If you’re looking for a bike that can handle any terrain with style and grace, look no further than the Karate Monkey. This bike is a versatile beast that can be customized to your liking with 29er or 27.5+ wheels, and a myriad of other options. Whether you’re shredding singletrack, bikepacking, or romping around the KOA, the Karate Monkey will keep you smiling and pedaling. This bike is not for the faint of heart, but for those who love adventure and fun.
The Surly Karate Monkey is a bikepacking wonder. It’s a versatile and robust bike that can tackle any terrain, from smooth gravel to adventurous singletrack. You can pack whatever you need to make your trip fun and memorable. The Karate Monkey has ample mounts for water bottles, cages, racks, and fenders. It’s a bike that will inspire you to venture far into the back country and experience the beauty and challenge of nature along the way.
Geometry & Ride Characteristics
The Surly Karate Monkey SUS has a geometry that is both versatile and adaptable. Its moderately slack head tube angle offers a balanced blend of stability and nimbleness, making it equally adept at climbing steep inclines and descending technical trails. The bike’s varying reach and stack across sizes provide a tailored fit for riders, while its moderate chainstay length and subtle bottom bracket drop contribute to a wheelbase that is stable yet agile.
When it comes to ride feel, the Karate Monkey SUS delivers a harmonious blend of comfort and performance. The RockShox 35 Gold RL fork ensures smooth handling over bumpy trails, while the Surly Chromoly Steel frame offers a forgiving yet lively ride. The Shimano Deore XT 12-speed drivetrain provides a wide range of gearing options, allowing you to easily adapt to different terrains.
- Head Tube Angle: The angle is consistent at 67.5° across all sizes. This offers a balanced blend of stability and agility. Unlike downhill bikes that might have slacker angles for stability, or XC bikes with steeper angles for quick handling, the Karate Monkey SUS strikes a middle ground.
- BB Drop: The bottom bracket drop is uniform at 44 across all sizes. This moderate drop helps maintain a lower center of gravity for better stability, a feature commonly found in versatile bikes but not necessarily in specialized racing or downhill bikes.
- Chainstay Length: The chainstay length is consistently 423mm for all sizes. This contributes to a stable yet agile ride, unlike some bikes where the chainstay length varies with size to adjust for different handling characteristics.
- Reach: The reach varies from 361 to 457, allowing for a more customized fit for riders of different heights. This is a feature not always present in all bike models, where reach might be more uniform.
- Wheelbase: Ranging from 1071 to 1172, the wheelbase length increases with size, contributing to stability at higher speeds. This is a feature often seen in bikes designed for both trail and touring but not in specialized racing bikes.
- Effective Top Tube Length: The effective top tube length ranges from 565 to 665, designed to offer a comfortable reach to the handlebars. In contrast, bikes aimed at different riding styles might have significantly different top tube lengths.
- Seat Tube Angle: The seat tube angle is a consistent 71.5° across all sizes, conducive for efficient pedaling. Unlike bikes designed for specific types of riding where the angle might vary, the Karate Monkey SUS maintains uniformity.
vs. the Surly Krampus SUS
The Surly Krampus SUS and the Surly Karate Monkey SUS both offer suspension forks, but with different travel lengths—120mm for the Krampus and 140mm for the Karate Monkey. This difference results in the Krampus offering a slightly more agile but less cushioned ride compared to the plush, rock-absorbing feel of the Karate Monkey. Both bikes feature a Shimano Deore XT 12-speed drivetrain, but the Krampus has a slightly different shifter model.
- Krampus SUS: Features a RockShox 35 Gold RL fork with 120mm of travel, providing a more agile and responsive ride on moderately rough terrains.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Comes with a RockShox 35 Gold RL fork but with a longer 140mm travel, making it better suited for challenging, technical trails.
- Krampus SUS: Equipped with a Shimano Deore XT 12-speed drivetrain and an SL-M8100 shifter, offering smooth and reliable gear changes.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Also features a Shimano Deore XT 12-speed drivetrain but lacks the specific SL-M8100 shifter model.
- Ride Feel:
- Krampus SUS: The shorter fork travel makes this bike more agile and better suited for moderately rough terrains, offering a more nimble experience.
- Karate Monkey SUS: The longer fork travel allows it to excel in challenging, technical terrains, providing a more cushioned and stable ride.
- Both bikes: Share similar geometry, but the difference in fork travel subtly affects their handling characteristics, with the Krampus being more agile and the Karate Monkey more stable on rough terrains.
vs. the Surly Ogre
The Surly Ogre and the Surly Karate Monkey SUS offer distinct ride experiences rooted in their design features. The Ogre, with its 100% Surly Chromoly Steel fork, provides a more rigid and direct connection to the trail, ideal for bikepacking and long-distance touring. On the other hand, the Karate Monkey SUS features a RockShox 35 Gold RL fork with 140mm travel, making it more suited for technical, challenging terrains. The suspension in the Karate Monkey SUS offers a smoother, more cushioned ride, while the Ogre is built for durability and versatility.
- Surly Ogre: Comes with a 100% Surly Chromoly Steel fork, offering a rigid and direct connection to the trail. This makes it well-suited for riders who prefer a more traditional, responsive feel.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Features a RockShox 35 Gold RL fork with 140mm of travel, designed to absorb shocks and bumps, making it ideal for challenging, technical terrains.
- Surly Ogre: Equipped with a Microshift SL-M9605 Trail Pro shifter and a Microshift RD-M6205 rear derailleur, offering a reliable and straightforward shifting experience.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Features a Shimano Deore XT 12-speed drivetrain, known for its smooth and reliable gear changes, providing a more premium shifting experience.
- Surly Ogre: Utilizes Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes, which are reliable but may require more hand force compared to hydraulic systems.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Comes with Tektro Gemini HD-M520 hydraulic disc brakes, offering more stopping power and a more responsive feel.
- Ride Feel:
- Surly Ogre: Designed for a more rigid and direct ride, making it ideal for long-distance touring and bikepacking where durability and stability are key.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Offers a smooth, more cushioned ride due to its suspension fork, making it well-suited for technical and challenging terrains where comfort and control are essential.
- Surly Ogre: Features a geometry that is versatile and well-suited for a variety of riding conditions, from commuting to long-distance touring.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Its geometry is optimized for challenging, technical terrains, particularly benefiting from the longer fork travel that enhances stability and control.
vs. the Salsa Timberjack SLX 27.5+
The Salsa Timberjack SLX 27.5+ and the Surly Karate Monkey SUS offer differing riding experiences. The Timberjack features a RockShox 35 Silver TK Air fork with 130mm travel and Shimano SLX M7100 SGS drivetrain, making it agile and responsive. In contrast, the Karate Monkey SUS comes with a RockShox 35 Gold RL fork with 140mm travel and a Shimano Deore XT drivetrain, providing a more cushioned and stable ride on challenging terrains. While both bikes are designed for off-road adventures, the Timberjack leans towards agility, and the Karate Monkey emphasizes comfort and control.
- Frame Material:
- Salsa Timberjack SLX 27.5+: The frame is made of aluminum, which is generally lighter and offers a more responsive ride. This makes it ideal for riders looking for agility and quick handling on trails.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Constructed from 100% Surly Chromoly Steel, this frame is robust and durable, making it well-suited for challenging terrains where sturdiness is a priority.
- Salsa Timberjack SLX 27.5+: Comes with a RockShox 35 Silver TK Air fork featuring 130mm of travel. This fork is designed for agility and responsiveness, making it great for a variety of trail conditions.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Features a RockShox 35 Gold RL fork with 140mm of travel, providing a more cushioned and stable ride, especially on rough and technical terrains.
- Salsa Timberjack SLX 27.5+: Equipped with a Shimano SLX M7100 SGS drivetrain, known for its smooth and reliable gear changes. This drivetrain is a solid choice for riders who value performance.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Features a Shimano Deore XT 12-speed drivetrain, offering a premium and smooth shifting experience, ideal for those who are looking for top-notch components.
- Salsa Timberjack SLX 27.5+: Utilizes Shimano MT401 brakes paired with Shimano RT10 Center Lock rotors. These brakes offer reliable stopping power and are easier to maintain.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Comes with Tektro Gemini HD-M520 hydraulic disc brakes, providing consistent and powerful stopping capabilities, especially important for technical descents.
- Ride Feel:
- Salsa Timberjack SLX 27.5+: Designed for agility and responsiveness, this bike is well-suited for a variety of trail conditions, from smooth singletracks to more technical terrains.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Offers a smoother, more cushioned ride due to its suspension fork, making it ideal for challenging and technical terrains where comfort and control are key.
- Salsa Timberjack SLX 27.5+: Features a geometry that leans towards agility and quick handling, making it versatile enough for different types of trails, from flowy to technical.
- Karate Monkey SUS: Its geometry is optimized for stability and control, particularly benefiting from the longer fork travel that enhances its performance on challenging terrains.
Premium Fork: Equipped with a RockShox 35 Gold RL fork that has 140mm of travel, this bike provides a level of cushioning and stability usually found in more expensive models, enhancing its off-road capabilities.
Reliable Drivetrain: Featuring a Shimano Deore XT 12-speed drivetrain, the Karate Monkey SUS ensures smooth and reliable gear transitions, making it a standout choice for those seeking high-end components without the high-end price tag.
Hydraulic Disc Brakes: The bike comes with Tektro Gemini HD-M520 hydraulic disc brakes, offering consistent and powerful stopping capabilities, a feature often reserved for higher-end models.
Bag, Rack and Fender Mounting Points
The Surly Karate Monkey SUS is equipped with the following mounting points to cater to all your gear-hauling needs:
Rack Mounts: The bike comes with traditional rack mounts at the rear for fitting a standard bike rack. This can be used to carry panniers or other rack-mounted cargo solutions.
Bottle Cage Mounts: Multiple water bottle cage mounts can be used to carry water bottles for hydration, or other equipment like tools or small storage containers.
Three-Pack Mounts: Surly includes their “Three-Pack” mounts on the fork. These allow you to attach anything from traditional water bottle cages to larger cargo cages, providing additional storage space.
Fender Mounts: While primarily designed for attaching fenders, creative cyclists may also use these points for additional light cargo solutions.
Surly Karate Monkey SUS Featured in the Wild!
In a detailed review found on Bikepacking.cz, the Surly Karate Monkey, a steel trail hardtail bike, is praised for its reliability and versatility. The bike, which has been in production since 2002, has seen numerous updates, with the latest model featuring larger diameter CrMo 4130 Natch tubes and a conical frame top tube. The reviewer, Lukáš Fischer, lauds the bike’s balanced geometry, making it suitable for both playful trail riding and long-distance travel. Despite its higher weight and European pricing, Fischer concludes, “The harder the terrain, the better…Well, I ride that bike well, or I probably wouldn’t keep it, would I?”
In a review on Bikepacking.com, Michael Dammer’s Surly Karate Monkey is lauded for its adaptability and resilience. Dammer, an Ecuadorian alpinist and organic farmer, uses the bike for challenging terrains, including long cobbled descents and raw singletrack. The bike’s 27.5+ tires and sturdy steel construction make it ideal for these conditions. Dammer also crafted a unique leather framebag for the bike, showcasing his resourcefulness. He praises the Karate Monkey, stating, “I find the geometry of the KM is a nice blend between an aggressive trail ripping machine and some features of a long distance bikepacking hardtail. This combination makes for a very versatile mountain bike.”
On Bikepacking.com, Shaelin Morefield’s Surly Karate Monkey is showcased for its versatility and adaptability. Morefield, a designer from Truckee, California, uses the bike for bikepacking trips in the Northern Sierra and to transport her 11-year-old dog. The bike, built from the frame up, is equipped with a mix of new and used components, including a 150 dropper post, i9 Torch hub, SRAM 1×12 drivetrain, and SRAM guide RSC brakes. Morefield states, “I built this bad boy from the frame up this past summer in an effort to create the best bikepacking/beer-getting/singletrack-shredding/BOB-trailer-with-dog-towing all-arounder for my home here in Truckee. So far, it’s done that job pretty well.”
The Surly Karate Monkey SUS drivetrain features a Shimano Deore XT 12-speed shifter and rear derailleur, with a Shimano Deore M-6100 crankset. Braking is handled by Tektro Gemini HD-M520 brakes with 180F/160R rotors. The bike rolls on WTB ST i35 TCS 2.0 rims, with Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 2.8″, 60tpi, Tubeless Ready tires. Comfort and control are provided by a WTB Volt saddle, Salsa Rustler handlebars, and a TranzX YSP15 seatpost.
- Frame: Surly Chromoly Steel (See Details in Frame Construction section below)
- Fork: RockShox 35 Gold RL, 15 x 110mm, 140mm travel
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT M-8100
- Cassette: OE 12-spd, 11-51t
- Chain: KMC X12 Anti-Rust
- Crankset: Shimano Deore M-6100, 30t
- Shifter: Shimano Deore XT, 12-spd
- Brakes: Tektro Gemini HD-M520
- Rotors: 180F/160R
- Headset: Cane Creek
- Stem: ProMax 31.8
- Handlebar: Salsa Rustler
- Grips / Bar Tape: Velo Black
- Seatpost: TranzX YSP15, 30.9 XS: 100mm, SM-XL: 120mm
- Saddle: WTB Volt
- Seatclamp: Surly stainless, 33.1mm
- Front Wheel: Novatec 15×110, 32h, 6-bolt, WTB ST i35 TCS 2.0
- Rear Wheel: Novatec 15×110, 32h, 6-bolt, WTB ST i35 TCS 2.0
- Tires: Surly Dirt Wizard 27.5 x 2.8″, 60tpi, Tubeless Ready
The Surly Karate Monkey’s frame, crafted from Surly’s proprietary 4130 Chromoly steel, delivers an exceptional balance of resilience, weight, and ride comfort. Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding is employed to ensure durable joints that stand up to rigorous riding. The rear dropout configuration is horizontal slotted with an optional vertical dumpout, offering versatility in wheel setups. The rear hub spacing is “Gnot-Boost” 145mm, compatible with 12 x 142mm or 12 x 148mm, and can also accommodate 10 x 135mm with Surly 10/12 Adapter Washers (not included). The front hub spacing is 15 x 110mm. It employs a 51mm I.S. disc brake system, compatible with a maximum rotor size of 203mm. The frame accommodates various tire sizes, up to 27.5 x 3.0” or 29 x 2.5″.
|Frame measurements (mm)||XS||SM||MD||LG||XL|
|A. BB Drop||44||44||44||44||44|
|B. Chainstay Length||423||423||423||423||423|
|C. Fork Length – Axle to Crown||521||521||521||521||521|
|D. Fork Offset||51||51||51||51||51|
|E. Head Tube Angle (deg)||67.5||67.5||67.5||67.5||67.5|
|F. Headtube Length||100||100||100||110||120|
|H. Seat Tube Angle (deg)||71.5||71.5||71.5||71.5||71.5|
|I. Seat Tube Length – Center to Top||330||368||419||470||521|
|L. Top Tube Length (Effective)||565||590||615||640||665|
|Component measurements (mm)|
|Crank Arm Length||170||170||175||175||175|
|Handlebar Rise / Drop||20||20||20||20||20|
|Stem Angle (deg)||7||7|
Register your purchase at Surly’s Warranty Registration.
LIMITED WARRANTY FOR THE SURLY KARATE MONKEY FRAME
This Surly product is warranted against defects in materials and workmanship for three years from the date of retail purchase of the product, subject to the limitations detailed below. Save your dated receipt for proof of purchase.
This warranty does NOT cover the following:
- Damage due to improper assembly or follow-up maintenance or lack of skill, competence or experience of the user or assembler
- Products that have been modified, neglected, used in competition or for commercial purposes, misused or abused, involved in accidents or anything other than normal use
- Installation of components, parts or accessories not originally intended for or compatible with bicycle as sold
- Damage or deterioration to the paint, surface finish, aesthetics or appearance of the product
- Normal wear and tear
- Labor required to remove and/or refit and re-adjust the product within the bicycle assembly
This limited warranty is expressly limited to the repair or replacement of a defective product, at the option of Surly, and is the sole remedy of the warranty. This limited warranty applies only to the original purchaser of the Surly product and is not transferrable. This warranty applies only to products purchased through an authorized dealer or distributor. In no event shall Surly be liable for any loss, inconvenience or damage, whether direct, incidental, consequential, or otherwise resulting from breach of any express or implied warranty or condition, of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or otherwise with respect to our products except as set forth herein.
This limited warranty gives the consumer specific legal rights, and those rights and other rights may vary from place to place. This limited warranty does not affect your statutory rights.
TO THE EXTENT NOT PROHIBITED BY LAW, THESE WARRANTIES ARE EXCLUSIVE AND THERE ARE NO OTHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS INCLUDING WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.