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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Looking at the new Karate Monkey, one thing that stands out is that the seat tubes are still very slack.

It's a bit surprising - I had a Haro Mary singlespeed 29er from the early days, and when I crunch all the numbers, the Monkey puts the front wheel much further out in front, but it's otherwise almost the same. Modern hardtails have much steeper seat tubes.

If I ride this thing rigid, and largely for commuting and the occasional bikepacking, it'll be fine.
The issue comes if I put a suspension fork on. My logic is telling me that I'll feel like I'm falling off the back of the bike when I climb.

So, if you have the new Monkey, with a suspension fork, how's it ride?
...Run lower travel? Push the saddle way forward, or even slope it forward? Just not climb any super-steep terrain?

Thanks in advance.
 

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I did three seasons on a Krampus, 90% of the time running a 100mm Yari, and am on my third season on an ICT - both very close to a KM geometry wise. I'm 6ft, 32" inseam, riding larges.

If you're used to a modern MTB with a 76+ degree seat angle, it's definitely an adjustment and a step back for technical riding. I run my seats slammed forward on the rails to compensate. That said... it's also not that bad, and 5 years ago was basically not even a discussion point. I wouldn't over think it. If you're shopping for a modern, technical hardtail... the KM aint it. It's a great bike, but not a Chromag.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yeah, that confirms what I'm thinking - and the more I think about it, the less I'll be swapping a suspension fork on it. Thanks.
 

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Most modern bikes that come with a rigid fork typically have a fork with an axle to crown measurement of at least a 100-120mm suspension fork. So as long as you put a fork with similar measurements (don't forget to account for sag) your geo won't change much.
 

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I actually got a works component angle set to deal with this- but that is added cost, etc... I did this because the KM was my SS and I felt the STA. With the works component it isn't noticeable.
I've been thinking a works for my ICT. Mine is SS right now, and but the seat tube angle is probably the least of my worries... Getting fat tires up to speed and keep them their means I'm seat dropped, out of the saddle A LOT, reminds me of my BMX days, and is a serious arm work out...
Bicycle Plant Tire Wheel Bicycles--Equipment and supplies
 

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I'm pretty sure the monkey has always been a favorite of many riders, and has always had slack sta. A steep sta might be good for steep climbing and steep deciding, but what about everything else?

Remember, surly has always made bikes that are very adaptable, and a steep sta doesn't really scream adaptability.
 

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I don't have a Karate Monkey, but I love the slack STA on the Krampus. Hopefully the steep STA fad will end soon.

I'm running a 550mm A-C fork, so the static STA is really slack. I pushed the saddle all the way forward on a zero offset post. Works great. I climb steep stuff all the time.
 

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I've been looking at alternatives to my KM for a while now.
  • The KM has a short reach by modern standards, so it needs a slack STA to keep the seated riding position (effective top tube) in check. if they put a steeper angle on it, they would need to move the size designations down at least one notch. a medium would be a small. I considered sizing up to a large to get a longer reach, but that ETT would be crazy long for me and standover clearance would disappear.
  • the short reach also means most riders will need a "long" stem. I have a handlebar with 12° backsweep and no "forward wiggle" to offset it, so a 70mm stem still makes the bike feel a bit compact. I really probably ought to have a 90mm stem on it for a more conventional fit. I rode it with a 50mm stem for a while and tried to convince myself that made sense, but I felt like a circus bear on a tricycle.
  • the KM has not been updated in about six years. it's still popular, so they probably don't see a need to. I'd love to see Surly's take on a more modern steel hardtail.
  • the STA doesn't really bother me because I ride it singlespeed exclusively. sitting when the terrain gets steep and loose is not an option, so I move my body around to put down power when needed. I can see how that might be a problem with a geared bike though—wheelies. I'll let someone else weigh in on that with experience.
  • on that note, the track ends combined with some Monkey Nuts might make that work, if the bike has too much of a rear-wheel bias for you. if you move the axle all the way forward, that's a 423mm chainstay length, which is quite short. bikes with adjustable CSL is not just for singlespeeding, so you could lengthen it to make the bike more stable.
  • I started my KM with a 140mm fork and it just felt silly that way. the BB is way up in the air and the STA is waaaay back. the reach gets even shorter and I had to slam the stem to get the handlebar low enough for a confident stand-and-wrangle the bike position. I lowered the fork to 120mm and it's very manageable that way. I'd consider using a shorter rigid fork and a fat tire for a better handling bike. IMO, the KM was designed to be a rigid bike or a very short travel one. it happens to be built stout enough to handle a longer fork (you probably won't rip the head tube off), but that just because you can doesn't mean you should.
 

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I've been looking at alternatives to my KM for a while now.
  • The KM has a short reach by modern standards, so it needs a slack STA to keep the seated riding position (effective top tube) in check. if they put a steeper angle on it, they would need to move the size designations down at least one notch. a medium would be a small. I considered sizing up to a large to get a longer reach, but that ETT would be crazy long for me and standover clearance would disappear.
  • the short reach also means most riders will need a "long" stem. I have a handlebar with 12° backsweep and no "forward wiggle" to offset it, so a 70mm stem still makes the bike feel a bit compact. I really probably ought to have a 90mm stem on it for a more conventional fit. I rode it with a 50mm stem for a while and tried to convince myself that made sense, but I felt like a circus bear on a tricycle.
  • the KM has not been updated in about six years. it's still popular, so they probably don't see a need to. I'd love to see Surly's take on a more modern steel hardtail.
  • the STA doesn't really bother me because I ride it singlespeed exclusively. sitting when the terrain gets steep and loose is not an option, so I move my body around to put down power when needed. I can see how that might be a problem with a geared bike though—wheelies. I'll let someone else weigh in on that with experience.
  • on that note, the track ends combined with some Monkey Nuts might make that work, if the bike has too much of a rear-wheel bias for you. if you move the axle all the way forward, that's a 423mm chainstay length, which is quite short. bikes with adjustable CSL is not just for singlespeeding, so you could lengthen it to make the bike more stable.
  • I started my KM with a 140mm fork and it just felt silly that way. the BB is way up in the air and the STA is waaaay back. the reach gets even shorter and I had to slam the stem to get the handlebar low enough for a confident stand-and-wrangle the bike position. I lowered the fork to 120mm and it's very manageable that way. I'd consider using a shorter rigid fork and a fat tire for a better handling bike. IMO, the KM was designed to be a rigid bike or a very short travel one. it happens to be built stout enough to handle a longer fork (you probably won't rip the head tube off), but that just because you can doesn't mean you should.
I have been thinking about a new bike, and the KM was a contender, but I crossed it off the list. I want to run 29x2.8" tires, short chainstays, have a reach around 450mm, and a ~17" seat tube. The medium KM doesn't have enough reach, and the seat tube length on the large is too long to run a 170mm dropper for me.

I ended up getting a Kona Unit X. Haven't ridden it yet, but the chainstays are too long with the dropouts racked out to fit a 2.8" tire, and the jury is still out about the steep STA.

Interesting that you mention single speeds. I have a Lowside, and it has shown me that a steep STA on a single speed is pointless. If I'm going up a steep climb, I'm standing. The only time I ride in the saddle on a single speed is if I'm just cruising on the flats, in that case, I'd prefer a slack STA.
 

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I have been thinking about a new bike, and the KM was a contender, but I crossed it off the list. I want to run 29x2.8" tires, short chainstays, have a reach around 450mm, and a ~17" seat tube. The medium KM doesn't have enough reach, and the seat tube length on the large is too long to run a 170mm dropper for me.

I ended up getting a Kona Unit X. Haven't ridden it yet, but the chainstays are too long with the dropouts racked out to fit a 2.8" tire, and the jury is still out about the steep STA.

Interesting that you mention single speeds. I have a Lowside, and it has shown me that a steep STA on a single speed is pointless. If I'm going up a steep climb, I'm standing. The only time I ride in the saddle on a single speed is if I'm just cruising on the flats, in that case, I'd prefer a slack STA.
Yeah, the Unit was a contender but the idea of a frame with 17" minimum CSL makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a fork. the Honzo is way too aggro, and I have no use for a bike with the BB that low and a fork that long, so that's out too. the KM still best middle-of the road thing.
 

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Yeah, the Unit was a contender but the idea of a frame with 17" minimum CSL makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a fork. the Honzo is way too aggro, and I have no use for a bike with the BB that low and a fork that long, so that's out too. the KM still best middle-of the road thing.
Yeah, on the Unit, the tire hits the seat tube if I try to shorten the CS. I would have thought that clearance at the chainstay yokes would be the limiting factor. Also, they put bottle bosses on the ST fairly high, so I couldn't fit a 170mm dropper. Shaking my head.
 

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To be fair, the Unit is marketed as a bikepacking bike, not a rowdy trail bike. I wish there were more "budget" options with tweener geometry.
IMHO, they recently slapped that trendy label on a bike they've been making for a long time. The latest changes to the Unit (steeper STA, etc) make it less suited to pedaling around with bags and crap strapped to the bike.

I was swayed to buy the Unit by this guy:

https://meatengines.com/f/my-dream-unit-a-recipe-for-min-maxing-rigid-shore-single-speeds

Like I said, I haven't really ridden it yet. We're still in full on fat bike season here. Another couple of months and I'll get to really give it a go. As it sits in my garage now, I'm just second guessing my choice.
 

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I really like the insights that Andrew provides, but he has personal preferences highly influenced by where he lives. i keep that in mind whenever i read reviews and advice. Brittish Columbia terrain is not anything like the style of chunk we have where I live, so a bike that works well there would have some limitations for where I live.
 

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One of the few FB groups I actually enjoy checking out is the Surly Karate Monkey group, with lots of cool pics from literally all over the world. Something that really struck me when I first checked it out was how many people in other parts of the world actually use the bike primarily with racks and frame bags for daily use. More for transporation and exploring than getting rowdy. I think under these circumstances, the current geo is probably ideal, with maybe, and only maybe, a slightly slacker front end being the only change I would see Surly considering. Definitely don't see the SA changing.

There are those that post their KMs with 140mm forks on that same group and claim to love it, but for the reasons you have stated many times, I think there are much better bikes to be had for how and what they are riding. I know I really like my KM, but I also run a 483mm rigid fork and like you mentioned, I believe is what Surly really built this bike around.
 

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One of the few FB groups I actually enjoy checking out is the Surly Karate Monkey group, with lots of cool pics from literally all over the world.

I know I really like my KM, but I also run a 483mm rigid fork and like you mentioned, I believe is what Surly really built this bike around.
I just joined that FB group and posted my bike. that's a fun group. i love how versatile this bike is, but it's kind of a "master of none" bike if you really only have one purpose in mind for it. I use one of the rack braze-ons in the back to carry a spare cleat bolt and a water bottle bolt. I'm thinking about trying it with a 29+ rigid front setup. I have a line on a fork, just need to find a budget wide rim, boost hub, and a big old 29er tire. if I can't grow to love it with that setup, I'll buy something different after three years of riding this bike, exclusively, for trails.
 

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I just joined that FB group and posted my bike. that's a fun group. i love how versatile this bike is, but it's kind of a "master of none" bike if you really only have one purpose in mind for it. I use one of the rack braze-ons in the back to carry a spare cleat bolt and a water bottle bolt. I'm thinking about trying it with a 29+ rigid front setup. I have a line on a fork, just need to find a budget wide rim, boost hub, and a big old 29er tire. if I can't grow to love it with that setup, I'll buy something different after three years of riding this bike, exclusively, for trails.
Have you posted any pics of your current setup here? I avoid FB as much as possible.
 
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