Surly Karate Monkey - First Look

The K arate Monkey has been a popular model for Surly bikes but it was starting to show its age — especially in the geometry department. So Surly has now brought this venerable model up to speed and tossed in a few extra tricks to go with it.

First up, the frame has been given a little bit of the long/low/slack treatment. That’s not to say we’re now looking at a full-on Enduro™ bike here; it still has a 69-degree head angle with the stock rigid fork. Still, it’s slacker than the 72-degree head angle of old. At 423mm the chainstays are now really short, so it should offer great agility and playfulness.

As is the current trend, the reach and front centre is a good deal longer; a 427mm reach on a medium and 450mm on a large for example. This combines with a shorter seat tube dimension to bring the new Karate Monkey fully up to speed. The added reach means you can run a shorter stem without feeling cramped on the ups; point it downhill and the longer front centre makes the bike more stable while the short stem positions your weight further behind the front axle (less chance of an ‘OTB’ moment). Having a short seat tube means there’s plenty of room for a dropper post and greater flexibility with the sizing — it’s easier to go up a size if you want to gain an even longer reach.

Other modern touches include internal cable routing for a stealth dropper post and 30.9mm seat tube diameter, which opens up a broader range of dropper post options (the frame used to be 27.2mm internally). You’ll find clearance for 27.5 plus tyres; it can handle tyres up to 3.0 wide on 27.5 wheels or 2.5-inch when running it as a 29er. While Surly makes a rigid fork for the Karate Monkey, it also accepts a suspension fork with up to 140mm of travel, which slackens the head angle off even further.

Possibly the most interesting feature is the cross-compatibility between 135mm, 142mm thru-axle and 148mm ‘boost’ hub/axle standards. The Karate Monkey actually runs a 145mm rear dropout spacing. Each side of the rear triangle has to flex 1.5mm in or out to accept the two common thru-axle systems—that’s nothing on a chrome-moly steel frame. As for old-school 135mm QR hubs, Surly makes a spacer kit that allows the Karate Monkey to run that sizing too. The setup is called ‘Gnot Boost’ and the following video explains it in that inimitable Surly style.

The all-new Karate Monkey is expected to land Down Under in late February. It will be offered as a frameset for $990 or a complete bike for $2,550.

As always, frame geometry holds the key and the new Karate Monkey is a far more modern specimen that should be easier to manage on the trail.
As always, frame geometry holds the key and the new Karate Monkey is a far more modern specimen that should be easier to manage on the trail.

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