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  1. #1
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    My 2012 Karate Monkey Build - rigid, SS



    A little bit of background… last year I bought my first 29er, a Trek / Gary Fisher Paragon. It has been a solid bike for me and I certainly intend to continue riding it. About the same time I bought my Paragon my riding buddy ripped the rear derailleur off his 29er. He decided to convert to singlespeed and ended up riding this way about half the year before going back to gears. I was kind of curious about the singlespeed idea based on his experience and some other local guys, but I never gave too much thought to a ss rig for myself.

    Sometime in September the mailman delivered the latest issue of Mountain Bike Action. About two-thirds of the way through the issue I stumbled on an article titled “The Advantages of Being Single”. I read the article at my desk during lunch one day and it got me thinking for several reasons.

    The article presented the idea of riding a singlespeed to build strength, to build skill, and to add interest to your local trails. These ideas made sense to me and I’d heard similar ideas from my buddy and others. However, based on cost, I sort of dismissed the idea… until I turned the page. MBA reviewed a Kona Unit and I was surprised to see the ~$1k price point on the bike, less than what I expected . Hmmm, maybe this is a possibility sooner rather than later.

    With the intention to purchase from my local bike shop I stopped in to find my options for a 29” singlespeed. The Trek Rig and Redline Monocog were choices. The Trek did not interest me so much, so I began to investigate the Monocog. Somewhere in this investigation I found an additional option: Surly and their somewhat iconic Karate Monkey.

    I made a comparison between the Monocog and complete Karate Monkey. It could have gone either way and based on user feedback here on MTBR I’m sure both are solid bikes that would serve me well. By this time I had embraced the idea of not only a singlespeed but a rigid singlespeed.

    About this time I got it in my head to build a bike instead of buying complete. Why? Primarily for the fun of picking out a couple dozen items instead of just one, and I thought I could get higher quality/performance components for about the same price as buying complete. Of course a “custom” build would result in the exact components I want as compared to whatever comes on the complete bikes.


    The Frameset

    I waited for the 2012 model frameset to be available from Surly. This latest model is supposed to have a refined fork and a refined rear disc brake mount

    .

    The rear brake was a concern for me after reading some people’s experience with having to unbolt the rear caliper to remove the rear wheel. Others have said it’s a non-issue or not a big deal, but I waited for the 2012 model to be available after hearing Surly made modifications to address this issue. I cannot specify what changes have been made, but I can say my rear wheel with a 160mm rotor can be installed and removed without any interference from the rear caliper (read on for specific components used).

    Once the 2012 model became available early in December, the next question was frame size. I read and re-read the MTBR “Karate Monkey Sizing” thread, messaged a couple MTBR members, and compared measurements from my Paragon to the Surly geometry chart for the Monkey. I decided on the 18” frame primarily based on a comparison of the effective top tube length and estimated reach to the bar. This was somewhat confused by the 17° sweep bars on my Paragon and the intention to use a bar with less sweep on the KM.

    At the time of ordering the frameset from my local shop the only uncertainty was whether I would require a 400mm seat post to achieve my desired saddle height. The seat post I wanted to use was only available in 350mm length and I was concerned about having enough post remaining in the frame for strength. It turns out the 350 is fine.

    Here is my sizing information, maybe it will help someone else (I will also post in the KM sizing thread):

    height without shoes = 6’-1/2”
    inseam with MTB shoes from floor to “undercarriage” = 34-1/2”
    desired saddle height from center of BB to center of saddle rail, along seat tube = 708mm

    “Stretchpants Black” or “Battleship Gray” was my color choice. Boring or boring. I really would have preferred a burnt orange or OD green. I picked the gray for no particularly good reason.


    The Rolling Parts

    While web shopping for a good deal on a respectable wheelset, I came across Handspun Wheels. Handspun is Quality Bike Products in house wheel building group. I first considered a pair of wheels with SRAM 406 or 506 hubs and WTB rims but decided to spend a little more money to, hopefully, get a more reliable wheelset. I should point out I wanted a rear wheel with a freewheel hub not a singlespeed hub for future flexibility, be it later adding gears to the KM or swapping the wheelset to another bike.

    I decided to go with one of the SRAM X-9 hub wheelsets. The choice then became Stan’s Crest, Arch, or Flow rims. With durability in mind I chose the Flow rims. They weigh a little more, and it is rotating mass, but this build with the steel Karate Monkey frame is not obsessing on weight. I like the all black rims, hubs, and spokes, and I was happy to find the wheels nice and true out of the box.



    For rubber I wanted a larger volume front tire, partially to add some cushion to the rigid KM front end but also just to see what difference it makes in feel and traction. I considered several tires and finally chose the Maxxis Ardent 2.4” tire for the front, paired with a Maxxis Ardent 2.2” tire for the rear. Finding these on sale at Cambria Bike Outfitter along with a 10% discount and free shipping on Cyber Monday sealed the deal on this tire setup. At least for now I’m going to run the tires with tubes. Tubeless may be something to play with later.

    Not until I sat down in the living room to mount up the tires did I realize there were no rim strips on the rims or supplied with the rims. After some research on the Stan’s web site and MTBR I purchased a roll of Stan’s yellow tape. The 25mm width tape is needed for the width of the Flow rim bed. From what I’ve read it should be possible to run tubeless with the rim tape only on this rim and tire combination, but for now anyhow, the tubes went in.


    Interfacing with the Bike

    This will be an explanation in thriftiness that turned into a fan club. I began web shopping for handlebars and stems from the same company, just because I like them to match. The first criteria was to sort a web retailer’s handlebar offerings by cost and find options in my price range. From several sellers I found good discounts on Race Face components. I’ve never owned any RF hardware in the past but after visiting their web site I started to like the combination of appearance, performance, and value of their components. I decided to go for Race Face Evolve series components including a handlebar and stem.



    The Race Face Evolve handlebar is a riser bar with 3/4” of rise and 9° of sweep. As mentioned earlier my Paragon has a Bontrager Big Sweep bar with 17° of sweep and I wanted to go with less sweep on the KM. I do like the wide width of the Big Sweep bar and the Race Face bar is 680mm wide.

    My stem of choice is a Race Face Evolve XC stem. I chose the 105mm length in an attempt to match the reach to the bars between my Paragon and the KM.

    Throwing the headset in here, I could have pursued a Race Face headset to match the other items but I have a fondness for Cane Creek headsets. Reason being I toured their small facility while on a cycling vacation in the Asheville area. Seeing a Cane Creek logo on my headset reminds of that trip, it was a good one. At the same time I ordered the tires from CBO, I ordered a Cane Creek S-2 headset for 67% off.



    The saddle for this bike is a custom leather tooled saddle a friend made for me. I’ve been looking for the right bike to attach it to and the Karate Monkey is it.

    One of the last items I settled on was the seatpost. As previously mentioned I was unsure if a 350mm seat post would be long enough to reach my desired saddle height and still have sufficient post in the frame. The Race Face Evolve seatpost has an interesting mechanism for saddle tilt adjustment, it is independent of the actual rail clamps, but this seatpost only comes in 350mm length. It turns out I have plenty of post below the seat tube clamp.



    Perhaps the least thoughtful component choice of the build was the pedals. I have Performance Forte Carve pedals on my Paragon, on my cross bike, and now on my Karate Monkey. These pedals have served me well and the price is right. They came as a surprise gift for the Monkey! Very nice indeed.




    Making it Go

    With the Race Face choice already made, I went with a Race Face Evolve singlespeed crankset. A healthy 40% discount on the crankset and bottom bracket was a good motivator. The discounted set was only available in 175mm crankarm length, just what I needed. I didn’t really plan to run a bashguard, but it came on the crankset.



    I choose a SRAM PC-1 chain. It was inexpensive and seemed sufficient for the singlespeed task. I’ve had good luck with SRAM chains in the past.

    With the 32 tooth chain ring up front I chose a 20 tooth cog for the rear. Based on discussions with several buddies this gear combo will be a good start for our local trails. I think it’s going to hurt in the beginning but part of my singlespeed desire is to build strength. I used some plastic cassette spacers to set the cog’s position on the freewheel, at least for now.




    Making it Stop

    Primarily for cost I chose mechanical disc brakes. The Avid BB7brakes seem to be the go to hardware for mechanical disc systems. Discounted prices were easy to find for the outgoing model year brakesets. I chose a 185mm rotor for the front and a 160mm rotor for the rear, same as my Paragon.



    The Avid Speedial 7 brake levers are a good match to the Avid BB7 brakes, and they were also available at reduced prices. The Speedial adjustment seemed useful.

    Sticking with the Avid/SRAM labels, I found a SRAM brake cable set to connect the levers to brakes. The set has sufficient housing to run full length housing on the Karate Monkey.
    Last edited by thomasbien; 01-13-2012 at 07:29 PM.

  2. #2
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    The actual build of the bike was one of my projects while on vacation over Christmas break. The first task was to protect the inside of the steel tubes with Frame Saver. The job would not have been so messy but my spray can leaked around the spray cap.






    This build was not the first time I tapped headset cups into place with a wood block and hammer, but it was the first time I put some extra effort into securing the frame for this procedure. Doing so prevents the frame from bouncing as the cups are tapped in.






    The last time I installed a crown race on a fork I had a pipe of proper size to tap the race in place. No luck finding that piece of pipe for this project, but I did find an ABS fitting in my misc plumbing supplies box that worked.




    Part way through the build I encountered a problem with the front brake. After having good results setting up the rear brake, I could not get the front caliper positioned without having the rotor rub the outboard pad. A quick search on our favorite forum informed me of the need to face brake mounting tabs in such situations.

    Before tab facing, rotor contacting outboard pad, brake caliper positioned as far outboard as possible :


    Tabs after facing, done by local shop using Park DT-1:


    Resulting clearance between rotor and outboard pad:

  3. #3
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  4. #4
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    Nice bike.

    1. I reeeeally miss my monkey

    2. That saddle is tits.

  5. #5
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    Hello thomasbien,

    Congratulations - very nice built

    Best regards

    Ralph

  6. #6
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    cool!
    Go get her dirty!
    When trails gets tougher, Just stand up and deliver.

  7. #7
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    Very nice write up. I just got in my Monkey frame set today. I've got the wheels on order and a few other items. I can't wait to get this thing built up. I'm going SS also. Let us know how your first ride goes.

  8. #8
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    That's a very sharp, well coordinated build.

    My builds are always a random collection of stuff I have laying around, which is why my bikes always have sort of a mongrel look. But, eh, it works for me.

    Next time, try a length of allthread and big washers to install your headset. This feels (to me) a little more precise than a big hammer.

  9. #9
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    She has been dirtied! My initial impression is this bike has some really responsive handling, it turns on a dime. I'm sure this is due, in large part, to the ~2.5" shorter wheel base compared to my GF Paragon. Having the rear wheel tucked forward makes this possible.

    The tucked in rear wheel also makes it easy to lift the front end, which is helpful while crossing obstacles without front suspension. I like it so far. It promotes more thoughtful and precise riding.

    The singlespeed aspect is going to be interesting. Get stronger, do or die is kind of the feeling right now.


    @seat_boy - I have tried the allthread, homemade headset press and have found I prefer to strap down the bike and use a block of wood and hammer. Using small, sharp taps, not having the frame bounce during the process, and frequently checking for proper alignment has worked very well for me. I found this method much easier to see what I'm doing. That's just my experience.

  10. #10
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    Let me know what you think of that tire combination. I've had a stock setup for almost a season now and am looking for new treads. It's a fun bike, I've ridden it almost exclusively since I got it.

  11. #11
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    Love it. I need a monkey.

  12. #12
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    Just Ordered Mine

    Can't wait to get my hands on it, got the black on black. Found some Formula RX brakes, Easton Carb Flat Bars, and some Velocity Rims for cheap. I don't know how I am going to set up the drive train as yet.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by scout View Post
    Let me know what you think of that tire combination. I've had a stock setup for almost a season now and am looking for new treads. It's a fun bike, I've ridden it almost exclusively since I got it.
    I've got the Ardents on my other SS both 2.4s. They are sitting on some Salsa Gordos which are 35mm wide. I love them for the northeast riding that I do. I never have to worry about them not hooking up.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails My 2012 Karate Monkey Build - rigid, SS-2011-09-24_10-37-21_972.jpg  


  14. #14
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    Thanks ThreeD, I like wide tires, low pressure and those Ardents seem to fit the bill.

  15. #15
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    She turned out great Thomas. I really think you bought the right size. Great pics so far. Let's see some from out on the trails. I'm still loving my grey KM.
    NSMBA Member

  16. #16
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    Thomasbien,
    I'm curious on how the tires are working for you. I've got 2.4s front and back on my Swift that is pictured. I'm not sure a 2.4 will fit in the back on a Monkey (I haven't tried) and am wondering how the 2.2 is working.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThreeD View Post
    Thomasbien,
    I'm curious on how the tires are working for you. I've got 2.4s front and back on my Swift that is pictured. I'm not sure a 2.4 will fit in the back on a Monkey (I haven't tried) and am wondering how the 2.2 is working.
    Well, I really wish I could give you some constructive feedback... but all I can say right now is these tires rock at chasing my 3 year old around the basement on his Strider bike.

    The weather has been so freeze/thaw around here (Ohio) that I've not been out on the trails for fear of causing undue damage. If it would just freeze, and stay frozen, I'd be out there, but it was 58 degrees and muddy wet today!

    I'll report back when I get some trail time with the tires.

  18. #18
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    Great looking build, and thanks for the excellent writeup! I hope to finish up a 22" KM within the next few days.

    Two questions for you:
    1) How many spacers did you use on the freehub?
    2) It doesn't look like you have a chain tensioner. Any issues with wheel slippage - either from pedaling or braking?

    Thanks!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by keevohn View Post
    Great looking build, and thanks for the excellent writeup! I hope to finish up a 22" KM within the next few days.

    Two questions for you:
    1) How many spacers did you use on the freehub?
    2) It doesn't look like you have a chain tensioner. Any issues with wheel slippage - either from pedaling or braking?

    Thanks!
    Thanks keevohn.

    1) I used 13 spacers on the freehub. 8 to the coast side of the cog and 5 to the drive side of the cog.

    2) I'm still trying to decide if the quick release skewer I'm using is going to be a problem or not. I had some slippage of the rear wheel, but using more compression with the QR seems to have fixed the problem. I do have a bolt on skewer that will may go on before the next ride, and I believe it will prevent slippage. It's not so big a deal to me to lose the QR on the rear, I always have a multi-tool with me so I'm carrying a wrench anyhow.

  20. #20
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    FYI - 2.4's will fit just fine on a KM, front and rear.

    Fatties Fit Fine!

  21. #21
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    nice build, im still working with my shop trying to decide between a karate monkey or trek sawyer. i like the seat. so the real question is are you going to race the mohican 100 with it this year? I did the 100k in 2008 on my full suspension gf caliber. at mile 60 i was seriously beat up and hating myself for signing up for the race. it was right then that a fellow racer blew by me riding a fully rigid ss 29er. he was doing the 100 mile race... as he passed me he said "harden the f*** up, theres cold beer at the finish line" i whispered to myself "im not worthy"

  22. #22
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    If you don't mind, how much did those wheels run you from qbp? I'm really digging this thread. I am contemplating a monkey build very much like yours, maybe running some gears though, I don't know for sure. I also like to have the cockpit components match, it really adds to the aesthetic of the build. BTW, this thread makes me long for my home trails right there in Loudonville... I'm out here in Idaho for now.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by irun22fast View Post
    If you don't mind, how much did those wheels run you from qbp?
    You can see the MSRP price (of course your shop may discount from this price) on Handspun's web site:
    Handspun Products

    Loudonville and Mohican is soggy about now. A winter of slight freeze, then thaw, and repeat has kept most away from the trails. Over the weekend I did a 4 hour gravel roads ride east of Loundonville with some good hills, rather than tear up the trail.

  24. #24
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    Monkey

    This just might have convinced me to get a monkey instead of a troll

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by thomasbien View Post
    Over the weekend I did a 4 hour gravel roads ride east of Loundonville with some good hills, rather than tear up the trail.
    Were you over by the Landoll's Castle? I have wanted to ride that area since I went there with my wife on our honeymoon. She didn't really think bringing the bike on that trip was a good idea...

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