|A Surly ECR perfectly at home in Buffalo Creek along the Colorado Trail.|
Last year, the good folks at Surly, Salvagetti, and Basic Kneads teamed up to bring to life a little something that they termed the "Unicorn Petting Zoo" near my little corner of Colorado. I was fortunate enough to attend and spend a little quality time with a Surly Krampus. At the time, I was blown away with the Krampus' inherent groundbreaking features. The bike as a whole felt fast and nimble on the trail as it veritably flew on its cushion of 29+ tires. Everything about it seemed to deftly redefine what an all terrain bike could be in a nearly ideal form.
In total, the Krampus is a bike that I believe to be a central catalyst in changing the perceptions of what it means to ride off road. As evidence, a distinctly Krampus-flavored milieu permeated many of the best designs of this year's North American Handmade Bicycle Show. The 29+ concept is, in many ways, the most logical evolution of the genus duo luto via rota; it offers terrific traction, a smooth ride enabled by a large rolling diameter, and a nice cushion to take the edge off without the maintenance needs of mechanical suspension. About the only shortcoming of the Krampus that I noted last year to keep it from being an ideal adventure bike was its relative paucity of braze-ons.
Once again, last weekend the three generous entities of last year's event got together to show off a couple of new Surly models, in addition to drinking bear (edit: or beer, as the case may be), eating pizza, camping, and having a good time. Again, I was fortunate enough to attend, though for a shorter time. Just as nature abhors a vaccum, I am happy to report that lack of braze-ons is no longer a concern with the introduction of the Surly ECR, the seriously capable cousin of the Krampus.
|The ECR is perhaps a little darker in color than my first generation Big Dummy, but it is a good color that blends in well with the forest. Personally, green is my favorite bike color, and Surly has a track record of delivering terrific verdant hues.|
|The ECR stock parts spec is no-nonsense and highly dependable. Surly's new O.D. crank is very nice.|
The ECR is very utilitarian in build quality and appearance. This is a bike that exudes an aura of solid dependability in much the same way as an International Scout, a Coleman stove, or a good Thermos; each imbued with timeless aesthetic and functional value. It is no nonsense in design, and is equipped with tried-and-true components known to be simple to repair and maintain. Dependability and value are qualities with great appeal when the going gets rough, more so than low weight at the expense of strength, or any other transitory flash factor. Though this rationale may not hold true for some people, if you have an interest in the ECR, you're probably not going to be disappointed.
As seems to have been the case with the initial design of the Krampus, the ECR also benefits from cross-pollination with other Surly bikes. Its Krampus-derived foundation is obvious, but the ECR is also equipped with the copious range of braze-ons and multifunctional dropouts found on the Troll and Ogre. With a lower fork and more similar angles, the ECR's ride is perhaps closer to a Pugsley than the Krampus; feeling somewhat less aggressive and speedy, though it does not feel at all slow.
|The ECR features a Jones Loop H-bar, perfectly suited for holding devices or baggage, in addition to enabling a great riding position. The MicroShift thumb shifters have become my favorite, as similarly equipped on my Pugsley.|
|Cockpit view. A Garmin GPS mount is installed to place the unit directly in front of the stem.|
Over the years, I've become a huge fan of highly backswept bars for a few key reasons. Highly swept bars are much more comfortable for long rides, with the more natural position contributing to reduced wrist, shoulder and neck strain. Swept bars also afford a more upright seating position, and as such a better view. A good view is essential to an adventure bike, as a primary purpose for riding to exotic or difficult to reach places is for the experience. It's not a coincidence that my most ridden bikes are equipped with either Nitto Albatross or Surly Open Bars, and Salsa backswept low rise bars are close behind. In the short time I spent with the H-bar equipped ECR, I was very impressed. Perhaps my Pugsley could benefit from an H-bar.
|Big and fat 29x3 tires make a lot of contact with the ground.|
this guy, this gal, or this other guy. But, for me, perhaps the most astounding feature of the bike is in how it creates ripples in the lineage of the emerging 29+ platform, and provides cues as to the future course of two-wheeled exploration.
I bought my first Surly (a bean green Cross-Check frameset) in January of 2002, when Surly was a quirky little offshoot specializing in odd bike-y things. Then, as now, Surly is part of QBP, a large juggernaut in the bike world, but mostly unknown to the public. I now own three Surly bikes, and am happy to know that even though as an organization Surly has grown quite a bit, it retains core values embracing quirkiness, and utilizes this character to continue to drive development of innovative and fun bike products within a broader context.
Not long ago, fatbikes were a mere oddity in the two-wheeled kingdom; objects of perplexed stares at their cartoonishly huge tires. Surly didn't invent fatbikes, but with the advent of the Pugsley and supporting rims and tires, the company made fatbike technology accessible to a much larger degree than ever before, contributing to an emerging normalization of huge volume tires. This year, two of the industry's largest players, Trek and Specialized, have fatbike models, which would have been unthinkable just a couple of years back. From the vantage point of the present, I can foresee the impact of 29+ resonating in much the same way.
The fact that Surly's revelry in what would be considered odd within the greater sphere of the bicycle industry has served as a bellwether to eventual change, is at the heart of what, to me, makes bicycles much more than just machines. The ECR is a precursor of the larger off-road bicycling landscape. It is a significant step along the way to the next big thing. Surly has been a bit evasive as to its intended meaning of the acronym ECR, but for me it means "Evolutionary Change Rocks!"