Pink Bike had a nice trip report from Skyler [offroute.ca blog] bikepacking in BC on a Surly 29+ rig. Click on the image to read it.
I think the Krampus is an amazing bikepacking platform. I’m sold on 29+ for this type of riding. I’m keen to tweak my setup and get the most from it without becoming a gratuitous bling-whore. After making some changes over the winter I wanted to field test them so I headed out for a 3 day Gravel Pimping adventure with my buddy Michael who has been wanting to get his bikepacking rig into action for a while now. We rode from Port Alberni to Cumberland and back in the reverse loop of a route I used previously. Michael is doing a ride report which I’ll post when he’s got it done. In the meantime I thought I would do a rundown of my mods with some thoughts on how well they worked.
Fox Float 34 x 130mm Fork
This trip was not very technical. There were some rough sections for sure as well as paved sections. I really didn’t notice the suspension fork much either for the good or the bad. The steering geo seemed fine and there was no issue with tire clearance in the fork. Looking at the dust marks on the stanchions I used about 100mm of travel during the trip which is a fair bit, but from the saddle that never seemed obvious. I’m going to wait until I get a more technical bikepacking trip under my belt before I make any decisions about what to do with this fork.
I will say that having ridden the same route rigid [as well as two trips to the Chilcotins rigid] that the Krampus and its 29+ tires really smooth out rough terrain even without the benefit of suspension. I’m too lazy to go swapping forks back and forth for each trip, but I certainly wouldn’t feel any need for a suspension fork on a GDR style Gravel Pimp trip. It just adds weight. maintenance and an extra failure point.
One fork related thing I didn’t like was the bar height. Since this was a used fork with a cut steerer I had to place the bars a bit lower than my previous setup. That wasn’t as comfortable. Especially for long non-technical sections with less body movement. I’ll be trying a new bar with 3/4″ more rise to see if that sorts the problem out.
Previously I had some Egon grips on the Krampus that look like the ones in the photo above except they had built-in bar ends. I really liked them and was sad when I crashed a wrecked one of the pair. I had these white ones in my parts box so I used them instead of buying new ones. They were comfortable as I have grown to expect from Ergon grips, but I missed the lack of a bar end which provides a nice change of hand position for long days in the saddle. Adding external bar ends would push the grips and controls too far towards the centre of the bar so I’ll bite the bullet and buy some new Ergons with built-in bar ends.
WTB Pure V Saddle
I’ve been a die hard leather saddle user for a number of years now. I can ride all day for weeks at a time in total comfort on leather saddles without needing a bike diaper. I was interested in finding a lighter and cheaper option which lead me to the WTB Pure V for my trail riding needs. I find these saddles very comfortable for 3-5hr trail rides without needing any bike specific padded shorts. On tour though I found they were not as comfortable when I moved around the bike less and spent 8-10hrs riding per day. They weren’t awful, but when you are used total comfort in the butt region some mild discomfort seems like a big deal. So I’ll be going back to a Brooks B17 for the Krampus. The WTB saddle will get used on my trail bikes.
I realize there may be other plastic saddles I might like better, but I have enough Brooks saddles and WTB saddles in my garage to last me a while so I’m just going to use them.
Porcelain Rocket MCA Bar Bag
This is Scott’s new minimalist bikepacking bar bag setup. I don’t have a great picture of it handy so jump over to his blog post about it to see the details. His previous setup had a fabric bag that stayed mounted to the bars that you stuffed with your gear and rolled up at the ends to close it. They new setup gets rid of the bag and replaces it with a dry bag [you provide] that loads from the front. I didn’t have much negative to say about the old version. Mine was a bit tight for my sleeping bag in a dry bag when I was loading it in the morning, but that was the only 5 mins of the day where it wasn’t awesome. The new setup gets rid of that one annoyance and is lighter. The new system lets you pack your bag away from the bike and then just pop the dry bag onto the bars and ride away. Nice if you are not sleeping right by your bike.
Overall it was easy to use and kept my gear in place just as well as the old system.
One issue to be aware of is that your dry bag is vulnerable to damage since it’s not covered with any other fabric. It’s also the only thing keeping your gear together on your bars. If you do a lot of bushwhacking through thorny vegetation or are on a long trip and are concerned about wear and tear you may want to cover the dry bag with another bag that has tougher fabric.
Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion Seat Bag
Once again I’ll suggest you jump to Scott’s blog for detailed photos of this new seat bag setup. The main difference between the new system and Scott’s older one is that it uses a metal frame + harness to stabilize the load. That means as you bomb down a rough trail your seat bag isn’t flopping around. A secondary feature is that the bag itself can be removed from the bike in a couple seconds and carried elsewhere so you can easily camp away from your ride. I found this new design to be a lot better than my old bag mostly due to how stable it was on rough terrain, but also I liked just grabbing the whole bag and loading/unloading it at my campsite.
One extra benefit we noticed on this trip [Michael used my old PR seat bag] is that the new version once set in place didn’t move vertically. While the old bag on Michael’s bike would sag a bit under its own weight when hammered down a rough road. This ended up with the bag rubbing the tire a couple times due to a combination of a tall 29er tire and a short exposed seatpost. Because of the metal tubes and the clamp on the seatpost once you get the Mr. Fusion adjusted for your bike it stays where you put it.
Porcelain Rocket Frame Bag
The frame bag I had been using on my Krampus the last couple years was built for a different bike. It fit well enough that I couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it, but last summer when I was on tour with Scott I could tell the crappy fit of the bag on the Krampus made him sad and I did feel a bit guilty because someone might assume he built that bag for my Krampus and just didn’t do a good job. So I got a new custom fit bag this year. Not a lot to say about it. It fits great and is well constructed like all of Scott’s gear. He made it pretty narrow compared to the old bag which I think is Scott’s way of telling me I carry too much damn stuff on tour! 😉
I’ve spent a couple years riding a pair of 120tpi Surly Knard 29 x 3″ tires. I use them mostly for bikepacking although I have rocked my Surly Krampus on trail rides now and again. The tread is now starting to show some wear, but for non-technical riding they’ll keep rolling another season or two. So far only 2 flats and both were before I went tubeless.
Setting the Knards up tubeless on some Rabbit Hole rims was easy using the split tube method. They have been 100% reliable with no flats and I can leave them 2 weeks+ without adding air.
For non-technical riding [ie. logging roads] I’ve found the Knard to be an excellent tire. It rolls quickly, provides solid traction and its big volume floats over loose terrain with ease. Even when I have encountered snow and mud on non-techy rides I have liked how the Knards worked for me. If you are forced to ride 100kms of pavement on a tour you will not hate life on these tires.
Where the Knards have shown their limits is in challenging technical riding. For me the biggest issue has been loose dirt/gravel especially on off camber trails. The front Knard just doesn’t have the side knobs to grab into the trail and keep the bike tracking straight which means you either go really slow or your front tire washes out and you crash. 😦
The very tall and wide [for normal MTB rubber] 29 x 3″ tire smooths out rough terrain, keeps you rolling fast and floats through softer conditions with speed as well and control. Despite the extra weight you can moving around I find the Knards let me move up and down just as fast as skinnier tires. The large volume also makes riding a rigid bike quite pleasant on all but the most broken ground.
Wanting a slacker front end I have mounted a Fox Float 34 fork on my Krampus and jammed the Surly Knard + Rabbit Hole rim combo in there. It requires the removal of a small amount of the fork brace to fit this big tire inside.
I have used Knards on skinny Stan’s Flow rims and 50mm Surly Rabbit Hole rims. If I was starting over today I’d build up a set of 35mm carbon Light Bicycle rims for my Krampus to get a nice blend of stiffness, lightweight and wide enough rims to support the 3″ tire.
All in all I think Surly’s first 29+ tire is a great option for bike touring and non-technical riding. I just bought a lightly used set of 120 tpi Knards from a rider on MTBR.com so I’ll have some Knards to keep me going for another few years of bikepacking.
I got around to another Fox Float 34 fork brace modification session today. I’ve used a rotary tool once before to create more clearance for the Surly Knard 3″ wide 29+ tire. I don’t want to get too crazy removing material so I figured going at it over a few sessions will keep me in check and let me evaluate the current clearance without any pressure to get it “right” in one go.
I’ve got enough clearance to keep my mind at ease now. I’ll see how things roll during the first couple shorter bikepacking trips in the spring.
Click on the image above to jump to a nice review /comparo over at Off Route that Skyler posted. It’s not all that often you get more or less back to back impressions from someone riding two frames with identical parts. Given the Krampus and ECR are rare bikes that makes this even more valuable if you are in the market for a 29+ touring/bikepacking rig and are weighing your options.
The Surly Knard tires on my Krampus are large and when I pumped them up for a ride into town I wasn’t happy with the clearance left on the underside of the fork brace. So I hit the fork with a dremel tool. The end result is shown above.
I went slowly only removing a small amount of material at a time. With my efforts focused on the area right above the centre of the tire where clearance was smallest.
The whole process took about 15mins. There is a ton of material left in the fork brace so I’ve got no concerns it has been weakened. I may even go back and create more clearance, but I am going to ride the bike as is for now and see what I think.
Fox Float 34 Krampus-ified! 😉
Needs a little black paint.
Wheel installed and ready to roll.
I’ve been meaning to modify my RS REBA RLT for a while now, but kept getting side tracked. Finally Saturday after a solid morning ride and a nap I had the late afternoon free to tackle the project.
The Knard on RH jams up nicely in the stock fork. Won’t turn.
So I hit it with the dremel and sipped some beer while creating the clearance I needed.
Took about 1 beer’s worth of gentle grinding to get the clearance I was after and the tire turning freely.
Looks gnarly, but there is lots of material left and this mod has been done many times with zero reported failures so I think it’s pretty safe.
There is clearance now for all the conditions I ride it. We don’t get really sticky clay type mud in my part of BC and that’s the only situation I think this fork would be a problem with.
Lots of side wall clearance. Before mod sidewall would rub fork.
All in all a pretty minor quick mod that lets me use a “normal” 29er fork with my Krampus and not have to go Lefty and/or run some weird front hub.
I’m going to setup my Knard/RH wheels split tube tubeless next and see how the wheel fits before I mask off the Reba and paint it. The tubeless tire might change size and need a slight tweak to fit well.
BTW – the fork will go on my Krampus. I just left it on that 29er to make it easier to work on until I was ready for an install on the Big K. The puny rear tire is a Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.4″ on a Stan’s Flow rim.