Interbike 2012 Surly Ogre Mini-Review

Surly Ogre

Surly is a brand that everyone seems to love. I have yet to meet one person that has anything negative to say about Surly. Its reputation, at least from what I’ve read online and from a couple of fixed gear friends, is that Surly is “The Stuff”. That said, the Surly booth was packed and everyone wanted to demo their bikes! It was hard to get the attention of one of the booth employees but I didn’t have to wait long to give my ID and to sign my waiver form to try out one of the bikes. After that, the guy asked me what bike I wanted to demo. Now RL had strongly suggested to try out one of the fat-tired Surlys but I was curious as to what the Surly booth employees would recommend if I asked them for a commuter bike.  I figured any of the bikes would be fine to commute on but the Ogre was quickly recommended because it was a geared bike.

Installing Pedals

Commuter Friendly? Or just bag friendly?

I tried medium-large as I like the ride and feel of a larger framed-bike, although normally I ride medium-sized bikes. My first impression within a few minutes? It was stiff and jarring. To be nice, perhaps “jarring” would be too strong of a word but I cannot say that it was anywhere near comfortable. Harsh words perhaps, but for its off-roading looks and supposed capabilities, the bike was not very comfortable to use and I never even took it on dirt paths–I just maneuvered it from the booth, which was on dirt and gravel, to the pavement marked out for those wanting to try out bikes on smoother surfaces.

Downhill fast!!!

Considering my experience with the bike on dirt paths, I wanted to see how it would perform on pavement. The route I took led me down to this hill pictured above and it rode much like a mountain bike. Totally not what I would expect from a so-called “Commuter Bike” unless of course it IS a mountain bike. On the other hand, the weight of the bike allowed it to pick up speed very fast although the tires prevented it from going faster. I wonder if the bike is a mountain bike that Surly fashions to be a commuter bike?

Avid Brakes, Shimano Deore 3x9, Salsa Handlebar

Aside from the bike having a harsh ride, there are plenty of positive things about it. One is the 17-degree bend Salsa Motoace handlebar. It was comfortable and because of my arm reach (I’m 5’10” and according to doctors, I have normal arm reach), I had a very comfortable arm bend that didn’t stretch me out. For me, if I’m on a bike that I’m stretched out on, the bike’s ride can be harsher that it should be so I’m thankful that the effective top tube was within my arm’s length reach.

160mm rotor disc brakes

As for the brakes? The brakes were mighty strong. Too strong perhaps. I don’t know if that’s a plus as it caused me to mis-handle the bike at times but I think with more practice on bikes with disc brakes, having really strong brakes is a plus. I’m used to riding with caliper brakes and disc brakes are far more powerful, as I found out, so you can see why I didn’t expect to have such a short stopping distance.

3x9 Shimano Deore, Truvativ Firex

The bike had 3 speeds in the front and 9 speeds in the back and the Shimano Deore-equipped Ogre shifted smoothly. At first, it wasn’t shifting smoothly, but after tuning up via the barrel adjuster on the trigger shifter during the ride it was all good. The top gear was a 44/11 combination. So with different tires, I’m sure that the bike can be a capable speedy bike. You may have to work out your legs because the bike is heavy but at least the gear range won’t stop you.

So overall, the bike has plenty of characteristics that would indeed make it worthy of being called a commuter bike. It’s got an upright position and is super-friendly to accessories like racks, bags, fenders as you can see below IN BOLD.

Tubing: Surly 4130 CroMoly steel. Main triangle double-butted. TIG welded
Rear dropouts: Horizontal slotted with derailleur hanger, 135mm O.L.D. Features Rohloff torque arm slot and threaded eyelets for fenders, racks and Surly trailer mounts
Brake compatibility: Disc and rim brake compatible. Disc mounts are 51mm IS Rim brake pivots are removable. Note: rear disc brake is limited to 160mm maximum rotor diameter and requires the use of Surly caliper adapter
Braze-ons: Full-length Surly Trip Guide housing line guides for derailleurs and brakes; two sets of water bottle cage mounts, removable post cantilever pivots; upper seatstay threaded barrels, mid- and low-blade fully threaded through-blade fork eyelets; threaded holes for racks, fenders and trailer mounting nuts; Rohloff OEM2 axle plate mounting slot
Chainring clearance: 26/36/46t
Tire clearance: 29 x 2.5″. Individual tire and rim combos affect tire clearance
Fork: TIG-welded 4130 CroMoly, 80mm suspension corrected, tapered straight blade. Low- and mid-blade fully threaded through-blade rack eyelets; fender mount eyelets at dropout; 1-1/8″ x 260mm threadless steer tube, 51mm disc mount (203mm max. rotor diameter), removable cantilever pivots, line/housing guides


Bottom line? Because of the straight-blade fork and the way the frame is designed, the ride quality is hard to ignore. I like the bike fine but I would look elsewhere for a commuter bike to purchase unless of course you outfit the bike with a Thudbuster seatpost and installed a fork with better damping quality.

Sorry Surly…I didn’t mean to take away anything from your otherwise stellar word of mouth reputation.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.


  1. Ghost Rider

    I have a hard time classifying the Ogre as a commuter bike…it has a lot of the features we desire in commuter bikes (the mounting points for all the accessories and doodads most commuters clamor for), but I’d put the Ogre smack-dab into the “adventure touring” category…heavily-loaded offroad touring.

    Surly’s more road-friendly offerings like the Crosscheck, the LHT, and even the Pacer are probably much better suited toward service in a commuter capacity…and that’s where all those loyal Surly riders live.

  2. John h

    The bike looks nice for commuting but that bag looks freakin’ awesome, what can you tell me about it?

  3. Hermes (Post author)

    @John h
    Now that you ask, I wish I had tried it but I honestly didn’t get a chance to even zip open the bag. =(

  4. Aaron

    I must be used to really rough riding bikes because I thought the ogre rode like a beast. One ride was enough to convince me to pick it for my next bike for full time commuting sport rides and mountain biking. Being a larger rider I appreciate the feeling of heavy duty parts beneath me so that could be where I differ.

  5. Hermes (Post author)


    To be fair, I’m used to smoother riding bikes but given that I just test-rode a KHS Carbon Fiber Mountain Bike and the Salsa Fargo (I also mini-reviewed it) an hour before at the Interbike Outdoor Demo, it’s ride quality was very noticeable.

  6. dgaddis

    Agree with Ghost Rider, Surly makes several other much better commuter bikes. The Ogre is a mtn bike that happens to fit fenders and racks, just like the Fargo was. (hint: mtn bike tires = mtn bike lol)

    What sort of tire pressure did you have? That could easily explain the rough feeling ride. It’s hard to imagine a bike with 2.3″ wide tires at the correct pressure riding rough.

    The bag is either made by, or a copy of, Revelate Design Works (google it!). They make top notch bikepacking gear, including custom frame bags. I know they’re making some bags specifically for some Salsa bikes (like the Fargo), so it’s not a stretch to assume they made the one on this bike as well.

  7. Matt

    Ditto everything dgaddis just said. I’d assume Revelate made this bag (Hermes, if you’ve got the large version of your first image you can maybe figure this out?).

    On the suggestion of a fork w/ more rake/flexy-ness – ain’t gonna happen. The Ogre is meant to tackle serious off-road stuff as well as on-road – which means the fork needs to be stiff enough not to flex too much either after a drop/jump or under really hard braking. Many people complain about most steel forks saying they’re not stiff ENOUGH. I know that if I brake really hard on my (all-rigid steel) Monocog, I can watch the bottom of the fork bend at least a half inch (maybe more, hard to measure when I’m braking hard!).

  8. Ghost Rider

    The straight blade Kona P2 fork on my Xtracycle flexes under even moderate braking, and it’s pretty beefy.

    On a proper commuter, a flexy fork will add a wee bit of comfort to the equation, but the Ogre is designed as dgaddis and Matt suggest. A flexy fork would be a killer on rough trails.

  9. dgaddis

    Not to mention anything with disc brakes needs a stiff fork if you value your teeth 😀

  10. Dalton

    I actually own an Ogre and only commute on it and absolutely love it. I have it set up with Big Apples and a Surly Open Bar to make it more commuter friendly. I really have no issues with it at all and have ridden it around 800 miles so far since I got it finished in June. I used to ride aluminum, so the steel was hard to adjust to with the weight and flex, but now that I have been on it for a while, I don’t want anything else.

  11. Zeitlupe

    Dalton, thanks. I have had my eye on the Ogre as an all around bike but mostly for commuting. I can’t come up with another 29er that has the appeal along with the ability to run fenders.

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