There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the release of Surly’s Krampus, and when talking about what this bike is, it’s probably best to begin by talking about what it’s not: It is not a “fat bike” with massive 4 or 5-inch tires designed for maximum flotation and slow speed crawling. It’s not a race bike either… it’s somewhere in between. That place in between goes by the name of “funland.”
At the time Surly spawned the Krampus, the company also coined a name for what could become a new style of mountain bike: the 29+. With a 29” wheel and 3” wide tires, the 29+ offers superb traction thanks to its ability to run low tire pressures coupled with a really wide tire profile. This tire also features a tall profile, making the overall height of the wheel/tire combo much taller than a regular 29er. Hence the 29+ moniker.
I was a little skeptical at first: “Sure, this bike looks like fun, but how will it handle out on a trail in real-life conditions? And in the desert with not a hint of snow at that?” The answer is, “Surprisingly well!”
I found the slightly heavier weight of the Krampus had remarkably little bearing on overall performance. Heck, I’d even have to say that I felt the bike clipped along at a good rate: I kept pace with some guys on race-equipped hardtail 29ers and did my fair share of passing in the Outdoor Demo singletrack paceline.
In the corners, the 69.5 degree headtube angle meshed well with the big wheels and tires. Obviously, the bike wasn’t as snappy as a regular mountain bike would be. If you are looking to whip this bike around, just don’t bother. But if you are willing (and talented enough) to adapt your riding style to make the best use of your equipment, you may find, as I did, that the monster-truck style of the Krampus works pretty well in all sorts of conditions, ranging from technical to flowy. Not only that… it’s just plain fun! In the wider turns, the traction from the massive contact patch just can’t be beat. If you can imagine a cross between a motorcycle and a bicycle… well, I think this is it!
The Krampus is very unique and very fun to ride! And don’t assume this bike is restricted to certain conditions like snow or sand: the Krampus is an everyday grin-inducing machine that is guaranteed to fill your world with daisies and rainbows.
If you want a bike to place in weekend cross-country races or to try to ride the legs off your buddies at your weekly group ride, this isn’t for you. Similarly, if you enjoy popping off lips and hucking drops, don’t apply. But if you don’t get too uptight about your riding and just enjoy having fun on the singletrack, give the Krampus a whirl and see if it lands you in that magical place called “funland.”