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Surly Bikes Presents Grappler

Grappler Is Our Dedicated Drop-Bar Trail Bike
We built Grappler for quick-and-dirty bikepacking trips — weekend excursions, weeknight romps, and spontaneous off-road escapes.

Surly Grappler loaded for bikepacking: frame pack, seatpack, handlebar bag, small front rack, mountains in background

We built it for all-day dirt rides on single track, fire roads, gravel, and game trails.

Person riding Grappler with small frame pack on forest singletrack, leaves on the ground

But most of all we built it because we wanted a beast of a bike with trail-ready geo optimized around a stable and comfortable drop-bar hand position.

Surly Grappler bike side view, propped up on double-track road, wildflowers and plants in background

What Does “Optimized” Even Mean?

It means Surly Enginerd Ben Jungbauer did things kinda upside-down and backwards when it came to designing Grappler.

“Generally I don’t start with the handlebars when I design a bike,” Ben says. “But with this one I looked at the hand position on bikes like Troll, Ogre, and Karate Monkey set up with our Moloko Bar. I started from there by saying ‘Here’s where the drops should be,’ and then I duplicated that hand position in a 2D sketch. I worked backward to structure the frame around that hand position, making sure the head tube was the right height and the stack and reach were correct.”

“Working from a given hand position with a certain type of bar and then designing a bike around that — that was a unique approach.” Some might call it sorcery.

Frame drawing of Grappler showing angles and geometry measurements

Person riding Grappler off-road in forest, hands in the drops of the handlebar

Conjuring the Appropriate Geo

Grappler follows the general fit and sizing scheme of our trail line — five sizes from XS to XL to fit most riders. If you ride a medium Karate Monkey, Krampus, or other Surly bike, you’ll ride a medium here.

But since it’s engineered for a drop bar, the reach is longer and the stack is higher. “Standover was a major consideration, too,” says Ben. “Especially for off-road uses, it’s gotta be easy to get on and off or put a foot down when you need to.”

Person riding Grappler bike with small frame pack, seat pack, and handlebar bag in forest across small wooden bridge

Dialing the head tube angle was also key. Matter of fact, Ben and Surly Industrial Designer Andrew Ford took a three-day trip to Arizona in February 2020 to test out a two-degree window between 69 and 71.

Armed with AngleSets — a threadless headset that makes it easier to change up your MTB’s head angle — they made steep climbs on loose rock and ripped downhill on twisty single track. Then they adjusted their head tube angles and rode some more, crossing creeks and dodging snowbird hikers on bootleg trails along the way.

“Testing it out with a steeper head tube angle as well as a slacker angle helped us work out a lot of kinks,” Ben says. “We came back from that trip with our recommendations, and then we recruited more test riders so we could learn about their preferences.”

“We were all over the map, but we ended up at 69.5 degrees,” Ben says. “It offers the best mix of nimble steering and control on descents and at higher speeds. You’re not gonna get understeering on a corner like you would if it was super slacked-out. At the same time, it’s not so steep that going down a big roller is going to make you feel like you’re going straight over the handlebars.”

Person out of the saddle descending rocky forest trail section on Surly Grappler, hands in the drops

“We had a huge range of product testers and fit testers,” Surly Product Manager Amy Kippley adds. “They evaluated a combination of different heights, standover, bar and stem combos, and more. We made sure this bike could be built up in the ‘Make it Your Own’ fashion in a variety of builds, but still feel comfortable for the smallest and tallest riders.”

You see, it’s not just a drop bar on a trail bike. Fit, handling, hand position, and experience all come together with Grappler’s trail DNA to deliver a fun, scrappy, and nimble drop-bar experience.

Whether you’re looking for more hand positions and a new perspective on familiar single track, or you simply like how drop bars feel on your bikepacking rig, you can go wherever the spirit moves you.

Person riding Grappler loaded for bikepacking on forest singletrack, going around banked corner

Frame Features

  • Built from our proprietary ‘Natch tubesets to handle rough terrain, the 100% Chromoly steel frame has a double-butted main triangle with top tube and down tube gussets for added strength
  • Its 1-1/8” headtube is non-suspension corrected, but with clearance for meaty rubbers up to 27.5 x 2.8”, you can get plenty of cushion without running a squish fork
  • New custom-designed horizontal-slotted dropouts allows both single-speed and internally geared hub setups
  • Our versatile Gnot-Boost rear spacing allows you to run 142mm or 148mm hubs
  • Front and rear thru-axles for ideal stiffness and handling
  • Stealth dropper post routing
  • Rack and fender compatibility, plus 3-pack mounts at the top and bottom of the down tube, and bottle bosses on both sides of the seatstays (no seat tube bottle mounts on XS frames)

A note on the seatstay mounts: “We haven’t done accessory mounts on the seatstays before,” Ben says. “I’ve carried bottles back there, a Nalgene for refills. I even used Problem Solvers Bow Ties to carry a fishing rod tube.”

Want to mount a small tool bag back there or some other receptacle for precious sundry? You can do that with easy access and adequate foot clearance.

Close-up of Grappler complete bike drive-side dropout, showing seatstay water bottle/accessory mount

View from rear of Grappler bike with seatstay water bottle mounted on drive-side

The Surly Dinner Fork

Debuting on the Grappler is the all new Surly Dinner Fork, a 100% Chromoly steel specimen with dual rack/fender mounts and 3-pack accessory mounts on each fork blade.

Available aftermarket in a terrifying shade of Black — or Sage Green to match Grappler’s frame — our Enginerd Ben says it’s a “total brick shithouse.” Quote. If you think you might like to run it on your current Surly for a thought-provoking new experience, or throw it on a different rig to unlock some off-road or gear-hauling capabilities, check out all the numbers and figures on the product page or talk to one of your mechanic friends at the local bike shop.

Close-up side view of Surly Dinner Fork accessory mounts and dropout with fender, and rack mounts

Side angle view of Dinner Fork on Grappler complete bike

Side angle front view of Surly Grappler bike loaded for bikepacking with water bottles, frame pack and front rack

A serious steel fork like this one is less likely to cause headaches when you’re out of cell range, but if the trails you’ve got in mind require a sus fork’s extra squish, we offer Karate Monkey and Krampus to satisfy those desires.

Other Noteworthy Attributes Explained

You can find full spec for Grappler here, but we’ve got a few highlights ready for those of you who are wary of clicking suspicious links:

  • microSHIFT ADVENT X 1x10 group, with an 11-48t range for capable climbing
  • TranzX shifter-activated dropper post for a stable, confident hand position when the trail gets scary
  • Salsa Cowchipper Handlebars for leverage and comfort
  • WTB rims paired with 27.5 x 2.5” Teravail Ehline tubeless-ready tires

View of front wheel/tire and Dinner Fork on Grappler complete bike, outside on gravel road

Get Out of Town

We got to yakking in the Group Chat about where Grappler thrives. Surly Propagandist Daniel Steel described an all-day mixed-surface ride. “I’d start in the city and then ride further out. That comfortable drop bar is going to lend itself to longer times in the saddle and different hand positions, and the bike has the geo and capabilities to get into more off-road riding as you go out.”

Person riding dusty gravel road on loaded Grappler on sunny day, thick forest in background

Amy offered up a tasty recipe for a weekend camping trip featuring gravel, B roads, and legitimate MTB trails.

Two tents set-up side by side at campsite, person a door of tent, bikes parked against trees

When it was Ben’s turn to go, he was already gone, well on his way to some gnarly forest roads with a full load of camp provisions.

Grappler leaning against tree in forest with seat pack, framepack, handlebar bag, front rack, and two water bottles

Last but not least, one of our long-term test riders, Renaldo, has been riding his size-medium Grappler wherever the hell he feels like. “It’s been awesome on trails and it was frickin’ sick on gravel. My kid has started riding mountain bikes, so I’ve been chasing him around too. Even with a front rack and bag for my commute, it cruises well, handles well, and feels intuitive.”

Try out one of these scenarios or dream up some weird shit on your own. It’s always up to you.

Parting Thoughts

Numerous challenges presented themselves throughout Grappler’s development. You’re familiar with the pandemic and supply chain disruptions, no doubt. Even something as elemental as sourcing tubing was challenging at times, and for a while it looked like we could get only framesets or complete bikes — not both.

We’ve also been dealing with a mischievous spirit haunting the mini fridge at Surly HQ, and nothing we’ve done to date has dislodged the thirsty apparition from its adopted home. We must be burning the wrong kind of sage.

Suffice it to say this is one of the most difficult periods of time to develop new product, and Surly thanks you for the patience and understanding you’ve extended to us and our shop partners.

Person riding Grappler on forest trail pulling wheelie