Surly Krampus vs ECR: Bikepacking or Dirt-road Touring (part 2)
Why the quiver is not dead: one for dirt-road touring and one for bikepacking.
As I mentioned in part 1, the 29+ platform helped redefine off-road touring and has proven to be an excellent choice for bikepacking. After spending six months in Africa on the ECR, upon return I quickly added a Krampus to the stable. Several readers have asked why I need both, so now that I’ve worn the rubber hairs off the Knards on my Krampus, I thought I’d elaborate. Both of these bikes share all the perks of the 29+ platform, so what does the Krampus have that the ECR doesn’t, and conversely, what makes the ECR special in its own right? It all comes down to each being specialized in one of the two types of bike travel that I rambled on about in yesterday’s post, bikepacking and dirt-road touring.
Although the ECR can do it all fairly well, the Krampus dominates steep rooty singletrack, rock gardens, and technical conditions. It’s a trail bike at heart. The high bottom bracket and slack geometry make it a thrill ride, and honestly one of the most fun, confidence inspiring bikes I have ridden to date. The Krampus is definitely a departure from the latest full-squish models, but surprisingly nimble. The best analogy I can offer is that it’s comparable to being a big kid on a grown up BMX bike, one that can plow over anything. Many times I have found myself hauling ass and holding on. The Krampus is also a fairly confident climber. Even loaded with a frame bag, seat bag, and handlebar luggage, it performs and feels solid and confident. Another option worth mentioning is that the generous height of the BB allows the use of smaller tires without the risk of pedal strike, such a 2.4″ mountain bike tire.
When the Krampus was initially released, there seemed to be widespread rumblings that it would make a damn good bikepacking rig. However, for the longer haul it lacks various eyelets, bosses, and hardware for attaching peripherals, such as racks or Anything cages. To be specific, it is without eyelets on both the front rack and rear seatstays, extra bottle bosses on the fork and bottom of the down tube, and the swiss-army knife of dropouts featured on the Ogre and Troll models. Surly ticked all of those boxes the following year with the ECR.
If Extreme Comfort is Required when tacking a 6 month gravel or dirt odyssey, the ECR provides just that. It possesses more of a cross-country oriented geometry than that of the Krampus. It’s purposely designed to tackle long trips on punishing terrain. The lower bottom bracket, shorter top-tube, and shorter fork places the rider in more of an inboard position, one that can embolden solid eight hour days of pedaling. That being said, like the Troll, the ECR is no slouch on singletrack. I find it to have a somewhat playful feel riding both trails and gravel.
Two Different Builds
It’s worth noting the different manners in which these bikes are set up. The ECR is shod with 36 spoke Velocity P35s which aside from being slightly stronger than their 32 spoke counterparts, allow a narrower tire footprint and provide slightly better tracking; they also allow just enough space for the Tubus Vega (a minimal and capable rack) to be used on the rear. On the Krampus, Knards are mounted to the 52mm Rabbit Hole wheels which spread the tires out more; if these were used on the ECR, the Tubus Logo wouldn’t quite fit. Also, the ECR has the jack of all trades dropouts which naturally fit a Rohloff without additional components. In order to help the long distance comfort factor of the ECR, I run a pair of narrow(ish) 680mm handlebars with Ergon GP1 grips. Lastly, I have flat pedals on the ECR, which means only a single set of traveling shoes has to be packed. Conversly, the Krampus is built for speed. It runs with 32h Rabbit Holes, a pair of Crank Brothers clipless pedals, a traditional 2×10 drivetrain, wide 765mm bars, and aggressive ODI grips.
So which one is for you? Damn good question; maybe both. On any given trip to the rocky steeps of the Appalachian mountains, I’ll grab the Krampus. If I plan on tackling a long gravel and dirt journey on foreign soil, the ECR is my go-to steed. It’s all about the type of riding.