Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Monkey Decade

The KM in it's original form
Intro: This year marks the tenth year I have been riding 29"ers. It also is my ten year anniversary of owning my Campstove Green Karate Monkey. There will be several posts throughout the coming months about my story with my KM and what is going to be happening to it now. Here's the first post....
March 2003: After reading about "29"ers" for the past three years I had decided that I was going to dive in head first. I needed to fund my little project I had conjured up though, and to do that, I decided to sell the only working mountain bike I owned at the time: A 1996 Bontrager Race with original Bontrager offset crown Rock Shox Judy fork.

It was a hard decision. I loved the Bontrager. It was a dream bike build with the exception of the wheels, but the wheels were kind of cool. The frame was dark, rich purple, and it came with yellow panels with red lettering. It had a genuine Bontrager stem. I had a purple American Classic seat post on it, purple Paul Motolite brakes, a black Race Face 180mm crank set, and those wheels were Cane Creek Chrono wheels with the wild looking hubs. At the time I decided to sell the bike, I had Michelin Wild Gripper tires on it- the green ones!

I was selling it down the road for an unknown. A 29"er, of which I had not actually seen, nor ridden any examples of ever. I had read enough to be convinced of it though, so with not just a little trepidation, I grabbed the $500.00 in cash and watched a fellow load up my prized bike in his truck and drive away. That was in February of 2003. Sadly, only months later the bike was stolen from its new owner and never seen again.

Prototype Karate Monkey from 2002
But I was scheming up a new rig. I first heard about the Karate Monkey when after the 2002 Interbike trade show, the news spilled out on the nascent 29"er scene online that Surly was going to put out a steel hard tail version of the 1 X 1 with big wheels. Then the name came out: Karate Monkey! Are you kidding me? It is still probably the coolest name for a mountain bike ever.  I had to have it based on the name alone.

Fortunately I had worked at my new bike shop position long enough that I was afforded the "employee discount" on the frame and fork purchase, plus the bits and pieces needed to get the thing up and rideable. There was much sweating of details concerning which parts to get, and not only that, but much to think about in terms of which size frame to order. This just about caused me not to get a frame and fork, but I finally made a decision.

The thing was, the way mountain bikes were sized was evolving from when I had gotten my last bike, back in 1996, as you might recall. In 2002, things were shifting to longer top tubes and shorter stems, ala Gary Fisher's "Genesis" geometry, which many companies were adopting. I was kind of torn between an 18" with a slightly longer stem, or the 20" with the then "new school" shorter stem. Keep in mind that to me circa 2002, a "short" stem was anything less than 135mm!

Next Up: The Karate Monkey gets built: The Original Build.


Steve Fuller said...

I haven't had mine 10 years, but I have one of those as well. It would take a lot to get me to part with it. The frame is just too versatile.

Anonymous said...

Awesome look-back into GT/KM history,Mark,can't wait to read the next installment :)

The DC

coastkid said...

Great post!, always thought the green was the best colour - color in UK spelling -:). I had a blood red KM and it was ace, for some silly reason i sold the frameset to buy a Fargo - not a bad idea but the Fargo did not tick the boxes for me and where i ride locally and yep its now sold and i just got another Monkey frameset!, a black 2012 with dropped top tube,
A very versatile, fast trail bike which puts a smile on your face and its steel so timeless...

Guitar Ted said...

@coastkid: Thank you! Yeah.....I can see from following your blog how a KM would be a better machine for where/how you ride. I think the versatility of the KM is one of its endearing traits. Big tires, single speed ability, and the rack and fender mounts come in handy as well.

I hope to rebuild mine this year. It's going to get interesting!

Steve Fuller said...

Seems like now that versatility checkbox has been moved over to the Ogre. I was a bit disappointed to see this and a bit confused as well. It's interesting that Surly decided that the market would bear that much overlap between the feature sets on those two frames.