Surly Troll review – a few thousand kilometres down the (dirt) road

The bicycle you choose to ride on a long journey is always an important matter, worthy of much pondering, head-scratching and debate. After all, we’re talking about your mechanical soul mate, the companion with whom you’ll be sharing the best of times, and the worst of times…

I’ve now clocked up a few thousand kilometres on the Surly Troll, in several guises – traditional front and rear panniers, framebag, suspension and rigid. The Troll and I have journeyed together fully laden, and often on dirt roads, from Costa Rica to Ecuador. More recently, it’s reintroduced me to my local Bristolian singletrack, and I’ve now tried it in bikepacking getup on the beautiful but distinctly un-Latin American Devon Coast to Coast.

Troll Talk

I prefer the path less travelled and the Troll fulfills almost everything I seek in a mountain bike tourer. It ticks a lot of boxes: a burly chromo frame, suspension corrected geometry, 26in wheels, a choice of V brakes or discs, front and rear racks eyelets, room for large volume tyres and provision to run derailleurs or a Rohloff Speedhub. All this is great for both practical reasons and peace of mind, particularly if your travels veer you beyond Europe or North America. Blown a tyre sidewall? Even a Colombian hardware store will unearth you a 26in replacement to get you riding again. Problem with your discs? V brakes will tied you through and scrub speed down the steepest Andean descents. Worried about issues with the Rohloff? Cheap derailleurs can always be sourced for those infamously cobbled Ecuadorian climbs. Top tube taken a ding during transport on the roof of a Bolivian bus? It’s chromo, so nothing to be unduly worried about.

The Troll has carried my four overstuffed panniers with confidence – a bloated 35kgs worth of gear – be it on or off road. In fact, I was surprised by how well it does ride as a fully ladden machine, seeing as its tubeset is no beefier than Surly’s singlespeed frame, the 1×1. It feels reassuringly overbuilt, yet strip it down to its barebones again, and it’s also fun to ride on singletrack and technical trails.


The Troll comes as a frame and fork. Here it is in Ecuador. I live for dirt, and have found that with a rigid fork, a combination of panniers (these ones are Arkels) and a framepack (Porcelain Rocket) helps distribute weight nicely on gnarly South American trails.


Here it is in the UK in lighter, ‘bikepacking’ mode, with everything I need for a few days camping. A Porcelain Rocket framebag, bar bag and seat pack keep the profile slim and the weight balanced. The Troll rides like a ‘proper’ mountain bike, so it’s lots of fun on sinewy, technical trails.

And most recently, in trailer-pulling mode, hauling a Tout Terrain Mule.

Nitty Gritty

You can read the full manufacturer blurb here, along with all the spec and geometry details.

To those unversed in Surly’s range of inspiringly idiosyncratic bicycles, the Troll is basically a mountain bike frame built around 26in wheels, brazed and drilled with all the bits you need to load up and go touring – whether that be a night in the local woods, riding the Great Divide, or an epic journey across a continent.

This said, the Troll doesn’t aim to be a full-on expedition machine. Geometry and tubing wise, it’s effectively a 1×1 – Surly’s cult singlespeed – with the addition of front and rear rack mounts, plus a nifty dropout that allows detailleur, Rohloff hub or singlespeed use. But given how well it rides, I see it more as the unruly mountain biking cousin – ie massive tyre clearances and a suspension-ready geometry – of the Long Haul Trucker, their tried and tested touring frame. From what I’ve experienced, the Troll is just as capable for long distance travel.

Troll v LHT

So which is best for what? If paved roads and gravel tracks are your staple diet on tour, you’re probably better off with a Trucker. It’s built for the heaviest of loads and from what I’ve seen, has become to go-to bike for those tackling the Panamerican Highway. But if you hanker after more challenging trails, envisage battling through muck and mud, and ride singletrack on your days off before visiting the local museum, then Troll is where it’s at. The fact that it isn’t designed to handle as much cargo shouldn’t be an issue, as by default, those heading offroad tend to pare down their kitlist.

Wheels: 26 v 29

I’m tall, and back home I ride a 29er mountain bike for a whole bunch of reasons, including the noticeably smoother ride – so much so that I rarely miss a suspension fork. But on a long tour, beyond Europe and North America, I still reluctantly stick to 26in wheels.

As much as anything, this is because I’ve struggled to find comparable wide volume 29er tyres that will last as long, or are built with loaded touring in mind. Everything I’ve tried to far has worn out too quick.

Added to this is the reassuring fact that traditional mountain bike inner tubes, tyres and rims can be found almost everywhere in the world. Even the smallest settlement, in the most remote folds of the Andes, can track down enough spares to keep you rolling. Conversely, touring-worthy 29er/700c hoops and tyres are all but impossible to come across in the majority of places.

Unless you rely on getting spares shipped out – which takes logistical organisation, and can end up as an import tax nightmare – 26in wheels still seem to be the way to go.

But… if you still want to take the 29er route – either you’re too hooked on their benefits, or you’re particularly long limbed and 26in bikes just feel ‘wrong’ – it looks like the Troll’s bigger wheeled brother, the Ogre, could be a good option. If you’re carrying a lot of weight, I’d recommend super tough Rigida Sputniks, Sun Rhyno Lites or Alesa Endeavour rims, even if you’re fitting disc brakes. Perhaps Schwalbe will release the new Marathon Mondial in a 29er flavour (update: a 29×2 is due out in 2013), in which case big wheels could become a real option for dirt road travel. I’d also add that if you can travel light enough – in a ‘bikepacking’ style – you’ll save a lot of wear and tear on your wheels and tyres, making a 29er more viable.

Troll Tweaks?

Ok, so nothing’s perfect, and there’s a few changes I’d like to have seen to suit the kind of travelling I do. You can never carry enough water, so bottle eyelets below the downtube would have been welcome. Likewise, punching a few in the fork, a la Salsa Fargo, would have been great. And in a similar vein, a set of triple eyelets on top side of the downtube would allow adjustability in the placement of the bottle cage, including the ability to carry 1.5 litre bottles – as with Topeak’s Modula XL – or even one of Salsa’s Anything Cages. Long cages are incredibly popular amongst long distance tourers; unfortunately the position of the bottle mounts at the moment means most will interrupt the one on the seat tube. (update: the purple 2013 Trolls have all these modifications!)

The good news is that Surly’s 4130 chromo is easy renough to tinker with, and getting your local framebuilder to drill in some extra eyelets is a relatively quick and straightforward job. It’s one I eventually ended up getting done, thanks kindly to Robin Mather  – more on this in the next post.


Take a few moments to get your head round this mind-boggling slot dropout, and you’ll appreciate how clever it is. I love a bike with versatility. The Troll can run derailleurs, a Rohloff Speedhub – a third bolt anchors the OEM2 plate in place – or slim down to singlespeed. The position of the disc brake tab allows a conventional rack to be teamed with Avid’s mechanical BB7s.


Inevitably this versatility leads to a few compromises. Those opting for a Rohloff hub will find removing the wheel a tad more fiddly than a frame with a Rohloff-specific dropout, especially on a cold, muddy day – the wheel needs to be toggled forward or to the side before you can unhook the chain. On the plus side, there’s no moving parts – so no eccentric bottom bracket or sliders to cease or creak.


Rohloff users with find one of Surly’s Tugnuts useful for lining up and securing the wheel, especially if you’re using the quick release version of the hub rather than solid axle one. Note that you’ll need an extra long rear skewer – the one pictured is actually for trailer-hauling duties, using an Extrawheel.


The Troll has provision for both V brakes and discs, and massive clearances all round. It’s pictured here with 2in tyres.


Particularly useful in these situations…


A triangulated brace allows more top tube clearance and a stiffer frame, at the expense of internal space for a framebag. This extra top tube clearance has proved more handy than I was expecting, making hopping on and a fully laden bike a less unwieldy affair.


Note the details on this frame, including these unusual cable guides, designed to run three cables at once – the two Rohloff cables and a V brake, for instance. Unfortunately Rohloff users are abandoned along the seat stay, where the guides run out.


This said, I prefer the cleaner line of running the Rohloff cabling along the downtube and seat stays, as I think the shifting is a little lighter. The cables can easily be bunched together with a zip tie, sharing space with the disc brake hose.


The Troll comes with provision for two water mounts, unlike the more touring-specific Long Haul Trucker, which has three. I had an extra one drilled below the downtube, so I can use one of Topeak’s Modula XL cages and carry a 1.5 litre bottle of water – perfect for topping up before camping at the end of the day. More info on these mods in the next post.

So, here’s what I like:

The rear disc tab is positioned between the seat and the chain stay, so you can run a standard rack and a mechanical disc brake. I’m using Avid BB7s with a Tubus rack on a 20in frame. There are no issues, other than the rack sitting relatively high.

Massive tyre clearances – I’ve been running 26×2.25 tyres with ample room to spare for tacky mud/donkey shit. Or even with mudguards. The Troll is rated to goliath 2.7s.

Highly adaptable frame thanks to slot dropout – derailleurs, singlespeed, Rohoff, whatever suits your preference or pocket.

Resilient – the tubing feels like it could take a knock or too, which is handy if you’re strapping it aboard a Guatemalan Chicken Bus.

‘Agent Orange’ may not be low key for stealth touring, but I like it. Certainly pops out in photos.

Reasonably priced – $495 gets you the frame and fork, though Brits might have to pay as much as £430.

And here’s what I’d like to have seen:

More eyelets! Even though the Troll doesn’t aim to be a true expedition machine, a couple on the underside of the downtube would really add to its long distance credentials. Bottle eyelets on the fork would be welcome too for bikepacking-style jaunts. (update: 2013 models have all this, and they’re purple too!)

I’d have liked a slightly higher position of the bottle cage eyelets on the top side of the downtube, to be able to run one of Topeak or Minoura’s extra long cages with a standard bottle too on the seat tube.

The LHT now comes with the option of S&S couplings for air travel. Could the Troll be next?

My build

The Troll’s currently only available as a frameset, though a complete bike might be available at some point. Being the thoughtful people that they are, Surly have kept everything standard – no awkward seat post sizes to track down – which made for easy transfer of existing kit. In my case, I’m running one of Rohloff’s excellent, low maintenance Speedhubs, which has travelled with me from frame to frame over the last seven years. Hoops are courtesy of Rigida’s super tough Andras, specifically drilled for the Rohloff. Mine are also CSS coated, a process I’d highly recommend if you’re running V brakes. They simply refuse to wear, though now that I’ve shifted to mechanical disc brakes, the extra expense is no longer necessary. Other than that, I have fairly standard kit. A square taper bottom braket, basic Shimano cranks, an FSA headset and Avid BB7 brakes. I favour a handlebar with a more swept back position than most, and chanced upon Fatbacks’s titanium offering while in Anchorage, Alaska. I recently tried the cheaper Ragley Carnegie, also highly recommended. More on putting the bike together can be found here and in the gear section.

Final thoughts

The Troll has hungrily gulped down everything I’ve thrown at it. It suits the kind of touring I live for: offroad, following the unbeaten path. If this is also your style, it’s a beast that’s sure to befriend you.

Update – want to see a list of the complete build? Click here.

Unleash the Troll. Take it across a continent…


Or just go bikepacking round your local woodland trails…

77 thoughts on “Surly Troll review – a few thousand kilometres down the (dirt) road

      1. Kira

        Question: I’m 5’5″. I’ve been mountain bike touring on a rigid Trek Singletrack (late 80s bike), 17 inch. Part of what I want in a new bike is the modern geometry of a mountain bike – because – my neck/shoulder muscles feel strained from leaning forward on my Trek.

        Do you think I can get a Troll and get the handlebars so that I can sit in a more upright position (or anything that will be better for my body?)

        If not, any recommendations? I plan on using the same bike for touring/mountain biking/ mountain bike touring. (I bike pack, but with panniers – not sure about the standard phrasing for that.)


        1. Cass Gilbert Post author


          I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to set up a Troll with a suitably upright position, especially with the likes of some nice and comfy Jones Loops bars (which come fitted to the new Trolls). Nancy is a similar height and has a 16in frame, and certainly finds the ride position to work for her.

          Although I’ll admit there are lighter bikes to be found, we’ve found the Troll to be a supremely versatile bike that’s suited to pretty much everything – from singletrack slaying to long distance travelling to trailer pulling. I especially like the fact that the tyre clearances are massive, which means you can run super fat rubber for a super plush ride!

        2. Damian

          I highly recommend the Troll. Judi and I have self supported toured for months and months throughout India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos and Thailand on them. We run front and rear Arkel panniers, 2.1 Schwalbe Marathons, and Tubus/Arkel racks. Judi is 5’9″ with long legs and finds the bike fits her very well. These bikes thrive on dirt roads, remote two-tracks and yet still cruise 160km/day on paved roads. They’ve been tied to roofs of boats, busses and trucks, been shipped in airplanes in clear plastic bags and have been bullet proof. I have even fit them with wide 26″ by 45mm wide Snow Cat rims and 26×3″ tires for a semi fat (650B) ride…that’s how versitile the bike is. Go for it.

  1. Zane Selvans

    I see you finally swapped out the rigid fork… What kind suspension do you like to use for touring? Do you feel like there are any that are really reliable and durable enough to head off into the boonies for months at a time, or do they just take too much upkeep?

    1. While Out Riding Post author

      I’ve fitted a Rock Shox Reba for now (85mm to 115mm) just because it’s light and it’s one I had at home. I wouldn’t tour on it though, as reliable as it seems to be. I also own a set of old Marzocchi Mx Comps (with ETA) that I’ve toured with in the Indian Himalaya before. I’d be happy taking them away, and probably will do so when I head back to Ecuador – there seems to be loads of great mountain biking potental there. The MX Comps coil and air, so if the seals go, they’ll still be ok. They’re heavy, but robust and surprisingly plush. I’ve serviced them once since I had them, so not too much in the way of upkeep.


    I had noticed your posts on MTBR and left you a PM there with some questions re Rohloff and the Troll. I see that this post answers many of my questions.

    BTW, I suspect that trail pic above is in Britain, but it looks like many of the trails here in Oregon, including the one I was on last night.

  3. Steve J

    I have a Thorn Sterling with Rohloff, XTR v brakes and CCS rims. It’s a great bike but pricey so I only use it on tours not for everyday use. Don’t like to leave it parked outside for day to day riding. Was thinking of buying a Troll as a second bike to use mostly for MTBing and wet weather commuting and would fit it an Alfine 8 or basic deore mech.
    From your experience any riding differences between these bikes on or off road? How do they compare from being in the saddle all day?
    The orange is a great color for commuting visibility!


    1. While Out Riding Post author

      I think a Troll would do a great job at what you’re after – it’s easy to build up on the cheap.

      They’re both nicely made chromo frames (the Thorn has the edge in terms of finish, but I prefer the Troll’s open cable guides), so I think riding position will dictate more in terms of all day comfort than anything else. The Sterling is a bit longer on the top tube, so you might want to make that up in the stem length. I had the largest size Sterling, which was a touch big for me (the one down was too short on seat tube length), so I prefer the lower slung top tube of the Troll for mountain biking. As far as I can see, there are only two Sterling sizes available these days.

      The Troll certainly feels more confident heavily ladden – it’s more burly than the Sterling’s slender tubeset. Not that it feels overly stiff unladden. In any case, a change in tyre pressure would even things out if you’re tuned in to these subtleties.

      As I mentioned, the slot dropout is more fiddly than your current setup, but offers lots more versatility.

      1. Steve Jones

        Follow up. Bought the Troll and built it up with an Alfine 8 (and some way too expensive components from Chris King and Chromag but felt like spoiling myself) and….it’s great. Mine’s the size 16 and it’s nice and agile for MTB work but right now I’ve got some Big Apples on it in a more road set up. For anyone thinking about getting one of these I’d say it’s a good buy and a great ride! Especially if you want to invest in one bike and just swap wheels, tires or whatever. Go for it!
        Seems to be the most do everything model in the Surly range.

  4. Fritz


    Thanks for posting your thoughts on the Troll. A while back in your December 23, 2009 “Bike Battle (not really)” posting you ended by comparing the two bikes and suggesting what you thought each was best for. Might you again do the same, this time including the Troll?



    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Fritz, I’ll try and write something up at some point, but in the meantime, I guess the Troll sits somewhere between the two. It hauls load better than a Sterling, but it’s probably not as stout as the Santos – the geometry is more MTB than MTB tourer.

  5. Steve J

    Thanks for the detailed info.I’m 5′ 4″ and I managed to get a small Sterling when they had them. Looks like the Troll will do the job. Anything but cheap here in Japan though unfortunately. Frame price works out about 200 dollars more!! That’s why I was sitting on the fence but I guess the versatility will be worth it. Like the fact it can be rebuilt as anything as often as I like. I’ll keep the Magura fork on the Sterling and build the Troll with the rigid fork, that’ll give me a good choice depending on the ride.

  6. Gerco van Vulpen

    Thanks for the revieuw!! A lot of it has confirmed my ideas about the frame and it is now on top of the list for a new touringframe..

    I was wondering; You describe that taking out the rear wheel is a bit fiddly. How about mounting a chaintensioner. This might give you the chainslack you need for getting the chain past the sprocket. Then you could also mount the bolt for the OEM-plate the other way round and it would just slide onto the bolt.. I know it is adding more moving parts, but my experience is that the Rohloff-chaintensioner holds up pretty well and isn’t collecting to much dirt and mud while being offroad. (My latest trip on my Rofloff-equiped Big Dummy to Sweden has proven that)

    How about the BB7’s?? How are they performing?? I heard that they were a bit fiddly to adjust. Would you prefer these discbrakes over V-brakes while touring outside of Europe/USA??

    Thanks again, it has been a great read!!


    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Hi Gerco. I guess I like the clean lines of a derailleur free setup but it’s true, there’s always the option of running a chain tensioner. You’d still need to loosen off the bolt that anchors the Rohloff in place though, which is a part of the fidliness.

      I like the BB7s. They’re only tricky to adjust when they’re caked in mud, as the adjustment wheels get stuck. I noticed the newer models can also be turned with a torx bolt, which could be useful. On the plus side, there’s less mud clearance issues than with Vs.

      You need to be careful the pads don’t drop out when you transport the bike without wheels (there’s no pin, like the Shimanos). So far I’m still experimenting with which brake pads to use – they haven’t lasted even a quarter as long as the Swiss Stop V brake pads with the CSS rims. I’ve been buying cheap ones, so need to figure out the best for longevity.

      1. Gerco van Vulpen

        Thanks for your reply..

        I agree on the better looks without the chaintensioner.

        I was just wondering why you losen off the bolt that anchors the Rohloff. In the pictures you posted i see that you have placed the allen bolt mounted whit the head facing outwards… On my Surly Big Dummy i have mounted the allen bolt facing with the head inwards. This way the little fork of the OEM plate just catches around it, without any loosening. If you could have some extra chainslack, when mounted with a chaintensioner, it should be possible to pull the wheel just like that. No repsitioning of the bold would be needed.

        As for the brakes… Think i still would go for the v-brakes then…

        1. While Out Riding Post author

          Thanks, I’ll try that, it makes sense. Removing the wheel is a little trickier with discs maybe, as the rotor pushes up against the caliper. In any case, the Surly Tugnut helps tune it in straight, but does mean you have to removed the quick release to pull out the wheel. Not a big deal, just another thing to do.

          I’m waiting for my Rohloff to get back from being serviced – it was finally due for some new bearings.

          1. Jesse E Martin

            Did you ever find some brake pads for your BB7’s that last a little longer? Have you ever worn out a disc rotor (bending does not count, I have fixed many a bent rotor). How many km’s?

            In general I have been getting ~2000km out of Avid’s sintered pads. Not very impressive. Managed to deal with my overheating issues by installing 200mm rotors front & back (it can be done, easily, despite Surly’s disclaimer). I pair down to bikepacking mode for short, sporty loops, but otherwise haul several litres of wine, fancy cheese, caving gear…..etc while touring. I like being distracted while touring 😉

            Currently switching from a Surly Ogre to a Surly Troll for a year long tour in South America. The Ogre has been fun, but I find it unwieldy on single track, and a real PITA for throwing onto public transport. After spending 3 months playing with my wife’s LHT on nearly non existent trails, and sometimes just open forest in Romania, I was sold on the smaller wheel size. The Troll’s ability to run semi fat was perfect. I find large volume, low pressure tires do more for me than just overall circumference. Full fat is like owning a hovercraft as long as you are on rough, loose or muddy surfaces. Felt like I had glue on my tires as soon as I touched sealed roads (Moab), so no Pugs for me on long tours with unavoidable long stretches of road. Ordered a set of Sun Ringle MTX 33 26″ rims for the Troll (like the ones I had on the Ogre), but seriously considering the Andra 30 CSS rims instead to increase the brake pad life. I bought the Andra 30s for my wifes LHT with some LX 670 hubs. Kind of jealous of them now!

  7. Bob Carlson

    I’m about to pull the trigger on building up a “Trohloff”. I was going to get a quick release version, but i was wondering about the threaded spindle version. Are there good reasons to go that way?


    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Hi Bob,
      If I was starting from new, I’d go with the threaded spindle version (the solid axle with locking nuts), as it’s holds the wheel more securely in place. And as a bonus, changing the sprocket seems to be easier, as the removal tool is less likely to slip when held in place with a nut. It just means carrying an extra tool. Both will work though.

  8. northernwalker

    Excellent post. I am very interested in this frame for rougher touring applications and a weekend MTB. I had been looking at the Thorn Ripio but the frame is too darn small for a lanky like me. This may be the answer… it would build into a really versatile machine.

      1. northernwalker

        And this would give me the opportunity to run a Rohloff when I can afford one (or, at last, go on the trip to merit one) 🙂 Great blog… am enjoying the back catalogue. Real inspiration on these pages.

  9. ken brownless

    Got a Troll and put an 8 speed Alfine on it – I love it. Its a great urban mini monster with Big Apples on the wheels.
    I will put a double chainring on the front next summer for touring rough and smooth.
    Its my perfect bike.
    I argued the toss that a similar frame to this would be fab,with some Brit importer/ designers at the cycle show and they the thought I was mad. 140mm suspension they argued for.
    Thanks to the Yanks and those skilled people in Taiwan!

    Ps do you know where there are any free Rohloffs? Keep up the enviable lifestyle.

    1. rjcarlson49

      How do you like the Big Apples? I am getting them on the bike, but was wondering how well they will do on pavement. Is there much penalty over smaller tires at higher PSI?

      BTW, the Ogre was announced before I committed, so I am getting the Ogre.

  10. ken brownless

    rj – I love the Big Apples. I run them at 60lb- front and 70 back. They bounce about a bit more tham the marathon race I had on before but they roll well.

    I must add I am a plodder but I can go all day on them and not feel so fatigued. They are good on tar and rough paths.

    I may tour on them in the spring. The weather’s turned nasty in the UK now so no touring.

    1. rjcarlson49

      Thanks. Good to know. I’ll be finding out soon. I’m down in Tucson AZ so the riding is great right right now.

  11. Paul

    This has been very helpful. My touring bike was stolen a little over a week ago, on my birthday, and now, along with planning my Maine to Tierra del Fuego trip, I must put together a new touring bike. My last bike only had 4000 miles from a winter cross country trip. Damn thieves.

  12. rjcarlson49

    Finally got my new Ogre! Pictures are here

    I started out with the idea of a Troll and Rohloff, but when the Ogre was announced I decided to switch to the 700c wheels. I really did not like the stock color so I had it painted. As you can see, it won’t be taken for stock. The color is meant to mimic the greenish yellow safety color.

    First real ride on this will be the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O in June. Can’t wait.


  13. cycle tramp

    i’d like to second your request for the troll frame set to be the next to be considered for S&S couplings. That would make a really great frame, simply brilliant.

  14. cycle tramp

    …and thinking about it, can we get the front fork drop outs for 135mm with speed hub fittings.. just got to thinking, that should there be any problem with the rear hub, (whether its internal gears, or a sprocket cluster/free hub) it would be great to have the front hub set up as a single speed, as a get out of free card…

    1. While Out Riding Post author

      I’ve often thought a 135 spaced front fork might be interesting for exactly the same reason – the ultimate expedition build. Right now, I’m interested in the idea of a dynamo hub rigged up to a Plug 2, which would rule that out.

      If you’re riding a 29er, you could use an Salsa Enabler fork which is 135 spaced.

  15. kp tan

    i own a kona unit 29er size 18,what size would you advise me on troll,i intend to run on single speed,plan to use it for touring in future.btw my standover is 30″.thanks.

    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Hi Kp, you’re best checking the geometry charts for a Kona compared to a Troll. I don’t know that offhand… Should be online somewhere. I’m 6’1″ and the 20in works nicely, if that helps. MAll the best, Cass

  16. Transilvanian

    Hi, your bike is superb. I have a Trek 8000 MTB with suspension forks (bought in in 1999) I rode across US, Balkans, Europe and Romania. I am thinking to replace it with a Troll to ride on Continental Top Touring tires. What fork would you recommend? I do some times stray away into dirt roads and based on my 20k km I prefer suspension forks 100%. Would you put V or disk brakes?

    Thank you

    1. While Out Riding Post author

      The Troll’s a great, versatile frame – you could probably move most of your stuff over too. I toured with the rigid fork supplied. Otherwise, there’s plenty of 100mm forks on the market – I like coil sprung ones for peace of mind, but it depends on the nature and length of what you have planned.

      You may well need to go with discs if you’re running a suspension fork, as fewer and fewer have V brake tabs these days. Avid BB7s work for well for me, though I find pad wear is greater than with V brakes.

  17. Jon V

    Great blog! I’ve got a Surly 1×1 and a Karate Monkey both of which I love but have been wondering about swapping one or both of them out for a Troll at some point. Was wondering whether you could provide details of the Devon C2C route you rode – it doesn’t look like the Sustrans one from the pics! I live on the edge of Dartmoor (recently moved here) and would love to do something similar.

    1. While Out Riding Post author

      Thanks. The route was based on one devised by the
      There’s a large paved section in the middle – quiet backroads.
      The Troll is great, but as I’m into big wheels, I think I prefer the Ogre.

      1. rjcarlson49

        I got the Ogre and put a suspension fork on it. In my mind anyway, the best thing about 29er wheels is the “suspension effect”. Now that I have the bike, it wonderfully comfortable, but it’s larger and heavier than maybe it needed to be. If I had to do it again I might get the Troll instead. With a rigid fork though, the big wheels probably do help. One surprise to me was that the extra size made a difference when packing the bike into a box. I use Aircaddy’s and the Ogre had to be force fit a little bit.

        1. While Out Riding Post author

          Fair points. There’s lots of overlap between the two. The reason I like the Ogre marginally more is that:

          1/ I’m tall and lanky, and it just feels more in proportion – less like I’m perching.

          And 2/ I feel that with a rigid fork and large volume tyre, I could ride anything I’d tackle with a 26in wheel and 100mm fork.

          True, the wheels are a little heavier rotationally, but the upside is the simplicity of rigid v suspension, and how load-friendly a rigid setup is.

          The Ogre fits fine in my Ground Effect Body Bag ( but I had to really disembowel it to fit in the cardboard bikebox I used to return from Peru.

          Incidentally, Schwalbe have now released a 29×2.0 (they call it 28×2.0) Mondial, which should be good for many a fully loaded mile. Weight is around 820g, similar to the 26×2.15 version (there’s a 26×2.0 too, which comes in a little lighter)

          1. rjcarlson49

            We are really in agreement here. I was just suggesting that if someone is getting a suspension fork don’t bother with a 29er unless you are tall enough to want one for that reason.

  18. Roy

    I am confuse with Shimano Shadow technology.I heard that this technology make the rd weak and easily to smash off. So, I dont know want to buy which rd with Shadow or not. Without Shadow , rd is robust and strong .I need to buy a rd with Shadow for long distance or not ? May I know your rd spec ?

    1. Cass Post author

      Hi Roy,
      Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to try the Shadow system. I just use an old XT long cage rear mech, seems to work just fine.

  19. Mark

    I am convinced, especially since a Montana mud adventure that involved cantilever brakes and a front derailleur completely encased in mud so thick our wheels refused to turn.

    How did you get your chainring to line up with the 54mm Rohloff chain line?

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Rohloff is the way forward!
      Setting up the chainline depends on what cranks you are running. With Shimano SLX, I didn’t have any issues.

  20. Damian

    I have built up two Trolls for my wife and I. We have ridden them around Canada, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos and Thailand and found them to be terrific for out-of-the-way touring. They have, Tubus racks, Arkel Bags, Hope EVO Pro 2 Hubs ( because they can be rebuilt beside the road without tools), Mavic rims, road bars with bar end shifters, Sram V brakes, and Shimano XT drive train with Chris King head set and BB, and Schwalbe Marathon XR’s.

    We have climbed thousands of feet on dirt single and dual tracks to reach remote villages and on other days ridden 170 km down paved roads. They have been absolutely bullet-proof on pot-holed gravel roads and survived being thrown onto the roofs of busses and boats, and into trains and planes. We have previously toured on Kona Jake-the-Snakes but have had problems with the 700 wheel size and, although they are great bikes they are not nearly as robust, sure footed and confidence inspiring as the Trolls when loaded. The Trolls are great loaded descenders and ,of course are much better off-road.

    I like the Orange!

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks for your input Damian. The Ogre has usurped my trusty Troll, but there’s still loads to be said for touring on a 26in wheel bike in many parts of the world.

  21. Jo haines

    Was set on a Thorn Raven but now swaying to a Troll. The only thing I wonder about is the straight rigid fork of the troll – the Raven, Nomad and the LHT both have forks with a curve and presumably give a softer ride. We are heading to Peru for dirt road touring. What are your thoughts. I am 56 kg female. Thanks

  22. Pete

    This. Write up. Is. Amazing. Thanks so much for taking the time to publish. My fiance and I are going to ride from NYC to Patagonia and are thinking about buying Trolls for our journey. In one of your photos, you had a trailer. Is that something one of us should consider using? Also, would you recommend breathable saddlebags (a la Carradice) or roll tops?

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks Pete. The Troll gets a big thumbs up from me if you want to stick to 26in wheels (which maks lots of sense).

      I’d go without a trailer if you can pack light enough, though trailers are a good way for one rider to carry the majority of gear if that works best for you. The Tout Terrain is expensive, but it’s by far the best trailer I’ve tried. Trailers are a lot more unwieldy when it comes to guesthouse staircases/hopping fences/hike ‘a bikes, but I like them because they take the load away from the bike.

      I really like Carradice saddlebags. Where they really score is their practicality. Roomy, easy to pack, hardy, and simple to repair. I find they work nicely combined with a framebag.

      As an aside, another cool aspect of the Troll is that it fits ’26+’ wheels. ie, a 2.75 tyre on a 50mm rim (like the Surly Instigator 2). That would make for an awesome mini-fatbike…

  23. Manny Relucano

    Thank you Cass for sharing your wonderful experience on tour and your Troll.

    I a m building a bike too for my intended tour around China and south Asia and also decided to get the Troll.
    One question though that I would like to get suggestion is the spoke counts. I read a lot that says a 36 holes or more is must for a touring. I already have a set of Rhynolites and Sun MTX33 which I’m considering to built but both are 32 holes only. At my weight of around 180lbs, Is the 32 holes enough or should sold my current rims and get a 36 instead?
    Thank you,


    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Manny – are you running a Rohloff? If so, 32H seems to be plenty strong enough, as the wheel is dishless and thus a good deal stronger than a conventional wheel with a cassette. Mine are 32, and I’ve never had any issues, whatever I’m carrying and wherever I’m riding. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Rhynolites.

      If not… 36H is definitely that bit stronger, and good for peace of mind. Perhaps 36H rims might be a little hardy to find in the event of a wheel failure or worn sidewalls – if you’re running V brakes – though there are plenty of DH rims in 36 hole options.

      I’m sure you’d be fine with 32H, but the more spokes the merrier in my book – and perhaps you’re better off building up one bomber set of wheels than having to deal with any issues down the line. Of course, much if this depends on what kind of load you’re carrying, and the kind of roads you’ll be riding.

      All the best for your tour!

  24. Nick

    Hi, I am running the orange troll with a rolloff, but like you I am trying to work out how to upgrade to the extra bottle racks without spending a fortune so I can use my full set of Porcelain rocket frame bags on multi day trips. Do I just buy the current fork in black or is it worth just stripping everything off, buying a new black troll and selling the orange one so I get the option to run a longer cage on the bottom to carry more water? Great blog.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      I’d just get a new fork, and hose-clamp/electrical tape a water bottle cage under the downtube…

  25. Vlado

    thinking of buying Troll for some time but am bit worrying about touching rear pannier bags with my heels. Regarding to Surly website chainstay is only 419mm and am bit worrying about it as I am 185cm tall. Have you ever had problem with it or was it fine and there was no problem with this issue at all?


    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hi Vlado,
      The Troll doesn’t have as long a stays as some bikes – like the LHT. But I’ve never had a problem with heel clearance. Of course, much of this depends on the design of your panniers, your shoe size, and the design of your rack. I’m EU 44, and have used Ortlieb Classics and Arkel XM 45 rear panniers, with a Tubus Vega. Those combinations worked fine.

    2. Damian

      I have toured on my Troll with a Tubus rear rack and an Arkel front rack. I used T42 Arkel rear paniers and T25’s at the front. I have size 47 Shimano clipless shoes and have had no problems with heel clearance. The Arkel bags have a sliding rail on which the hooks that attach to the racks are attached. This allows the bags to be set back a bit on the rack…..anyway…I have not had any heel strike problems. My wife has the same setup and has had no problems either.
      The Trolls have proven to be versatile and bullet proof. We have done thousands of km of dirt, gravel and pavement in Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, India and Sri Lanka. They’ve been thrown in small boats, tied to the roofs of busses, all kinds of airplanes in just clear plastic bags and nothing has broken. Great bikes for seeing the world.

  26. Vlado

    My rear rack is Tubus Cosmo and front is Surly. Currently have Ortliebs but thinking to switch for Arkel, so I hope it should work fine 🙂


  27. Guillaum

    I’m sold on the versatility of Surly bikes in general. Just wondering what your thoughts on Troll versus Ogre? Why’d you go with the Troll in the end? I’m torn between the two.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      At the time that I got the Troll, the Ogre didn’t exist… Since then, I’ve ridden an Ogre too. Personally, I’d go with an Ogre, because I like the way 29ers roll. But they’re both great bikes.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      It’s a Large. I now ride an XL, to reduce the seat post mast, and increase framebag size. Not quite as nimble perhaps, but more bikepacking-friendly for me.

  28. Robin

    Hello there,
    I always enjoy reading your stuff. It’s not full of jargon.
    I’ve been touring on a Gen 1 Salsa Fargo for about 7 years. I switch back and forth between 29ers and a Schwalbe touring tire depending on what I’m doing. I want to get off the beaten path, I’m tired of narrow busy hiways. I’ve had a taste of the Panamerican In Peru and I don’t need to do that again. I’m thinking of switching to a Troll. I would like a bike that can handle most anything and have the option to cycle just about anywhere. It is certainly easier to find 26″ tires than anything else.
    What would you say are the limitations of the Troll? I read another review in Bicycle Times I think, that didn’t give it great marks either as a long distnce touring machine. But I’m not sure why. This might be the last bike I ever buy. I usually only own one at a time (homeless by choice for a few years) and use it for everything.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks Robin. Sorry for the delayed reply. I love the Troll, though I’ve gravitated to 29ers and Plus tires now. I don’t think sourcing big wheel spares is the issue it used to be in many parts of the world (though clearly this depends on where you’re headed) and I prefer the way they roll.

      Limitations? I guess I wouldn’t recommend it for really heavy loads – it seems to suit midweight touring best, which is as much as I’d want to carry anyway, given the dirt roads I prefer. I’d love it if it had genuine clearances for 26+ tires too, just to open up more options/terrain. They fit, but it’s a squeeze.

  29. Gerald

    I’m curious if your opinion of 26 vs 29er wheels has changed since writing this piece; in particular, dirt road touring on a tubeless 29+ platform.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Gerald, 29 wheels now seem pretty firmly established in South America, perhaps less so in Asia (or at least Mongolia, which I visited last year). I’m pretty much set on 29 Plus tyres these days, and almost always run them tubeless. I’ve had great experience with Rabbit Holes – unbelievably tough, especially given they’re a single wall construction). WTB’s Scrapers are expensive, but are my current favourites. They’re super easy to set up tubeless (especially with WTB tires, but other brands too) and very tough too. I took a set to Bolivia – bikepacking and family touring (with a massive load on the back of the bike) and they held up really well. The extra tire volume and low air pressure goes a long way towards protecting rims, it seems.

      1. irbin

        Can you put 700c in a troll for road light touring? Is there be a problem with the height of the frame and the comfortable ride of it? I am planning to buy the disc trucker but I like the versatility of the troll as a Mtb and maybe for road use

  30. Damian Wiechula

    My wife and I have toured through India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam on a pair of Trolls with panniers. We’ve run 2.1 Schwalbe Marathons and have found that to be a great combination. They handle dirt, gravel and two-track roads well with reduced air pressure and we have done 170 km of pavement with increased pressure in a day. They are extremely versatile and rugged. We have met people touring on Truckers who wished they had been on Trolls…..especially where the roads are poor or unpaved. I have 29’s and 700c bikes, but for out-of-the-way touring, the Troll, with bigger tires is ideal.


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