|Surly's ad for the Karate Monkey circa 2003.
"How long has it been now?..."
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks
Yes! Twenty years ago this month I finally had my Karate Monkey together for the first time. Originally it was set up as a mountain bike. A single speed mountain bike, and it had 29"er wheels, natch, and I was off on a two-decade long adventure with this bicycle. This is amazing on many levels.
Let's take a moment to reflect on what exactly the Karate Monkey means to cycling in general. This was a model introduced by Surly at the 2002 Interbike Trade show. Think about that for a moment. The first 29" tire - THE TIRE - The 29"er WTB Nanoraptor, had only become available three years prior to 2002. So, as product cycles go, it stands to reason that Surly jumped on this design work fairly early, possibly before Gary Fisher (the brand and the man) introduced commercially available 29"ers in 2001. But whatever the timeline for Surly was, they got this into my hands in early 2003 and I was riding it by May. Here's a bullet point list of significant "firsts" that the Karate Monkey can lay claim to.
- It was the first single speed 29"er commercially available as a frame and fork. (There were no complete builds back then)
- It was the gateway for many curious riders like me to try a 29"er for the first time.
- It was one of the only 29'ers available at launch with the option to run disc brakes.
- It was a HUGE risk for Surly.
- It became the prototype for 29"er geometry for the next decade.
- It was probably the most copied bike by custom bike builders in history.
|The Karate Monkey as shown at Interbike in 2002.
For me personally this bike represents several "firsts" as well. Obviously, it was my first 29"er. It was also my first disc brake bike. It was my first "adult" single speed. Of course, I started out on single speeds as a youth, so that concept wasn't new to me.
It was the bike I started gravel grinding with. It was my first drop-bar 29"er. I did the longest single ride I ever have done on this bike of mine as a single speed. It's the bike I've owned the longest of any that I have now.
So, this Karate Monkey, (by the way, it still is the coolest name for a bicycle ever), means a lot to me and I vowed many years ago to never part with it until maybe when I cannot ride anymore, or it breaks or something else tragic happens.
|My Campstove Green 2003 Karate Monkey as it appeared last year
I wrote up an entire series on this bike after I had owned it a decade here on the blog. (The last of the five post series is HERE and you can search for the rest if you want as they ran consecutively in April of 2013) So, I won't belabor the point and the stories are all told here in the archives.
But I will say that I never dreamed I'd own this bike for twenty years! That's a long time. But I plan on keeping it going and doing even more riding on it. In fact, something that got screwed up somehow with a review item has kind of spurred me on to doing some more with this bike. That's coming up, so stay tuned.