Surly Krampus vs ECR: Bikepacking or Dirt-road Touring (part 2)

Why the quiver is not dead: one for dirt-road touring and one for bikepacking.

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As I mentioned in part 1, the 29+ platform helped redefine off-road touring and has proven to be an excellent choice for bikepacking. After spending six months in Africa on the ECR, upon return I quickly added a Krampus to the stable. Several readers have asked why I need both, so now that I’ve worn the rubber hairs off the Knards on my Krampus, I thought I’d elaborate. Both of these bikes share all the perks of the 29+ platform, so what does the Krampus have that the ECR doesn’t, and conversely, what makes the ECR special in its own right? It all comes down to each being specialized in one of the two types of bike travel that I rambled on about in yesterday’s post, bikepacking and dirt-road touring.

Surly Krampus

Although the ECR can do it all fairly well, the Krampus dominates steep rooty singletrack, rock gardens, and technical conditions. It’s a trail bike at heart. The high bottom bracket and slack geometry make it a thrill ride, and honestly one of the most fun, confidence inspiring bikes I have ridden to date. The Krampus is definitely a departure from the latest full-squish models, but surprisingly nimble. The best analogy I can offer is that it’s comparable to being a big kid on a grown up BMX bike, one that can plow over anything. Many times I have found myself hauling ass and holding on. The Krampus is also a fairly confident climber. Even loaded with a frame bag, seat bag, and handlebar luggage, it performs and feels solid and confident. Another option worth mentioning is that the generous height of the BB allows the use of smaller tires without the risk of pedal strike, such a 2.4″ mountain bike tire.

  • Surly Krampus
  • Surly Knard Krampus 29+ Bikepacking
  • Surly Krampus Bikepacking set up - Frame bag

When the Krampus was initially released, there seemed to be widespread rumblings that it would make a damn good bikepacking rig. However, for the longer haul it lacks various eyelets, bosses, and hardware for attaching peripherals, such as racks or Anything cages. To be specific, it is without eyelets on both the front rack and rear seatstays, extra bottle bosses on the fork and bottom of the down tube, and the swiss-army knife of dropouts featured on the Ogre and Troll models. Surly ticked all of those boxes the following year with the ECR.

Surly ECR - Bikepacking and Dirt Road Touring

The Surly ECR set up with a Rohloff, Tubus Logo rear rack and the now defunct Salsa Minimalist up front. See the full build here.

If Extreme Comfort is Required when tacking a 6 month gravel or dirt odyssey, the ECR provides just that. It possesses more of a cross-country oriented geometry than that of the Krampus. It’s purposely designed to tackle long trips on punishing terrain. The lower bottom bracket, shorter top-tube, and shorter fork places the rider in more of an inboard position, one that can embolden solid eight hour days of pedaling. That being said, like the Troll, the ECR is no slouch on singletrack. I find it to have a somewhat playful feel riding both trails and gravel.

  • Surly ECR - Rohloff dropout
  • Surly ECR - Bikepacking and Bike Touring Setup, Racks, Rohloff
  • Surly ECR - Bikepacking and Dirt Road Touring

Two Different Builds

It’s worth noting the different manners in which these bikes are set up. The ECR is shod with 36 spoke Velocity P35s which aside from being slightly stronger than their 32 spoke counterparts, allow a narrower tire footprint and provide slightly better tracking; they also allow just enough space for the Tubus Vega (a minimal and capable rack) to be used on the rear. On the Krampus, Knards are mounted to the 52mm Rabbit Hole wheels which spread the tires out more; if these were used on the ECR, the Tubus Logo wouldn’t quite fit. Also, the ECR has the jack of all trades dropouts which naturally fit a Rohloff without additional components. In order to help the long distance comfort factor of the ECR, I run a pair of narrow(ish) 680mm handlebars with Ergon GP1 grips. Lastly, I have flat pedals on the ECR, which means only a single set of traveling shoes has to be packed. Conversly, the Krampus is built for speed. It runs with 32h Rabbit Holes, a pair of Crank Brothers clipless pedals, a traditional 2×10 drivetrain, wide 765mm bars, and aggressive ODI grips.

Surly Krampus vs ECR - Bikepacking and Dirt Road Touring
So which one is for you? Damn good question; maybe both. On any given trip to the rocky steeps of the Appalachian mountains, I’ll grab the Krampus. If I plan on tackling a long gravel and dirt journey on foreign soil, the ECR is my go-to steed. It’s all about the type of riding.

  • cupra

    I’m not doing 6 month epics and so can’t really justify the ECR, so on my Krampus I fitted the Krampus specific forks that have the anything cages mounts on them. Yes they are black on a green bike but so what. This makes the bike much more versatile and it still handles well. I wish I had the need for an ECR on a 6 month tour! :)

  • Mick

    Cupra: I’m in your boat. Which “Krampus specific forks that have the anything cages mounted to them” are you referring to. Why the Pugs and the Krampus don’t have all the additional cage and rack mounts is beyond me.

  • cupra It has line guides for disc brake line, and we offer two versions: one
    with bottle and gear cage eyelets on each leg and one without.

  • cupra
  • Mick

    Gotcha….I need to read more closely. Thanks!

  • I fgured someone out there had swapped forks for this reason. That definitely expands the range of the Krampus. I wasn’t aware that they offered a fork witb cage mounts, nice.

  • Tony

    Surly site has the aftermarket Krampus fork with Anything cage eyelets and as said its black. Otherwise exactly the same as stock.

  • Anne Paulson

    If you want a minimalist rack for the Krampus, a rack to support a saddlebag rather than panniers, the Nitto R10 with the extralong 350 mm struts does the job. It attaches to the seatpost, which sucks, but where else were you going to attach it?

    Like cupra, I’ve got the aftermarket Krampus fork so I can put on Anything Cages. It’s dandy.

  • Good to know… thanks

  • Scott

    Hey Logan,

    Thanks for posting all this. I’ve been on an Ogre for about 6 months and 9500 miles of touring so far (attempting a circumnavigation if I make it…) having ridden across Alaska a couple times and down through Canada and the States to Southern Arizona where I’m currently writing you. I have the Ogre set up with a Rohloff (big freakin’ investment there!) and a dynamo. Finally after riding the Colorado Trail, Kokopelli, and many other rough trails to get here, I’m considering stepping up to the 29+ platform to make single track and sand more fun. I’m limited in my frame choices due to the bolt-on Rohloff hub and the QR (non-thru axle) dynamo. I’ve thought about switching out to an ECR which is the logical choice (I’ll be out for another couple of years most likely, planning to get to Ushuaia then cut across to Capetown if I can make the funds last that long), but I LOVE riding single track unloaded in towns that have good trails. Riding the Ogre on super rough rocky terrain is a chore to say the least. Between low pedal clearance and steep head tube angle I’m pushing the limits there. My friend Nick is riding across South Africa on a Krampus right now, and says he loves the bike. So I’m wondering, since you have both:

    1. Can the Krampus fit a Rohloff?
    2. Can the Krampus handle well with a heavy load on it (bikepacking bags densely packed)? I know the ECR is more of a touring build. But I’m looking for the perfect long distance bikepacking bike that I can really have fun on single track with. I’m riding on all surfaces from pavement to dirt road to jeep road to single track.
    3. Is the BB height on the ECR unrideably low if you put on normal 2.5″ tires on it? (Thinking about what happens when I blow a sidewall in a bad place and can’t send for a replacement 29+ tire)

    Trying to make a final decision about which frame I’ll switch to within the next few days so I can order it and set it up before crossing the Mexican border, so I’d love any input you can offer.



  • Hi Scott. Sounds like a great trip so far! I feel your pain from a rigid/steep fork paired with ‘normal’ tires. It definitely sounds like one of these bikes are for you. Here are some answers:

    1. Yes, I have seen a couple of folks running a Rohloff on a Krampus. Here is one that uses tugnuts and here is a build from the Rohloff master: Cycle Monkey

    2. I have ridden my Krampus with a fairly light setup, but I don’t doubt that it could carry a decent load for the long haul. The Gypsy has a decent load on his, complete with a macbook; and it seems like they are always carrying a lot of vegetables, water and food. I don’t think the carrying capacity should be an issue; especially now that the black Krampus replacement fork is available, which is pre-drilled with Anything cage mounts.

    3. Yes, I do believe that the BB height on the ECR is meant for 3″tires … 2.5s at the very least. If you ride rocky conditions and have had pedal strike issues, you would want this maxed out with 3″ tires.

    But, all that being said, you would have a tough time finding 2.5s on the road. In South Africa for example, Nick was hard-pressed to find something over 2.2, and I remember the same thing when we bought Gin a tubeless tire in South Africa… 2.2 was the biggest we could get for her 26″ Troll. In most places, a 29″ tire will be hard to come by, especially if you are heading south. So my recommendation is to simply not worry about it. If you decide to run Knards (highly recommended… mine made it across Africa), anticipate around 7,000-8,000 kilometers for a set. You could even plan to have a fresh pair pre-shipped somewhere (a Warmshowers contact, or friend). Or you could order them and have them shipped ( ships worldwide).

    This is a tough decision. For me, the ECR is very comfortable over long distances where the Krampus tends to be a little tiring when covering long flat stretches and gravel epics. But it is certainly more fun as a mountain bike. Ultimately I think your decision should rest on your style of riding, the terrain you are planning on covering, and the geometry you would normally choose on a mountain bike. If a slack and aggressive, the Krampus would be the one, but if you want something just a hair more aggressive than the Ogre (with the suspension properties of the mid-fat tires), the ECR is a great choice.

    Hope this helps! Let me know what you decide…

  • Scott

    Nice! Thanks for the quick reply! Looks like there’s a shop here in phoenix that has a large krampus set up for me to test ride, see how it feels around the neighborhood. I think I’m ruling out the ECR for the moment due to the non 3″ tire BB potential in places I’m heading to. I agree, 29″ tires as a whole will be hard to find in a press. That’s part of the trick to making smart choices now. As it currently stands, given some financial explorations of the expense of a conversion, I’m thinking either:

    1. Switch to the Krampus with Knards or Vee trax fatties ( on 35mm Blunts, having versatility to have BB clearance with smaller tires when necessary (I’ve heard running 2.3’s on it feels like Ogre-ish clearance). Probably the most fun single track build, but a pricey conversion once factoring in part compatibility issues…

    2. Keeping the Ogre, but switch my Ogre fork for the Krampus fork with optional Anything Cage mounts, running a Maxxis Minion 2.5 in the rear and either the same or a 3″ tire in the front, both on Blunt 35s. This is obviously a WAY cheaper choice, but tire sizes won’t match… Probably no big whoop.

    Nice to know you did so well with the Knards. I have heard some pretty iffy reviews from people, that the tread wears out super fast for the tire price and that the sidewalls are prone to damage, not being super beefy. Of course there’s all the hubbub about the pending Dirt Wizards and Chronicle EXO’s but I doubt that stuff will make it out to the general public anytime soon. Maybe in 7-8000kms!

    Oh, and what 765mm bars are you using on the Krampus? I’m on Fleegles from On One, which are 715mms. Wide is the way. But sweep is nice too. Curious what you’ve got on there…

    Nice being in touch with someone who understands the challenge of this decision!

  • The thinner kevlar bead 120tpi Knards definitely wear out quickly and have been prone to sidewall issues. But the wire bead 27tpi version is much heavier duty. I rode through some burly terrain and the tread and sidewalls held up great. See the full review here:

    I am running a Crank Bros Cobalt riser on the ECR (cut to about 680mm) and on the Krampus I have more trail friendly Crank Bros Opium 780mm with 30mm rise. Full builds posted at these links:

    I have a pair of those Vee Trax that I am going to be testing soon. The Dirt Wizards are great!

  • reverend dick

    A 29+ Knard on a 50mm Rabbit hole rim WILL FIT in a stock Ogre fork just fine.


    I really needed this! Thank you for the great write up. I was pondering the ECR and Krampus and the what would best suit my current needs. This article helped…A LOT! I can see myself owning both and most likely will, but for now…It’ll be the Krampus! Thanks!

  • Good choice! Glad it helped!

  • zencadence

    Quick questions:

    1) Do you have any tips for packing and shipping a bike with bike wheels like the Rabbit Holes?
    2) How do you find the durability of the Knards as far as tread wear go? They are not cheap tires and there aren’t make tires in the 29+ category yet so I’d like to know if they are somewhat durable.

    Thanks for the blog. Very informative.

  • It should be packable in a larger bike box with no issues. You may have to pull the fork though. Knards are great… I got about 8000 km on my last set (27tpi). There is an in depth review after 7500 in the gear section here…

  • Scott

    Hey Logan!!! Thanks again for all the info above. I ended up putting a braze-on Krampus fork onto the Ogre and am running a knard in front, 2.5 minion in back. Works great! I’m currently in La Paz, Baja after bikepacking around the peninsula for the last 2 months. Getting ready to hop the ferry to the mainland to search absurd climbs and horrible roads/trails over there! Any thoughts on routing through mexico, bikepacking style? I saw a couple of postings of routes (Oaxaca and Copper Canyon) but am trying to see what my options are. I’ll be arriving in Mazatlan in a few days, seeking a way to ride cool mountain roads through beautiful places. One option I came up with was climbing up the mountains toward Durango then heading South along the mountains to hit the volcanos near DF, but would love any input you have! I could Skype you or call if you’re around with some free time to make things more efficient. Hope to talk to ya soon! BTW the knard front tire has about 3000 miles on it and doing fine!

  • Hi Scott. Great to hear that setup is working well for you. How was the riding in Baja? I’m not terribly versed on the dirt in that part of Mexico, but you might look up Ray Molina; also, Tom Walwyn and Cass Gilbert may have some good beta on that area. Do let me know what you find out though…

  • Scott

    Hey man, I’ll check them out. Saw Cass’s entries but I think he’s not been in this area either. Riding in Baja was great! I have a few posts of the different areas including some video of the single track trails I came across and some super rough backroad routing off the highway. Very fun. That’s all on

    Take good care man!

  • Dano

    Ha, I like da Krampus on my rides through da U. P. Eh.

  • Mikee Texas

    I learned something reading this… The Krampus is running 50mm rabbit holes and the ECR is running 35 mm rims, do you think the wider rabbit holes could attribute to the cofidence inspiring ride you are experiencing on the krampus? I also see many folks saying the ECR is better for long days in the saddle,,,,Cant you put a great saddle/Jones bar/ and nice grips on a krampus and achieve the same comfort level? And with the new braze on Krampus fork and a salsa seatpost clamp/rack mount wouldn’t this litrally make the Krampus just kill/blow the ecr out of the water? It even looks like the krampus would be a better model to convert to suspension if one so wished? Thoughts? hell you could easily also add rivnuts under frame for another bottle cage. I just don’t see the ECR frame having an advantage anywhere… accept for that kick ass army green paint job!

  • Alexander Sollie

    Has anyone ridden or seen an account of someone riding an ECR on the Colorado Trail? I’m trying to figure out if doing that would be crazy.

    I have the opportunity to ride the trail this summer and currently my only mountain bike is an Ice Cream Truck. I’m trying to decide between buying a 29+ wheelset for that or a new bike. It seems a little silly to spend $1000 on a wheelset when $2000 would get me a whole ECR. The Krampus isn’t really an option since I’m 6’7″ and they don’t make it in XXL.

  • I am sure it would be a fine bike for the CO Trail. I am not sure how technical and rocky it is, but with 3″ tires, it should have enough clearance (the Krampus would be ideal though)…

  • AT

    Logan… your blog! I am more than likely going to build an ECR. I have been assembling parts for a while now and about to make the jump soon. My last purchase before I make that leap is a wheelset. I like the Velocities….which do you recommend….the Dually’s or the Blunt 35? Most of my rides will be on rails to trails, Virginia Creeper, New River, C&O Canal/GAP, etc., but I will have some single track but mostly double track/R. to T. type riding. Thanks for your advice and keep up the great work on this blog, I’m on here at least once a day!!!

  • Thanks AT! Duallies would be a great choice unless you are going to try and squeeze in a tubus rack; using B35s is the only way to allow enough space for this rack.

  • AT

    No rack….so I will go with the dually’s, which is the way I was leaning anyway. Thanks for the imput!! AT

  • I have Rabbit Holes on my Krampus and have developed quite a fondness for them… they hook up with a tubless tire very well, and they have withstood many very hard rock skullings, to my amazement. If I was running a rackless (w/o a tubus vega) setup for the long haul, I would without a doubt run RHs…

  • AT

    I will take that into consideration….I was leaning towards the Maxxis Chronicle 29+ tire. Have you had or no of any with any experience with that tire?

  • I have… I am riding them now. They are awesome! I’ll post a review soon.

  • AT

    Great news!!! Look forward to you post. I was leaning towards the Dually’s for one, MADE in the USA, and two they are less expensive compared to the Rabbit Hole’s. I would have probably bought an ECR outright, but I have been stockpiling a parts since around 2010 to up grade my 26″ Mtn Bike. When I learned of….from your posts….and decided on the ECR, I had too much $ invested in parts that it made sense to just build one from a frameset. So all I lack are the wheels and OD Crankset. Thanks again for your input and I look forward to your review of the Chronicles!! AT

  • Just saw this – I’m running Knards on Duallies with a Tubus ‘Logo 29″‘ rack – no issues with the clearance.

  • Vik Banerjee

    Hi Mike I’ve done all the following with my Krampus:

    – suspension fork
    – rear rack + panniers [for one trip that needed more cargo]
    – 2.25L of water bottles & cages + full frame bag
    – easy to add 2 more bottles and cages to the stock Krampus fork if you want to, but prefer a skinny bike
    – techy singletrack and hike-a-bike exploratory bikepacking
    – just finished 850kms of logging road touring with a 100 mile day in there no problem

    The Krampus is a great bikepacking machine.

  • Nic Crumley

    If you ended up getting the XXL ECR, how do you like it? I’m also 6’7″ and have been struggling between xl Krampus and xxl ECR

  • Alexander Sollie

    No ECR. I got the second wheelset for the ICT. That is a good option if you want to sink that much money into a heavy steel mountain bike ecosystem. :)

  • Rolf E. Wirkki

    Rolf E. Wirkki

    a day ago

    Hi Logan, great article. I am struggling with witch bike to choose.
    I’m on a limited budget and can only afford one bike. I want an
    all-around bike and will be riding Rails to Trails routes (GAP), but
    will also be riding riverbeds in WV. This bike of- course will be used
    for camping. Thanks for your help.


  • Thanks. If you are between these two, I think either will work for those purposes. The ECR has more of a comfortable geometry for long days in the saddle, and the Krampus is designed for more of a playful feel. That said, get the ECR if you plan on long cruises, and the Krampus if you’d like to carve corners, jump and jive…

  • Lewy

    You probably don’t read this far back on your posts, but I blame you for this happenning.


  • Von Kruiser

    How is the bottle cage mounted to the rear rack? Super nice set up w/ the rear rack.

  • Von Kruiser

    Never mind, I found your article on this process. You guys are an excellent resource.

  • Brent Irish

    I know that the Krampus is changing but my question is about the difference in BB height/drop. I would like to purchase one of these platforms for my son, but its primary purpose would be single track and some off road touring. Do you notice a huge difference with the ECR and the BB drop compared to the Krampus?

  • Ryan

    Great write up, thank you! I ended up picking up the ECR from a guy that worked at a shop not far from me. He had switched the fork to the Krampus with all the rack mounts. Just curious if anyone else has tried this? It rides great and feels pretty playful for such a big bike! It also has monkey nuts so maybe that helps with the taller fork not getting too light up front. It is quite easy to lift the front end up over obstacles. Thanks for any input and keep up the great work with the site!

  • Greg Johnson

    Thanks Logan,
    The more trips and miles I’.ve put in, the more cogent and relevant your remarks, comments and observations are. There are no clearcut answers.

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