We’re living in an enlightened age: the parameters of bicycle design conventions are being redrawn left right and centre and even mainstream brands are releasing products that have little to no association with pro riding. We love to see it. Of course, we do feel obliged to mention that, as London’s premier Surly dealer, we’re no strangers to strange bikes (in fact we wrote something on that very subject just a couple of months ago). The latest release from Minnesotan mavericks, though, has been prompting double-takes all over the shop. Rumours and grainy photos have been circulating the internet for enough time that we were half-expecting this bike to be named the Surly Sasquatch – but the Grappler is finally here.
There have been a few drop-barred MTBs hitting the market lately and on the whole, these are intended to bridge the increasingly small gap between gravel bikes and cross-country bikes. The Grappler is an entirely different proposition.
While the drop-bar design offers the multiple hand positions that are essential for long days of mile-munching, the geometry of this frameset undoubtedly prioritises fun. The head- and seat-tube angles match the Krampus – Surly’s out-and-out trail bike. The short rear triangle combined with 27.5” wheels makes for a very playful chassis. The signature array of luggage mounts are still here though, so don’t think you’re going to have to leave that dangle mug at home. The Grappler is the sort of bike that will go for a record run of the Tour Divide, but measured on airtime rather than elapsed time.
The only way to celebrate the release of this long-awaited bike was, of course, a full Brixton Build. We put our collective heads together to spec a robust, trail-ready bike that can be treated accordingly – a carefree riding experience, without fear of needing a loan to cover the cost of that smashed derailleur.
Wide trail wheels from Halo went into the BC truing stand: spoke tensions set by hand make for a much stronger wheel. Teravail Honcho 27.5” x 2.6” tyres – durable flavour – have been given grip and cushioning duties. The aggressive tread is ideal for UK trail conditions (read: squelchy) and the tough casing is a real bonus, particularly on a rigid bike that is a little less forgiving of dodgy line choices!
For the cockpit, we selected the Salsa Woodchipper bar. This dirt-specific drop bar offers tonnes of control and gives an ideal ‘ready’ position. The shape lends itself to the rider spending a lot of time in the drops, so we’ve fitted the Grappler with the low-maintenance option of a bar end shifter. Passing on an STI-type lever reduces the cost of the overall build significantly, and also isn’t always the most ergonomic when using the full width of dirt drops.
The partnership of Surly’s OD chainset, fitted with a narrow-wide ring and bash guard, and a Shimano Deore rear derailleur has to be one of the toughest combos going. A usable gear range – even when loaded – and none of the finicky adjustment needs that can come with the higher-end options. Avid BB7-S brakes complete the low-maintenance package.