I’m praying for society’s collapse so I can leave the grid already.
My Surly Karate Monkey had been woefully underused. Usually when I travel within the Northeast, I bring a bike with me, and in June, I vowed only to bring the Karate Monkey, forcing myself to get familiar with the geometry and capabilities of the bike. When it came time to plan Kelley’s bike tour, I knew it was time for a real shake-out.
I designed the bike for long-distance endurance races like the CDMBR, but it’s a very versatile frame. People build up Karate Monkeys for trail riding, urban assault, cyclocross, and just about everything else. Since it was Kelley’s first ride, I set my KM up to handle more gear for the two of us, and this will likely be my setup for winter touring or expedition-style international touring in the future.
The Naked Monkey
The bare frame feels light and capable, even with the front rack and aero-bars weighing down the front end. Once I get the wheels replaced this winter, it’ll weigh a pound or two less. As shown, I think it’s around 27 lbs.
Here’s the complete components list, with links!
- Frame: Surly Karate Monkey, 20″ (Large)
- Fork: Surly Ogre 29er fork, 43mm rake, suspension-corrected
- Crankset: TRUVATIV X9 39/26
- Rear Derailleur: Sram X9 Long-Cage Carbon
- Front Derailleur: Sram X9 2×10 top-pull
- Cassette: SRAM X9 12-36T
- Chain: SRAM 10-speed
- Pedals: eXotic AM-DH Alloy Compact Clipless/Flat One Sided Pedals
- Hubs: Shimano XT 36H 6-Bolt Disc
- Rims: Sun Rims Rhynolite
- Tires: Maxxis High Roller II 2.3 front, Maxxis Minion DHR 2.3 rear
- Headset: FSA Orbit XL-II
- Stem: Easton EA-70
- Seatpost: Exotic 3D-Forged Aluminum
- Seat: WTB Pure-V
- Handlebar: Salsa Salt Flat 2
- Aero-bars: Profile Design Century
- Shifters: SRAM X9 Trigger Shifters
- Brakes: Avid BB7 Mountain Disc
- Cabling: Jagwire Mountain Pro, Metallic Gold
- Levers: Avid Speed-Dial 7
- Grips: ESI Extra Chunky
- Front Rack: Racktime Top-It
Sram’s rear derailleurs and shifters use a 1:1 actuation ratio, which reduces the stress on the cable and simplifies a lot of the setup of indexed shifting. A couple quarter-turns on my shifter’s barrel adjuster is usually all it takes to correct the derailleur after I replace a cable, and it stays indexed for the life of the housing or the death of the derailleur, whichever comes first. I’m using the X9 carbon derailleur, but I may swap it for an X7 derailleur for the alloy pulley cage, which can be bent back in case of a rock-hit.
My crankset is geared for hills with a 26-tooth inner ring. The spindle and chainring bolts have seen better days; surface rust is collecting since I keep riding it through deep snow, slush, and flooded trails. I may be up for a replacement sooner than I’d like, but a ship isn’t built to sit in the harbor.
The Racktime front rack, built by Ortlieb, meshes perfectly with the Lezyne Power Cage on my Ogre fork’s bosses. This lets me carry two water bottles directly behind my front panniers for extra stability and capacity. Getting to the portside bottle isn’t the easiest task, but I guess it’s practice for tricky technical riding.
I went with aero-bars for endurance rides, and they were welcome on New Hampshire’s steep descents last weekend. I’m not using them to mount anything other than my GPS, so their utility is underused with the front rack. I’m also struggling with a better light setup — more to come on that front.
The levers pull Avid BB7 disc brakes, using good old-fashioned steel cables. With Jagwire’s compressionless housing, they aren’t any more squishy than a good pair of hydraulics. I might not have the modulation and precision of some of the nicer Shimano hydraulic setups, but I won’t lose a brake if I catch my cable on a passing tree branch and rip something out. A spare cable weighs nothing and can be replaced in minutes.
A short Easton EA-70 stem keeps me upright, and the Orbit XL-II cartridge-bearing headset can take a beating.
The Loaded Monkey
Fully loaded, this bike keeps some of its snappy maneuvering tendencies, but it’s more stable than any other touring bike loadout I’ve ridden. I had no trouble hopping curbs, roots, and rocks, and I rolled straight on three-mile descents at 40+ mph with no wobble or feedback.
Here’s my full gear list, minus Kelley’s stuff, which made up about half of the gear shown on the bike.
Two Ortlieb Front Rollers mount ahead of the fork mounted water bottle cages, high enough to clear unkept trails, but not high enough to throw off stability. The drybag strapped above them with two Salsa Anything straps holds a bivy and sleeping bag, which collectively weigh a little under 3.5 pounds.
I strapped on a Thermarest z-seat, and was glad to have it for Kelley to take breaks between climbs. I also brought camp shoes, breaking my own UL rule, since I knew we’d be spending a lot of time off the bikes this trip. One pannier holds Kelley’s clothing, and the other holds her sleeping pad and all of our food.
In the back, a Revelate Designs Viscacha holds my clothing, a fleece, my sleeping pad, and my cook kit. The merits of oversized seatbags are lauded universally, and they’re ubiquitous in bikepacking setups.
The Rogue Panda Designs Framebag was filled to bursting. In it, I’ve got 2 liters of water, a Sawyer Squeeze filter, first aid, bike tools, spare tubes, a pump, food, accessories like my phone, wallet, passport, headlamp and batteries, and tons of little things like matches and zip-ties that would get lost anywhere else.
I carried a hydration pack on this trip, but it held an iPad and a wind jacket, so it was under-filled. I could have lived without it.
In the future, Kelley will start carrying more and more weight, and we’ll be getting her a new frame within a year that’ll take framebags a bit easier than her current bike. Once I lose her camping equipment, the front rack is gone. Otherwise, the bike is pretty well-specced for what I’m doing with it, and I’m super happy with how everything performed. I can’t wait for new wheels!
It’s hard to love two bikes… but I’m doing my best to dole out equal attention.