Thursday 4 April 2013

SURLY Karate Monkey 29er; Return of Monkey...

I sold my Surly Karate Monkey 29er last summer to friend Colin to fund  a Salsa Fargo build.
It was an itch i had to scratch and you can read and see it Here...

As time went on i started to miss the old Monkey for hacking about the local trails,
And also missed the magic carpet road ride of  the old Dawes Super Galaxy i also sold to fund the Fargo,

Over time found i found the Fargo to be a well made frame set and as the Internet will tell you is capable of being loaded up and taken off on far flung adventures over any type of road surface...

However it just did not do anything for me, the ride to work was harsh, and the frame was lifeless, then when off road it was terrible and uncomfortable, the rear end of the frame is designed to be loaded up and still handle ok off road, i just got sore all over riding it around local trails, and it is far too heavy for the road compared to my old tourer which flew along the road,
The drop bar thing off road i just did not get at all, you cannot throw a bike about and weight the pedals on corners, hop and skip along a nice trail, and use trials skills and lever on the bars over tricky sections etc...

It was just lifeless...and that was a shame as i was really excited about the drop bar concept of this bike with all the reviews i had read on the Internet,
but it was just dead to ride... lifeless...

There i said it and just upset the world of happy Fargo owners!.  I can only liken it to the On One 456 frame set i had which was dead and lifeless and after riding i would hang up and just walk away from uninspired by the ride... i do not know anyone else who has owned a Fargo and said this, so it must be a great bike, but for me it just did not tick the boxes, but it was an itch i had to scratch...

I want a bicycle that is fun to cycle, fun to ride to work or home after, fun to ride on the coastline here in East Lothian, or fun to ride along the many amazing trails we have here...thing with owning a Fargo was i will never go on overland expeditions, i cannot afford to!, and i have no desire to be battered by a harsh frame off road,
I want to have fun when i cycle...


So the frameset was sold and the plan was to return to riding an old friend...

Enter the Monkey...

Not my old Karate Monkey but another, i got the chance to buy the UK Surly importer ISON`s Show Bike frame set from last year and grabbed the chance, i have to thank Pat at ISON for the offer to buy it and the fair price asked and did not hang about getting the bike built up, i used up some old parts along with wheels and stuff from the Fargo...

What i did was to sort my only complaint about the last Karate Monkey i had, and that was a sometimes twitchy front end that had tucked in a couple of time on the trail,
so i fitted a  Works Components 1 degree off set headset, which slackened the fork angle to 20.5"

With the fork angle now the same as my Surly Pugsley, and with 170mm lenght cranks to spin up to speed quick, and wide 750mm bars (off the Moonlander) it has made the bike a wicked fun 29er trail bike,
This bike just asks to be ridden fast and thrown around on the trail,

Slacker head angle...

Plain build using what was around spare in the Man Cave, Fargo chain set, Moonlander Deore mech...

Wide bars, LX shifters, unknown brand levers, Moonlanders grips...

BB7 road brakes from Fargo, work fine with in line cable adjusters and MTB levers...

JANDD frame bage with pump,tube, tools, still a reasonably light build...

The newer design Karate Monkey frame definitely feels more springy and so lively than my red frame, the chain stays can be flexed by pushing on the pedal on one side, it gives a real comfortable ride and i have been out every afternoon this week after work for an hour or two blasting about, and i have missed this type of riding on my local trails, i love my 2 fat bikes but i have room for a bike like this...

A typical mid week ride which i have missed doing...
2 hour evening cycle on local Garleton Hills...

Yes it does...

Always fun building another bike up, and the first shakedown ride, this is what i mean by a bike that is fun to ride...

Song is the hidden track `Rubicon` on Kasabian`s 1st album...


  1. Spot on with the fargo! I had one too and I (thank god ) just sold the frame, The idea is great but the bike sucked. i really wanted to love the bike and gave it many chances to prove it's self but it couldn't. It's the the kind of bike you should ride by yourself so you don't know how freakishly slow your are actually going. Fargo, Go far......away from me. I'm sad to say i sold my monkey frame as well, to pay for the Krampus, I miss it already... Starting to plan for a new one

  2. Hi Death Rider, from now on for myself its defo `try before you buy`!

    The Monkey is so good fun to ride again!, better too for the slacker head angle,

    Roll on dry summer trails!


  3. Enjoyed this one. Great post, great video!

  4. Very nice! That is some man-cave, by the way! Like the stove.

  5. I wish I could try before I bought, but my interest in "odd" bikes means I have to buy based on ride reports and reviews, BUT I realize that not every bike I buy will be awesome and I am ok will selling them after a year of messing around.

    Congrats on the new Monkey. I just built up a new Surly and as I was doing my first proper ride I thought to myself - "I don't know how Surly turns a bunch of non-descript steel tubing into such fun bikes, but I am smiling like a fool as I ride yet another Surly!"

    Life is too short for crap bikes!


  6. real shame about the Fargo Bruce but if aint working for you...

    I'm loving mine and will be doing a 12/14 day off road tour around Wales in May, you know, when I'm a free man :-)

    and for what its worth I love both my Karate Monkeys and my Krampus as well, great woods bikes, wouldn't want to off road tour for more than a few days on them though ;-)

    but when I'm a free man I'll try all 3 and report back

    BTW, did I say, I'm a free man soon, expect a visit in the summer :-)

    mawhahah a a a ah

  7. Hi Steve, you are one of many friends who love their Fargo (Jason, Si, Richie), all experienced riders who know their bikes and likes...

    When are Surly making a disc check? maybe that would be an ideal drop bar bike for my needs as i only need to carry light loads and i believe they are a nice bendy frame like the Monkey and Pugsley, though i would need to try one first! lol...

    Your welcome up here any time Steve!

  8. I too had a Fargo and sold the frame for more performance. Bought a Salsa Vaya and found it lacking - just another steel bike. Now I have built up a Karate Monkey (single speed). Love it.
    Don't know what they do to their geometry or tubing but it works. The same can be said for my Long Haul Trucker. I like the idea of a "Disc" CrossCheck. Great blog!!

  9. I loved this video!!!! It's by far my favorite one you've done and I dig the music and bike build-up at the beginning.

    I'm glad that you have found a bike that brings the excitement back into riding for you. There is nothing worse then having a bike that leaves you totally uninspired at the end of a ride.

    Keep up the great vids and blogs, oh and congratulation on making the news with your fatbiking event :-)

  10. Thanks Kaetwo, turning out to be a fun month!

  11. If I may, what made you go with the Karate Monkey over the Krampus? The reason that I ask, is that the Krampus seems to be built about the same as your Karate Monkey. Both of these bikes are on my radar as an in between bike for me so I like to follow your builds and opinions.


  12. Main reason was the cost to build a Krampus Kaetwo, the Monkey frame i bought was discounted from ISON the UK Surly distributer as was an ex 2012 show bike frameset with a few scuff marks on the paint, also the extra cost of the Rabbit Hole rims and Knard 3"+ tyres, while i already had these 29er wheels and the Gato tyres,
    A Krampus is a bike i would still like to own too!

  13. I've got a Fargo Ti arriving in a few days. I ordered the Ti version because I was a bit apprehensive about the weight of the steel version. Don't worry, I didn't pay out the nose for it. I'll let you know how it goes.

  14. Hi!
    The video was pure awesomeness! I just got a Monkey & the bike is a Beast! I would like to convert it to a 1 x 10 - add better bars/stem and wheels! Love the landscape in Scotland - I would love to visit with my wife & daughter one day. My Grandfather was born there! Would like to see the Adams/MacGregor roots! Thx!!!

  15. Hi Durandal, thanks for looking in on the blog, enjoy your KM!