First Look: Surly Grappler - A gravel bike designed around the handlebar
The Grappler is Surly's singletrack eating, bikepacking, phantom fighting gravel bike that's been engineered primarily around a stable and comfortable drop-bar hand position. It gets fat tyres, all of the mounts for packs, and is primed to accompany you and your kit through a range of riding.
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Surly says that its engineer (or Enginerd, as Surly says), Ben Jungbauer, did things upside down when designing the Grappler as he started with the handlebars. Ben looked at the hand position on the brand's existing bikes such as the Troll, Ogre, and Karate Monkey set up with the Moloko bar. He started by determining the best position for the handlebar's drops and worked from there to create the rest of the frame. Taking this rather different approach means that the Grappler is a bit more than just a trail mountain bike with drop bars.
That's because Surly has put an awful lot of brain power into the bike's geometry to suit the hand position and what the brand was trying to achieve with the bike. Because the bike is shaped around the bar position, the reach is noticeably longer and the stack is higher than Surly's other bikes. The bike's standover was a serious focal point for the designers too as they recognise the importance of being able to easily and quickly put a foot down while riding off-road. Those particular figures measure in at 444mm and 641mm respectively on a large frame.
The steel-framed bike has had a good chunk of attention directed towards its head angle too, having been tested with a 69° and 71° window of angles before settling on the 69.5° head angle on the production bike. The brand decided on this measurement because it reckons that it offers the best mix of stability at speed and nimbleness when steering.
As touched on before, the Grappler's frame is built with Surly's Chromoly steel, Natch tubing with a double-butted front triangle. That's then paired with the Dinner Fork which uses the very same construction but comes equipped with three accessory mounts on either fork blade. This is the first bike to ever receive a Dinner Fork too.
The frame employs 'Gnot-Boost' 145mm spacing and horizontally slotted dropouts with optional vertical dumpouts. As for tyre clearance, the Grappler has space for up to a 650b x 3" (or 2.8" with a fender) or a 29x2.5" tyre with the wheel as far back in the drop out as possible. The bike's also littered with bottle mounts, with three-pack mounts found on the upper and lower downtube, and on the seat tube on all frame sizes. There are also fender mounts and accessory mounts on the seat stays.
Enough about the frame; let's talk about the built kit and on the Grappler, it's a no-nonsense affair. Shifting is provided by a MicroSHIFT Advent X drivetrain that's paired with Tektro Mira MD-C400 brakes. As standard, the bike comes with WTB ST i40 TCS 650b rims that are shod with beasty 2.5" Teravail Ehline tyres. Finally, there's a TransX dropper post with 100mm of travel and Salsa's Cowchipper handlebar.
The Grappler is available in five sizes from XS up to XL and in one colourway. It will set you back £2,200 for the full build. Surly does offer a frame and fork only option that's priced at £850.
Why put mtb gearing on a gravel bike?
Good lord! I cant get over the size of that headtube and the length of the steerer. Makes the bike look a bit like a farm gate.
Is there actually a market for such an off road focused bike in the UK - look at that tiny front ring. Cant but feel an MTB would fit this bill better.