A review I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and the more straight and mindless sections of my 2 hour ride today let me consolidate the data; always tricky saying things like this in a way others will find accessible.
The background: two plus years ago I bought a Cdale cross bike from a friend, in preparation for a move back to Iowa for M to finish school. I thought it would be a great gravel road bike, and it was. Adding crosstop levers, and fiddling with the gearing, got me started on the bike tinkering path. 19 months ago I bought a used Gunnar Rockhound, converted into a SS. I messed around with it, replacing low quality parts with better stuff as they broke. It ended up as a rigid SS with and Eno hub and cheap alu fork. Great stuff, I’ve learned a ton riding that thing.
This fall, I wanted discs, more tire clearance, and big wheels. Steel and track ends had me picking between Juice and Monkey, and I went Juice, with a Salsa fork. The cockpit was shorter than I wanted, and the thing always felt odd, but I rode and liked it until a crack developed in the seat stay/tube weld, and I got a Monkey frameset as a replacement (the longer TT necessitated a shorter stem, more spacers, and steerer I’d cut off). In summation, the Monkey is a much better bike, a little less compliant though it may be. The whole experience has also led to question just what “compliant” means in an un-suspended world.
In the interest of objectivity, I should note that the components on both rigs, while somewhat transitory, were the same long enough to give a good comparision. Both had Midge bars, SS or 1×3/4 gears, flat pedals. Same range of tires
TT a good 1/2″ shorter than spec, ergo a long (35 degree by 13 cm) stem. Chainstays a good bit longer than the monkey. Tubeset, and fork, supposedly a bit higher end. Dropped TT.
40 degree, 10.5 cm stem, 1 cm more of spacers. It felt “intuitive” from the start in a way the Soma never did. Partly because the TT is exactly that of the Gunnar, but part I think falls into the gray area of bike zen.
-My new test for compliance is riding on washboard no-handed, watching the front end rebound. The Monkey does this less, seeming to pivot around the fork crown. The Juice pivoted around a spot 3″ behind the headtube. Has this made much difference in riding, either comfort or tracking? No. Tires and psi are much more noticeable.
-The Juice always wanted to flop sideways in the front during low speed climbing. The Monkey never has. Part me learning to ride the wheels and bars, part the bad cockpit of the Juice. The wrong numbers bug me, one of many cases that point to Soma’s less than attentive QC.
-The Monkey does not feel as “nimble” and quick to turn as the Gunnar in the driveway, but this trait is not at all noticeable on the trail. On the contrary, big wheels ride through switchbacks and rocks with calm. The Juice was constantly off on tricky handling, though with the aforementioned stability. Again, cockpit.
-The read tire of the Juice never stuck as well as I wanted it to on climbs, especially full-on out of the saddle. No matter what tire. Monkey solved this instantly, first climb of first ride. Short chainstays, baby.
-Tire clearance is equivalent, yet different. The bend in the chainstays is identical, but the Monkey’s is further back. Ergo, wheels all the way forward, the Juice wins, but halfway back in the dropouts and it’s a wash. All the way forward, a Weirwolf on a WTB Speeddisc trail doesn’t have too much breathing room, but works fine.
-Skidmark brown is a kickass color. I love brown, and it sparkles in the sun in a very root beer way.
-The Juice’s seattube bottle mount (18″) is only usable with the tiniest of bottles, a lame issues easily fixable. It’s seatstay bridge is also needlessly close to the tire, creating shitty mud issues.
-Juice has much more standover. Not an issue for long-legged short-torso’d me, but those of the opposing persuasion could well have issues with the Surly.
The Juice was good, the Monkey I’ve seriously bonded with. Greater than the sum of it’s parts, all things come together and the bike goes away. Beautiful.