Building this bike has been the type of custom project that Dead Rats Cycles relish – a creative & challenging collaborative effort on a unique bike for a top bloke!

Commissioned by Matt’s lovely wife Daisy for his 40th birthday, the Surly was part-funded by a whip round from his mates and was the result of a very specific brief.  Namely to supply a unique steel all-rounder that would combine the dirty thrills he got from his old DMR Trailstar with the practicality and speed of a grown-up bike 😀  There were few suitable candidates within the agreed budget (what is the deal with the lack of rack mounts on MTBs these days – other than to force riders to buy bike-packing bags?) but if you’ve ever looked for a fun, versatile, affordable steel bike with lots of braze-ons you’ll probably agree that a Surly tops the list.

Fans of the Karate Monkey know that the iconic 29er is a rather rare beast on the secondhand market, but we finally found one on the south coast and Matt brought it back up to Manchester for an assessment.  We found it had been subjected to a poor quality powdercoat job (with equally slipshod decal placement) and was built up with a mess of components and a mismatched drivetrain.  I love a project as much as Matt – so it was time to start again!

Matt chose a new colour & finish and I took care of the rebuild, supplying some quality component upgrades including a hard-to-find 28.6mm Deore XT front derailleur that is perfect for the frame (plus chainrings, cassette & chain, bars & stem, QR clamp, headset, grips, spacers & cabling).  The new finish is incredible – in the shade it shows purple speckles in the tomato soup red, but when the sun hits it another dimension of dazzle is unleashed!

Now the rebuild is complete and there’s already talk of possible 650b and 1x conversions in the future!  Meanwhile additions to the bike will be more prosaic – it’ll get a chainstay wrap, bottle cage, rear rack and maybe a trailer for cargo hauling.  The pedals and saddle are not quite right but they’re fine for now, easily changed and help keep the weight to a very respectable 25lb.  Initial feedback from the birthday boy (after the big reveal, with birthday card signed by all his friends) on his test run today is that, compared to his old bike, the Monkey feels really well-balanced, holds its speed and climbs well.  For me… well, I loved every minute of it!

Special thanks to the team at Ashton Powder Coating for great work on the paint – and Shona at Keep Pedalling for supplying the replacement decal set.

Frame & Forks: Surly Karate Monkey – 18” (sandblasted & powdercoated, new decals)
Headset: On-One Smoothie
Stem: Bontrager Rhythm Pro 70mm
Handlebar: Pinnacle 720mm flat bar
Grips: Cannondale lock-on
Brakes: Shimano Deore BR-M615
Rotors: 180/160mm
Shifters: Shimano Deore LX M580
Front Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT M750
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT M770
Cassette: SRAM PG-980, 11-34t (9 speed)
Chain: KMC X93 (new)
Cranks: Shimano Deore XT M770
Chainrings: Blackspire Super Pro (42/32/22t)
Bottom Bracket: Shimano Deore HTII
Pedals: Rock Bros Perlin
Hub Skewers: Shimano Deore
Wheels: Bontrager Mustang 29
Tyres: Schwalbe Land Cruiser 700x35c (plus 2.2″ tyres for trail use)
Tubes: Presta
Saddle: Selle Italia XR
Seatpost: Ritchey
Seatpost Binder: Identiti QR (new)
Weight: 11.4kg (25lb)