Megan and Neva have now returned to Arizona and I’m back on my own in Costa Rica. It feels strangely quiet and I miss their amazing mother/daughter energy…
They did, however, leave an exciting beast behind, in the form of one of Surly’s new, Rohloff and detailleur compatible Troll framesets. Surly have a reputation for building solid, versatile, no-nonsense bicycles, and I’ve always admired their non-conformist and zany attitude. Back at home I ride one of their Big Dummies, a long wheelbase cargo bike that gave me the excuse I needed to sell my van.
So why the change? I’ve been riding the Thorn Sterling for 15 months and it’s going strong. Apart from some cable wear, the odd scratch and and my weather-worn stickers, the frame still looks almost as good as new. You can read more about what I thought of it here.
But when the opportunity came up to write a review of the Surly for What Mountain Bike, it was hard to turn down, especially for a bikenut like me.
Although based on their singlespeed 1×1 frame, I see the Troll more as the mountain biking, muscled sibling of their popular Long Haul Trucker. It’s just been unleased into the world and offers a few key features that cry out to the adventure touring fraternity.
Troll, n: A supernatural creature of Scandinavian folklore, variously portrayed as a friendly or mischievous dwarf or as a giant, that lives in caves, in the hills, or under bridges.
What’s the big deal then?
Well, not only does the Troll boast monster tyre clearances that will happily munch up 2.7 inch rubber, but it can also run a standard rear rack with a disc caliper, thanks to its nifty placement between the chain and the seat stays. I’m hoping that a combination of these two factors will help reduce the intense mud clogging issues I’ve experienced in the past. For the same reason I’m also moving over to Avid BB7s, a disc brake I’ve toured with before; they’re mechanical in the name of simplicity and low maintenance.
There’s a bunch of other features I’ll go into at some point, including an MTB, suspension ready geometry and eyelets for full racks and mudguards. You can read more about these here.
As ever, check the geometry charts to see what frame size would suit you. I considered trying the largest, a 22in, but ultimately opted for the 20. Compared to my previous steed, I can make up a slight shortness in the reach with a stem that’s a centimetre longer. A frame that’s a touch smaller promises more stiffness for load carrying, and tighter handling when unladen. Salsa’s A La Carte has a similar geometry and its sizing chart is useful.
So, here’s a quick lowdown on what I put together with the help of a multi tool, a hammer and a block of wood, under the blazing hot Costa Rican sun… Feedback on how it rides fully laden will be coming soon.
Thanks to Ciclo Deportes Moreno (150 Oeste Museo Juan Santamaria) for their help. This is the bigger and better stocked of two bike shops in Alajuela, and is very close to the laid back and quiet Mango Verde hostel where I’m staying – which has a massive open courtyard for bike fettling.
April updates: you can read more about the Troll battling through glorious mud here.