ASK: Ogre or Krampus?

Do you find that the Krampus is favorable to the Ogre for touring/bikepacking? I would think the Ogre would be a bit more versatile, am I correct? Also, my fiancé is looking for a bike to do some bikepacking, I immediately thought of the troll as she is 5’4″, do you feel that is a good choice? It is amazing how Surly can make so many bikes and make me want them all! Already have a Cross Check, Pugsley, Ogre and now a Troll….. Dylan.

(note: I’ve added a little footnote on the new and exciting ECR, which hadn’t been released at the time of this Q&A)

Agreed, I can’t think of a Surly I wouldn’t be happy to own. Affordability and versatility: it’s a killer combination. Still, with so much inevitable overlap between models, it can make figuring out what’s best for your needs a bit confusing.

So… this is my take on your question. For one reason or the other, I tend to differentiate between bikepacking and touring, even though the former falls under the umbrella of the latter. To me, the term bikepacking leans towards multi-day rides that involve a generous quotient of singletrack and/or dirt roads. The terrain tends to be more challenging, making a lighter (and rack-less) rig more suitable – the kind you can shoulder or hike ‘n bike if need me. As an example, think Arizona Trail or Colorado Trail ( is packed with inspirational routes in the US). As such, the cool thing about bikepacking is that pretty much any cross country mountain bike will work – steel, aluminium, carbon… Basically, whatever bike you already you own.

So for this kind of riding, I’d say the Krampus is fantastic. Above all, it’s a real blast to ride. As for the lack of carrier eyelets, well, that ceases to be an issue, as lightweight bikepacking soft bags are all you need (and what’s more, panniers clatter around, weigh more or just get in the way). One issue to bear in mind though is that a Krampus, shod with 3in Knard tyres, runs a tight chain clearance – the neatest way of circumventing this, and running a suitably wide gear range, is by running an offset double or even better, an internal geared hub. I’ve also modified my own frame to take four (yes four!) water bottles on the fork, and one under the downtube. I find it a neater solution than hose clamps – but they work too.

There’s some geometry differences too. It’s worth noting that the numbers on the Krampus add up to a lower slung, slacker and more trail orientated ride than the Ogre. Again, I don’t see this as an issue for bikepacking. 3″ Knards are a wonderfully comfortable tyre for all day dirt riding, even if they come at the cost of some extra heft. And the cool aspect of the Krampus’ high bottom bracket is that not only does it minimise pedal strike over rocky terrain – it also means that running smaller diameter 29er tyres isn’t an issue either. In fact, even with 29×2.3s, BB height is still a touch higher than the Ogre. Again, the likes of a high bottom bracket and a lack of rack eyelets details aren’t what you’d look for in a traditional touring bike – but lightweight bikepacking throws out the old rulebook.

Conversely, I see the Ogre as more of a jack-of-all-trades. I love the way it rides as a cross country mountain bike. I’m as happy ‘touring’ on it (be it paved or dirt) with panniers as I am ‘bikepacking’ with soft bags. It will ‘only’ take a 2.4in tyre, but even a 2.4 run tubeless and at low pressure can be surprisingly comfortable without suspension. The riding position is different from that of the Krampus. With its shorter top tube and longer stem, I feel more in the middle of the bike: all things being equal, I prefer this geometry for longer distance riding. And, there’s all that inbuilt versatility – complete as it is with all the required braze-ons and eyelets. Commuting steed in the week. Singletrack slayer at the weekends. And… you can even run fenders…

Re your fiancé. I’m going to go ahead and suggest – although I know plenty of shorter guys and gals who love their 29ers and the way they roll – that at 5’4″, your partner is better off with a Troll, particularly if touring is its intended use. There’s a broad range of sizes – down to a 14in. The Troll can be run with or without suspension, Vs or discs. It has all the bits you need to travel with or without racks (like water bottle mounts on the forks), Rohloff or otherwise. With the same geometry as the 1×1, it rides great on singletrack too. As a small rider, she could most likely get away with a lighter frameset than the Troll, but it’s nice knowing that it can handle a knock or two, particularly if you intend to travel.

A final thought though – out on tour, there’s an advantage to running similar wheel sizes, in terms of sharing spares.

Hope this helps!

ECR update

Now there’s the Ogre, the Krampus… and the ECR! At first glance, it seems like the ECR is the perfect lovechild of the 29in Ogre, and the 29+ Krampus. And for plenty of people, it probably is. Geometry is more akin to that of the Ogre (shorter top tube, taller headtube, shorter fork) – and it comes with all the added eyelets too. The ride is more stable and assured than the Krampus, at the cost of a little unladen liveliness. And just like the Krampus, there’s room for those goliath 29x3in tyres.

One point worth noting is that if you intend to run 29in tyres as well, be aware that the lower bottom bracket height of the ECR will mean pedal strikes are more probable when trail riding. Shod with 29+ rubber, and the BB height is more akin to that of the Ogre.


My modified Krampus. Great fun for lightly loaded bikepacking.

Jack of All Trades Ogre.

Jack of All Trades Ogre.


Troll. Fun times on singletrack too.

Disclosure: Although Surly have supported me over the last couple of years with bits to play with, I ride their bikes first and foremost because I think they build thoughtful, affordable frames. In the past I’ve been a happy Surly customer, having purchased the cargo-hauling Big Dummy and the Long Haul Trucker distance machine. 

40 thoughts on “ASK: Ogre or Krampus?

  1. Jeff Wyman

    Hi Cass if you had to pick jusk one Surly to do it all which one would it be .Sort of like a desert island disc question ? Good luck with the Saints

    Rgds jeff

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Only one? Unfair!

      Being a dirt favoritist, I’d go with the Ogre, because I think the rigid 29er has inherited the mantle from the cyclocross bike as the one-bike-to-do-it-all. It’s the Middle Way. I love riding trails on the Ogre, and I’ll happily peddle some pavement with a set of slicks. (I’m not a roadie at heart, so I’m fine with sacrificing drop bars, a la Cross Check)

      But ask me next week and I might have changed my mind…

  2. Vik

    I’ve got a Krampus [no Ogre] and a Pugsley and a LHT.

    The Krampus can be outfitted with front and rear racks [I’d use Old Man Mountain Racks] as well as 6 water bottles [2 in main triangle, 1 under DT, 1 on stem and 2 on forks]. Although I’m with Cass on using soft bikepacking bags most of the time because they are more fun on rough terrain.

    The Krampus will take any tire or wheel the Ogre will plus the 29 x 3.0″ Knard on 50mm rims.

    I’ve got a Rohloff in my Krampus so I have wide range gears and any tires. The stock build is a single ring, but folks are setting it up as a double if they want wider gear ranges.

    I’ve mostly used my Krampus for all day dirt touring rides. For me the bike is comfy for the long haul. For any tour that featured dirt/gravel I would take the Krampus. If it was mostly paved I’d grab my LHT.

    Surly also did a great job on the Krampus’ steering geo. Despite the huge wheels/tires the bike feels very nimble and fun to ride.

    I think the Krampus is a more versatile frame than the Ogre, because I can set it up in ways I couldn’t an Ogre and I can do anything I could on an Ogre. I got a frame/fork and built it that way vs. buying a complete.

    Thanks Cass for paving the way so to speak on the Krampus. You got me stoked on getting one and it has turned out to be a great decision. =) Your photography is always a lot of fun to geek out on.

    BTW – when it comes to smaller riders and wheel sizes I would suggest the terrain being ridden determine the wheel size “IF” the bike in question is made in an appropriate size for the rider. Bigger wheels will roll better over rough terrain which I think is a more important consideration for a smaller rider than trying to match wheels to frame size. Especially if the smaller rider is weaker and will be riding with others on bigger wheels. If the terrain is smoother than bigger wheels matter a lot less.

    I recently moved my GF to bigger wheels on her MTB and she is faster and clearing tech sections better than ever. We’ve maxed out her current frame’s clearance….when she gets a new MTB she’ll get bigger wheels again.

  3. Cass Gilbert Post author

    Thanks for your thoughts, Vic. Indeed, the Krampus is hugely versatile too. I’ve been riding mine this last weekend – 2 big day rides – and fallen back in love with it.

    While it’s true that all bikes can be turned into touring rigs, some lend themselves better than others. I’ve never tried the Krampus with front and rear racks – so can’t say how that would feel. Overall though, I’m a fan of Tubus over OMM, in terms of rigidity.

    Worth expanding though, in terms of touring, is that things can get a little fiddly when setting up a Krampus with a wide gearing range. My own feelings are that a Krampus works best with either a 1×10 or an IGH. My experiments for something in between weren’t too fruitful – without investing in one of Surly’s offset doubles. As it is, a 1×10 wasn’t enough (for me, at least) to ride the likes of the Coloradan Trail or Great Divide. However you do it though, the chain runs so close to the tyre in the largest gear at the back, that when conditions get muddy, it hooks up muck and throws it into the drivetrain. You can pull out a cog or two, which helps, but it’s not completely ideal.

    Surly discusses these conumdrums a bit here:

    All of which means that when it comes to dirt road touring on a Krampus (with Knards at least), the likes of a Rohloff, or Shimano IGH, is a great way to go.

    Lastly, I kind of wish Surly had made the Rabbit Hole in a 40mm, for added versatility. Although the 50mm rim works fantastically with Knards, especially at lower tyre pressures, it’s a little limiting in terms for other uses. As it is, I might have to take a leaf out of your book, Vic, and invest in a second Rohloff hub, laced to a narrower rim. Yikes!

          1. Cass Gilbert Post author

            Matthew, I didn’t have a massive amount of time to ride the sample frame Surly kindly sent me, but I really liked it. I took it away bikepacking in Durango, and on various local New Mexican trips, plus a bunch of day rides. Mine was pre-production, and didn’t have rear rack eyelets on the seat stays – or I’d have seriously thought about bringing it away. As it is, I didn’t have a rear rack that fit it either, and my Knard tyres are pretty worn out.

            One thing to note is that the bottom bracket is a good deal lower that the Krampus, and the fork is shorter. Partly for these reasons, it handles pretty differently. I’d say it doesn’t have the light front end of the Krampus – but its slower steering feels more suited to long distance, loaded tours. The riding position is much more akin to the Ogre (shorter TT than the Krampus), which makes it less ‘trail’ orientated than it’s brother too. In terms of touring, it’s great to see a slightly larger framebag space, and all the waterbottle eyelets you’d expect from Surly, plus the Rohloff-friendly dropout.

          2. Skyler

            I’m in the process of building up one of the rare, pre-release ECRs. Going with the realeased-last-week, tubeless ready Velocity Dually 29 rims (at 45mm wide) so that I can run 29×2.0 tires too. And a Rohloff.

            Anyone know if the heavy Surly rear rack is the only steel rack with enough clearance for 29+? My Tubus Cargo will definitely not work. Logo/vega looks closer, but I haven’t been able to test.

          3. Cass Gilbert Post author

            I couldn’t find anything that would fit, aside from the Surly – and the aluminium Old Man Mountains. But there’s not much of a range local to me, so choices were limited.

            Be interested to hear what you find – and how those Dually rims hold up.

          4. Cass Gilbert Post author

            I couldn’t find anything that would fit, aside from the Surly – and the aluminium Old Man Mountains. But there’s not much of a range local to me, so choices were limited.

            Be interested to hear what you find – and how those Dually rims hold up.

  4. Brian

    Wow, 3 more bikes that I want. I haven’t regretted getting the Krampus until I saw the reincarnation of the Instigator! That looks like one fun bike!

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      I always hankered after the original Instigator. As much for the aesthetics of that massive gusset as anything else.

      1. Brian

        I agree. The original Instigator was the first bike I bought after I got my first bike mechanic job. It was a beast!

    1. Donald

      I’m so torn between the ECR and the Krampus… I think my riding is going to be more single track focused so I’ll likely end up on a Krampus. My Cross Check is what I’ll used to focus on dirt road and gravel grinding tours.

      So many tough decisions in life. 😉

      1. Skyler

        Test ride them both. The ECR has about the same bb height as the Ogre. And I love the low bb of the ECR on trails. I’ve never ridden a hardtail or rigid bike that feels more confidence inspiring cornering.

        1. Cass Gilbert Post author

          Yep, the BB height of the Ogre and ECR are about the same – assuming you’re running 29er tyres on the Ogre, and 29+ on the ECR. If you run standard 29er tyres on the ECR, things will drop down a bit more.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Yeah… more lustworthy bikes! The Straggler should have massive framebag potential too…

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      For bikepacking, I’d go Krampus, Rabbit Holes + Knards. I’m not sure about racing – maybe a light bike with a suspension fork is best for the Tour Divide.

  5. Matt

    Picked up my ECR last week so too early to give a full impression of the ride. However, I opted for the ECR after riding a full fat bike. The ‘semi fat’ option seemed right given the mixed nature of the terrain the ECR will see… some pavement, forest roads, double and single track, bog (sometimes). While the Knards roll pretty well, I wouldn’t want to ride it for extended periods on the road. However, it’s more than adequate for those paved portages between tracks and trails. Like the Pug I rode last year, the ECR is very stable and inspires confidence compared to my Troll (with a sus fork). I’m slow off road and the ECR experience can be a sedate one, which suits me. It also fits… I am a tall rider with a pretty lengthy cycle inseam and the XXL just feels right. Plus, I have room for a decent sized frame bag if needed.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      A massive framebag!

      I think 29+ is definitely more versatile, unless you’re a regular on snow and sand.

      Got to say though, it may be a little portly, but I do like my Pugs… 26in is nice for overseas travel too.

      Have fun on the ECR. Look forward to hearing more.

      1. Matt

        My time on a Pug was brief, but I loved that thing! In an ideal world I’d have one of them too but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere :-) I get that ‘fat bike feeling’ on the ECR. Even a pootle to the shops down the towpath puts a smile on my face.

  6. Robert

    I’m just about to move from Alaska to the Olympic Peninsula, and have just CListed my Moonlander. I decided that either a Krampus (probable) or ECR would see more action, whereas I would have to drive a lot to use my ML. Does that make sense?

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      My personal favourite is the Krampus, in terms of ride thrills… But the ECR could be the better option if racks and panniers are part of your life.

  7. Blake

    Hi Cass,

    Thanks for the great information. I am confused on one thing – looking at the geometries of the Ogre and the Krampus on the surly website (at least for 2014), they are identical. But you state that they are different. What am I missing?

    The reason I ask is there’s a deal on a 2013 Ogre for $700, but I would use it mostly for single track, and only the occasional bikepacking trip or tour. If all the Ogre is is a Krampus with more braze-ons, it seems silly to spend more and lose the versatility.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hi Blake. I think you might be confusing the geometry charts of the Krampus with the Karate Monkey. The Karate Monkey is like an Ogre, with a lighter fork, less braze-ons and a different dropout. The Krampus is a different beast altogether: a longer fork, shorter seat tube, and longer top tube.

      The Ogre’s a touch heavier than the KM, but I’ve always felt it still makes a great trail bike, with all the added versatility of extra bottle mounts and rack eyelets. I think $700 is a tempting price for such a jack-of-all-trades bike.

      The Krampus is a lot of fun on singletrack though, and its 3in tyres really munch up rocks. It makes an excellent bikepacking bike too (using a frambag/seatbag etc). But if you’re planning on running racks and panniers, you’d be better off with the Ogre.

  8. Pingback: Wagonwheeled bicycle showdown – Surly Krampus vs. ECR | Off Route

  9. Andy

    Couldn’t help but revive this thread, and infuse it with my own related question. I hope it’s cool to do that?

    Right now I’ve got a KramPugs…can run it fat w/Marge Lites and 4″ Knards, or run the Rabbit Hole 29+ and 3″ Knards. Have a full compliment of Revelate bags for my bikepacking adventures.

    I’ve also got a Disc Trucker that I built up with Soma Junebug bars, SRAM groupset, and Velocity Blunt 35’s, rolling on Clemente x’Plor 700×40 tires. A Revelate tangle bag stays attached all the time, and I can easily swap over the seat bag and handlebar bags as needed for bikepacking.

    My question is this…I find that I’m riding almost exclusively on dirt/gravel, fire roads, etc much more than I’m riding on pavement. Would an Ogre serve my purposes better, or do you think that would be too much overlap with my KramPugs? What Surly bike would you recommend?

    Thanks much!

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hi Andy,

      It sounds like the Ogre would serve you well, and would sit nicely between your 29+ setup and Disc Trucker. I’ve always found it to be a really versatile bike, and shod with 2.4in tyres or so, very capable off road. And it takes suspension too. For a long time, it was my ideal bikepacking bike.

      Although it may overlap with your Krampug, my favourite Surly touring bike at the moment is the ECR. The ride is completely different from the Krampus (not sure about a Krampug?). The 29+ tyres give a velvety ride to off road tours, teamed with a great riding position for long days in the saddle, and stable, predictable steering. Kind of like a monster truck LHT.

  10. Hana

    Hi Cass,
    Yet another question on this topic:
    I am looking for ideally one bike that would be versatile enough to do some distance both on and off-road. Firstly the Tour Aotearoa Brevet in 2016, with a lightweight bike-packing set-up, which is a mix of: beach 80km, cycle trail/path 693km, gravel road 415km and sealed road 1813km. I’m not obsessed about the fastest time, but don’t want to be the last one to finish because my bike was a pig on the sealed road either!
    And shortly after that I’m hoping to use the same bike for a Length of the Americas tour with a high percentage of dirt/off-road and no doubt long stretches of seal in the mix, and a rack and pannier set-up.
    I’m wondering how ‘skinny’ can you comfortably go with tyres on the ECR, versus how ‘fat’ can you go on the Ogre, and what your thoughts are on this ie comfort vs rolling resistance vs weight.
    cheers, Hana


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