Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Surly Krampus 29+ from Maplewood Bicycle. In order to test the bike in a number of situations within a compact area, I chose Castlewood State Park, which boasts sandy bottomland, mild humps and corners, inclines and declines of varying degrees, and some technical sections on certain trails. And it’s fully doable in a few hours. Perfect.

The rigid fork and 1x crankset allowed this tweener bike (not quite a mtb, not quite a fatty) to cover a lot of ground on the flatter sections, with the 3-inch tires providing loads of inertia and traction no matter the terrain. See a rock or root in your path? Steamroll it. A turn with a sketchy berm? Shred it. The big tires also offered a bit of suspension-like cushion, which I appreciated when negotiating Cedar Bluff’s rock garden.

The bike required a lot more effort to haul uphill than my regular mountain bike, but it was post-holiday wintertime when I rode it, so I admittedly wasn’t in tip-top shape. Still, if you’re a cross-country kind of person, you’d probably want to lighten up the components some, as the stock bike weighs in at over 30 pounds.

Besides blasting the downhills — just keep loose and hang on tight — the best part of riding the Krampus was its versatility and playfulness, which let you attack old trails in new ways. I might not be ready to replace my regular bike, but having this 29+ in the stable would definitely keep things fresh and fun.

Want to test-ride the Surly Krampus 29+ yourself? Maplewood Bicycle offers a three-day demo for $100. Visit the store online at maplewoodbicycle.com.

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor of Terrain magazine