I figured I’d share some info on the mountain bikes in my fleet at the moment. Why I am riding them, what I like about them and what I’d like to change? I’ll go in order of the oldest bike in the fleet to the newest.
So first up is my Surly Krampus rigid steel 29+ bike. Setup single speed currently and pretty much permanently wearing a Porcelain Rocket framebag. I got this bike back in 2013. I wanted to check out what “Plus” tires were like and I wanted something that would work for my bikepacking adventures.
The fact I still have this bike 6 years later is testament to the fact it’s so much fun to ride. Not only has this machine been with me on many bikepacking tours, but it has more recently become my go-to bike for bombing around town. You’d think a 29er with 3″ mountain bike tires and no gears would not be the best choice for city riding, but I love it. By today’s mountain bike geometry standards it’s tiny and has an adult BMX feel to it which is fun when hooning around the city. Even better is that it rolls damn fast on those big wheels. I ended up in a road bike race on it one day [by accident] and I crushed so many roadie souls with my Krampus I knew she was going to stay in the fleet a long long time.
I complain that most production frames I’ve tried are overly stiff and have a dead feel to them. The Krampus is an exception with a nice lively flex that feels great and helps make the bike faster than it has a right to be. In the past I removed the frame bag from this bike after each tour, but now I leave it on 24-7-365. It’s a useful amount of cargo space when I don’t want to bother with a backpack. Plus it’s so well made that the only chance I have to ever wear it out is to use it more than on tours!
I’ve run this bike with a couple suspension forks, but I like it a lot rigid with the stock steel fork. It’s got a nice amount of flex so it’s not harsh and it’s easy to get the front wheel up so that it’s not smashing into things. That makes the back end the limiting factor on speed in the rough and reduces the importance of have suspension up front.
Okay so that’s why I love this bike, but what don’t I like? Well the main thing is that it’s pretty short wheelbase compared to my main trail bike. The Krampus is ~44″ long and my GG Smash is ~48.5″ long… 4.5″ is quite a difference! If I could go back in time I would get a large Krampus instead of the medium I am riding. I have thought about buying a used large frame and swapping it in. So far I haven’t found one that was a good enough price, not from a sketchy seller and not so far away shipping was prohibitive. Besides the large is only 0.8″ longer so not that much different. I’ll keep looking. If one comes up locally and it’s not too expensive I’ll jump on it, but otherwise I’ll just enjoy the Krampus as is and focus on how nimble it is.
The other issue is that for dedicated urban assault use it would be great if it had some fenders so I could ride in the rain without getting soaked/dirty from the wheels. I’ll get some Mudhugger fenders for it this winter. They are not full coverage, but they’ll do a good enough job I think.
My second oldest mountain bike is a Knolly Endorphin setup with a 150mm fork and 130mm rear travel. Knolly did a great job making this bike light and tough so that it can span a wide range of riding missions without feeling like too much or too little bike. I got this bike in early 2017 so I’ve had it about 2 years.
The suspension is dialled on this bike. For our rough traction challenged forest trails this keeps the rear wheel powering the bike forward on steep techy climbs and the front wheel gripping in turns despite the roots, mud and wet rocks.
Tire clearance is generous allowing me to fit a 2.6″ tire in the back. The frame fits a water bottle inside it and a Porcelain Rocket frame bag under the downtube so I can ride without a fanny pack or hydration pack so a lot of rides.
The raw finish on the frame is sweet and it has guides for external cables which I think is great. It was designed by a Canadian [BC!] bike company for riding on trails a lot like mine and it shows.
What don’t I like? Well after riding my medium GG Smash the large Endorphin feels quite small. So much so that I swapped in a longer stem and wider bars to try to make it feel larger. That worked to a degree, but it’s still a noticeably smaller bike with a wheelbase ~2″ shorter than the GG. The other issue is with only one water bottle fitting on the frame I have to wear a fanny pack or hydration pack for longer rides, particularly in the summer. That’s not the end of the world, but I sure do like going packless nearly 100% of the time when I ride my GG. Lastly the bottom bracket is pretty low. Low enough that after 2 years my pedals were in very rough shape.
I have considered getting a longer frame. Maybe an XL Endorphin or more likely a GG Shred Dogg since I’d get both more wheelbase and a second waterbottle on the bike. But, like the Krampus at the moment it doesn’t seem worth it to spend the $$ on that change. So for now I’ll keep rocking the large Endorphin. It’s my winter bike nowadays and for those rides 1 bottle is enough most of the time.
My newest mountain bike arrived in early 2018. Made in the US by Guerrilla Gravity out of Colorado the Smash is my first 29er. GG did a great job on this bike. It climbs well. Descends fast and handles far better than the big hoops and long wheelbase would suggest. Back in 2014 I would have told you a bike with this geo would not work well on our tight twisty steep techy forest trails and I would have been wrong.
This bike took everything I liked about the Endorphin to the next level:
- bigger wheels
- longer wheelbase
- more travel
- higher BB to avoid most pedal strikes
- fits 2 water bottles
- made in the US
- efficient and plush dual coil suspension
- only offers clean external cable routing
The GG has blown me away in just about every respect. It’s a good reminder that sometimes you just have to take a chance and try something outside your comfort zone. Ordering sight unseen with no demo was a risk, but it totally paid off. Not only is the Smash better than any other 29er I have demo’d it’s one of the most capable mountain bikes I have ever owned pointed up or down the mountain.
What don’t I like about this bike? Well it’s not light at ~34lbs. That said every extra gram [burly build and dual coil suspension] has a purpose and makes this bike so awesome in other ways. To be fair the only time I notice the weight is when I lift in off a rack. 6hrs+ in the saddle on an epic alpine ride and I am loving every minute of it. I’m also PRing lots of climbs so I am not really very motivated to change anything to make it lighter. The other negative with this bike is once I got used to the size/wheelbase it makes going back to my shorter bikes feel odd. That could get expensive!
So that’s where my mountain bike fleet stands at the end of 2018. I’ve got 3 really nice bikes that make me smile a ton. Life could be a lot worse! 🙂