while you can.