All hail the Karate Monkey

I’m a poor college student, just like everyone else around me. Lately, I’ve found myself with a little extra money in my bank account. This troubled me, because I knew that if I had extra money laying around, I was going to do some thing stupid and just throw my money away like an idiot. Logically then, I needed a way to get rid of this money before I started spending like a mad man. Luckily for me, the fine folks over at Surly Bikes have folks like me in mind and created the Karate Monkey.

For a while, I had decided that I needed a bike that could get me around when my current bike cannot. The bike I have now is fine. It’s a single-speed freewheel roadbike. So, it’s fine for cruising around campus when the weather is nice, and that’s it. What I wanted was a geared bike for longer rides, or for hauling groceries or brewing supplies. I also wanted a bike that could get me around in the winter. I wanted a bike that I could use in lieu of the bus, basically a car on two wheels. I decided that I needed a mountain bike. A little research and I had discovered the phenomenon of the 29er, or 29 inch wheels. These are monsters of mountain bikes, designed to roll over anything, anywhere, anytime.

A little more research, this time with a little less drooling, and I found Surly’s Karate Monkey. The bike is a do-it-all. It’s set to be a single speed or geared, for cantilever or disc brakes, for skinnies or fat tires, and has eyelets for racks. This bike is it. It is the perfect balance of their Puglsey frame’s tank-ness, and their Cross Check frame’s speed. This was the bike I needed.

I pondered for weeks if this was right, if I really needed a new bike. I decided that I didn’t, but that I love bikes and this one would be with me for a while. I justified it as an investment. Cars are coffins, right? Well, I won’t be dead for a while, so I should be able to get my money’s worth.

I found a dece super-store of bikes online, jenson usa. There I was able to figure out exactly what type of components I would need to build my dream bike using their custom build page. After that, I scoured their catalog to find the pieces that were the best deals and in stock. I was able to find a remaining Shimano XTR front dérailleur so that my rear wheel can ride at the front of the rear fork. Others tend to rub the large tires. A couple days of pacing, some advice from an aficionado friend, a few clicks later and I had made the biggest purchase of my life. The bike was on its way.

Last monday I received the frame and half the parts. I diligently played with what had arrived, piecing together what I could. The frame was bare. Magnificent, strong, yet fragile, scared if it’s new owner, cold to my touch. That night, I dropped the frame off at Freewheel Bikes to have the headtube and bottom bracket milled and faced. I have to say, the guys at Freewheel were life savers. They took my bike and prepped it good in no time what so ever. I was actually a little sad because I had a frame but nothing to put on it until the rest of the parts came. I took advantage of this time to place a coat of anti-rust spray on the interior of the steel frame.

Finally Thursday arrived along with the final half of my components. Unfortunately, I didn’t get off work until Freewheel had closed. So I was forced to put more of the components together in anticipation. Once morning had arrived, I brought the frame back to freewheel to have my headset and fork installed, along with the bottom bracket and crankset. Half an hour and $100 later, all that was left was to slap the pieces on. The walk home was an odd mixture of pride and giddiness. Half of me wanted to skip and sing “I’ve got a golden ticket,” what the other half said “come on baby! Be cool now. We’re gonna be like a bunch of Fonzies. What’s Fonzie like? That’s right, cool.” After crossing the bridge, a fellow Surly owner, riding his crosscheck, spotted my monkey and complimented my choice. Unfortunately he was riding down University the wrong way, so he may be a douche.

Either way, I continued my journey home and finished assembling the beast. The final product: As you can see I was also able to find yellow bar grips so that my bikes are matching. Maybe one day, I’ll be known as that kid with the blue and yellow bikes. Everything went together smoothly except for the shifters. The front is a bitch to shift, and I had a hard time adjusting the position of the largest and smallest gears. The rear doesn’t want to move all the way to the largest gear, even though I’m using 9 speed shifters and have limiting screw turned to the max. The only other problem is that the front brake disc seems to sit crookedly in between the calipers. I’m not sure if the wheel or the brake is off, but the result is that I have to run the calipers wide to prevent rubbing. This means I have to pull further to engage the full pads, and I don’t think they are engaging fully. I plan on getting a new set of shift cables to replace the stocks. I address both issues then.

  • Frame: 18″ Karate Monkey, Hüsker Blü
  • Wheels: Shimano hubs laced to Mavic A317, 32 spoke
  • Tires: Maxxis Ignitor, 29s
  • Crank: Shimano Deore mtn tripl
  • Cassette: SRAM 9 spd
  • Front Dérailleur: Shimano XTR
  • Rear Dérailleur: Shimano Deore
  • Seat/post: some garbag
  • Headset: Cane Creek S3
  • Stem: Truvativ, 100mm, 88/92º
  • Bar: Truvativ flatbar, 3º bend
  • Brakes/Shifters: Shimano XT dual duties
  • Grips: Yeti Hardcore, bright yellow

Maybe I should finally try and get that courier job that I’ve dreamed of since HS. Novara single speed in the summer, geared Karate Monkey in the winter. Who knows?


About foambrew

I'm a food science graduate from the University of Minnesota. I spend my time being in Seoul for a year, brewing beer, consuming food, biking, playing the tuba, and enjoying the Twins and Gophers. I can usually be found doing some combination or derivative of these things.
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3 Responses to All hail the Karate Monkey

  1. macvillain says:

    That’s fuckin’ sweet! You need to take a road trip out here and bring that bike. If you check out a topography map of where I’m at you’ll see why…
    Here’s my new address:
    1709 Redesdale Ave
    Los Angeles, CA 90026

    Tell you’re mom everything’s great out here.
    I’ve already got 2 jobs. I love it here.

    See you soon!

  2. Pete says:

    Sweet bike. I love my KM.

  3. J. Ryan says:

    Dood, That’s some funny shit. I’m thinking of getting a Karate Monday and running it geared. How do you like it.

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