Dissecting the Surly ECR

NicholasCarman1 449

Above: An off-color Surly ECR on the AZT near the town of Pine.  The ECR continues in the tradition of Surly’s adventure touring bikes, including the Troll and Ogre, each of which fulfill some of the promise of early mountain bikes, once clad with useful features since forgotten on many modern machines.  This frame is a different shade than those being released this week, also shown with 29×3.0″ Knard tires mounted to ‘skinny’ rims, a temporary situation.

Introducing the Surly ECR

The Surly ECR is an off-the-beaten-path touring bike designed for 29×3.0″ tires, dubbed 29+, a platform first released on the Surly Krampus last year.  The frame features attachment points for racks, fenders, water bottles, and lights.  The geometry is characterized by a low bottom bracket and long chainstays, for a supremely stable ride, with or without a load.  A short top tube affords a comfortable upright position for long days in the saddle, a touristic vantage, and a good climbing position.  Versatile rear dropouts allow a conventional derailleur system, an internal gear hub (including a unique mounting point for the torque arm of a Rohloff Speedhub), and singlespeed or fixed gear systems.  The frame accepts normal hubs, bottom bracket, and headset.  Three-inch tires– the main feature of the bike– provide an assured, lightly suspended ride, offering traction and flotation on a variety of surfaces.

However, with some sweat and imagination, the ECR could be: a personal escape vehicle for overnight rides into the mountains; a comfortable long-distance Great Divide tourer; a cast iron and case of beer hauler for you and your friends; a sorta-fatbike for those few winter days where you live, when things pile up more than an inch; a sorta-fatbike, for the BLM ‘road’ that spends more time in the arroyo, than out of it;  the bike that puts your other bikes out of work; the reason you don’t need suspension on tour; or, the reason you absolutely need to go somewhere you’ve always dreamed.  On paper, it’s a practical rig with a promising host of features.  In person, it simply asks to go somewhere.  The ECR is an exploration camping rig, nonpareil.

The ECR is designed to go almost anywhere.  However, there are a few technical caveats for the would-be ECR owner to consider, including:

-3.0″ wide tires, which require some special equipment to engage a full range of mountain touring gears

-a low bottom bracket, which promotes stability at all speeds in all conditions, but limits the capacity to fit ‘normal’ sized 29″/700c tires, without challenging pedal-to-ground clearance

-traditional headtube dimensions, which abide by the longstanding 1 1/8th inch standard.  But, future suspension forks with 3.0″ tire clearance will likely feature tapered steerer tubes, and will not fit.

NicholasCarman1 455

 

Frame highlights:

The ECR frame features larger-than-normal 3.0″ tires.  Normal mountain bike and touring components can be used throughout the bike– unlike most fatbikes– with a few exceptions.  The crown jewel of the frame construction is a one-piece chainstay yoke that provides clearance for a 3.0″ tire and a full mountain bike crankset.  That is, the parts technically fit onto the frame.  But in use, modern double or triple cranks will force the chain to rub against the tire in the easiest gear combinations (no clearance issues exist when using standard sized 29″ tires in the frame).  Several solutions exist to avoid conflict, such as using a 1x drivetrain, an offset double, or an internal gear hub.

NicholasCarman1 458

Cro-moly steel tubing is used throughout the frame and fork, with more attachment points than is common on even the most full-featured tourers.  The frame is ED coated to resist corrosion.

Eyelets at the top of the fork blades allow the use of a top-mount rack up front.  Mid-fork eyelets support a low-rider rack, while triple water bottle mounts behind the fork blades are meant for normal bottle cages, or the Salsa Anything Cage and its descendants.  The main triangle features three water bottle mounts, including one on the underside of the downtube.  Of course, a framebag is the best use of space inside the frame.  Look for Revelate bags in stock sizes for the ECR soon.

Don’t be fooled, the frame is not built with Reynolds tubing.  This sticker advertises the Bikeworks shop in Albuquerque, NM, in the (505) area code–  a brilliant shop sticker design.  The clutter of extra wires connects a Shimano dynamo hub to a Supernova headlight and taillight, and a B&M USB-Werk, which supplies USB power to a Garmin e-Trex 20, and other devices.

NicholasCarman1 452

Rear dropouts– a precise clusterfuck– to serve all drivetrain needs.  This configuration allows the rear axle to be adjusted horizontally for a custom effective chainstay length, or for tensioning the chain when using an internal gear hub, or singlespeed drivetrain.  The long slotted attachments in use below, are to adjust the disc brake caliper, in concert with the hub.  The lower slotted attachment is for the torque arm of a Rohloff hub.  The largest threaded hole, with the array of pinholes surrounding, is designed specifically for the Surly Bill and Ted trailers.  I’ve installed Surly Monkey Nuts into the dropouts, to fix the axle location 14mm rearwards.  These lightweight machined dropout spacers are helpful when using Surly’s rearward facing dropouts with disc brakes, when you choose not to install the wheel in the extreme forward position.  For help tensioning an IGH hub or singlespeed system, look for the Surly Tuggnut.

NicholasCarman1 430

Gearing for 29+:

NicholasCarman1 431

Accommodating a wide range of gears and a 3.0″ tire is not always as simple as swapping parts from an existing mountain bike.  Several solutions include:

1.  A 1x system, which utilizes the middle position of a standard mountain bike triple, allowing a ring down to 32t (30t is technically available, but uncommon).  If a 32t chainring and a 12-36t cassette suffices, this is the simplest solution.  Using a smaller single ring, such as a 22t ring in the inside position, may result in a chainline that runs very close to the tire, or may even contact the tire.

2.  An offset double crank is available from Surly in two models.  A new two-piece Surly Offset Double (OD) crank affords the use of the 64mm inner BCD and the 104mm outer BCD, the two common bolt patterns found on most mountain bike cranks.  The crank comes stock with 22-36t rings, a useful combination.  The Surly Mr. Whirly crank has been available for several years, and is designed to be fully customizable from single to triple ring set-ups, with custom spindles for both 68/73mm and 100mm, for fatbikes.  An offset double spider is available for this application, the same that has been used on the Moonlander and Black Ops Pugsley for several years. Note: some riders report success using dedicated mountain double cranks, such as a Shimano XT model, without interference, although tires may not have been mounted to 50mm Rabbit Hole rims.

3.  An internal gear hub (IGH) uses a single chainline, which does not interfere with the tire.  The Rohloff Speedhub is the most durable and reliable IGH available for extended, off-pavement applications.

4.  Singlespeed and fixed gear drivetrains will work just fine, although beware that using the inside position of a double or triple crank may cause similar interference, as described above.

NicholasCarman1 330

In a pinch, I constructed a custom offset-double crank out of a pile of used parts, sourced from Two Wheel Drive in Albuquerque, NM.  The Frankencrank features mismatched crank arms, a 68mm square taper cartridge BB in a 73mm BB shell with a stack of spacers on the drive-side to create additional chain-to-tire clearance.  A bottom bracket mounted e-type front derailleur is used for front shifting, as a normal front derailleur would not reach when mounted to the seat tube.  The system is working for now, but is not officially recommended.  A long spindle 73mm square taper BB could be a viable solution for the adventurous home mechanic.  Best of all, buy an offset crank from Surly, or choose to use a 1x system or an IGH.

NicholasCarman1 450

 

Tires and suspension:

NicholasCarman1 432

Adjusting tire pressures to changing terrain is essential to getting the most out of the 29+ platform.  Lower tire pressures conform to the trail, providing comfort, traction, and flotation.  Tubeless wheel systems allow lower pressures, without the risk of pinching a tube; wider rims support tires at lower pressures.  The ECR is offered with 50mm wide Rabbit Hole rims. While Surly rims and tires can be set-up tubeless, some old-fashioned tricks may be required, including building up the rim bed to help ‘seat’ the tire, or using the “split-tube” method (also called ghetto tubeless).  For this reason, rims designed to be used tubeless may be preferred, such as the Velocity Blunt 35 (35mm wide, formerly the P35) or the new Velocity Dually (45mm).  Surly recommends a rim no smaller than 35mm for 3.0″ tires; as I’ve shoehorned my tires onto 29.1mm Stan’s Flow EX rims, I can attest that a wider rim would better support the tire, allowing lower operating pressures without risk of rolling the tire, especially when trail riding with a load.  As a final tubeless note, the 27tpi tires available from Surly should be more resistant to sidewall cuts, a hazard known to tubeless users in rocky country.  Thankfully, the 27tpi tires are also cheaper than their lightweight 120tpi counterparts.

While 3.0″ tires offer some suspension from the trail, the undampened effects of a big tire on rocky trails will have some riders looking for a suitable suspension fork, to avoid bouncing from obstacle to obstacle.  Modern suspension offers adjustments that cannot be matched by a simple balloon tire.  Unfortunately, there aren’t any suspension forks currently manufactured to clear a 3.0″ tire, officially.  Internet research may lead you to some models which barely clear the tire (some Fox forks, esp. thru-axle models, for instance), while others have modified their forks by shaving material from the underside of the arch.  As for a fork that officially clears a bigger tire?  There are rumors of a release, but most likely, it will feature modern dimensions including a 15mm thru-axle and a tapered steerer tube.  The straight 1 1/8th head tube on the ECR will not accept a tapered steerer.  The Krampus, however, will take a tapered tube.  The 80mm suspension-corrected steel fork on your ECR may never have a worthy hydraulic successor, at least not without some unofficial fork mods.

NicholasCarman1 427

NicholasCarman1 453

 

ECR Geometry:

NicholasCarman1 422

The ECR is not “just a Krampus with holes”.  The geometry of the ECR is much like the Surly Ogre (or even the Salsa Fargo), adjusted for larger tires.  As a result of larger tires, the ECR features longer chain stays, and a greater nominal BB drop, which is the measurement from the BB to the imaginary line between the bike’s front and rear axle.  The Ogre claims a 68mm BB drop (Fargo, 70mm), while the ECR claims 80mm.  Comparing these numbers in relation to the intended tire sizes for these bikes, this puts the BB in almost the exact same place above the ground on both models– this relative measurement from the ground is called the BB height.  Thus, while you can put smaller 29″ tires on the ECR, the BB height (the measurement from the ground), will be about 10-15mm lower than with the 3.0″ tires, exactly 12mm lower than with the exact same tires on the Ogre.

Running ‘normal’ 29″ tires on the ECR: Even with relatively large-volume tires such as the 29×2.4″ Maxxis Ardent, the ECR will suffer from such a low bottom bracket to exclude any real trail riding, without risk of frequent pedal strike.  On paved and smooth dirt roads, a lower bottom bracket may not be a major hindrance.  But if trail riding is in your future, and choosing from the vast range of 29″ tires is appealing to you, consider the Krampus, which claims a 60mm bottom bracket drop.  Even with 29×2.3″ tires, the Krampus still offers generous clearance on rough roads and trails.  Of course, pedal clearance is also dependent on the type of pedals used.

NicholasCarman1 457

NicholasCarman1 456

With so many adventure touring bikes available, it can be hard to decide which to choose.  For additional perspectives, consider the following resources regarding the aforementioned Surly frames:

Pedaling Nowhere- Logan has recently built an ECR for an extended tour in Africa.  Read his first impressions from the build process, and follow along for updates from the road.

While Out Riding-  Cass has ridden the entire line of adventure touring bikes from Surly, including the exact ECR frame that I am now pedaling.  Troll or Ogre?, Ogre or Krampus?, ECR?– he’s surely got a few days and miles on these bikes.  It only makes sense that a Pugsley is next!

VikApproved-  Vik has been riding a Krampus for nearly a year, mostly around BritishColumbia, and has past experience with fatbikes and IGHs.

Big Dummy Daddy-  Andy has written one of the most thoughtful reckonings of the ECR, and 29+, anywhere on the web.  His experience with fatbikes, and nearly 30 years of mountain bikes, plays well with some foresightful theoretical perspectives about the future of the 29+ genre.

NicholasCarman1 442

NicholasCarman1 413

56 thoughts on “Dissecting the Surly ECR

  1. Thanks for the well written and comprehensive review of the sparkly green ECR. Regarding your BB height comments, have you actually rode the ECR with smaller tires and experienced pedal strike? The ECR has the same 80 BB drop as the Riv Hunqapillar that Jeremy rides so it’s not that unusual for a trail oriented bike.

    • Thanks Michael, When I first built the bike I installed the wheels I was riding (29×2.3/2.4″) on the Raleigh XXIX. Leaned over, the bike would readily rest on the edge of the pedal. I did not ride it on trails that way, but coming from a frame with 55mm BB drop, it was a big change that did not inspire confidence to explore rougher roads and trails, even though it is a feature that makes the bike very stable. The Hunqapillar is more of an off-pavement touring bike, as is the ECR. Personally, I would argue that Jeremy is an exceptional rider, rather than the Hunqapillar is a trail bike.

      The Ogre/KM have 68mm drop, Fargo 70mm, El Mariachi 60mm, Kona Unit 56mm, and my Raleigh XXIX 55mm.

      80mm BB drop is a lower BB height than any other trail bike out there, thus, I distinguish the ECR as a off-pavement tourer and the Krampus as a trail bike. I’d ride the ECR on trails with 3.0″ tires, but wouldn’t set off on 29×2.3″ tires by design.

      • Nick, thanks for your reply. I have come to the conclusion that an experienced cyclist can adjust their riding style to different BB heights as well as other bike geometry features ( HTA, fork rake, etc) and ride the same terrain without issue. There are countless examples of cyclists on bikes with similar BB heights such as the Pikes on their LHT’s that regulary ride rugged terrain.
        I’m looking forward to your further exploits on the ECR. Your adventures are both inspiring and interesting to read.

        Mike

        • I’ve done more than a few rides on bikes outside of their comfort zone. These days, I try not to kid myself about what bike will be fun, comfortable, and safe to ride (in that order). Mostly, I’m drooling over 29ers, taller BBs, medium-big tires with aggressive tread patterns, and even suspension forks.

          For other kinds of riding, I might like other bikes.

        • A skilled rider can make a bike with a low BB work in terrain it is poorly suited to. Just like a road cyclist can take his skinny tired bike down a mountain bike track if he had to.

          That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea and given a choice I would suggest when people buy a bike they choose one that is well suited to the riding they expect to do. That includes things like fit, steering geometry, BB height, mud clearance, etc…

          Riding a bike with a low BB in rough rocky/rooty terrain is possible, but not much fun because of the constant pedal strikes. This isn’t something you can adapt to so that it’s no big deal. You can focus a lot of attention on the ground to pedal region and make the best of it, but I don’t know of anyone who would call that a lot of fun day in and day out.

          Having said that not everyone live or rides frequently in terrain that is particularly rough so BB height may not be a major issue for everyone.

  2. Glad you got to throw a leg over a 29+ beast. =-)

    I’ve enjoyed touring on a Krampus this year. I’ve covered singletrack, forest service roads and even done some paved road touring to close off a loop back to my car.

    One thing I would add to your well written post is that the big 29+ tires on these bikes add a lot of stability once they get rolling all by themselves.

    I run the Krampus’ rear wheel as close to the front of my horizontal dropouts as I can to keep the wheelbase short and I chose a medium instead of a large for the same reason.

    The result is a manoeuvrable bike in slow speed techy situations and a supremely stable confidence inspiring rig when bombing rough unmaintained logging roads at high speeds.

    2014 should see the release of a couple more 29+ tire options which will be nice!

    Enjoy the ECR! Ride safe….

    Vik

    • Vik,

      Oops, I’ll add you to the list of 29+ experts at the end of the post.

      I love the ride of the ECR. It is just that, technically, it doesn’t jive with the kind of riding and equipment choices I seek (lots of tire options, BB/pedal clearance, and maybe even a suspension fork). The Krampus may be a better platform for me, which takes nothing away from the ECR. 29+, however, is inspiring. I am looking forward to more tire options for sure.

      You’re right about the stability and assurance of the 3.0″ Knards. I tried, mostly, to keep my subjective interpretations out of this discussion. More of that will come as I put time on the bike. I am happy to have the chance to ride this bike on dirt, before five months of snow in AK.

      Interesting: when I put the wheel all the way forward in the dropouts, the brake rotor bottoms out on the caliper, so I am running it a bit further back right now with the Monkey Nuts. Any thoughts?

      • Nick,

        I hear you on the limitations of the ECR. I’ve used the Krampus for ECR-centric missions with zero issues and then it also is great on techy trails with light bikepacking gear.

        Like you with your Raleighs – the lack of a braze-on has never held me back from attaching everything I needed to a touring MTB. And I’ve been steadily heading towards carrying less and less on each trip so my needs in that direction are limited.

        Sorry I have no experience using a derailleur on a 29+ bike. I started with an Alfine 11 and now I have a Rohloff in there. My rear wheel is close to the front of the rear dropout, but not right at the front due to the need to pick up a tad of chain tension. I’m running an older SLX calliper with a 160mm disc rotor.

        The Krampus did come from the Surly with monkey nuts so perhaps the issue you are experiencing is why? If you have a mailing address in AK I can ship you my monkey nuts as I don’t need them.

        BTW – what size rotor are you running and what brake caliper?

        One thing that should be said about Surly’s implementation of 29+ is that they pushed the limits of the space/time continuum to fit 29 x 3″ tires into the rear part of the frame – at least on the Krampus [haven't seen an ECR in the flesh] so it would work with “normal” MTB parts. This is a good thing for ease of adoption [transferring 29er parts to a 29+] and for lower cost maintenance [not needing niche BBs].

        The issue is that with a normal width BB/cranks there isn’t much space for a 29+ tire laterally. Get your wheel out of true, not perfectly aligned in the dropouts or collect some mud and you are hitting the chainstays. I suspect this is why the upcoming 29+ tire from Surly [the Dirt Wizard] is listed as 2.75″ width. There just wasn’t room to add knobs to the casing of a Knard.

        None of this is criticism as I think making 29+ more accessible is really important if we want to see it thrive. But worth noting so folks aren’t surprised their purpose built 29+ doesn’t have gobs of tire clearance with a Knard.

        What are your long-term plans with that ECR? Keeping it. Maybe heading towards a fatbike with 29+ and fatty wheelsets for versatility?

        Enjoy Alaska! More adventures await!

        =-)

        Vik

        • Vik, Definitely a real fatbike in my near future. Fatbike window shopping in Anchorage, come Dec. 16. The ECR will become a studded winter bike, I hope. Maybe some DIY studs into Knards on Rabbit Holes? Would be a good hardpack snow bike, and commuter on icy roads.

          The Krampus with 29+, or with 29×2.3-2.5″ with a fork could be the ticket. Tons of tire clearance, lots of tire options, easy tubeless…

          There is still a big gap between 2.5 and 3.0″. More tires please.

      • Nick,
        Surly states the brake compatibility in the rear is limited to a 160mm rotor max, are you using a 180? They also mention a Surly caliper adaptor. I haven’t worked with that dropout or their adaptor, but it seems that it puts the caliper at a better angle and further forward position.
        A Cross Check with big tires has been my most off road specific bike lately, though this month I intend to finally buy a Pugsley. I hope to experiment with a 29+ platform as well, with the idea that maybe running an ECR or Krampus fork with a higher offset will stick the front wheel out further, lessening the over the bars downhill characteristics of the Pugs I frequently read about. I like that the Pugsley has the higher BB, and overall arguably more versatile frame capable of being run in so many wheel/tire configurations.
        Hope Arizona is still treating you well, envious of your upcoming trip to Alaska!
        -Brendan

        • Brendan, I am using a 160mm rotor and BB7 caliper. I’ve not heard of the Surly brake adaptor, so I’ll look into it. A shorter effective chainstay would be nice.

          The Pugs should be just fine with 29 or 29+ wheels, even with the stock fork. Coming from a Cross-Check, it’ll be a huge leap. The feeling of going over the bars on steep stuff is something I’ve claimed more than a few times, although in actuality, it may be more the fault of the rider, than the bike.

          Don’t be too envious of Alaska, as I’ll mostly be working. Still, the winter riding in Anchorage is better than the summer riding (no bugs, bears, or bogs), and there is a lot of exciting fatbike stuff happening right now.

        • Despite Surly’s disclaimer about not being able to run rotors larger than 160mm in the rear, you most definitely can install larger ones. I am currently using 200mm rotors, front & rear on my Ogre. They were installed using common caliper mounts. The only fiddling I had to do was to change the angle of the rear caliper mount by ~2mm using washers on one of the bolts in order to align the caliper properly with the 200mm rotor. The original 160mm rear & 180mm front rotors were destroying brake pads (especially the rear) in less than 1500km of touring in hilly terrain. Not to mention when they overheated, stopping via the brakes rapidly became less of an option.

          Total touring weight was: 90kg rider,32-42kg of gear (depending on how much food, water & wine I was carrying), plus my Ogre’s 18kg (with racks and touring tires).

          Expecting teeny tiny 160mm rotors to stop 150kg moving 65km/h on 20% grade is a bit optimistic. Since installing the 200mm rotors, no more stopping problems!!! (well, except when it is unloaded,it stops REALLY fast)

    • Dave, I almost don’t want to say, as I’m still afraid the non-drive side cup will come loose, or something similar.

      It is a 68x127mm BB, of course a 73mm would be nice, but wasn’t within reach when I put it together. I used several spacers on the drive side, including the e-type front derailleur, which acts as a spacer as well. The important thing we learned was that a lot of non-drive cups on 68mm cartridge BBs do not have a shoulder, and can be threaded deeper into the BB shell. Just a thought…

      Let me know if you come up with anything yourself.

  3. The food shots and the NatGeo quality photos are some of my favorite things when I dial up Radio Gypsy but when you dissect the tech is when I start remembering why I came. Thanks for that, Nicholas.

    tj

  4. Maybe a Pugs will be next… it’s been a long time coming.

    As you say, eyelets and geometry changes aside, the low BB height is a reason to choose the Krampus over an ECR – and the reason I went with my Ogre to Latin America, as I figured I’d be running standard 29er rubber most of the time. The ECR felt great with Knards, but a notch too low with 2.2s.

    • The Pugsley is looking really nice this year, with the SRAM double crank and Nate tires, Marge Lites, etc.

      I love everything about the ECR, especially the concept, but I couldn’t justify it for long-term use outside of the country, as long as the Krampus is an option. The Krampus is just so much more versatile, and is future-proofed due to the tapered headtube. Plus, a 120mm fork and high bottom bracket sounds like fun. These days, fun is high on the list.

      I recently did a few loops in Tucson on Scott’s Lenz Mammoth– the days of a full-suspension bike are nearing.

  5. Great writeup and so much more complete than so many other’s blogs I’ve read!

    The one addition I’d make to 1x options is to use a SRAM crankset with the removable spider and swap it for a MRP Bling Ring or Wolf Tooth wide/narrow ring. I use a 28t MRP Bling Ring and get fine clearance with the tire and with an 11×36, 10spd cassette in back it’s got good range. My chainstays are short too at 435mm. Wolf Tooth even goes down to a 26t i think, and they’re soon coming out with a “BB30″ model that spaces the ring out more (wider chainline) for bikes without the special Surly or Paragon yoke where chainring/chainstay clearance is an issue.

    It still shouldn’t be as hard as it is to get good clearance so an IGH is really the best answer IMO (I just put my Speedhub on my Knard bike and it’s sweet!). But without going that route, maybe a wider BB shell and using a Shimano Saint (86 BB, 150 rear axle). I see some builders coming out with 29+/fatbike combos where a 100mm BB shell is used and you can swap out wheelsets but I’m not sold on that. It seems to sacrifice some good parts of the 29+ for the versatility of also being able to go fat. They’re two very different bikes in my world.

    • I first saw a bike with a symmetrical 135mm rear end and a 100mm BB at Black Sheep. The bike would take an IGH with a set of fat wheels (or singlespeed, as it was set up), and a full derailleur drivetrain with 29″ wheels. But, you are pedaling a 100mm BB, which causes some pedal clearance issues of its own on rutted trails. I do think this is a potentially useful concept, although I am coming to appreciate purpose specific bikes these days. Maybe the 83mm BB will gain more traction as tires continue to grow. Even on most normal 29ers, FD to tire clearances are tight, especially as 2.3-2.4″ tires become more common, and chainstays continue to be as short as possible.

      The MRP/Wolftooth solution is a great addition, albeit only for some cranks. Would be nice if all cranks were assembled this way, I think.

      When I was piecing together my crank, I had the option to run a 26 or 28t ring in the 74mm BCD position, but without the spacers required to construct the double, which created another 3-5mm. That might have worked alright. I’ll look into it next time I have it all apart.

  6. Well its good to hear the bike and specifically the bb/crank situation has not exploded on you! Its really cool to hear your impressions on the bike… makes me really want a krampus now. How are the new Knards working out?

    • New Knards did not arrive. I learned that FedEx will not deliver to a USPS General Delivery address. It seems the item must be shipped via USPS for that service. Old Knards are fine, for now. I look forward to some new tires in AK.

      I began to notice slight play in the BB yesterday. Probably the non-drive cup slowly working loose, as it threads opposite the pedal rotation. I’ll reassemble it with one less spacer on the drive side and use some Loctite or something. Should be fine for a few more days. I may seek a less tentative solution in AK.

      Yes, I want a Krampus as well. It seems we all do. I didn’t realize how perfect it is before riding the ECR. It kills a lot of birds, so to speak.

  7. FYI, I noticed that Surly sells an aftermarket Krampus fork that has eyelets on it for extra bottle mounts and such. I realize it’s easy to affix bottle cages to fork blades without eyelets, but in case people are wishing for a Krampus frame but with some of the built in features of the ECR fork; it is available. So one can set up that dream machine pretty much right off the bat if you want to go that route. One still might want to get a set of bottle bosses installed on bottom of the DT though too.

    Best.

    Gabe

    • Gabe, Sounds like something that could work for some people. I suspect there is a market for the take-off Krampus fork too, to offset the cost.

      A drill and some Rivnuts would take care of the holes under the DT. Or, a couple wraps of duct tape will hold a cage pretty nicely as well.

  8. On my Krampus I use a standard Mr. Whirly crankset. I removed the chainring and spider and purchased a Surly 26t steel MWOD granny gear. It bolts right to the crank where the spider goes, and sits in the middle ring position. You can go 20, 22, 24 or 26 with the Surly rings. The 26 is perfect with the 29+ tires. I also put Phil Wood bearings in the Surly bottom bracket cups as the Surly bearings didn’t last very long. I would be happy to email you photos of the setup.

    I share a similar view about the ECR, I was very temped when I first heard about it but I use my Krampus as my mountain bike more then bike camping bike, so I decided to stick with it.

    I personally think I’m going to do a 26+ on my old 1×1 for a camping bike. Dirt Wizards on 26″ Rabbit Holes. No low bottom bracket issues, upright geo and large frame triangle (I have the old pre seat gusset style frame).

    • Jeff, How do you pack the bike when going bike camping? Just curious about the way people define this. Aside from water bottle mounts, I don’t require any of the mounts on the ECR the way I pack.

      As for the 1×1 project, I’ve thought of similar things myself. It seems many have forgotten about it, but the 1×1 still has huge tire clearances, and rides real nice. And, this year it comes in pink (if you don’t already have an old black one). The 26×2.75″ Dirt Wizard would probably fit. A 2.5″ tire on a Dually might be nice. Some nice 2.7″ tires still out there, but they are pretty heavy DH casings.

      I had one of those old 1×1 frames and loved it!

      • Nick, I pack with Revelate frame, harness/drybag and seat bags. For water I used an MSR bag in the frame pack, although I was thinking about clamping a mount for a 64oz stainless bottle like you have done, then add a bike bottle up on the bars. My next trip is on MLK weekend in January. Hoping for some snow on the C&O.

        I really like the pink 1×1, but I have 1×1=11 Anniversary. It’s a hard to beat bike and has served as commuter, mountain bike, and bar hopper with a coaster break all with dirt drop bars. Right now it has P35’s with 2.5 Hookworms. It is more comfortable then the Krampus to ride anything non technical.

      • The 1×1 sounds great! Do you have the 24″ wheelset as well? or just a frame?

        I’ve seen a lot of older 1x1s with wide rims and 2.5-3.0″ tires, in lieu of a proper fatbike. For most conditions, that’ll do just fine. I love the rugged simplicity of such a build. I’m jealous of the 1×1.

    • I would be very curious to see this setup. My friend and I both have a MWOD chainring setup with multiple rings including the 26t from a failed fatbike set up. I had wondered about using an MWOD on a Krampus but had thought I would end up using a 28t granny at some point. Note that I have never ridden a Krampus yet but love my fatbike and thought the Krampus looked like a fun bike.

  9. What a great write up! That ghetto crankset looks seriously badass, I like the classical look it gives your ECR. I wish Kramps would come with all this braze-on madness the ECR is sporting.
    It’s wet and cold down here and mine spends most of it’s time in the garage, but I did treat it to some new wheels, front derailleur and a nice 120 mm of squishyness up front though!

    • Yes, I like the shiny silver 110/74 crank as well. It is good to go back to an ‘old’ crank like this. It should be a lot less stiff, and that should be a bad thing, but the truth is I don’t notice anything. A good reminder that life before the ever-better present was pretty good.

      I think it looks a little like the early MTB frames with sloping top tubes, like the early Kona Explosif.

      Send pics of the Krampus with a fork and normal wheels!

    • Christian, I would love to ride a Jones. I can’t seem to find a specific geometry chart, but in principle, the concept is spot-on with my perspective on what a rigid trail bike should be. Short chainstays for climbing and quick decisions, stiffness and compliance in moderation for a nice ride, and relaxed angles for some fun on the downslope. There’s more to it, but it could be “the bike”. A friend in Santa Fe is soon to receive one, so I’ll pick his brain after some time on the bike.

      However, I do think there is more suspension in my future. At least for now, I need to spend more time on suspended bikes to form stronger opinions (and to have more fun!). I come from a rigid-steel-classic bikes background, and I’m trying to drown it in new experiences. Too much dogma, not enough riding…

      I’ve long had my eye on some of the creations coming from Black Sheep in Fort Collins, CO. As well, Andy Peirce in Del Norte, CO makes some nice 29ers, with some experience with 29+ and truss forks (http://www.ampeircecycles.com).

      He made this lovely tandem, shown at NAHBS: http://gypsybytrade.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/knards-at-nahbs/

      • I’ll look forward to any reports you might have on your friend’s Jones. I have a Salsa Spearfish–when it comes to FS it’s about minimal as you can get. 100mm in the front and 80mm in the rear. I like mine a lot. Best wishes.

  10. Excellent stuff here, both in blog & comments!
    I have a Krampus, which I’ve used, so far, on the Kokopelli Trail, White Rim and Lockhart basin. For my demands the 29+ concept is perfect for rugged bikepacking w/o suspension.

    A few comments:
    I have two wheelsets for our bike touring rigs: one with Rabbit Hole rims, one with Velocity Dually 45mm rims. Both are set up tubeless, and have 120tpi Knards mounted. Of the two the bead retention, without any mods, is far better on the Rabbit Holes. Neither are tubeless rims, AFAIK. Once I applied the ghetto split-tube method on the Dually rims they finally feel pretty secure. The Rabbit Holes we run with only one layer of Gorilla tape directly on the rim, and no split tube. The sticky portion show thru the holes, but a dusting of baby powder neutralized it completely.

    The Dually wheelset is on my Krampus. Having 5mm less rim width allow the use of a Shimano XT double MTB crank, 30/22T rings, without any tire rub.

    While the cool looking cut out rims are the new norm I personally prefer the more durable classic design for rocky riding.

    I don’t use a front derailleur. The Raceface 30T ‘big’ ring is used most of the time on gentle inclines, and easy miles. A light nudge with the foot serves to drop the chain into the 22T for long hills and technical riding on really rugged trails. Off course I have to dismount to re-engage the big ring, which is a good excuse to take a little break. We’re talking about touring, right?.

    • I’ve been reading some encouraging things about proper 2x cranks playing well with 29+ wheel systems, such as the Shimano XT you describe. I’ll also try to nail down a more reliable square taper ‘standard’ this winter, if I find the time and the right parts.

      I’m interested about you comments regarding the Dually. You lacked confidence in the way the tire felt on the Dually? or, the tire burped or rolled in use? I’ve read some of Mike Curiak’s thoughts about Velocity rims in general, and their claim to be “tubeless ready”. He claims to see no features specifically designed for safe and reliable tubeless performance. However, we’ve all wrestled non-tubeless parts into submission, but it would be nice to get real tubeless rims these day, esp. for $100+, especially for use with large-volume tires.

      In all, good news for the Rabbit Holes. I have a pair waiting in Alaska, with a fresh set of Knards. I’ll build them up next week.

    • Mike’s comments:

      “P35’s are great rims, but they are *sketchy* tubeless. Despite Velocity’s claims (and their “tubeless” kit) these rims really don’t do well for aggressive riders when run tubeless. No matter the tire, pressure, tape/valve combo, sealant mix, etc…, they *will* burp.

      The only flaw in the mix is that Velocity continues to claim that they can be run tubeless. Great rims otherwise.”

      More here: http://forums.mtbr.com/29er-components/velocity-p35-nobby-nics-779063.html

      • Nick I have setup Velocity P35s tubeless with 100% reliability for 18 months now of regular riding. Mike is correct that these are not really tubeless ready so you have to build up that centre channel with tape and in my case a wide rubber Stan’s rim strip. I also use UST tires that have a bead that’s specially made to seal well.

        I wouldn’t be as excited to setup Knards tubeless on a Velocity rim. Although I’m sure you could achieve satisfaction with enough prep work on the rim.

        Stan’s is supposedly coming out with some fatbike rims. It’s possible they’ll going into the “oddball” world and do a 29+ rim as well that will setup tubeless well. That’s probably a 2016 product so I’m not holding my breathe.

        I’ll run Rabbit Holes for another season or two and see what’s happened with the 29+ market as it matures a bit.

        safe riding,

        Vik

        • Vik, Thanks for your moderation as usual. Good news on your P35s– I suspect UST helps a lot. I ride loaded much of the time, and I do ride some chunky stuff, but when it come to aggressive cornering and white-knuckle descents, I usually take it easy. As a result, I don’t break a lot of equipment, and I’ve not had many issues with tubeless systems, in my limited experience. I would be reasonably confident with Knards on Velocity rims for my purposes. When possible, I do choose tubeless specific stuff (Stan’s rims, Schwalbe TLR, Maxxis EXO…)

          It would seem to be simple to design more positive bead hooks into the rims, and shallower rim wells for set-up. Same for Surly rims and tire. Not sure why this isn’t happening in late 2013. Even a bunch of ex-randonneurs like us have figured it out!

          • I don’t know why more companies aren’t making their rims truly tubeless ready. I have a friend who owns a LBS in AZ and he will no longer touch any ghetto tubeless setups after two riders were killed there after experiencing front wheel failures on their DIY tubeless setups. Scary.

            Since we don’t have thorns in BC I continue to run tubes in my Krampus although I am tempted to try tubeless mostly for the weight reduction, enhanced traction and reduced rolling resistance.

            safe riding,

            Vik

    • Steve, Thanks for the tip. I’m not super serious about a suspension fork on 29+ until I have a Krampus, or something more trail oriented. I’ve seen some of the un-official workarounds, but for the mass market, I wanted to be clear that there isn’t really a fork that would be sold through your LBS to fit a bike with 3.0″ tires. The request, even, would likely result in lots of head scratching.

      • Nick people are running Fox 34’s with Knards some bone stock and some with a tiny amount of dremel love to create more mud clearance. It seems to be the fork with the best clearance.

        I’ll be running a stock Reba on my Krampus with some Dirt Wizards when they come out. No mods needed. I could make Knards fit if I was willing to kiss the arch with a dremel tool.

        If you are running narrower rims [ie. P35s or Flow Exs] you gain a tiny amount of extra fork clearance that can be helpful.

        safe riding.

        Vik

  11. Nick,
    Congrats on the acquisition. I am rather envious and foresee an ECR in my future. Enjoy your travels and hopefully we’ll see you in Flag again.

  12. Nick,
    Curious if you have a measurement of the Knards on the Flow EX rims at their widest point? I have an ECR frame coming and was planning regular 29er rubber to start with as I didn’t want to buy new drive train components (currently on 3×10 SLX); from measurements on some other “narrow” rims posted by others, I am hopeful that I may be able to squeeze a Knard in on my flow wheelset.

    Thanks,
    -Michael

    • I measured, but don’t remember for sure…maybe 74-75mm. I did measure a Knard on a Flow EX and a Rabbit Hole at the same time. They measured within a mm or two of each other. More importantly, the tire was obviously much more voluminous on wider rims, and the sidewalls are supported much better for riding at lower pressures. Others have reported using Flow EX rims, and have been happy with the performance, riding unloaded, mostly (http://theskrumble.wordpress.com). I wouldn’t recommend it.

      Further, I don’t think a standard triple will fit with Knards on any rim. You might be stuck using only the middle ring for now. If things are close to working when you mount it all up, you might consider dishing the wheel over a few mm to the left. I did this on my bike to ensure some extra clearance in case of mud.

      • I initially had my Krampus setup with Knards on the older Flow rims which are narrower than the EXs…I used tubes. This setup was fine for several multi-day tours and some trail riding. I had no issues at all.

        Switching to RH rims I had better steering accuracy and could run lower pressures. The bike had a more connected feel to the ground. The different was noticeable, but if I had to run the Flows for another year until I could afford a RH wheelset I would not have minded.

        If you are starting from scratch and want a narrower rim I go with something that has a 30mm inner width.

        If you own a set of Flow Exs and want to use them go for it.

        safe riding,

        Vik

      • Vik, If I was waiting a year for a set of wide rims on a Krampus frame, I would rather spend the year on Stan’s rims with 2.4-2.5″ tires. Knards on narrow rims provide poor side-knob, side-hill traction. I’ve found that cornering is spotty, and rutted roads and trails are tough. For more straightaway riding, such as on an ECR, on dirt roads, the extra cushion would be nice. Cornering is not a real big part of dirt road touring. But yes, it works, and seems to be safe once you figure out the handling quirks.

  13. Hi Nick, first thanks for writing such an inspiring blog!

    This spring I want to start a laid back 4-5 month bikepacking (not ultra light) tour through south and central Europe.

    I did not decide about the route yet. But I’m inspired by your Europe trip to use the GR5 to get to the Mediterranean, starting in the region of Maastricht where I live. Spain and Portugal are on my list and I want to spend some time in regions like the Alps (including some bike-transalp stages), Apennines or Carpathians. Still working on finding out how to mostly avoid the paved roads and find routes to connect these sites offroad.

    My old mountainbike has worn down, now I’m thinking about buying a 29+ combined with a Rohloff hub.

    And yes… I also can’t decide between an ECR and a Krampus. I understand the possible downsides of the ECR (lower BB and lack of tapered headtube) but what are the real downsides of a Krampus compared to the ECR? (not the mounts…) For instance, will the geometry cause extra strain on your body or will your average speed be reduced drastically?

    It would be the best to testride both bikes, but finding a shop that has both bikes is pretty hard in the Netherlands… This week I’m going for a short test drive on a Krampus, but I haven’t found an ECR to testdrive yet. So I probably have to decide without this experience.

    Is it possible/wise to use one pair of Knards (on RH rims) for the whole trip? Or should I for instance take some Schwalbe Super Moto’s with me to use when I choose to ride pavement for days on a row?

    Ideally I would like to ride the Knards tubeless (split tube) but if I need to change tubes this is not really practical…

    Maybe you could shed some light on these issues…

    Thanks,

    Bram

    • Bram, Sorry for the late reply, as it seems you have already bought a Krampus. Good choice!

      The geometry of the ECR is very nice for pedaling, but as I’ve described, not ideal for trail sections. I think the compromises of one bike on the trail (ECR) is equal to the other on the road (Krampus). As a matter of habit, I now select my bikes based upon the kind of riding I WANT to be doing, and not a compromise of all the conditions I will find. In either case the Krampus is the more capable bike, and the Knards will roll nicely on pavement when needed.

      I think it makes the most sense to use Knards for the whole trip, as they roll so well on pavement (I’d say they same thing even if they didn’t!). The split tube method would be best. You could carry one spare folding Knard if you expect some rough, rocky terrain, or even a Racing Ralph (etc) as a spare. It wouldn’t be unwise to go without a spare, as even with a sidewall cut, a needle and thread and a tube should get you to a bike shop, and rapid shipping is possible through most of Europe. If you expect to wear out a tire on your trip, might as well choose the Knard if you choose to carry a spare.

      Also, tubeless Knards may even roll nicer than tubed Super Motos. And imagine finding room to carry two 29×3.0 tires on the bike! Less room for pivo, baguette, and pomodoro.

    • Also, some route ideas. If you are looking to ride to Spain and Portugal, there are dirt route most of the way if you’d like. I highly recommend the GR5 from Maastricht through the Belgian Ardennes– one of the best rides of the summer for us. We left the trail in Luxembourg, as it was very rainy and we had plans to go to Lux City for festival. Also, the trail was very steep in some places up north, but I think it becomes more mellow further south through wine country. Entering France, we left the trail due to mud from many weeks of rain.

      The major dirt route through France is fairly simple. Follow the Traversee du Massif Vosgien from Wissembourg to Thann, then connect to either the French or Swiss version of the Traversee du Jura (each route is mixed dirt and pavement, etc). Connect to the Traversee du Massif Central, which take you to the Mediterranean. From there, you will find many routes through the Pyrennees and into Spain. The connections between routes can also be made on a combination of GR and Voie Verte, most likely.

      Vosges: http://www.tmv-alsace-vtt.com
      Jura (Swiss): http://www.veloland.ch/fr/itineraires/route-07.html
      Jura (French): http://www.gtj.asso.fr/differentes-formules-de-la-gtj/gtj-a-vtt/la-gtj-a-vtt.html
      Massif Central: http://www.chamina.com/cote_pratique/pour_les_confirmes/grande_traversee_massif_central/

      The Vosges guide is available as a free PDF download, and is pretty easy to follow most of the time. Also, the mechanic named Gaby as Espace Cycles in Wissembourg has a copy, as it was out of print at the time we were riding. All other major French routes are available through Chamina publishing: http://www.chamina.com/collection/vtt-8/

      For all published Spanish/Portuguese routes, check out this online bookstore: http://www.labiciteca.com/libreria/index.php?id_category=15&controller=category&id_lang=1

  14. Nick, thanks for all your information! I spent every day on my Krampus since I bought it and I’m very happy with its trail riding capabilities, I think I made the right choice.

    Your advise regarding the Knards sounds very reasonable. I will set them up tubeless and take a needle and thread and an innertube with me to use in case of sidewall cut. At home I will prepare a package containing a spare Knard that my girlfriend can ship if I need it.

    I’m going to check all your route information soon, but at the moment the weather is too nice to spend my free hours inside ;)

    Again, thanks a lot!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s