By Jon Pratt. Photos by Jon Pratt and Justin Steiner.
Surly has long been building simple, utilitarian, steel bikes designed to do their jobs without complaint, like the Moonlander, the Cross-Check, and the Long Haul Trucker. It’s added another feather in its cap with the introduction of the Troll, a 26-inch-wheeled, off-road touring bike designed for a multitude of tasks: touring, commuting, mountain biking, hauling, and just about anything else you can think of.
The Troll is based on Surly’s 1×1 singlespeed frame, and adds rack and fender bosses, a derailleur hanger, a spot for anchoring a Rohloff hub, and holes for Surly or B.O.B. trailer mounts. You can choose to run the chromoly fork, included in the complete bike build, or throw on your own 100mm suspension fork.
Initially, I set the Troll up with fenders and a Surly rear rack to commute to work and run errands around my neighborhood. On short trips to the store it did well smooth and capable of hauling everything I needed it to. On my 12-mile pavement commute, the stock 2.3 Kenda Kiniption tires slowed me down noticeably. I did, however, enjoy the view from a more upright cockpit thanks to the swept-back Surly Open Bar handlebars.
I had the opportunity to see how the Troll would do as a touring machine on our rail-trail trip to Washington, D.C. Expecting the worst—it was March and the 345-mile off-road route can get interesting with precipitation—I threw on a Surly front rack and a set of knobbier tires. The Troll weighed 39lbs. before loading any gear, and it topped out at 94lbs. when all was said and done. So, off we went.
The Troll did pretty well on this tour. Shimano Deore front and rear derailleurs dealt with the shifting demands under the heavy load without a whimper. The saddle wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but it held its own. I did experience noticeable flex in the handlebars and some flex in the frame. While I may have been a little over-sensitive to the frame flex, the handlebars just didn’t stand up to the job. Along with their lack of stiffness, they didn’t provide enough comfortable hand positions for a long haul.
And while I enjoyed the 26-inch wheels around town and on some off-road shortcuts between destinations, I would have rather had 29-inch wheels on tour. Those touring in foreign parts may prefer 26-inch though, since 700c wheels, tires, and tubes can be scarce outside the U.S.
My experiences with loaded bike touring have taught me that how you set up your racks and disperse the weight is very important to your overall comfort and the bike’s performance. The upright riding position of the Troll means more of the rider’s weight is carried by the rear wheel, so the front rack needs to carry enough gear to offset this. While you’re at it, make sure those racks are as low as possible, close to your wheels or fenders. Initially, I had my rear rack a bit too high and experienced some shimmying from the front end as a result. Low, balanced, and well-secured gear is the way to go.
I came away from my time with the Troll both loving its multi-purpose beauty and disliking its few shortcomings. Taking the good with the bad, the Troll succeeded in its do-it-all, burly goals, but fell a little short in its commuting and touring prowess. I’d recommend it for someone interested in light touring, or needing an urban utility vehicle. Three-year warranty on the frame, one year on all the Surly parts.
- Age: 41
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 185lbs.
- Inseam: 32”
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Price: $1,399
- Weight: 30.4lbs. (without pedals)
- Sizes Available: 14”, 16”, 18”, 20” (tested), 22”
- Online: surlybikes.com