Category Archives: Initial Reaction
Fun with a Half Fat: a Review of the Surly Krampus 29+ MTB
As you would expect, the Krampus embodies the essence of Surly construction.

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.

Aug 26, 2013 14 comments
Review: SWRVE BLK Japanese Canvas Trouser Shorts
A Short Review with SWRVE's BLK Japanese Canvas Trouser Shorts

I feel like over the past few years, I’ve begun to appreciate a good pair of shorts. So far this spring, I’ve had a few pairs on heavy rotation but since acquiring a pair of the SWRVE BLK Japanese Canvas trouser shorts, I’ve barely taken them off and I’m pretty sure that’s what SWRVE wants you to do.

This Japanese canvas is coated with a special treatment to give them a broken-in look after a few weeks of wear and riding. The fabric took only a day to loosen up and break in, something I wasn’t expecting as they’re kind of stiff feeling when you first put them on.

A 9″ inseam is what many would consider too short for comfort but I’ve taken a liking to their fit. When walking or riding, they sit a few inches above the knee caps, but when you sit down, they tend to hike up a bit more, usually around your riding tan line and cyclists love to show that off, right?

Two pockets on the rear will hold your wallet and what have you, with one zippered pocket to ensure you don’t lose your keys. Signature SWRVE detailing like a soft lining around the waist, durable belt loops and one reflective loop strip set these apart from many other “cycling-specific” shorts. All this with a zippered fly.

I’ve only had these for a little over two weeks now, so they’ve yet to show heavy signs of breaking in, but as with all of SWRVE’s products, especially the BLK line, I’m sure they’ll hold up fine to daily use.

Since these are Made in the USA and small batch, you can expect a retail of $100. Money well spent if you ask me…

Scoop up a pair at SWRVE and check out a few more photos in the Gallery!

Jun 17, 2013 22 comments
Review: Shinola Runwell Porteur – Made in the USA
Initial Reaction: Shinola Runwell Porteur

Detroit has a long tradition of US manufacturing and it’s this very tradition that Shinola is looking to continue with their brand. The company began with watches, a common, everyday object that hasn’t been mass produced in the United States for decades. But Shinola knew that in order to bring that industry back to Detroit, they’d have to enlist in the help of true craftsmen. Ronda AG, a Lausen, Switzerland-based movement manufacturer is working with Shinola on their Argonite 1069 watch movement assemblage and that’s only the beginning.

Similarly, when Shinola began to design their bicycles, they looked to Wisconsin and the Waterford facilities for fabrication. Inspired by French porteurs and light tourers, the Shinola Runwell is an ideal city bike and you don’t need any fancy Swiss movement to get these bikes rolling. An 11-speed Alfine hub effortlessly shifts this mid-trail bike through your city or countryside. Load up the front rack with groceries, post office runs, beer, or what have you and just go! If you need to stop on a dime, the mechanical disk brakes will do the trick.

The Runwell has details. Waterford’s simple and classy lugwork, along with a bright Cherokee red paint job (it’s really bright!) really compliments the mostly chrome components. Even the gusset on the non-drive fork leg resolves any stress riser issue you might have with disk tabs on a mid-trail ride. Shinola went the extra mile with their branded saddle and grips and the 32c Continental Contact tires will roll without getting flats from thorns or glass.

Check out more below.

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Feb 20, 2013 20 comments
Initial Reaction: Chrome Niko Camera Pack
ChromeNiko-9

The years I spent in New York make me appreciate two concepts: mobility and real estate. Observing both, in the literal and figurative sense, can teach you everything you need to know about anything, even products. They are key deciding factors in determining something’s usefulness. Quite simply put: how you use the product while moving through space and how the product uses its own space.

When I heard that Chrome had picked up a designer from Lowepro to design their new Niko Camera Pack, I had high hopes that it would be an improvement over last year’s Niko Messenger Sling bag. The design seemed to be simple enough and the product shots made it look like the Niko Pack was just an enlarged by 200% Niko Messenger.  I shoot multiple formats and travel a lot with my camera equipment, so I’m always looking for a new bag that meets my needs.

Surely with all this space, it had to be the bag I was looking for?

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Feb 12, 2013 11 comments
Mad Fiber’s High Tech Wheels are Made in the USA
Mad Fiber's High Tech Wheels are Made in the USA

A wise man once said “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades” and those words still hold true today but for those who are looking for cutting edge wheel technology to aid in their performance, the name Mad Fiber might come to mind. Now, I am the last person on the face of the Earth that wants or needs carbon wheels like this but they’re not even mine. So technically, “Don’t buy upgrades, borrow them from the rep” fits here.

Check out more below.

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Jan 8, 2013 24 comments
Review: White Leather Specialized 74 Road Shoes
Initial Reaction: White Leather Specialized 74 Road Shoes

I have a problem. I can’t seem to turn down a pair of road shoes. Especially the 74 road from Specialized. These shoes have all the bells and whistles of a modern road shoe but are clad in a supple kangaroo leather. Complete with Specialized’s Boa technology, the only thing that’s throwback about the 74s is their material.

Right off the bat though, you’ll notice that the silhouette is lower than other shoes. By comparison, the heel is a centimeter lower than others I own. I thought it would be an issue with rubbing but all it took was putting the shoes on, tightening the two Boa lace systems and immediately, you can feel how different these shoes are.

It doesn’t end there. The Full Body Geometry system features in the outsole and High Performance Footbed change your alignment while pedaling, while reducing hot spots. Without going too far into this fit theory, it essentially straightens your legs as you pedal. Basically it feels like your cleats are wedged towards the outside of your shoe. A sensation that disappeared after a few miles.

The Boa system is easy to adjust on the fly, after you’ve done 30 miles or so (my feet swell during riding). While some have complained about the heel cup and ankle rub, I will say that like a good work boot, fit is essential. You’ve really got to nail down your size, so buy from a local dealer, or be prepared to send a pair back if you ordered online. At $400 a pop, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper fit. A shoe that’s properly fit will not rub.

For instance, I normally wear a 47 but ended up sticking with a 46. They’re were a bit tight on the sides of the shoe but have already begun to form around my foot. There is no fore and aft movement when I pedal: they’re snug but comfortable. Since I have only ridden these a few times, I’ll have to leave this Initial Reaction where it stands, with a follow up to come. Until then, check out some more photos in the Gallery.

Dec 14, 2012 16 comments