Surly Krampus 3yr Review

Get up on it!

Get up on it!

Overview

I’ve just wrapped up my 3rd season of bikepacking on Surly’s 29+ Krampus so I thought it was time to jot down my thoughts. I’ve used the Krampus mostly for lightweight mountain bike touring. The Krampus replaced a light hardtail 29er bikepacking bike with classic XC geometry. My riding has been split between Vancouver Island, Chilcotins and CDN GDR route. That encompasses a wide variety of conditions from technical gnar-fest to high-speed logging road cranking.

Walking the Krampus...

Walking the Krampus…

Frame

Like all Surly frames the Krampus is made from 4130 chromoly. It’s got a custom butted set of tubes. What that exactly means is impossible to know without cutting up a frame and measuring it. What I can say is that the tubing has some of that lively feel that a lighter duty bike has which I like a lot. It springs forward in a pleasant way and doesn’t feel dead like an overbuilt frame does. At least that’s true for my 180lbs on a medium frame.

I’ve crashed, dropped, dragged and thrown my Krampus around on my various trips. Although I describe the tubing as more flexible than a typical Surly touring tank don’t get the impression it’s some delicate boutique shit. It’s not. I have worn the powder coat away in a number of places and scratched the tubing, but I have not managed to dent or damage it in any significant way.

Naked and ready to be built up...

Naked and ready to be built up…

The Krampus uses standard bike parts. A 73mm BB and 100mm/135mm hubs. That’s great. You can swap parts from a 29er you have in your garage and ride the Krampus without having to rebuild wheels with Boost hubs. The fact the Krampus works just fine with 3″ tires on 100mm/135mm hubs makes the argument that Boost is needed for “plus” sized tires silly.

One feature of the Krampus frame I really dig is this cast yoke. If you look at a lot of other 29+ bikes you’ll see a bent section of flat plate on the drive side chainstay in order to make room for the chubby 3″ tire. Putting a flat plate in this area that has to resist all the pedaling forces is bad engineering. It’s done because the two other options are:

  1. Custom yoke is too expensive for most small companies
  2. fatbike wide BB has a ridiculous q-factor the builder would prefer to avoid
Love this yoke!

Love this yoke!

Although Surly is considered a low bling brand they do have the engineering and financial might of QBP behind them plus they sell in enough volume that they can amortize a kick ass feature like this yoke over enough frames to make it financially viable.

1 1/8

1 1/8″ or tapered – you choose…

The headtube on the Krampus is 44mm which allows you to use a straight 1 1/8″ fork or a tapered fork. Over the test period I used the Krampus rigid with the stock fork for 2 seasons and then with a tapered 130mm suspension fork for this past season.

Horizontal dropouts - simple and versatile...

Horizontal dropouts – simple and versatile…

The Krampus I have is the Bass Boat Green version with horizontal dropouts. You can now buy a Stealth Black version with MDS swappable dropouts so you can have vertical dropouts if you are running a derailleur. I read a lot of angst online about Surly’s horizontal dropouts. I’ve been using them for 8yrs now and I don’t understand what the problem is. Fixing a flat takes an extra 30 seconds which I have never noticed. You do learn to get the wheel installed more efficiently once you’ve used these dropouts so it does take a moment to master them. With a QR IGH I use 1 or 2 Tugnuts to keep the wheel in place. With bolt on hubs they are not needed. For a derailleur hub they are not needed as the axle is slammed all the way forward in the dropouts. I have ridden with folks whose bikes use EBBs, sliding/swinging dropouts and they all have their problems – such as creaking, stripped hardware and unwanted flex. The Surly horizontal dropout is a low cost, elegant, versatile solution for a bike that could be setup many ways [IGH, SS and derailleur] and it’s pretty much bombproof.

MDS = many delightful solutions...

MDS = many delightful solutions…

As noted above if you can’t cope with the idea of horizontal dropouts you can simply buy the MDS version of the Krampus and then select the type of dropout you prefer. If you are exceptionally crafty you could even have a custom dropout machined for a MDS frame since it would just need to mate to the attachment points. I would not be surprised to see some aftermarket options show up in the next while.

My Knardly Surly Krampus...

My Knardly Surly Krampus…

So far I’ve been pretty positive about the Krampus’ frame. There are a couple things I do not love. It has a aggressively sloped top tube. These are fashionable, but having mountain biked with old school high TT’s a bunch I have never hurt “my boys” because of a high TT. The sloped TT cuts into the frame space if you want to fill it with a bikepacking framebag. The other thing I don’t love is the skinny 27.2mm seat tube. It’s fine for a rigid post, but it limits your dropper post options. Other Surly frames are coming with 30.9mm seat tubes so hopefully that’s on the way for the Krampus at the next revision.

The last thing I’ll touch on with regards to the frame is the sparkly green powder coat. It’s rad. Definitely my favourite of all the Surly finishes I’ve seen and pretty much my favourite of any production bike to date. Aside from looking sweet it’s fairly durable. I have managed to fuck it up, but I had to try fairly hard to do so.

The Big Green Machine...

Krampus with suspension fork…

Geometry and Handling

If you compared the Krampus’ geo to the older Surly bikes like the Karate Monkey. You’ll see it’s slacker and longer in the reach department. That’s not shocking because that’s what’s fashionable right now. The other fashionable thing at the moment is an uber low BB. The Krampus doesn’t have that and I like that a lot.

Excited to be nearing beer...

Excited to be nearing beer…

The longer reach allows you to run a short stem and wide bars if you want to or to size down one frame size while running a longer stem and narrow-ish bars. I’m doing the later and riding a medium instead of riding a large. The reasonably short 17.6″ chainstays and shorter front end make for a very manoeuvrable/playful bike. Since I live in BC with lots of trees that seemed like a better choice. For wide open trails or logging roads I’d probably pick the larger frame and run a short stem, but still stick with narrower bars. I’ve never warmed up to the uber wide bar thing.

Enjoy some moist trail riding on my Surly Krampus...

Enjoy some moist trail riding on my Surly Krampus…

Although slacker compared to tradition MTB geo the Krampus is not a chopper at a 69.5 degree head tube angle. It’s a good compromise for riding techy steep terrain while still being able to carve up singletrack. Some folks are mounting up longer suspension forks on this frame to get a slacker geo and some squish. I tried that and concluded I preferred the more balanced feel from the stock rigid fork. Loaded up with camping gear I am only going to get a little rowdy on the Krampus. I didn’t feel like I was getting enough benefit from the 130mm Fox Float 34 compared to the extra weight which made it harder to loft the front wheel and the slacker steering which was not as sporty when things got tight.

Matchy Matchy!

Stock fork and geo is pretty sweet…

Getting back to that high BB it may not be fashionable, but it works great. You avoid a bunch of annoying pedal strikes and the higher bike handles slow speed tech better as it’s more stable than a lower bike. It gives you the ability to run “normal” 2.4″ 29er tires and still maintain a useful BB height. What about stability at speed with a higher center of gravity? Interestingly despite a short wheelbase on my Krampus once I get those big 3″ tires up to speed they generate a lot of stability due to the gyroscopic effect.

Good times!

Good times!

The shortish chainstays keep the bike manoeuvrable and with the light front end it’s easy to get it up when tackling some tech. This is especially true when climbing where it feels like I am on the back wheel for the most part helping it dig in for epic traction and letting me pop the front wheel up and over obstacles or simply place it down on a better line.

Time for some blue bling...

Big tires and short-ish chainstays…

The big tall tires erase a lot of trail roughness for a smoother ride than you’d expect from a rigid bike and keep rolling like a monster truck once you get them up to speed. On rolling terrain this is not a slow bike. It loves to charge hard and seems to laugh at whatever the trail throw at you around the next corner.

This combination of slow speed tech crushing and high speed stability plus the big 29+ wheels ability to tame the trail is pretty magical. No really magical! I’ve looked at getting a bling custom 29+ frame a few times and what stops me is feeling like I’m going to spend a lot of $$ and might not get a bike that handles as well as the $575 Krampus.

Wet feet - get used to it!

Wet feet – get used to it!

Parts Spec

I built my Krampus up from a frame/fork.

  • Medium Surly Krampus & fork
  • Cane Creek headset
  • Race Face stem [100mm]
  • Race Face 3/4″ riser bars [700mm]
  • Ergon Grips + bar ends
  • Surly Rabbit Hole rims
  • Rohloff rear hub [32T x 16T]
  • Hope Evo Pro 2 front hub
  • Shimano SLX brakes [180/160mm rotors]
  • Shimano Deore cranks & XT BB
  • Spank Spike pedals
  • Brooks saddle
The views weren't too shabby...

Flathead Valley Area…

Stuff I tried:

  • Fox Float 34 x 130mm fork
  • 65mm stem and high rise bars w/ Fox fork
  • Surly Knard 120ipt tires
  • Bontrager Chupacabra tires

There is nothing fancy about my build other than the Rohloff hub. Everything is solid and works well. For a touring bike that’s more important than bling. The Rohloff is a dependable drivetrain that offers a wide gear range that ignores weather and is very hard to damage. The trade off is a heavy rear wheel.

Tugnut #2...

SLX brake caliper…

The only components I’ve been disappointed with are the SLX brakes [older 2008/09 version] when used in really challenging steep technical terrain they are not particularly powerful. I’m going to try some more aggressive pads and if necessary move up to a 203mm rotor up front. For less demanding touring they have worked fine. To be fair riding techy terrain with camping gear is not an easy job for a set of brakes. To their credit these brakes have been 100% reliable. I just want more stopping force out of them.

Surly Knard + Rabbit Hole tubeless...

Surly Knard + Rabbit Hole tubeless…

29+ Tires

I’ve only tried two models of tires, but they have turned out to be excellent for the kinds of riding I do so I’m very happy.

The Surly Knards in 120tpi roll fast and grip well enough for general bikepacking duties that cover logging roads, pavement and easy trails. I’ve ridden on a fair bit of sharp rocks and only managed 3 flats over 3 seasons. All of which were easily fixed. They setup tubeless well and have been 100% reliable once setup. Their main weakness is the lack of aggressive knobs which means they wash out on steep loose sections and loose off camber sections.

Where is my fatbike?

Plowing through some snow with my Chupacabras…

The Chupacabras have only been used for one major trip so I won’t be able to report on their durability, but they do offer much better traction [especially on loose off camber terrain] at the cost of a bit more rolling resistance. I did not suffer any flats with Chupas, but it’s still early days. Surprisingly they were a bit harder to setup tubeless than the Knards, but once setup they were 100% reliable. The Chupas are a bit pricey so I wouldn’t want to wear them out on easier terrain where I didn’t need them.

For logging roads and easy trails I’ll grab the Knards. If things get more challenging I’ll use the Chupas.

Hombres at the Cape Scott Park start...

Hombres at the Cape Scott Park start…

Bikepacking Setup

For the most part I have used Porcelain Rocket softbags on the Krampus. They carry enough stuff to get me through 1 week trips. They are rugged and stable so I can thrash the Krampus as hard as a middle aged weekend warrior dares.

Wash out...

Older style seat bag…

I have tried two versions of the PR seatbags. The first version is a typical frameless bag that attaches under the saddle and to the seatpost with a combination of straps with buckles and velcro. This style of bag is really easy to use on different bikes and is light and lower cost. The main downsides are that it can move a bit when really charging rough trails and it’s easier to leave on the bike at camp than pull off each night.

New Porcelain Rocket gear...

New Porcelain Rocket gear…

The other version of PR seatbag uses a metal frame and harness that is separate from the cargo bag. The frame stays with the bike and you can easily pull the bag off and take it to your tent. This option is much more stable for better techy riding. The downsides are high cost and it’s more effort to move between bikes. This is the bag I’m currently using on the Krampus.

Scott has an even newer version of this seatbag [I just can’t keep up!!] that is waterproof and uses an improved harness which makes taking the bag off the bike even easier.

Getting muddy...

Older PR bar bag…

I’ve used two different PR handlebar bags so far. The first used a burrito style bag with a pouch on the front that you filled with your gear and rolled the ends closed. I typically slid a dry bag inside the outer bag to keep my sleeping bag dry. Loading this bag took a bit of time, but once your stuff was inside it was well protected during the day’s ride.

The newer style of PR bar bag I’ve used is a simple harness that you use with a dry bag and then attach a pouch over top. It’s a bunch lighter, simpler and easier to use than the pervious version. The only issue with it is that your dry bag is not protected by a durable outer bag which makes it easier to damage.

For trips where durability and robustness are most important I’ll use the bar bag with an outer bag. For trips where the simplest and lightest setup is valued I’ll use the harness/dry bag version.

Custom PR frame bag...

Custom PR frame bag…

My framebag is a pretty standard unit. One main zipper access storage area with a map pocket on the other side. Typical PR ruggedness and quality. Scott makes a zipperless roll top framebag now, but I simply don’t bikepack enough to realistically wear out a zipper and the zipper is easier to use if I want to access the contents frequently.

VikApproved and the Mighty Krampus...

VikApproved and the Mighty Krampus stay hydrated…

Water

I tried mounting a water bottle to my stem with a hose clamp and really loved it. I’ve used that setup on every bikepacking trip since. It’s next to free and 100% secure. With the right bottle I find that it stays put despite super rough downhill pounding, but I have rigged a simple bit of bungee I can throw around the bottle’s nipple that prevents ejection completely. This bottle is so handy that it’s the only one I use to drink from during a ride. I then just refill this bottle from a creek or from a bigger bottle carried elsewhere on the bike as needed.

I have used fork mounted bottles in the past, but I didn’t like that setup. It affects the bike’s steering, ease of lofting the front wheel and they snag on stuff during the inevitable riding/HAB through thick vegetation.  For the same reason I have zero interest in fork mount Salsa Anything Cages. If you are keen on fork mounted cargo you can attach cages to a stock Krampus fork with either electrical tape or hose clamps. Both are secure and effective. If you must use bolt mounted cages Surly sells an aftermarket Krampus fork with braze-ons for water bottle and Anything cages. The cost is ~$100.

Where I prefer to carry my extra water is below the downtube. This keeps the bike narrow and the weight low where it affect the handling least. I’ve used two hose clamps and a strap to attach a Topeak XL Modulus Cage to the Krampus and carry 1.5L of water. It’s a 100% secure and effective solution.

The heavily loaded Kram-pig!

The heavily loaded Kram-pig!

Racks

I do my best to keep my gear load light and compact so racks are not needed. However, occasionally a trip calls for them. The Krampus is not the bike I would pick for dedicated fully overloaded touring, but if that’s something you do once in a while don’t worry the Krampus can take dual racks and panniers. I’ve only had to resort to a rear Old Man Mountain rear rack with panniers, but a front OMM rack would mount easily to this bike. You don’t need any special braze-ons to make it work.

Puddle hopping...

Puddle hopping…

The Future?

Although I dig my Krampus a lot I do have some tweaks I want to make so it’s even better suited to my adventures.

  • Dropper post – descending steep techy terrain I want to lower my saddle easily to get into a lower and more confident riding position. The first challenge is finding a 27.2mm compatible dropper which I have done [KS E-Ten Dropper]. The second challenge is what to do about the rear seatbag since it would end up hitting the tall 29+ tire. I have a solution in mind that I will share once I’ve got it worked out and field tested.
  • Jones Loop H-Bars – cranking out the long days riding down Vancouver Island I was reminded that while riser bars are great for trail riding they lack enough hand positions for gravel grinding in the saddle all day. I have a few sets of Jones bars gathering dust that worked well for me on non-technical tours. So I want to use one of them on my next logging road ramble.
  • Lighter Wheels – The Rohloff hub is robust and weatherproof, but it’s heavy. The Rabbit Holes on that wheelset are also a bit porky. So I’m in the process of building a set of Velocity Blunt 35 29er rims using Hope Hubs. I’ll be able to run them SS or 1x on the Krampus with either 29+ rubber or some “skinny” 2.4″ tires. I’ll also multi-purpose those wheels with any other 29er MTBs in the fleet.
  • Carbon Fork – I bought a used Whisky #9 carbon fork. I’m not sure how I’ll use it yet. I might use it to replace the steel stock fork on the Krampus. I may use it on my On One Scandal 29er frame for a lightweight 29er bikepacking rig. I’ve also pondered getting a Krampus MDS frame and setting it up as light as possible with Jones bars so I have a techy trail Krampus and a gravel shredding Krampus without having to mess with setting up the bike fresh every trip. No decisions made yet.
100' of riding? I'll take it!

This is what it’s all about…

Beyond these mods I’m just going to keep rocking the Krampus. 3yrs in and it feels as fresh and relevant as it did back in 2012. It looks like the Bass Boat Green version is history once it sells out so consider grabbing one while supplies last. Owning the first 29+ bike ever is kind of cool. 🙂

Compass Bicycle Stampede Pass 700c x 32mm Tire

Fresh rubber...

Fresh rubber…

Sharon’s Surly Cross Check has been rolling on Grand Bois Cypres 700c x 32mm tires for several years now. In that time she’s only had a few flats despite riding nearly daily to work. She’s not a powerful rider so having supple fast rolling tires is important to her. The Cypres fit the bill well.

Compass Bicycle has come up with their own version of this tire called the Stampede Pass. It’s still a supple 700c x 32mm tire. It’s similar to the Grand Bois Cypres and I believe it’s made in the same factory. I’ve been running the extra-light version of this tire tubeless on my Surly Straggler. I haven’t ridden mega miles on that bike, but my initial impressions are good.

Since Sharon rides a lot we got the normal weight version. She’ll make them “extra-light” by wearing them out!

Sharon ready to roll...

Sharon ready to roll…

We are going to upgrade Sharon’s wheels this fall as part of her birthday present. When that happens we’ll setup these tires tubeless as well. That should make her very few flats head towards zero and make these fast supple tires even faster. That’s win-win in my books. 🙂

Compass Bicycle sells these tires online for $57USD. If you live in Victoria, BC The Fairfield Bicycle Shop stocks them.

Vancouver Island Bikepacking Route

Click on image for interactive map and GPS track...

Click on image for interactive map and GPS track…

I live on a sweet mid-sized island off Canada’s West Coast. I’ve been here 5yrs and wanted to bikepack it to see the sights and have a easy access bike camping alternative out my door since living on an island everything is an expensive flight or ferry to get to.

Bikepacking is just starting to become a thing here and any old-timey epic bike tours were not documented well enough to survive the decay of time so a bunch of friends and I started putting something together.

Hombres at the Cape Scott Park start...

Hombres at the Cape Scott Park start…

We’ve got a boat load of logging roads on the island, but what’s on the map and what’s on-the-ground are two different things. Especially in the south island it was a challenge to find a way through to the mid-island with geography and development blocking the obvious choices. After a bunch of on the ground recon, internet searching and Google Earth fly throughs we had a route worked out.

Last week we completed the first full ride through from Cape Scott in the North-West down to Victoria in the South-East. ~850kms & 12,590m climbing [531miles & 41,300′] in 7.5 days of riding.

The route is all GDR/TD style logging roads. However, you will pass through 4 towns with amazing trail networks should you want to drop the camping gear and spend a couple days shredding while reloading on beer and pizza!

The famous shoe tree...

The famous shoe tree…

It was great to see the island from my bike saddle. Especially the north end which was the most remote and where I have spent the least amount of time. I made many mental notes of places I wanted to come back and explore with more time and possibly my fly rod!

I’ll post a trip report and all the usual info here over the next few days as I get my pics processed.

Maxing and relaxing BC style...

Maxing and relaxing BC style…

I appreciate all the hard work people put into building trails and creating routes. Nothing here is really unique or something I created with my own hands, but at the very least I can curate the info for the bikepacking community so somebody from another part of the world can swing by my lovely island and take a rip without route finding hassles.

I live in Victoria, BC so anyone who wants to ride this route can lean on me for up to date info and logistic support. If my GF is in a good mood you can setup a tent in my backyard and grab a shower/use my bike tools.

My trusty Surly Krampus at the end of the ride. :)

My trusty Surly Krampus at the end of the ride. 🙂

Butt Buster Tour – Day 1

Here is the long awaited trip report from newly graduated Gravel Pimp Michael Melo aka Mr. Smooth aka The Director!

We went counter clockwise around the route...

We went counter clockwise around the route…

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Had this actually happened? Month’s or is it years in the making I have completed my first bikepacking trip. My friend Vik an experienced backcountry bikepacker volunteered to take me on a loop he had previously explored on a solo trip in the reverse direction.

A sneak peak at our rigs from later in the trip...

A sneak peak at our rigs from later in the trip…

The weather forecast looked very promising with high’s in the upper teens and possibly even lower 20’s. Our first stop after leaving Victoria and before reaching our departure point of Port Alberni was Smokin George’s BBQ in Nanaimo tucked away in an unusual setting for a restaurant amongst industrial and commercial buildings. With our stomachs full of beef brisket, fries and corn bread we continued on to our departure point. Our next task was to find a safe spot to stash the truck for a few days, fortunately a new found friend Lee at Ozzie’s Cycle was gracious enough to let us park in their lot. With our bikes unloaded gear checked and après ride drinks organized it was time to head out.

Finally rolling like a boss!

Finally rolling like a boss!

Departing Port Alberni heading first east up the No. 4 highway. Vik wasn’t pulling any punches on my virgin trip, the first leg would have us humping 15km uphill, 450m meters of climbing with grades topping out north of 15%. Now road riding is not my preferred way to enjoy cycling and this particular road less pleasant still, No. 4 highway out of Port Alberni is a busy corridor frequented by large commercial vehicles. By the time we made it to the top and entrance to the fire road my left ear was aching. Which is just as well since it took my mind off my aching legs.

Look at that climb!

Look at that climb!

After that initial noisy introduction the silence of the first few meters up the fire road was pleasantly startling. With only the sound of my wheels rolling over the gravel the air tasted sweet and was invigorating, I couldn’t help but grin widely as I felt the weight of civilized life fall away behind me. A few short rolling hills later we come to a large old clear cut. The lack of any sort of trail required us to push our bikes over the terrain resembling a forgotten game of giant pick-up sticks. We picked our way across, carefully avoiding dropping a foot into a seemingly bottomless hole and doing our best to sidestep the young thorny bushes seemingly escaping every crevice.

Someone forgot to sweep up!

Someone forgot to sweep up!

With the sun hanging low we arrived at a decommissioned bridge over a lovely small river, presumably removed to reduce or eliminate travel over this route. As Vik pointed out one of the awesome things about bikepacking is the extreme portability afforded by our lightweight mode of transportation, allowing us to push forward through these types of obstacles. After some deliberation over whether to continue on or not we chose to camp on the opposite side and walked our bikes across the shallow side of the river. The water was exactly the perfect temperature (bloody cold) to drop our brews in to cool off while we set up camp and cooked up our dinners.

Pimping a new tent... :)

Pimping a new tent… 🙂

I was excited to express my wildageek and exercise some virgin outdoor gear, including a new Tarptent Moment DW and an alcohol cook set from Trail Designs.

Time for some vittles...

Time for some vittles…

I’ve been experimenting with a new product called a Hitcase, essentially a ruggedized housing for an iPhone 5s with a wide-angle lens mounted to it. It’s the poor mans GoPro, a previous trip and subsequent video edit proved it makes for a pretty decent action sports cam. Having used the iPhone for video all day I knew it needed a charge and my first job was to pull out a new portable battery I purchased expressly for this trip and give the phone a power boost. Unfortunately I discovered that I had forgotten the iPhone charging cable in Vik’s truck. So that was it for day ones footage, I was confident that we’d be able to pick up a cable along the next days route in one of the small towns we’d be passing by.

Time for a nice cold beer...

Time for a nice cold beer…

Vik coaxed a small fire to life and despite what appeared to be a buffet of dry wood surrounding us it was surprisingly difficult to keep it going. As the waning light of the sun faded we rescued the beer from the river a welcome treat at the end of the day and chatted, finalizing our plans for the next leg of the trip. With an early start planned we decided to turn in while the sky was still a shade of blue. I’m not sure if it was the excitement of what lay ahead the new experience of sleeping on an ultra light inflatable mattress, the use of a quilt instead of a traditional sleeping bag or my bad habit of getting to bed late in my regular life. I had a hard time falling asleep, tossing and turning for what seemed like ages and two bathroom trips later at the sign of the first couple of stars I finally dozed off to the rushing sound of the river.

Krampus Bikepacking Mods Scorecard

Krampus on gravel...

Krampus on gravel…

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...

Fox Float 34 x 130mm fork…

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.

Comfy, but no bar ends...

Comfy, but no bar ends…

Ergon Grips

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.

Not as comfy as leather...

Not as comfy as leather…

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.

New Porcelain Rocket gear...

New Porcelain Rocket gear…

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.

Custom PR frame bag...

Custom PR frame bag…

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! 😉