I had to sell my Pashley Guv’nor. Sadly I needed to raise some cash and had to hold back the tears as I waved her goodbye. I kept my old Rockhopper and used that to poodle around the New Forest instead.
Paul is dangerous
Time passed and my friend Paul sparked the idea of buying a Surly. Paul is dangerous. He hooked me by sharing his inspiring global touring adventures on his wonderful Paul’s Bike Ride blog. His trusty steed is a Surly Long Haul Trucker. I had never heard of Surly before. The idea of cycle touring had never really struck a chord with me before reading his blog. What an inspiration! I could see that Paul had done his homework and the Trucker was the bike to see the world on. However, where I live a mountain bike was really better suited.
Cass is dangerous
The seed had been planted. I wanted to discover more of the great outdoors by bicycle, but preferably off road. Then I stumbled on bikepacking. It’s like regular cycle touring but with bags strapped to a bicycle instead of having racks and panniers. I found another chap who was touring the world on his bike. He was bikepacking too, and his name is Cass Gilbert. Cass is dangerous. He too rides a Surly. He also has a blog. Like Paul he documents and records his trips with some stunning photography of some amazing places. Cass at the time was riding an Ogre which he was a big fan of. He strapped frame bags and saddle bags to it and disappeared into an exotic sunset.
Falling in love with an Ogre
So, in February 2014 I went to the London Bike Show. I saw my first Surly Ogre perched on the wall of the Surly stand. It was love at first sight. It just looked ‘right’. Loved the proportions, it seemed balanced and graceful, but at the same time rock solid. The Surly salesman was very helpful and he said that 29er wheels were a revelation. They had instilled a new found love of mountain biking in him again. I really dug the Jones Loop H-Bar handlebars too. Plenty of space to hang hands, bags and gadgets off.
Ogre vs Troll
The Ogre is the Troll’s big brother. Like the Long Haul Trucker the Troll has become renowned as a great touring bike. A rigid front fork means that you can strap bags or cages to it, and the bike has mounts for v brakes as well as discs. The Troll rolls on 26″ wheels. The Ogre is a 29er. For world touring 26″ wheels are the ones to have. The mtb phenomenon is global. You can get a replacement wheel or tyre anywhere in the world. Not so the 29er.
I’m a big fan of 29ers, largely thanks to how smoothly they roll and how assuredly they corner. I find big wheels more confidence inspiring too – I feel less likely to go over the handlebars when mountain biking.
~ Cass Gilbert
But, as Cass had moved on from a Troll to a 29 inch Ogre, and I wasn’t planning on backpacking across Africa anytime soon. I thought I would get the larger wheeled machine. I chose to buy a complete bike, I can barely fix a puncture, and besides the standard bike had nearly everything I wanted. Including disc brakes. I do like discs. After riding my Pashley with 1930s style hubs, the increased stopping power of discs is reassuring. Especially on long descents and fully loaded.
Again hardcore tourers prefer regular rim brakes, but the Ogre has mounts for conventional brakes anyway, so if push came to shove and I damaged a rotor, I could always find a brake to bolt on. The Adventurer wheels are made for conventional brakes anyway. Surly have done their homework. Even if I totalled a 29er, I could bolt on a 26 inch wheel and carry on. But to be honest I didn’t have any plans to go anywhere really remote yet. But hopefully this will change…
You don’t see many carbon tourers. Steel is the most practical and durable frame for touring. Even if you do manage to snap something, no matter where in the world you are you can find someone to weld it up. Plus you get warning if something is going to fail. Carbon can fail abysmally. A friend of a friend got a fork stuck in his chest after it failed on him. My Pashley was of course steel too, and that was a sweet ride.
Fatties Fit Fine
One thing I like about the Surly bikes are the range of tyres you can get to fit. They proudly display a “fatties fit fine” decal on the frame. So, if I wanted to, and funds permitted I could bolt on some wide rabbit hole rims and large floaty tyres. Just the thing for exploring the sandy trails in the Purbecks, but as I do go on roads, I stuck to the normal mtb wheel. For now anyway. I definitely would love to try a fat-bike, I love the look of the Ice Cream Truck, which I have added to my infinite wants list.
Would this fatty fit?
Buying the right size Ogre was a bit of a worry. I am 5’8″ with short legs, so a 16″ or 18″ frame seemed to be the way to go. I tried another 16″ framed Surly, and it felt more like a bmx than a mtb. Plus years ago I bought a Fisher HooKooEKoo after being advised to get the smallest frame I could. I always felt I was on a toy bike. I am no Danny MacAskill. I am not one to jump and do breathtaking stunts. Well, not on purpose anyway. I am approaching the big 5,0. Plus a larger frame might be more comfortable and of course would fit a larger frame bag. In hindsight maybe I should have got a 16″ but I feel very comfortable on this 18 incher.
Buying the Ogre
I bought an 18″ Ogre, in Tanish Gray. I use my iPhone as my GPS, and even on relatively short trips my battery can give up. So I decided to bite the bullet and get a SP dynamo fitted. I negotiated with my local bike shop and they would fit it. Anyway the bike arrived and I started getting out in the forest again. It was months later before the dynamo hub was in stock, and I am waiting for a Sinewave Reactor usb adapter so that I can actually power my iPhone on the move. More on this when it arrives.
This bike is the most confidence inspiring bicycle I have ever ridden. I had read that 26 inch bikes are more nimble than a 29er. But not in my experience and especially compared to the Rockhopper. Ok, thats not fair the Ogre, is about four times the price of the Rockhopper, but to me it is worth the extra dosh. The Ogre eats up the trails. Even twisting and turning round my local winding single track, I was going faster than my Rockhopper. I did notice the bumps though. The front shock of the Specialized bike took out a lot of the jarring. But, I just learnt to relax my grip and ride lighter. I really think a rigid fork is making me a better rider. I had Ergon GC1 grips fitted, which are superb kinky grips.
I love the Jones Loop H-Bars, they offer a selection of different grip positions which is great on longer rides. They also give you more places to hang stuff off. A couple of friends I ride with think it looks like something Mary Poppins would have on her shopping bike, but I love the bars.
The only thing I am not sure about is the saddle. I might change to something more forgiving in the future. I love the tyres, they cope well on everything I have thrown at them so far. Dirt, gravel, single track and asphalt. I have fallen off a couple of times on sand, but then I was riding at night. So, can’t really complain.
I even did a couple of microadventures. Just a couple of overnight trips. I haven’t got any frame bags yet so just used a rucksack and strapped a few things to my Surly and off I went.
Overall I love the Ogre. I think it is making me a better rider. I am not a speed merchant and am focusing on learning to relax when I ride. I am trying to use some principles of Tai Chi movement in my cycling. Relaxing my shoulders and not grabbing the handlebars too tightly. Even a white knuckle ride doesn’t need to be. Learning to just have the lightest touch on the handlebars and let the bike do it’s thing seems to be working well for me. The Ogre seems to like it too.
Hopefully in February next year I will even go touring on it. It deserves it, and so do I.
My Surly Ogre Gallery
Surly Ogre Specification
|Frame||Surly Ogre, Surly 4130 CroMoly steel. Main triangle double-butted. TIG-welded|
|Fork||Surly Ogre, TIG-welded 4130 CroMoly, 80mm suspension corrected, tapered and butted straight blade. Low- and mid-blade fully threaded through-blade rack eyelets; fender mount eyelets at dropout; 1-1/8? x 260mm threadless steer tube, 51mm disc mount (203mm max. rotor diameter), removable cantilever pivots, line/housing guides; two sets of bottle cage mounts, each height adjustable (note: cages cannot be used on fork with some racks, and vice versa)|
|Seatpost||Clamp Surly Stainless, 30.0mm (Surly stainless included)|
|Crankset||Shimano FC-T551, 26/36/48t. Black|
|Bottom Bracket||Surly Enduro, Black|
|Front Derailleur||Shimano Deore FD-M616, 28.6mm. Top-pull|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano Deore RD-MT610-SGS, 10 speed|
|Cassette||Shimano HG-61, 11-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32-36t|
|Chain||KMC x10, Silver|
|Headset||Cane Creek 40, 1-1/8? threadless. Black|
|Brakes||Avid BB7, Cable actuated. 180/160mm rotors front & rear|
|Brake Levers||Avid FR-5, Black|
|Shifters||Microshift SL-T10, Shifts pretty awesome|
|Stem||Kalloy AS-008, 31.8mm. 4-bolt. Black|
|Handlebar||Jones Loop, 710mm. Anodized. Black|
|Saddle||WTB SST Comp, Steel rails. Black vinyl. This is the only component I am not sure about. Might invest in a Brooks.|
|Seatpost||Kalloy SP-342, 27.2mm. 350mm. Black|
|Chain||SRAM PC-970, Silver|
|Hubs||Shimano Deore Disc M525, 32h. QR. Black|
|Spokes||DT Swiss Champion, 14g|
|Tyres||WTB Nano Comp, 29×2.1|
Surly Ogre Frame Sizes
|Frame Size||Stem Length||Stem Angle||Handlebar Width||Crank Length|