Fun with a Half Fat: a Review of the Surly Krampus 29+ MTB

Since first seeing the PR on this bike, I had to get my hands on one. Preferably, on my home turf in Austin for some comparison to my IF 29’r. I wanted to know if the extra “fat” would really make that much of a difference.

Before getting into the details, let’s talk about the concept of the bike. While it’s no Moonlander or Pugsley, the Krampus is still fatter than most 29’rs on the market. Its stance is aggressively increased by the 29 x 3˝ Knard tires, mounted 50mm Rabbit Hole rims. The general positioning of the bike looks more aggressive than Surly’s other offerings with that rear end too.

Surly isn’t really a company known for “racing bikes”, so don’t be confused. The Krampus handles singletrack, rock gardens, somewhat technical conditions like most rigids out there but the extra beef of the tires absorbs more of the jarring moments you’ll find on the above conditions.

I’ve been riding the absolute shit out of my IF 29’r, which is also rigid, on 2.25″ tires and I could tell a difference the extra beef made. It’s still a rigid bike, so you’ll be taking different lines than if you were on a full susp but don’t downplay the fun you can have. Or the workout…

The weight of this thing, stock, is not light. Surly doesn’t list the weight and if I recall correctly, a large weighed in close to 30 pounds. Eeeesh. But, as I said, it’s a rare bird and that weight can be drastically reduced by converting it to tubeless (it can be done with Gorilla tape), swapping the saddle, seatpost and bar / stem. If you’re smart, you can easily bring it down 5 lbs or so.

Not that a weight weenie will buy one of these bikes. After a quick spin at Lebanon in Minneapolis, both Kyle and I were feeling the weight. The bike descended amazingly, cornered and floated around turns and actually hopped up and over obstacles quite easily. On berms it was a beast and most rock gardens were mere appetizers. But the second you started climbing. Oh boy… you felt it.

So what? It’s a fun bike, that tends to get a bit heavy when you’re sticking it to a lot of short, punchy climbs but that’s not where the Krampus reigns supreme. We had a blast tearing through the River Bottoms in Minneapolis. It wheelies very easily, zips through sand, mud and whatever else you can toss at it. I didn’t even notice the weight of the bike, until I got it up to speed. It’s like a bush bowling ball.

Would I buy one? Sure thing! But if I did, I feel like my IF would be obsolete. I don’t really need another rigid 29’r right now… right? N+1?

My advice would be, if you’ve never ridden a MTB and want something for your local trails, I dare you to try out a Krampus. You might just be happy with it. Check out all the tech info you want to know at Surly.

Check out more photos and thoughts in the Gallery and decide for yourself.

  • cincinnatus

    Thats a nice review. It really rips with some chunky tires on it. I dig the no bullshit build of that bike. It definitely is not a racing bike… but out of the friends i’ve talked to that own them, they just can not stop riding that damn bike.

  • btdubs

    All I can say is that Surlys look waaay better photographed in the wild, with dirt on em. Like nature intended.

  • 80HD

    The Krampus might not be a featherweight speed-beast, but it’s the most enjoyable and confidence-inspiring ride I’ve ever had on a 29(+)er!

  • recurrecur

    Such a nice bike.

    Do the track ends make rear wheel removal difficult? That’s the one detail that really puts me off. I love the rest of it.

    • Orlando Gonzalez

      I’m no pro, and I tried once, but found that the disc doesn’t allow angled movement, only front to back. Moving the wheel back (with the chain off) and down (which occurs naturally due to gravity) caused the skewer nut to hit the derailleur. So, next time I will remove the nut to get clearance.

    • Bob Breckner

      Yes! I love my Krampus but I haven’t found a easy way to remove the rear wheel. I take the chain off
      the the chain ring, and remove the skewer, but it is still difficult.

  • Johnny Burrell

    Hey John, thanks for the write-up. A lot of reviews I’ve read overlook the going up part of the ride, which is just as important as going down (more?). Question though, why the part about “if you’ve never ridden a MTB”? Cheers

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      A lot of people email me asking what’s a good first mountain bike.

  • pattyjo

    My Shop owner built this one up and dropped a little over 7lbs off the stock build. He did not focus on weight (other than the carbon fork), but more on solid built parts just so happen to be awesome as well.

  • Stephen Wokanick

    The review and pictures were great. Beautiful bike, but the price is steep, pushing $2,000. Yikes!

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      It’s a complete bike with good parts.

  • Michael Klementovich

    I own one and thinking about buying another one put a rock Shox Bluto on and its totally awesome and it was awesome before but double awesome now

  • http://www.pici-bici.com Klemen Čepirlo

    John, could you tell me how tall are you? Did L sized frame work for you?

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      I’m 6’2 with a 36″ inseam. I usually ride an XL.