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  1. #1
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    Straggler, Karate Monkey, or Ogre, what commuter bike do I want?

    I'm having a hell of a time deciding which bike to get for my new commuter. Here is a short list of how I'd plan to ride it and what I'd like the bike to be capable of.


    Casual cruise on green belt/light road rides
    Gravel/light trail/fire road explorations
    Weave in traffic (nimble)
    Commute to and from work
    Haul groceries and beer using a rack
    Fun and fast
    Comfortable riding on sidewalks and hopping off curbs
    Disc brakes
    Compatible and comfortable with flat bars like the moloko or a standard sweep


    Obviously, there's no one bike to do it all but I'd like to at least be capable of most of these and excel in others. I've got a few considerations at the moment. Right now I'm considering a straggler build with a 650b road plus set up or possibly a reasonable 29er set up (not sure if I could fit a 29, or how wide I could go) and a cassette and rear derailleur better geared at climbing. I'm also considering a 29er Karate Monkey with a 1x drivetrain and lighter xc tires. Or if it really makes more sense, maybe the Ogre is what I need to be on. And if it makes a difference for comfort, I'd probably opt to run a cane creek thudbuster seatpost.

    What are everyone's thoughts on the best option to fit my needs? Or if someone has something I'm not considering, I'd love to hear it!

    Cheers,
    Taylor

  2. #2
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    Can't comment on Karate monkey or Ogre, but here is my Straggler, does well in everything you have mentioned. Took it out and rode single track one day, it can fit a 650Bx47c road one with a pair and it was what pushed me to buy the straggler. As for 700c aka 29er, I can fit 700x45c max I tried a 50c but it rubbed. I've heard of people fitting a 29x2.0 but I have yet to try that, not sure if it's frame specific or not. Hope this helps your decision making progress.

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  3. #3
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    How long is your commute to work?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by twodownzero View Post
    How long is your commute to work?
    It used to be 4.5 is miles. Now it's further and the roads I need to take, I trust noon if I'm on my bike.

    Sent from my LGUS997 using Tapatalk

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by twodownzero View Post
    How long is your commute to work?
    Thanks for sending that over! That looks like an awesome build, very similar to what I had in mind as well. My commute is 6 miles and takes 25 to 40 minutes, depending on if I'm on my way to work or on the way home (mostly downhill back home).

  6. #6
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    I would go with the Straggler because it is the only one that will feel fast and that was one of your key criteria. The Ogre and KM will do the job but on pavement do not feel very zippy.

    A rear rack on the Straggler can be tricky but it can be done. See http://forums.mtbr.com/surly/straggl...ns-871528.html

    Personally, I was going to get a Straggler (and very seriously considered but ultimately ruled out an Ogre) but I needed a baby seat rack and did not want to jerry rig that so I got a Cross Check. I do not miss disc brakes in the least for the riding I do with the bike. Even the trail riding I have done (without the baby). It won't do true mountain biking, so V-brakes are plenty good, plus I have a mountain bike, with disc brakes. I think the Cross Check is actually more versatile than the Straggler because the back end is very standard.

    The Cross Check and Straggler geometries are basically the same, and I have swapped between a drop bar, a flat bar, and a FSA Metropolis. Versus a drop bar, I run a stem 2cm longer with a flat bar or Metropolis, but otherwise the bike feels natural either way. And with a flat or Metropolis bar, curb hopping is easy, though the extra 2cm on the stem does make it harder to lift the front end. With a drop bar, curb hopping is doable but not as easy for me as with a flat bar.

    I currently have Vittoria Evolution 29x1.9 on the Cross Check with good clearance and would expect those to work on the Straggler as well. I needed to pull the rear wheel all the way back in the dropouts to make the rear tire fit, and I also needed to remove the rear rack because the tire was hitting the metal top support bars (connecting rack to top braze-ons). I might have been able to bend them out of the way (with no compromise to rack strength), but it's winter and the baby is taking the season off anyway. With 700x42 I had tons of clearance everywhere.

    If the lack of rear rack versatility is a show-stopper for you, I would get the Ogre. If you want big tires with a rack, go with the Ogre. But if you want any semblance of speed on the road, Straggler (or Cross Check) is the way to go in my opinion. Plus that Straggler blue is the best color option of the three.

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  7. #7
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    Given your criteria, Id personally go with a Troll. Use something like a Compass Rat Trap Pass for your commutes. Or even Big Apples. And burly tires for gravel or dirt. 26 wheels wont feel as sluggish as 29 on pavement either.

    Straggler would also be good, except Id rather be hopping curbs on a 2.3 tire than 45c.

  8. #8
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    I had pretty much your exact train of thought when I bought my KM. I actually went in to test ride a Straggler and wasn't a huge fan - not sure why but the geometry didn't feel quite right to me. For a road-ish bike it felt VERY non-agile. So I opted to "build" a KM with a lighter set of 29" wheels and tires. I bought the stock complete and swapped on some stans Arch Mk3's and some thunderburts.

    My gf was really turned on to the idea of bikepacking so this was my way of building a bike that I could use as a commuter, beer hauler, grocery getter, etc. but I could still jump on some singletrack or fireroads and take bikepacking easily. I also share your will of being able to hop up curbs and shitty roads and whatnot and do dumb skids and wheelies which the KM excels at.

    For these reasons I absolutely adore the build. It feels extremely agile with the lighter 29" wheels and tires. It handles great, weaves traffic like a champ, is great for commuting being up a bit higher than other bikes, and can still haul a weeks worth of groceries with ease. The other weekend I went on a 30 mile road ride somewhat accidentally and it was pretty manageable.

    As it turns out my gf is not as keen on bikepacking now, but is interested in longer road rides / bike touring so I am actually looking to sell the KM and build up a midnight special. Figures.

    See my build pic below. If you are in the PNW and are interested in purchasing this pretty lady feel free to let me know.

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  9. #9
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    @likeybikey
    Thanks for the input! Glad to hear it should be capable of hopping some curbs and compatible with meatier tires. The cross check is a very worthy option for me but the rear rack isn't quite a deal breaker and I'd enjoy the disc brakes. Although the more I think about it, the more I just want to get a Karate Monkey for mountain bike like commuter and then a flat bar cross check for just getting around town.

    @2:01
    The Troll is something I haven't considered much yet, I'll have to look into it more. I didn't consider the smaller tires being more agile than the 29" on the Ogre. My biggest argument for a "mountain bike" commuter is the allowance for wider tires and the versatility it would provide for fun and curb hopping. I'll give the troll another look though!

    @troodontinae
    Your KM is exactly what I had in mind for the one I would want to build. I'm a mountain biker by trade and am looking to expand my riding horizons slightly but don't know if I'm willing to give up the fun aspects offered by mountain geo. I actually am located in the PNW though and would be very interested in hearing some of the specs on your bike and possibly purchasing it from you, I'll shoot you a message on here!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsanderson View Post
    @troodontinae
    I'm a mountain biker by trade and am looking to expand my riding horizons slightly but don't know if I'm willing to give up the fun aspects offered by mountain geo.
    This was my exact reasoning as well. I rode downhill and freeride for a decade and wanted something that was still fun. Thanks for the PM, I replied with some details.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsanderson View Post
    @likeybikey
    Thanks for the input! Glad to hear it should be capable of hopping some curbs and compatible with meatier tires. The cross check is a very worthy option for me but the rear rack isn't quite a deal breaker and I'd enjoy the disc brakes. Although the more I think about it, the more I just want to get a Karate Monkey for mountain bike like commuter and then a flat bar cross check for just getting around town.

    @2:01
    The Troll is something I haven't considered much yet, I'll have to look into it more. I didn't consider the smaller tires being more agile than the 29" on the Ogre. My biggest argument for a "mountain bike" commuter is the allowance for wider tires and the versatility it would provide for fun and curb hopping. I'll give the troll another look though!

    @troodontinae
    Your KM is exactly what I had in mind for the one I would want to build. I'm a mountain biker by trade and am looking to expand my riding horizons slightly but don't know if I'm willing to give up the fun aspects offered by mountain geo. I actually am located in the PNW though and would be very interested in hearing some of the specs on your bike and possibly purchasing it from you, I'll shoot you a message on here!
    If I were to set up a Troll, I would get 27.5 x 2 slicks for your commute. Fast yet plenty to curb hop.
    26x3 Knards for more adventurous stuff.
    26x2.6 ETs for touring. Or even for commutes.

  12. #12
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    KM. The Ogre rides like a tank. Straggler okay, but not as relaxed and nimble (very low stack for a CX. More old style road bike). The KM is basically a trail bike, so nimble, and the Ogre is a tourer, so stable. In between is the ECR. You are considering the extremes. Really. The suggestion of the Troll was perfect, too. It's a real workhorse.

    If I were to go disc CX, I'd do the Salsa Warbird. Better, more modern geometry and frameset. Though actually, a Vaya would be good, too. Nimble, versatile, relaxed and higher stack so you can keep an eye on traffic.

    https://salsacycles.com/bikes/vaya/2018_vaya_apex
    2018 Surly Karate Monkey 'dingle' speed
    2013 CAADX 105
    2012 Pinarello Quattro
    2002 Zurich LeMond

  13. #13
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    Great thread. I've been looking for a commuter with more toe overlap room and fatter tires than my old crosscheck. Have been riding an ICT with 4" Nates for the winter, and it's actually not bad for my purposes. Will look harder at a Karate Monkey, I think.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by seward View Post
    Great thread. I've been looking for a commuter with more toe overlap room and fatter tires than my old crosscheck. Have been riding an ICT with 4" Nates for the winter, and it's actually not bad for my purposes. Will look harder at a Karate Monkey, I think.
    Have you seen their new Midnight Special? CX Plus tires, basically.
    2018 Surly Karate Monkey 'dingle' speed
    2013 CAADX 105
    2012 Pinarello Quattro
    2002 Zurich LeMond

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muirenn View Post
    Have you seen their new Midnight Special? CX Plus tires, basically.
    I haven't. My issue is that I've switched to a arch-over-the-spindle position on big flats, and that really cuts into toe overlap, especially with a front fender. So most road/cx bikes just don't leave me room to trackstand.

    Good reminder, though, I know my LBS has at least one midnight special, it'd be worth checking out in perosn.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by seward View Post
    I haven't. My issue is that I've switched to a arch-over-the-spindle position on big flats, and that really cuts into toe overlap, especially with a front fender. So most road/cx bikes just don't leave me room to trackstand.

    Good reminder, though, I know my LBS has at least one midnight special, it'd be worth checking out in perosn.
    I don't know what the MS would have over your current CC. With that HTA, I'd think you'd have toe overlap issues as well.

    Having said that, depending on the length of your commute, an MTB could be a bad choice. I'd hate to ride mine on a daily basis on a 20 mile commute. 5-10 miles, no problem. Something like a KM with dropbars and balloon slicks (i.e. Big Apples) could be a super fun commuter.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2:01 View Post
    I don't know what the MS would have over your current CC. With that HTA, I'd think you'd have toe overlap issues as well.

    Having said that, depending on the length of your commute, an MTB could be a bad choice. I'd hate to ride mine on a daily basis on a 20 mile commute. 5-10 miles, no problem. Something like a KM with dropbars and balloon slicks (i.e. Big Apples) could be a super fun commuter.
    I don't think I've ridden 20 miles in 10 years! 10 miles gets me pretty much everywhere I want to go on a bike. Yeah, I was thinking Big Apples might be the way to go.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by seward View Post
    I haven't. My issue is that I've switched to a arch-over-the-spindle position on big flats, and that really cuts into toe overlap, especially with a front fender. So most road/cx bikes just don't leave me room to trackstand.

    Good reminder, though, I know my LBS has at least one midnight special, it'd be worth checking out in perosn.
    That is a big problem for me, too. My Karate Monkey and the Krampus when I had it were not a problem. All my road bikes do, though. Even my Cannondale CAADX. I've never had a Surly Road bike, though I've ridden a Cross Check. Don't know if it had toe overlap. The fork is slightly curved, so perhaps not, but I'd have to try.
    2018 Surly Karate Monkey 'dingle' speed
    2013 CAADX 105
    2012 Pinarello Quattro
    2002 Zurich LeMond

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vto2.0 View Post
    Can't comment on Karate monkey or Ogre, but here is my Straggler, does well in everything you have mentioned.
    My two cents... I bought my KM two and a half years ago basically because I couldn't keep up with my kid on foot while he rode, anymore. first bike I've owned in twenty five years at that point. so, in that regard, I can't speak to the differences between km/ogre/straggler.

    Initially, I only rode when we went out together. Then I started riding it on local errands. Then I started commuting home on it. The GF and I used to work a couple of blocks away from each other, so I'd catch a ride in with her and my bike, then ride the ~11 miles home. A road bike probably would have halved my time home on those trips, but can't do all the other stuff I like. when downtown, I typically will drop down a set of three or four stairs, hop curbs, et al. I have a park right behind my house that has a mix of wood chip/gravel/pavement/dirt trails. I've got a decent SS track about two miles away.

    my only complaint on my km? I've got the '15 model that has absolutely zero braze-ons. I'd like to add a rack so I can carry more stuff than my backpack will fit when doing local errands but... my current plan is to swap to a 1x11 set up. i'm getting tired of swapping out chain rings/cogs depending on what i'm doing that day so...

    that being said, I love the shit out of my km.

    Quote Originally Posted by seward View Post
    Yeah, I was thinking Big Apples might be the way to go.
    I looked at a lot of different tires for my needs. I was looking for a more "urban" tire. schwalbe big apples, maxxis hookworms but I wanted a little more tread due to where I ride. I ended up with the surly ET's. not a perfect tire, but it handles what I want to do for 90% of the time. https://surlybikes.com/parts/tires/e...trial_29_x_2.5

    Straggler, Karate Monkey, or Ogre, what commuter bike do I want?-kmnow.jpg
    i can't believe I'm riding a bike.

  20. #20
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    I have both a KM and a straggler. My straggler is a '18 muffin top blue, my KM is an 08ish (last straight steerer) black one. I use my straggler to commute. It's got a rack and panniers. The panniers are nice because i have a train ride on my commute and lets me pack my layers of clothing and lunch. Definately get a rack with whatever bike you choose.

    I have a topeak disc rack on my straggler. Looks like it'd fit on the km too. Also get fenders whatever way you choose.

    I like the straggler because it's easier to maintain higher speeds on the pretty empty paved bike paths i ride for the majority of my commute. Drop bars and road drivetrain make sense for me. I'm currently using 38c marathon allmotions. It'd be difficult to smash more tire in there with fenders but they're a nice compromise with rolling speed and volume.

    I mostly ride MTB so i appreciate the handling of the straggler. It's super stable at speed. The stock build has been bombproof for me.

    That being said, my KM is built up as a single speed mountain bike, but it'd do well as a flatbar commuter for sure. I'd still want some pretty skinny slicks and a road casette if i was planning on commuting with it.

  21. #21
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    I prefer flat bars or jones bars over drops, so I'd go KM or Ogre. That said, I went with an ECR over both the KM and Ogre and don't regret it. The ECR is a very comfortable, capable commuter bike.
    Surly Pugsley
    Surly ECR

  22. #22
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    I ride my KM with Continental Raceking Protection 2,2" (low rolling resistance) as a commuter and for mixed tarmac/gravel/trail tours.
    Most 40 mm Graveltires are not really faster, but have less offroad capabilities.

  23. #23
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