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Bikes. Parts. Chaos.

Our old pal and Industrial Designer Jesse left us right before New Years to start a new chapter in his life out California. To say we’ll miss him is an understatement. However, after he left, we found the following blog post about winterizing your Karate Monkey carved into the underside of his desk. Pretty impressive work if you ask me.

Anyway, here’s what Jesse’s desk had to say:

Behold, the Singlespeed Karate Monkey.

A rigid, steel 29-er, that provides ample versatility right out of the box. This KM has been primarily used for local Minneapolis single-track and the act of getting there, but has also seen the dark underbelly of the night. The attributes of the SS drive train, flat bars, and cushy 2.4” tires all lend themselves quite well to my post-bar-close behavior.

Right profile view of a Surly Karate Monkey bike, purple, leaning on a wall, next to 2 signs and green weeds behind

Alas, summer does not last forever here in Minneapolis. In fact, it hardly lasts at all. When winter comes, the roads turn to treacherous ice, snow, and slush, and like 20 hours of the day is night. This is a scenario in which the Karate Monkey lends itself quite well – notably the single speed version.

By swapping a few components and making a few adjustments, I’ve landed on a winter commuter that suits my needs quite well. If your commute involves similar conditions, some combination of these modifications may be helpful to you.


2.35” studded tires - Grabby, grippy, sticky and poky, these should do the trick. Sliding out on ice is bummer. Sliding out on ice with a car driving uncomfortably close to you is even more of a bummer. Get yourself set up with some studs.

Downward view of 2 folded and packaged 45NRTH tires laying side by side on a wood bench

Full Fenders:

You all already know what these do. When the going gets sloppy, I prefer to keep the slop on the ground and away from me. Being cold is one thing. Being cold and wet makes us lash out unreasonably at those we love.

Side view of a black front and back fenders, with mounts, on top of a workbench with tool loaded pegboard behind

8-Pack Rack w/ Petite Porteur House Bag:

The Petite Porteur House bag is the perfect size for my commuting needs, and the 8-pack rack is the perfect size for the Petite Porteur House bag’s needs. Shoes, a change of clothes (always the same thing, my closet is like a cartoon character’s) a sandwich, wallet, keys, phone, frame pump and an emergency junk strap. The removable liners that accompany the bag can be especially useful in the winter. When the weather turns weird and somehow it’s 20 degrees and raining, having my clothes and phone protected puts me at ease.

A hand holding a Surly 8-Pack rack on a wooden work bench with pegboard and tools in background
A Surly Petite Porteur House bag, black outside and lime green inside, set on a concrete floor


The front rack and bag combo can obstruct a handlebar mounted light, leaving you with a few alternative options. I’m a fan of the barrel style bolt-on light mounts. A low-cost mod that works well with lights you’ve probably already got. I’ve chosen to use one with a 90-degree bend mounted to one of the vertical barrel bosses on the 8-pack rack. This keeps the light mounted in a position that allows access to the power button and the battery indicator light. Other options include mounting to one of your forks outward facing barrel bosses.

Right side view of the bottom half a purple bike fork with a light mounted and a wheel
Downward view of the front end of a Karate Monkey bike, purple, with a Surly 8 Pack rack with a headlight attached
Close up view of a headlight mounting bracket with mount screw, laying on a wood workbench

Bottle Sleeve:

In my pursuit of the perfect winter Karate Monkey, I was faced with the challenge of keeping a bottle from freezing during a commute. Solutions include stashing bottles where they cannot be easily accessed and using largemouth screw top bottles. In an effort to keep drinking water easily accessible, I pretty much just stuck a thick can koozie on a bottle cage. Make a small cut in the bottom of the koozie, slide the back of the bottle cage inside, and bolt it to the frame.

Close up view of a orange bottle inside a bottle cage, mounted to the down tube of a Surly Karate Monkey bike, purple


Last, but certainly not least, we have pedals. For winter riding, I generally ditch my clipless pedals and put flats on my bikes – the advantages being dependability and predictability. Warm, non-cycling specific boots keep my feet happy through not-so-predictable temperature swings. The trade-off, however, is the klunkiness that comes with them. Large platform pedals with aggressive traction keep your feet pinned in place and provide a home for the large rubber boot soles. Extra-long spindles help too, getting your boots comfortably spaced from your crank arms.

Silver, studded, platform bike pedals, with one resting on the other, laying on a wood workbench

There you have it, folks. Now get to work on that winter commuter of yours before winter ends.


Right profile of a Surly Karate Monkey bike with fenders, 8 Pack rack with gear pack on top, on a snowy field with brush

Well, that’s all from Jesse. I can’t help but notice the irony of him penning a blog about the ultimate winter commuter shortly before escaping to someplace that doesn’t have winter. Well played. Anyway, here’s a nice photo of Jesse I took last year at the Arrowhead 135 of him in his matching shit green long underwear.

Told you I'd use this photo eventually, Jesse.
Told you I’d use this photo eventually, Jesse.