In the last 100 years technology has striven to improve upon the functionality of steel as a building material
(as they have the vinyl record for entertainment and wool for clothing). One school of thought has been
obsessed with creating new materials that solve problems in a different ways (aluminum, titanium, carbon
fiber). From our point of view this adds endless layers of complexity and often creates new problems along
the way. Another school has spent its time refining and improving the original material, arriving at what is
modern steel…it is for the most part the same stuff your grand daddy rode, just stronger, lighter, and more
refined to specific purposes.
Surly is of this second school; we like to use technology to improve the wheel, not reinvent it. We like
the refinement process. We don’t use new technologies for the sake of using new technologies, but rather
look at what we want to achieve and apply what works, whether its new or not. That’s why we make
our bikes out of steel. It’s not because we are old fashioned, or curmudgeonly (though many of us are
in fact curmudgeons). We’re not retrogrouch crusaders. We use steel because it works consistently and
inexpensively. It’s not that other materials aren’t cool. We are interested and intrigued by the properties
of all the things that make up our world. But for the kind of bikes we make, for the rides we like and the
things we value, steel can’t be beat.
This year we’re launching a new model, the Krampus. It’s got 3˝ tires on 50mm rims. In working on this
project it became very apparent that the classic frame size naming method we have used for our mountain
(or as we call it: omni-terra) bikes would not work. So we’ve updated how we describe the sizes of our bikes.
Don’t worry, the geometry-based sizing you’ve come to know (love/hate) hasn’t changed. We’re just calling
it by a slightly different name. And since other bike companies tend to use this sort of naming, maybe it isn’t
so new to you. Where we used to say 18˝ we’re now calling it a medium.
The biggest reason for this is it allows us more flexibility in how we design our bikes while conveying that
two bikes are intended to fit the same. A couple years ago we decided to drop our toptubes, as we felt some
of our bikes could use a bit more stand over clearance for those important bits between your legs. When we
did this we added a little brace in at the seattube. This ended up confusing people trying to figure out their
correct size. While working on Krampus we really wanted to keep our stand over measurements as close
as we could to our existing bikes. But bigger tires mean you need to build in lower stand over clearances.
This created all types of inconsistencies if we had kept the old naming paradigm.
Let’s walk through an example. Take the new medium. If we hadn’t changed our naming convention, the
Krampus would be a 16.7˝, or 17˝ rounded up to a whole number. This would have the same stand over
height as a similar 18˝ Moonlander or Karate Monkey.
The issue comes from what your expectations are. We want our bikes to fit similarly between models.
The 17˝ Krampus has a similar effective toptube length (and stand over!) of the 18˝ KM. So a 17˝ Krampus
and 18˝ Karate Monkey are now ‘mediums.’ You can still look at our geometry charts and get the exact
numbers if you’re into that sort of thing. But the quick glance will now reveal a simpler approach, one we
think will be clearer for a lot of people.
The Surly Central Scrutinizer