Can the Surly Krampus Handle Snow?

The Krampus’s 29+ tires always get raised eyebrows from many of my friends, who think that my love for bikes could be considered a borderline clinical fetish, and that the ‘massive’ 3” tires on the Krampus are a bit much. But during a trip to Bend this weekend, the 3” tires met their match: snow. I have often dubbed the Krampus as the Swiss-Army Knife of bicycles, and this is true. It is the multi-tool of bikes and can handle a lot of different terrain; I just wouldn’t say that snow is the best tool in its arsenal.

This statement may be a bit harsh. Snow has many different forms, and the Krampus does just fine in hard-packed snow or groomed snow, both of which I encountered on my ride up Lava Butte and some of the surrounding area. If someone with 3” Knards was on a designated snowshoeing trail or a groomed and fat-bike approved cross-country ski trail, the Krampus would probably be fine. But as soon as those 3” tires hit ungroomed, powdery, or slushy snow, the Krampus immediately loses traction and slides around until making contact with hard-pack once again, rendering deep trail exploration a risky endeavor.

My original plan this weekend was to ride from Lava Lands Visitor Center west, on the Blackrock trail, towards Benham Falls; but because of the mixed conditions of the snow, I found it very hard going, and after about 1/8 of a mile, gave up and headed for the more hard-packed Lava Butte, cutting short my ride, but also enjoying the company of the friends who I rode to Bend with for the weekend. A pretty good compromise if you ask me.


It wasn’t long after this picture that I realized hard-pack was going to be the way to go with the Krampus.


So I met back up with my friends who were snowshoeing up Lava Butte, and getting used to the snowshoe rentals.


Getting used to the snowshoes took longer for some.


The Butte. I decided I’d ride Sherpa style, going up the Butte, and then back down to see the progress of my snowshoeing friends. It turned out to be a better workout than I first anticipated.


Water and delayering break.



At the top of Lava Butte.


I asked this guy to watch my bike while we hiked up to a Ranger Outpost at the top.


The Ranger Outpost.




On the way back down.




Overall, if on an even surface, the Krampus can slog through powdery snow, but riding in it feels like riding through knee-deep mud, and prolonged riding in such conditions would be very challenging. This being said, I do not believe that the Krampus is built for all winter conditions, and probably unsuitable for multiday snow trail riding. However, I don’t think this kind of riding was ever the intent of the 29+ platform to begin with. If riding in snow if a regular past time, 4”+ tires are necessary.


Forcing my way through some powder.


At the end of my ride up Lava Butte, I met two fatbikers who had ridden the exact trail I had planned on riding, and said that their bikes did reasonably well throughout the ride. Moral of the story: the Krampus is still the Swiss-Army Knife of bikes, but like any multi-tool, can be a bit clumsy to use when compared to the singular tools it makes up.


Surly Knards shredding the gnar.


Categories: Bikes and Gear, Pedals and Packs

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4 replies »

  1. A great post! I agree with you about the limitations of the Krampus in powdery snow having had a go a week ago. Related to that I have swapped the Knards for Maxxis Chronicles – what a difference in wet and muddy conditions. Not a pure mud tyre but a much better all rounder. Happy trails!

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