Review: Surly Instigator, 26+

The Surly Instigator is Surly’s first bike with a suspension fork.

And no, as I already inquired, despite the fact that you see there’s a Fox fork on this bike, it does not mean that Fox is making a suspension fat bike fork. In actual fact, Surly purposely sought out the fork with the widest tire clearance they could possibly find, (which happened to be a Fox Float 32, 140mm travel, 1.5tap steerer, 15mm thru axle. Black) and chose the tire size to fit the fork. From there, they built the bike around the tires.

The tire size on the Instigator is a super-big 26inx2.75in, with a very similar tire to the Surly Krampus’s 29+. In fact, Surly is referring to this tire-size as 26+, and in actual use the wheel+tire height is almost exactly the same as a 650b setup. The rear stays can actually fit a 3in tire, but the fork is only capable of fitting the 2.75in.

Also intriguing are the Shimano SLX brakes. Correct me if I’m wrong (but I don’t think I am), but this is Surly’s first bike that ships stock with hydraulic brakes.

The 67.5-degree headtube angle and overall slack geometry make this bike lean well towards the aggressive side of the mountain bike spectrum. All mountain hardtails are a relatively new breed of mountain bike, and fat bikes are as well–not to mention production fat bikes with suspension forks! Surly has effectively meshed several different styles of bike, with the end result of the Instigator.

Out on the trail, the Instigator straight-up rails! Yeah, it’s hard to know exactly what this bike is meant to be… but whatever it is, one thing is certain: it’s fun! Providing mad traction on the climbs thanks to the fat tires, the slack geometry makes railing high-speed corners an absolute breeze. Pinning through a rock garden or launching a drop? No worries, the 140mm-travel fork has you covered!

While my ride on the Instigator was quite, short, it was also very sweet! The Instigator is bred for fun, and it provides that in spades. My only quibble is that the front and rear ends of the bike seem rather unbalanced. The front fork and fat tire seem absolutely bottomless, ready to suck up some serious chunder, but in the rock gardens and off of jumps and drops the rigid rear end smacks the ground with some serious shock factor, despite the steel frame.

…Somebody order up some rear suspension for this beast!

MSRP: $2,550

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