More to gain than to lose; Krampus

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On the eve of my return to fat tires, another beast enters the fray.  Non-winter fatbiking is on the tip of my tongue these days and my enthusiasm for bikes that can go places is tiring; I talked myself into a storm several times yesterday in conversation with other cyclists here in Whitefish, MT– there’s more to gain on bigger tires than there is to lose.  Most of the time 4″ tires aren’t the focus of these discussions, but putting a little more rubber and air between the rider and the earth can go a long way to improving traction, suspension and floatation, the three main functions of a tire.  Many cyclists I meet operate under the assumption that narrow tires are faster– it’s not faster when the asphalt is old and broken, it’s also the reason your rack or spokes have broken, or those pesky plastic pannier hooks; most of all it’s more comfortable and safer.  To optimize the quality of the ride, consider bags that don’t kick and scream over bumps with a flurrious rattle and shake.  Consider your frontal face and the resultant air resistance.  And then, consider the opportunity of an unknown road and an unpaved surface– that’s the promise of a bigger tire, and there’s more to gain than to lose.  The mantra: underpack and overbuild.

Cass and I have been discussing the finer points of fatbikes recently as he’s burning to dive into the deep end.  We’ve compared the offset and the symmetrical frame designs available; frame materials and weights and stiffness; and most of all, we’ve talked a lot about wheels.  The real ticket to a rideable fatbike is a tolerably light wheel.  Few people, for the sake of some additional traction and floatation and fun are willing to ride the heaviest wheels of the last 100 years.  Strong singlewall rims such as the Marge Lite or Rolling Darryl are the ticket to full-fat enjoyment.  Lael never complained when her stock Surly Pugsley carried her reliably to work through a full winter in Anchorage, but when the snow melted and the fatbike became a bike of theoretical utility rather than an absolute daily necessity it was hard for her to reach for a bike with 6 pound wheels.  Wheels built with DH Large Marge rims are beastly for light trail riding or commuting or touring.  Riding and climbing the Colorado Trail on those wheels wasn’t going to happen.  In preparation for a season of globe-trotting, she liquidated her assets and moved on to the Cannondale Hooligan.

Another topic when considering a fatbike is the cost, and Cass and I hold our greenbacks close.  A stock Pugsley or Mukluk achieves the basic utility of fat tires, but enticing, upgraded models with lighter wheels and wider rims jump in price, and then there is the Moonlander or the titanium Mukluk, Fatback or 9zero7.  We stepped back from the thought of spending our precious dinero, and sought alternatives.  Cass suggested a half-fat setup with the Salsa Enabler fork on the Surly Ogre, as a way to dip his toe into the shallow end.  I shared a link to discounted 29″ Snowcat rims, suggesting that a 44mm rim and 2.5″ tire might give him a lot of what he’s looking for.  Considering that floatation would not often be the most essential feature of his sorta-fatbike, the fat 29″ wheel might be an inexpensive compromise and a good fit for his riding.

And in just over a month, Lael and I will be setting out, up and over the Colorado Trail and on toward assorted dirt routes throughout the southwest.  What bike will carry her through the most demanding terrain we’ve ever toured?  Surely it will have fat tires of some kind, but will it be a 4″ tire like the Pugsley or is it the promise of a lightweight 29″ wheel that she deserves.  I’ve been losing sleep over this, not out of concern, but out of an intense interest, an obsession, with wheel and tire sizes.

Losing sleep over 29er’s on the eve of my reversion to fat tires, I awake to an inbox full of Krampus.

Like the Ogre/Snowcat concoction, the Surly Krampus is a go anywhere demi-fat 29er, billed as “29+”.  It’s brand new and it’s a pedal stroke ahead of the curve.  It’s “not just a big wheeled version of a fatbike, but a logical progression of 29”.  The bike is a rigid steel 29er with huge clearances designed for a new lightweight singlewall 29 x 50mm rim and a fast-rolling 29 x 3.0″ tire.  It’s the promise of big tires and a big wheel, in one big ugly bike.  Krampus is a mythical goat-like creature that is the antithesis of Saint Nicholas and visits bad children during the Christmas season, punishing their wrongdoings.  Krampus is unrelenting and answers to no one.  Krampus selects the children of the most vile temperament, stuffs them in his sack, and eats them.  Krampus takes standard hubs and a 73mm bottom bracket.  It’ll ride on snowy city streets and sandy beaches, dirt roads and trails, and with a Schwalbe 29 x 2.35 Big Apple, it would eat some pavement.  I would likely put a drop-bar on it as a super-Fargo dirt tourer.  Can’t decide between a fatbike and a Fargo or an Ogre?  Krampus will do it all and doesn’t ask for offset wheels, wide cranks or “summer wheelsets”.  This bike looks hungry.


Below, a period of experimentation in which Lael’s bike wears a pair of 2.4″ Maxxis Holy Rollers; my bike is half-fat with a 29″ rear wheel with 29 x 2.35″ Schwalbe Big Apple and a fat Surly Larry tire up front.  The Krampus is the condensation of all these elements, built around a wide, lightweight singlewall rim and a new 3″ tire.  Holy mackerel!

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13 thoughts on “More to gain than to lose; Krampus

    • Yeehaw, Surly man! Add another bike to the collection. Let us know what kind of new bike names arise from the addition of Krampus to the Surly vocabulary. The 29+ concept is perfect as fatbikes and 29″ wheels both have a lot of momentum in the market. Obviously others have noted that 26″ fatbikes still ride like small wheeled bikes.

      Moreover, this new rim is a blessing for winter cyclists. A 50+ mm studded tire such as a Schwalbe Ice Spiker on the 50mm rim would get you through an Anchorage winter for sure and would fit your Karate Monkey. The rim and tire are pretty darn light for the amount of material involved.

      Krampus is a pretty wild character though. Keep him away from Little wRider.

      • Zero flats, I don’t want to jinx it, but that’s impressive.
        I’ve really enjoyed living vicariously through my old tires, and am little sad to see their part of your trip end. I’m shopping around for another 26″ Apple for the Big Dummy, I’m having trouble being satisfied with anything smaller on there. The Holy Roller’s have taken up permanent residence on the 1×1. . . . and you can bet that I’ve been scheming about what could be spelled using ‘Krampus’ . . . “Damp Monkey”, or “Donkey ramp” for starters.

      • The front tire has lots of life, while the rear tire is simply alive. Want them? Otherwise they go to CL or FreeCycles.

        I want a Krampus, mainly because the 3.0′ tire seems perfect. A lightweight 26″ tire with a similar all-purpose tread is also needed.

        • If it isn’t too much trouble on your end I’d love to have them again. I’d rather ride old tires into the ground than support the economy by purchasing new ones. You have a tip jar or paypal setup? I’ll cover postage and let you support brewers of fine beverages on your travels.

    • This Krampus is your 29er. The fatbikes are rad for lotsa stuff, but with more people riding fat-XC the Krampus is a cool new direction.

      You still getting the Mukluk dirty? Do you love it?

      Hope all is well at the old Bicycle Shop.

  1. I do like the look and sound of the Sandman – the way it’s built with wheel versatility in mind – and I’m curious about the impending On One, though the triangle looks a little on the miniature side in terms of framebag potential.

    Keep coming back to the Krampu, though… As I sip my coca tea in Peru, I should probably be thinking of deeper things. Or be out on my bike…

  2. Am I missing something? I went hunting for a 29×2.35 Big Apple, but all I can find on Schwalbe’s site is a *28* x 2.35. Is that 28 size what I need for my ECR’s Rabbit Hole rims? Thanks for any info you can share—I’m cornfused, and the Mighty Interwebz have let me down. -Dylan

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