In this week’s Reader’s Rig, Ben Wainhouse shares his trusty Surly Karate Monkey, built up to be affordable and durable enough to take on wet and muddy riding in the UK. See more photos and build details here…

My name is Ben Wainhouse and I live in the south of the UK. There’s so much riding to explore here, right on my doorstep. The good thing about the UK is that it’s actually quite small and you’re never too far away from a great route. You just have to go searching for them sometimes.

In day-to-day life I’m a tree officer for local government, which involves giving lots of advice on trees. I tell people how to look after them, how to prune them, and also protect them from being felled. When I’m not working or riding, I’m likely walking my dogs, playing in my band, going on bike rides to the pub with the family, or playing ultimate Frisbee.

Surly Karate Monkey

Come the weekend, I’m always trying to get out for some mini adventures. As soon as I could ride a bike and my parents allowed me to venture further than my road, I was gone. I would ride up to the local woods and explore all the best routes in search of the best views. My first bikepacking trip was a six-day trip in Scotland, cycling round the Isles of Mull, Islay, and Arran. It was a steep learning curve in more ways than one and taught me valuable lessons in gear, riding with a heavily loaded bike, and how to just enjoy the journey. Since then I have been bitten by the bikepacking bug and already have a bucket list of trips lined up. I enjoy gravel riding and bikepacking and find the planning of a trip just as exciting as the actual ride.

My Surly Karate Monkey build was born out of wanting a rig that could take on the wetter months (of which there are a lot in the UK) and could also carry me a little further on rougher terrain compared to my cross bike. With endless mounting possibilities and the potential to whack a suspension forks on it too, my brief for this rig was to keep costs down, whilst building something versatile and fun.

Surly Karate Monkey
  • Frame/Fork Surly Karate Monkey steel frame and fork
  • Wheels Alpkit Love Mud Hobo 29er Boost
  • Tires Vittoria Mezcal 29×2.25″
  • Handlebar Alpkit Love Mud Aspect Flat
  • Crankset Shimano SLX 32T
  • Cassette Shimano SLX 11-Speed 11-46T
  • Derailleur(s) Shimano SLX 11-Speed GS Shadow RD+ (rear)
  • Brakes Shimano Deore Hydraulic Disc
  • Shifter(s) Shimano SLX 1×11 Shifter
  • Saddle Brooks Cambium C17 All-Weather
  • Front Bag(s) Restrap Bar Bag Holster with Ortlieb 13L dry bag
  • Rear Bag(s) Restrap Saddle Bag Holster with Alpkit 13L Tapered Dry Bag
  • Other Bag(s) Restrap Top Tube Bag, Revelate Ranger Full Frame Bag
Surly Karate Monkey

I cherry picked all the components to reflect value for money and durability. Shimano parts have always served me well, so I picked their SLX 1×11 groupset on the strength of a recommendation from a friend. The Alpkit Love Mud wheels don’t break the bank and provide a really stable and versatile platform with tubeless compatibility (this is not a paid advertisement!). I love the simplicity of the Karate Monkey.

You can keep up with Ben on Instagram @houseofrides.

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