Surly Karate Monkey -Best Mountain Bike | First Look!

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Surly Karate Monkey -Best Mountain Bike | First Look!

I still have my first memory of a mountain bike in the ’80s while gleaming over the new Cr-Mo steel with framed hard-tails.

In those days, bikes had a terrible front suspension and wide tires. I thought that they were just fat tires.

Regardless of my first bike’s physical attributes, it delivered the fun I expected to my young, teenage body, always riding around the rigid trails in my neighborhood at that moment.

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Fast forward, despite the two decades of continuous progress in the alloys of different bikes with dual suspension and the progressive rise of carbon, there are brands out there building mountain bikes out of steel tubing.

Surly Monkey happens to be one such brand that uses the old 4130 cromo steel tubing.

Launched in 1998 in the US, the brand initially focused on a single-speed contemporary.

But a lot has happened, and the management has progressed its improvement over the years.

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Therefore, if you want a cool rig that can easily handle singletrack, bikepacking, jeep trails, and gravel terrains, the Karate Monkey is definitely your next bike!

First introduced at the 2002 trade show for Interbike’s, the Karate Monkey was a leading commercially available 29ers on the cyclist’s market.

Surly Karate Monkey

Before its release, 29ers was more of a cult bike, strictly created for outliers by a relatively small frame builder.

According to Surly, the Karate Monkey did not create the 29er category but helped bring the machine to the masses.

Other than that, the team played an instrumental role in setting the standard for what a 29er could be.

The evolution of Surly Karate Monkey

The concept of product development and evolution applies to companies with the vision to see a product idea evolve.

It is essentially the strategy of mapping out before the initial product is manufactured and launched into the market with the idea of seeing it improve in the long run.

Karate Surly has definitely seen tweaks and changes over the years of production. But the current variations are probably the most important revamp.

Besides the added clearance for the tires, the Karate Monkey ha also received a makeover that includes a trumpeted set of tubes resembling an instigator for stiffness.

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The frame has wholly been redesigned with a progressive trail geometry with a longer tube coupled with a 69 degrees head angle.

Besides, it received other modern touches, including an internal dropper post with a routing, a seat post internal diameter, and new dropouts.

If you are not up to speed on this bike’s glossary terms, dropouts are the two notches located in the bike where the rear hub rests.

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Simply put, it is where the rear wheel usually goes.

This upgrade Surly Monkey bike relies on the quick release of a skewer to clamp the hub located in the dropouts. From that moment onward, you can quickly roll around the bike.

Technical features

Unlike the previous version, Surly Karate Monkey has a new axle with a sliding cap system that works with the 142- and 148-mm hubs.

Moreover, Surly Karate Monkey provides a 10/20 adapter spacer to allow you to use a 135 mm QR hub.

Besides, the suspension-corrected rigid fork comes with a 110 mm Boost spacing that can be swapped for a 140 mm fork.

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Today, the Karate Monkey is a popular model among the variety of Surly bikes even though it was beginning to show its age in the geometry department.

Surly Karate Monkey has now brought the vulnerable model up to speed and tossed in some useful extra trips to go on the bike.

The frame has been slapped with a slack treatment. That is not to say that we are looking at an on-Enduro bike in this case.

It still comes with a 69-degree head angle coupled with a rigid stock fork. Still, it is slacker than the older version that had an old head angle on the same feature.

At 423 mm, the chainstays are shorter. This implies that it offers excellent agility coupled with playfulness.

And as it is with the current trends, the reach and the front of the bike are longer- a 427 mm reach on average.

This combines with the shorter seat tube measurement to bring in a new Karate Monkey to speed.

The included reach means that you can always run shorter seat tube dimensions to run a short stem successfully, usually without feeling all cramped and exhausted while riding on tough terrain.

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Point it towards the lower side of the hill, and then the more extended front center makes the bicycle even more stable.

The short stem positions your heavyweight right behind the axle located at the front.

Having a shorter seat tube implies there is a lot of room for a dropper post coupled with enhanced sizing flexibility.

Therefore, it is more comfortable to adjust the size according to what works for you in gaining a longer reach.

Additional modern touches include the internal cable routing for inclusive stealth dropper posts and a 30.9 mm seat tube diameter.

These features open up an extensive range of dropper post options.

Above and beyond, you will find a clearance of up to 27.5 plus in the tires.

The bike can handle heavy tires of up to 4.0 wide on about 2.74 wheels and 2.5 inches when running it just as it is.

Even though Surly Karate Monkey makes a robust and rigid fork for the Monkey bike, it accepts a viable suspension fork that comes with 140 mm of travel.

This further slacks the head angle. Perhaps one of the most exciting features of the Surly Monkey is its cross-compatibility between the 135 mm and 148 mm boost axle standards. Each rear side has a flex of 1.5 mm.


On building the bike, you can see that a fair thought has consistently gone into the fine design points.

The first thing you are likely to notice are several points of attachment. Being a challenging trail, you would end up needing a water bottle mounting point.

There are two extras, ready to take on several accessories coupled with attachments.

Pannier rack points are also something you should be happy about. They make a versatile bike packing machine.

The bike’s external cable routing is also one of the orders of the day. It has a reliable internal cable routing where the dropper post cable can slip into the frame right above the bottom of the bracket.

On the other side, the derailleur cable, instead of being routed down into the tubes, comes along the upper tube’s lower positioned edge.

It then follows a seat stay to the rear axle. Simultaneously, the rear cable is a simple setup lending itself faster to quick possible repairs in case cables should be replaced or inspected.

The Surly Monkey has a 4130 cromo steel tubing commonly referred to as Natch in the firm’s bikes. Instead of a solvent-based paint, the frames are powder-coated.

The bikes are also made of steel, which means they can be recycled easily compared to the ones made of alloys and carbon.

The Karate Monkey is an all-mountain hardtail bike and with sturdy 29-inch wheels.

There are two build kit options: the version with 27.5-inch wheels and the rigid version with a suspension-corrected rigid fork and a regular seat post.

Both versions have an SRAM NX shifting. The SRAM Level brakes also have 160mm and 180 mm rotors in the rear and front.

After assembling the bike, you’ll notice that most of the thought went to the finer points with respect to the design. First, you’ll notice numerous attachment points.

With the Surly Monkey, there are two points where you can mount the water bottle. The bike can also take more attachments and accessories.

The pannier rack points present on the rear-seat are combined to make sure the bike packing is versatile.

The bike has an external cable routing and a derailleur cable that comes along the top tube’s lower edge, and it follows the seat to the rear axle.

The setup is simple, and it’s easy to carry out repairs if any of the cables are to be replaced or inspected.

Saddle and Posture

Most riders can easily cope with a bike’s imperfect grips and pedals. But uncomfortable saddles can be a pain in your backside.

The bike part, which is used to control the bicycle, especially when it is dropped down, needs to be in perfect condition at all times.

Today’s mountain bikes come with saddles that have specific features, including shape and fit.

In the case of Surly Karate Monkey, the saddle option is comfortable to be engaged in long rides.

The only downside to it is that it is not suitable for technical and tighter sections.

The saddle and post should suit the majority of the bike’s riders, and align with the purpose of the bike.


Most geared bikes come with one, two, or even three chainrings at the front. Others have seven to twelve gears and cog right at the back.

Moving the chain from the smallest cog to the largest can ease your efforts for peddling incrementally.

In the case of Surly Monkey Karate, the bike’s gearset is the SRAM’s Eagle. This is if compared with the other higher options found in the food chain of the Eagle.

The weight reaches down to about 11t cog and 50t at the bottom of the gears.

But all is not lost. The NX Eagle runs on the standard 9/10/11 speed.

Therefore, you are always free to refit what components you would like on the bike.

For instance, setting the gear up as a single speed bike coupled with an appropriate adapter can help you cruise rough terrains.

You may also refit the aftermarket two* gearing, assuming you would like to go that way. So, with a direct mount front and derailleur as well as a compatible dropper lever.

Even so, sticking with the 1*12 eagle shifting works just fine. In addition to its large 32*50t gearing, the bike has a great climbing ability appended to its ratio shifts in between gears.

Wheels –The bike has i40 rims. The 40 mm internal width is enormous, but it corresponds to the new version of the tubeless system.

The rim has an inner strip that generally covers the internal section that has a red-coloured strip.

The Surly tires are also compatible and tubeless, which means you only need a pair of tubeless valves and some sealant to complete the entire setup.

As you refit the rear tire, make sure the rear axle bolt is done well to the right torque specifications.

If it’s not tight enough, you’ll experience some issues with the axle since it will move in the braking or pedalling force dropouts. Although the point is minor, it is crucial.


The front suspension is taken care of courtesy of the RockShox Sektor RL fork.

Run the Motion Control damper using the adjustable compression and the rebound plus the air-spring present on the left-hand side.

The Debonair air spring on the model offers an air spring that ensures there is less initial stiction.

With the recommended pressure and one click of compression, the rebound licks and can handle everything without an issue. The pedalling and brake dive is also well controlled.


This bike’s capabilities make it an ideal choice for all-mountain and trail rides with the option of slightly longer rides such as biking expeditions.

With the extensive collection of different attachment points specifically for pannier racks, Surly Karate Monkey has accessories with a small diameter tubing that creates significant space on its frame.

This is great for strapping goods to your bike. The Karate Monkey bike can as well serve as a backpack carrier.

This means that you can load a massive gear on your bike while keeping the mix-it-up attitude altogether.


Overall, if you want a retro bike with some steel frame hardtail to it, Surly Karate Monkey it is! .

The machine can take you to more extended expeditions making it worth a look! It has incredible features to help you cruise rugged and smooth terrains. 


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