Thoughts on a Surly Troll MkII

above Pingvallavatn Pingvellir IcelandI’ve had my Surly Troll – ‘Tango’ – for over a year now. It’s carried me across Iceland, on some daft bike packing trips and other short tours, to the pub, to work, to the shops… lots of times to the shops in fact, including grocery runs with four panniers full to bursting.

I like it… I like it a lot. In fact, I like so much that my traditional workhorse-touring bike – a rather classy Thorn Club Tour – hasn’t had a look-in. It sits in the garage, ready for action, yet I keep on reaching for the Troll.

The Surly is not perfect, though. The front fork thuds into potholes and is not as comfortable as my Thorn. While the Troll barrels along off road, I’d prefer something a bit more surefooted. This was crystallised somewhat after riding a fatbike in Iceland and tear-arsing, albeit slowly, around some trails on an On-One 29-er. The latter, with beefy rims and tyres, was a revelation. I didn’t realise that larger hoops could make such a difference on gnarly trails.

The impressive utility of the Troll has hastened a decision for some upgrades, then. Tango will soon go to Keep Pedalling in Manchester to be fitted with a Rohloff rear hub and some other goodies. I’ve been hiding funds down the back of the sofa for a while in preparation as the hub is no small investment.

I’ve ridden two Rohloffs so far. One that was really bedded in and a new unit fitted to the test Ogre at Keep Pedalling. The worn-in hub was a Swiss watch, the newer hub a bit clunky but still surprisingly sweet. Apparently, newer hubs are quieter now (a common complaint of folk making the shift from a derailleur set up).

The bits and bobs for my Troll upgrade go something like this…

Rohloff Speedhub EX 14 speed hub

New 32-hole rim (Mavic XM719, perhaps)

Hope stainless bottom bracket

Middleburn RS8 cranks

Front and rear sprockets, TBC

Rohloff rear rotor, 160mm

New chain (TBC)

Surly TugNut

Avid FR5 levers

Front dyno hub (possibly a SON)

The new front hub will power a USB converter for keeping the phone charged on tour. This proved to be a pain in Iceland, not just for me but my long-suffering other half who allows me to go on these trips as long as I keep in touch via Skype or txt whenever possible. Added to this, my books, navigation system and music are on the phone too these days in order shed more weight.

Given how often the Troll is used, it will not take me long to run the new hub in. It’ll be coming away with me on another trip next year too… watch this space. :-)

…And if there are any tall folk out there in the market for a decent touring bike for the road, then my Thorn Club Tour is for sale, equipped with Tubus racks and a Brooks saddle. If you’re interested, drop me a line. I’d like to see it go to a good home.

…AND! If you are in the market for a decent hand built set of 26″ wheels for touring and commuting, the set on the Troll are for sale. Deore hubs, DRC MTN 19 box section rims and 36 Dt Swiss spokes on each. Got about 800 miles on them and have just been re tensioned. £70. Again, drop me a line if you are interested.

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About Matt Hobley

Hillwalker, backpacker, cyclist, whisky fan.
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26 Responses to Thoughts on a Surly Troll MkII

    • Good point… Not on this one :-)

      • Probably sensible, the rest of your upgrades are hardly going to be cheap! I’ll be doing a review of mine in the next few days (if I survive the Anglezarke Loop today).

      • good luck with that… remember, ‘ride at a safe and controlled pace’ :-) I might recycle some parts for a ‘dedicated’ off road rig and will probably invest in a Jones then. So many options to consider and a few more test rides needed before I make a decision. Been riding quite a bit of trail on the Troll and a borrowed 29-er and the latter has opened my eyes given how I trundle off road. Look forward to reading your thoughts on the Jones.

      • Well, I survived. 3 hours 45 minutes of rocky, sandy, muddy, rainy hellish climbing.

        I took 2.4″ tyres which helped massively but, having ridden the Krampus with 29×3″ tyres, I could easily be talked into a 29er.

        Sounds like we’re going in opposite directions; I think my Troll might become my de facto MTB and I’ll invest in a dedicated tourer… maybe a Long Haul Trucker? I suppose I could always get an Ogre and run it with narrow(ish) tyres and drop bars…

      • Good work.

        The Troll carries loads really well in my view. The ‘smaller’ frame has less flex and controls the four panniers really well. 30kg on rough gravel in Iceland convinced me of that.

        I crave traction and stability on the trail. I’m too much of a wuss to gun it on these routes, but enjoy the tricky ground nonetheless. Perhaps the ecr would work for me, maybe full fat? A niner with wide rims and big tyres may cut it though.

      • Ok, so parts ordered. Went with an SP dynamo in the end on recommendation. This has resulted in a new wheelset on Mavic 719 due the 32 spoke spec. Can’t believe I’ll be riding 32 front and back :-) Some nicely set up Ogres going out the door yesterday. The ECR in the shop is a monster truck.

      • Sweet! I almost went to the shop yesterday but ended up doing chores instead. I have 32 (or are they 36?) hole Shimano XT hubs front and rear to handle the abuse and luggage. I can’t imagine the tiny amount of extra weight makes any difference on such a heavy frame.

        We’ll have to arrange something for when it’s ready, maybe head up into t’ Pennines and compare the different setups. Who knows, maybe they’ll let us borrow that Jones in the window (the ECR is deliberately freakishly small so we can’t ride it).

      • That’d be grand.

        I’m taking the ecr for a spin next week anyhow… Despite the micro frame.

        Don’t think the 32/36 debate is such an issue on a burly 26 in rim. This will be the third set of hoops they’ve built for me and I’ve finally accepted that I don’t really need the extra four!

        …Was like a kid in a sweet shop yesterday :-)

      • You’re going to love that thing. The Krampus remains the most fun thing I’ve ever ridden… Stick on some Jones bars and more braze ons than you can shake a stick at, what’s not to like?

        Last night I almost talked myself if keeping the Troll as a dedicated MTB and building a drop bar Ogre for crush, kill, destroy touring duties… I think the ECR would suck on road sections.

      • Think you might be right, although the guys were suggesting it was ok on the road too.

        Someone left with a very sorted Ogre yesterday. Rohloff and mahooosive tyres and rims. Was very smart indeed. Ogre with hoops like that (not Rohloff though :-) ) might be enough for me. We’ll see.

      • Sounds like a good job I wasn’t there yesterday, I’d probably have been drooling over stuff and reaching for the credit card.

        They were recommending the Salsa Vaya for me last time I looked on ‘that side of the shop’.

      • Jeez… Another nice ride!

      • So much choice, so little money.

      • So picked up the Trollhoff yesterday plus some mudguards for winter. Pleased with the result and think I made the right choice re sprockets meaning I’m spending most time in the upper seven ratios… Albeit minus luggage. The Rohloff feels very precise – a completely different experience to other hubs I’ve ridden. Ruddy ought to be though :-)

      • Pictures, or it didn’t happen. ;-)

      • To come, when the Armageddon storm has passed :-)

  1. Eduardo says:

    have you tested the surly ogre?

    • I have ridden one yes… but not off road. My feeling is that the Ogre would make a better off road rig for me than the Troll as I prefer the feel of a 29-er on trails. I might add one to the fleet next year… or a Karate Monkey. We’ll see.

  2. Pingback: Behold… the Trollhoff | Northern Walker

  3. TS says:

    “Someone left with a very sorted Ogre yesterday. Rohloff and mahooosive tyres and rims. Was very smart indeed. Ogre with hoops like that (not Rohloff though :-) ) might be enough for me. We’ll see.”

    Hey just came acroos your blog excellent work! That was me with my new Ogre on October 19th riding away into the sunset. Have to say the Rohloff is ace so far. Always had a soft spot for the Troll but the big wheels won me over. Almost waited for the ECR but the Ogres versatility and ride (and my impatience) won through, maybe one day. Even though I am more than happy with the Ogre I keep staring at high res pics of the ECR.

    • Thanks for the feedback. That’s a very fine ride you have there and I hope you get loads of enjoyment from it. Interested to know how your Rohloff is running. As you can gather, mine is running fairly ‘tight’ still although is freeing up. When you push it along the cranks rotate etc etc… Behaviour that many other people have experienced.

      • TS says:

        Hi again. Yes it is still a bit ‘tight’ and beggining to loosen just a tad and yes the cranks rotate when pushed. It’s all good though and I love the Rohloff! I have it 36:16 for the time being and like this ratio although may go to 34 for my 3 week scotland trip in March. I have had a good few folk commenting on the Rohloff of late ranging from “wheres the gears?” to “It’s beautiful” Rich did a fine job on the bike and it’s very much my pride and joy. I am currently in the process of experimenting with load set ups (mini panniers, anything cages) and considering slightly fatter on the front. Probably just wait for Dirt Wizards to come out.

      • Yep, another fan here overall. After replying to you, I went for a spin and the little bit of oil behind the sprocket as per Rohloff’s instructions has helped. Mine is similarly geared to yours and I’d love those ratios on the ECR. Eye wateringly expensive though. I might be on a Scotland off road trip myself next year.

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