Review: The Burly Surly

Hardtails… You’ve gotta love em, the versatility they give you to handle tough terrain. The reliability of them not having many moving parts unlike their full suspension counterparts. To truly feel the trail, and to improve as a rider you need to spend some time on a hardtail.

This weekend I have been spending my time on the SURLY karate monkey that has been loaned to us by Tony Butterworth cycles.

The specs:

Frame: SURLY karate monkey.
Fork: Rockshox, 120mm.
Groupset: SRAM GX 12 speed.
Brakes: HOPE tech 3.
Tyres: Schwalbe magic mary (F). Schwalbe rock razor (R).
Handlebars: Joystick 740mm
Seatpost: ks lev 100mm.

First ride:

The first trip for this bike was Parkwood springs, a cracking little loop in Sheffield, blue graded trail with red off shoots and a real blast on any bike. The monkey felt immediately at home, with the 740mm bars allowing you to whip it around with ease. The was so much fun to ride downhill, easy as pie to jump and rail berms on due to it’s light and nimble nature. The most fun hardtail I have ridden in a long-time round Parkwood.

On the climbs the bike felt nimble and agile, easy to pick up speed. Parkwood is only a short course so no real lung busting climbs to test the big dish GX cassette on today. Parkwood contains several twisty corners to ride up and it did feel nice not riding the big 780mm bars I am used to be honest. All in all, a very whippy enjoyable bike to ride on these trails.

Second ride:

For the second ride on the Parkwood I wanted to get a bit more distance in, over more rugged and natural terrain. So, it was over to the usual testing ground for any bike I ride. Wharncliffe crags, Grenoside woods and back. A 15-mile loop with about 2000ft of climbing.

The bike feels good, at first were climbing up fire roads and single track and it feels at home. The bike is a true joy to ride on single track climbs, narrow, nimble and easy to manoeuvre when your blowing on long climbs with terrain to climb up and over.
On the descents, this is where the bike would be tested. Wharncliffe is rooty, rocky and steep, Greno is fast and flowy but has been exposed over the winter so hardtails weaknesses do show here.

Taking it down loose rocky terrain is interesting, still fun but you do know your on a hardtail. It’s a pure feeling you can never escape from. The 740 bars felt twitchy; as someone who is used to a more stable 780mm bar the difference here was well known. But, this is the trade off you get for the nimble nature of narrower bars. The bike handled Greno woods and DH3 well to be honest. Yes, you knew you were on a hardtail but it never felt under biked. The same for the natural terrain on the crags as well. A very capable hardtail that handled everything I threw at it and could have probably have taken more. It was a pleasure to ride and I buzzed off the ride when I’d done, so that’s a success.

The verdict:

I’m not going to review this bike based on size, geometry etc etc because It wasn’t a bike supplied specifically for my body size to test. It was a demo bike that was a custom build for Henry at Tony Butterworths. However, I will talk about the build quality and the excellent choice of components on the bike.

The bike has a pure feel to it but maintains modern status with those hope tech three brakes and the bang up to date SRAM GX groupset. It looks and feels like a jump bike making it a delight to throw around on trails, and with that SRAM cassette on the back it feels like it climbs with ease. So you don’t mind getting it back up there for another run.
The build quality on this bike is top notch, as you would expect from the guys at Butterworths. I had 0 issues with it over the course of the three days I had it. The bike felt solid, well put together and the components on the bike felt like they had been chosen to suit the bike perfectly.

All in all when I look at this bike the first word I think of is FUN. And, that’s perfect to sum this bike up. It’s not only a fantastic hardtail, but it’s also a fantastic mountain bike that can be thrown all over the trail and leave you feeling like it can take more. It will leave you grinning on the blues and buzzing with adrenaline that your taking a hardtail down the full suspension turf.

An expertly crafted, well thought out custom spec bike from Tony Butterworths and an absolute top-notch weekend on a cracking little bike.

Side note: I literally picked up a new bike of my own this weekend, and it kept me off that… So that’s worth something.

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