Surly Troll build: headset

February is going to be month of the Troll… and, let’s be honest, March too as cash flow will have an impact on the speed of this build.

Surly Troll and Cyclus Head Set PressThe Surly Troll has created quite a buzz since it’s launch a year or so ago. Now being thoroughly tested by cycle touring peregrinus Cass Gilbert, Surly describe this machine in characteristic laconic fashion… ‘utility tractor’.

The Bloomington firm acknowledges that the steel Troll is far more versatile, however. Borrowing much from the mountain bike, the frame geometry is designed for a suspension folk, or you can run it with a suspension-corrected monster chromo fork.

The rear dropout, while not pretty, is rather clever. Want to run a rear mech? No problem. Fancy single speed, a hub gear or Rohloff with discs? Sure. Want to run a rack or trailer too? Of course, the more the merrier. 

It has huge clearances for tyres up to 2.7inches (26inch wheels, by the way) and proudly displays the Surly mantra ‘Fatties Fit Fine’ on the chain stay. This, of course, refers to the rubber, but could equally refer to the rider as the Troll is a burly brute.

Mine is a 22-inch version, the largest frame. I’m certain that this will suit my 6’6” frame, although I do envisage some stem fiddling as I don’t have a huge reach. This bike is a departure for me in many ways, not least in that I am going to be running flat bars, which will pose one or two bike positioning questions as I am so used to drops.

FSA Orbit XLII Heade SetSo what’s it for? At first, this is going to be my ‘rough stuff’ bike. I’m not a gifted rider by any means over technical ground, but I do enjoy rattling along bridleways, trails and forest tracks. The greater clearances and wider tyres will help with the mud I used to encounter on my Dew Drop.

I envisage one or two bike packing trips in the Peak and, hopefully, Cairngorms when I’ll travel ultra light with bivvy and sleeping bag. As confidence and horizons grow, I’m going to replace the front fork with a suspension unit, which may help unlock local trails for me. And you never know, it might carry me across South America one day…

The build started this week with a headset installation. I had the frame faced by those fine folk at Keep Pedalling in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, and they are going to take care of the wheel set too.

This is the first time I’ve used my Cyclus Headset press, a Christmas pressie from Mum and Dad. I might have been a bit tentative, but it worked like a dream. An Orbit XLII is now securely in place ready for those forks. Watch this space…


10 thoughts on “Surly Troll build: headset

  1. Tossing up between a Troll and a Orge as a replacement for my Giant XTC 2 and Surly Long Haul Trucker. Want to have the one all-round tourer. Will be interesting to follow your build so I hope you will continue to blog on it.

    1. I had a similar thought process. Being a taller rider, 29er made more sense. However, the Troll was even more sensible if I ever go off the beaten track. More pics and thoughts to come in the next couple of days.

      1. My front wheel on the Surly Long Haul Trucker is a new rim and SON 28 dynamo hub so would like to use that. Of course I could build the hub into a 26″ wheel but I think the Orge will meet my off-road riding needs, i.e., mainly the Munda Biddi Trail.

  2. Hi, having spent several weeks deciding on a Surly Troll frame for myself, I am looking forward to your build up and write up. Ordered the Troll on Friday, and found your site on sunday evening.
    Did the frame require the headset and BB to be faced and reamed?.

  3. Aushiker… the Ogre is a lovely bike and in a much nicer colour in my opinion 🙂

    Hi James. I did have the BB shell and headset faced… but that’s all. The fork crown was fine… nice and clean and the threads in the drop outs etc were all fine too. Hope you have fun with your Troll build. Mine may have to go on the back burner for a few weeks as it’s likely I am going to have a hefty car bill next month (!) However, I do have some more pics to add now that the wheel set has arrived and forks are fitted.

  4. Aushiker… just checked out that trail on your site. Looks a great trip and I reckon the Orgre will be in its element!

  5. Personally, I prefer the blunt orange of the Troll over the militaristic Ogre. And it stands out nicely in pics! But both have proved to be reassuringly stout bikes.
    I’m a big fan of the Orbit XLII. Mine has served me well over the years. I think the older ones had a split headset race, making swapping between a rigid fork and a suspension fork quick and easy – perfect for the likes of the Troll.

    1. Hi Cass, Thanks for dropping by. I am really warming to the Troll colour and I think I was a bit premature in my comments now I’ve been riding it for a few weeks. I too am a fan of thew Orbit headset. Another bit of kit the guys at Thorn/SJS steered me on to…

      The only disadvantage of the Troll is that it’s gets me day dreaming about places I could go on it. I’ve just got back from the Hebrides and am now itching to do some dirt road touring somewhere.

  6. I have just finished a great two months away from reality with my daughter. While I have a Thorn Nomad which in my opinion is too close to the intent of the Troll, I have long longed to try out a troll. The thing that has stopped me so far is the aforementioned overlap with my primary bike and even more – the long top tube. I am 182cm tall, but according to SJS cycles who fitted me perfectly to the Nomad, I have very long legs for my height but at the same time shorter than average arms.
    That makes sense now that they’ve told me, because the things that almost made me go to a recumbent out of desperation, was the horrible discomfort that the average top tube ratio of the average bike has put me in. I’m always too stretched out. The Troll has a long top tube but I have only ridden bikes with drops or flat bars, never a bar such as the open bar from surly. My question is …. “Does a swept back bar completely remedy a too stretched out position or are there downsides (that I’m not thinking of – which will make me regret a purchase) – versus a properly sized top tube?

    Ahh; to scratch the Troll “itch” that is the question. On my two month trip I wished that my daughter had had a different, better, bicycle. The fuji that she was riding is a horrible touring bike in the respect that it is too twitchy no matter how it is loaded, with hair trigger steering, and of course the few dirt roads which were the highlight of our trip were a zone out of place for her with her 700cc 37 tires, compared to my fat tire bliss.

    So now I can justify (perfectly) the hankering for this bike! Gotta test it right … before I buy one for her next year. 🙂 I’ve even got a spare Rohloff sitting here, humming “buy, buy, buy the troll … you wont regret it) in my ear. And that color? Nice! Then I buy a frame in her size next year and transfer parts! Not too pricey neither.

    Keep the thoughts on the Troll coming, especially where you may be comparing it to the Club Tour in the riding that you are doing now.

    ( oh … btw … her Blog is at if you want to check out our trip)

    Signed: long time fence-sitter

    1. Very good point on the reach re the Troll. Like you, I have long legs and a relatively short reach. The Troll does pose one or two set up questions but I feel I have now answered them with quite a bit of experimentation. I think the swept back bars would help in your case, but I have no practical experience. Thorn also have their physio riser bars which require a longer stem for conventional set ups so, again, may work with a more standard stem. As I say, interesting question! Will check out that link… Many thanks.

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