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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am considering an older version of a Surly as a bike for my wife. I have seen them all in a price I can afford but I am wondering which one makes the most sense. It is going to be used 75% paved/gravel/dirt roads 25% green rated single track. She wants to be able to mount racks on it.

I have seen ECRs, Pugsleys, KMs, Orges and Long Haul Truckers for a price we could swing. She is not an experienced cyclist. So with that in mind I was leaning away from the Long Haul Trucker cause I figured she might feel sketchy with rim brakes and the geometry on single track and the Pugsley cause it seems like it would be a bit much to pedal for most of the use. Anything else I should look at? Really trying to stay under $800.
 

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Karate Monkey is a great choice for just about anything. Current models come with a 27.5+ wheelset, add a second 29er set with the ETs for pavement riding.
 

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If you can find the right size Monkey, that's the one I'd recommend, better yet if it's the revised one when they sloped the TT to give more standover, think that was 2012. I had a KM for 10 years, used it for everything from commuting, road riding, and trail. As said, get it with some 2.8" rubber and it'll be even nicer for her.
 

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High Plains Luddite
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What about a Cross Check?

Or, even more budget-friendly, a clean 1990s mountain bike with its original rigid fork from craigslist.

Get a good one for $150-ish, perhaps, and allow that again for an overhaul at your favorite LBS (or do it yourself and $ave). You could get front and rear racks for it at a local bike co-op, if there's one in your area, and come in WELL UNDER $800 - probably under $500 if you really try and do your own work.

Of course, the best bike is the one she likes and will want to ride.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Mostly leaning away from the Cross Check due to lack of disc brakes same with the LHT. But maybe I am over thinking it. How would a cross check do with an inexperience rider in the type of conditions I described?

I considered the 90s MTB but lack of disc brakes kind of turned me off. Also wasnt sure how racks would mount. I don't have any experience with racks.
 

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High Plains Luddite
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I won't try to change your mind about disc brakes. What works for me in dry Colorado may not work for everyone who rides in rain and mud and down steep hills.

Racks are pretty easy to mount on most old MTBs - especially in the rear. Here's a photo I just found by googling "1990s mountain bike with racks":



Usually they install with allen-head bolts into eyelets that are welded to the frames and forks by the manufacturer. There are also "P-clamps" to wrap around seatstays and forks on bikes that don't have eyelets.

The only drawback to old MTBs, in my opinion, is that they require some driving around town to find the bikes themselves, digging around in parts bins at a co-op or ordering stuff online, perhaps going to the hardware store for allen-head bolts to mount your racks, and working on them (or paying someone else) to get them restored and running well when you first bring them home. Then they'll run a long time without much money or effort.

If you enjoy that sort of thing, they're great. If you don't, well, that's cool too. My wife is the kind who appreciated me finding a nice older bike in great condition on craigslist, installing some new Ergon grips, new tires, etc. Not all wives are into "vintage" (read: old, used, worn-out) stuff. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I won't try to change your mind about disc brakes. What works for me in dry Colorado may not work for everyone who rides in rain and mud and down steep hills.

Racks are pretty easy to mount on most old MTBs - especially in the rear. Here's a photo I just found by googling "1990s mountain bike with racks":



Usually they install with allen-head bolts into eyelets that are welded to the frames and forks by the manufacturer. There are also "P-clamps" to wrap around seatstays and forks on bikes that don't have eyelets.

The only drawback to old MTBs, in my opinion, is that they require some driving around town to find the bikes themselves, digging around in parts bins at a co-op or ordering stuff online, perhaps going to the hardware store for allen-head bolts to mount your racks, and working on them (or paying someone else) to get them restored and running well when you first bring them home. Then they'll run a long time without much money or effort.

If you enjoy that sort of thing, they're great. If you don't, well, that's cool too. My wife is the kind who appreciated me finding a nice older bike in great condition on craigslist, installing some new Ergon grips, new tires, etc. Not all wives are into "vintage" (read: old, used, worn-out) stuff. :)
I am probably overthinking the rim brake thing. It isn't like she is going to be racing and she probably isn't going to be going super fast or anything.

I don't hate the idea but I have so many projects going on right now I doubt I would get enough time to do anything with it (in the middle of a complete redo of our backyard with koi pond, gazebo, half pipe and new garden beds and also a rebuild of the suspension of my autocross car). Currently my wife's bike is a Huffy cruiser thing we got for free that I painted, regreased, made single speed and put new brakes, tires and grips on so she wouldn't mind an vintage bike.

Is Bridge Club within your budget?
If not I would go wih older KM or Pug with say Black Floyds
Unfortunately no. They haven't been out long enough to drop into our price range from what I have seen.

I was worried with the Pug that it would be too heavy, too slow rolling and have self-steering on pavement. Should I not be worried about those things? Would it make a pretty good all surface bike?
 

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turtles make me hot
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I have two friends who's wives ride Surlys.
One has a Pugs and a b+ Karate Monkey. She LOVES the Monkey. Rides it SS.

The other one is getting a Pugs I'm building right now specifically for the beach. It's getting Marge Lites, Big Fat Larrys, Shimano Alfine rear hub and Jones bars. Bike is coming out really nice.
 

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A lot depends on how tall your wife is. My wife is 5'2 and I bought her a Troll for the same biking purposes you called out. She LOVES it. I went with a size Small, and with the 26" wheels, she fits perfectly.
 

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I dunno, despite your wife not "riding fast" OP, unless setup properly, rims brakes take some effort and are no cheaper than discs these days, but even a set of cheap Shimano discs work so well and are easy to setup. If I was setting up a bike to enourage a special person into riding more, I'd definitely do a B+ Monkey.
 

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turtles make me hot
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I dunno, despite your wife not "riding fast" OP, unless setup properly, rims brakes take some effort and are no cheaper than discs these days, but even a set of cheap Shimano discs work so well and are easy to setup. If I was setting up a bike to enourage a special person into riding more, I'd definitely do a B+ Monkey.
I agree.
 

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FYI, there is a disc Trucker and the Straggler is the CC with disc, new offerings can come with 650b wheels and larger tires.

I'm of the opinion that your wife needs to be part of the process. I say this because I've rebuilt 2 older mtbs and built her current bike to suit her wants. She was not happy with my old RMB hammer that actually fits her. She didn't like the old Cannondale, despite new riser hbars, grips, pedals, etc. She likes a frame that's too small by a size (imo), lots of steer tube, swept back touring style bars, full coverage fenders, and the fact that it is red. She mostly rides in the neighborhood, some gravel, no rough offroad stuff. Anyway, let your wife decide on the bike she would like to ride. Get her involved in the process.
 

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I am probably overthinking the rim brake thing. It isn't like she is going to be racing and she probably isn't going to be going super fast or anything.

I don't hate the idea but I have so many projects going on right now I doubt I would get enough time to do anything with it (in the middle of a complete redo of our backyard with koi pond, gazebo, half pipe and new garden beds and also a rebuild of the suspension of my autocross car). Currently my wife's bike is a Huffy cruiser thing we got for free that I painted, regreased, made single speed and put new brakes, tires and grips on so she wouldn't mind an vintage bike.

Unfortunately no. They haven't been out long enough to drop into our price range from what I have seen.

I was worried with the Pug that it would be too heavy, too slow rolling and have self-steering on pavement. Should I not be worried about those things? Would it make a pretty good all surface bike?
Heavy is relative, we are talking Surly here :) I had two moonies built for me and missus and she was doing just fine. Lighter slicker tires will make a big difference for speed (or feeling faster) and big volume will do awesome for her confidence on any surface. Self-steering (in my experience) becomes an issue with much larger tires. I bought 4.8 knards and had to sell because of self-steering at lower pressure. Right now I have 4.4 Jumbo Jims and they are just fine on pavement and great on majority of local trails.
I still vote for Pug, just make sure she actually likes it and wants to ride it. Ability to just plow through potholes and crappy roads, being able to swerve off the main road to the say sandy shoulder - big plus for beginner rider
 

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FYI, there is a disc Trucker and the Straggler is the CC with disc, new offerings can come with 650b wheels and larger tires.

I'm of the opinion that your wife needs to be part of the process. I say this because I've rebuilt 2 older mtbs and built her current bike to suit her wants. She was not happy with my old RMB hammer that actually fits her. She didn't like the old Cannondale, despite new riser hbars, grips, pedals, etc. She likes a frame that's too small by a size (imo), lots of steer tube, swept back touring style bars, full coverage fenders, and the fact that it is red. She mostly rides in the neighborhood, some gravel, no rough offroad stuff. Anyway, let your wife decide on the bike she would like to ride. Get her involved in the process.
This - involve her, you can buy what you think is the most awesome bike but if she does not like it - she won't ride it
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I dunno, despite your wife not "riding fast" OP, unless setup properly, rims brakes take some effort and are no cheaper than discs these days, but even a set of cheap Shimano discs work so well and are easy to setup. If I was setting up a bike to enourage a special person into riding more, I'd definitely do a B+ Monkey.
I also hate working on rim brakes so there is that.

A lot depends on how tall your wife is. My wife is 5'2 and I bought her a Troll for the same biking purposes you called out. She LOVES it. I went with a size Small, and with the 26" wheels, she fits perfectly.
5'4"

FYI, there is a disc Trucker and the Straggler is the CC with disc, new offerings can come with 650b wheels and larger tires.

I'm of the opinion that your wife needs to be part of the process. Anyway, let your wife decide on the bike she would like to ride. Get her involved in the process.
I have asked her what she would like. Basically she told me something with gears, able to ride that stuff with me and able to fit a rack to carry stuff. I am hoping I can find something somewhat locally so she can get on it before we buy it. Also I figure at worst, I can resell it at worst for a small loss if I buy it used.
 

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Heavy is relative, we are talking Surly here :) I had two moonies built for me and missus and she was doing just fine. Lighter slicker tires will make a big difference for speed (or feeling faster) and big volume will do awesome for her confidence on any surface. Self-steering (in my experience) becomes an issue with much larger tires. I bought 4.8 knards and had to sell because of self-steering at lower pressure. Right now I have 4.4 Jumbo Jims and they are just fine on pavement and great on majority of local trails.
I still vote for Pug, just make sure she actually likes it and wants to ride it. Ability to just plow through potholes and crappy roads, being able to swerve off the main road to the say sandy shoulder - big plus for beginner rider
My experience is the opposite. My wife didn't like riding the Pugsley I set up for her...too much weight/tire drag for her with 3.8" Nates. We got her a '17 Karate Monkey (new), and swapped some WTB Ranger 3.0" tires on it, and she loves it.
 

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My experience is the opposite. My wife didn't like riding the Pugsley I set up for her...too much weight/tire drag for her with 3.8" Nates. We got her a '17 Karate Monkey (new), and swapped some WTB Ranger 3.0" tires on it, and she loves it.
Mine likes her 1x1 the most - she started on 26 fat franks and now rolls on 27.5x2.8 G-ones. I would not choose Nates for mixture of pavement/gravel/offroad, would definitely pick something more in between
 

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I have asked her what she would like. Basically she told me something with gears, able to ride that stuff with me and able to fit a rack to carry stuff. I am hoping I can find something somewhat locally so she can get on it before we buy it. Also I figure at worst, I can resell it at worst for a small loss if I buy it used.
I get the impression she doesn't really know what she will like, so I agree with searching locally and that she throws a leg over for a parking lot test. Perhaps take her to your LBS and have her wander to see what catches her eye. Don't point out bikes for her, but tell her what you think about the bike once she shows some interest. I'm not necessarily saying you should purchase from the LBS, but I think she should help narrow the search since you're doing the leg work. I prefer disc brakes to rim brakes, but it's not a deal breaker. I think she's probably a fair weather biker, so rim brakes are fine. As for a rack, p-clamps can do wonders and also consider the bike bags that are available these days.

Good luck man! I'm rooting for ya'!
 

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Karate Monkey. Stable. Disc brakes for reliable braking. There won't be those moments where it seems like the brakes might not stop her in time. (I'm fine with rim brakes, but I'm 49, and grew up riding). Lots of bosses for mounting everything. Enough flex in the frameset for comfort. Bikes like the disc trucker and ECR are for loaded touring. They are stiff. Overbuilt for most women. The KM is a very capable, multipurpose bike. You can put slicker tires on it for asphalt if she wants. Try the narrower Salsa bend bars or the Moloku bar. Comfortable and handle well. (I didn't like Jones bars, the handling was tricky).

As for Surly classic diamond framesets. The stacks are low. Like, lower than current racing bikes. One part of women's bike geometry is the need for a higher stack. It's a common need. I'd stay away. I do--and if you look at my signature, you'll notice I have 3 road bikes, the Pinarello and Le Mond are 'classic' race geometry, which is very unusual for women, but I have long arms and narrowish hips and fairly wide shoulders (which allows me to lean forward more comfortably due to reach and weight distribution).
However, the Surly bikes are too low in the front for me.

She can probably ride a size small Surly at 5'4". The Troll is actually a great option for her height. But certainly the KM has a lot of modern geometry advantages. I have a friend her size who shopped carefully, and settled on the Ogre. (Also a size small). She felt the most planted and safe on it compared to the Troll and all the other bikes she tried. She was a beginner when she got it. Feeling safe and steady is a big deal.

If she wants a more 'road' style bike, I'd look at a different brand for comfort and fit. Maybe a Salsa Journeyman or Vaya. $949 new buys
Claris and drop bars, with the option for flat bars, in a choice of colors. They also have a 700c version.

https://salsacycles.com/bikes/journeyman_650b/journeyman_claris_650

Last, bike weight. A lot of us prefer a bike that is easy to lift. So yes, weight is important.
 
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