Surly Troll Review-Getting Lost in Montana and Canada

by Bill Poindexter July 2017

I recently completed a 22 day, 1250+ mile, self contained bike packing tour from Missoula, MT up into Canada much of which was on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Primarily the roads were gravel, forest service roads, minimal maintenance,  single track, and pavement. This is my Troll review from that trip.

When buying a bike I look for these things: Durability, minimal maintenance, utilitarian options, and looks. The Troll met all requirements-and then some.

For specs go to Surly Troll website:

I love my Surly Troll and feel like I could take it anywhere: pavement, single track, gravel, it can adapt to most terrain. Truly it is a bicycle you can take to the ends of the Earth and –get lost!

The only thing I don’t like, yes there is always that, is the horizontal dropouts for the rear wheels. Surly says they did it this way for other options-single speed, Rolf Hubs, and other cool things I most likely wont use. I prefer vertical dropouts. But then again-options.

Other considerations and thoughts: I used a Surly Rack. I like the entire eyelet options for water bottle cages and anything cages. The fact there is the option to ditch the disc brakes and go with old school brakes is appealing especially if traveling in a 3rd world country. 26in wheels VS 29ers-well that is just personal preference, although again in a 3rd world country 26in wheels are said to be easier to obtain.  If you want one bike that can do everything well that is extremely durable, cost effective, and will have little, if any, maintenance issues the stock Troll is an excellent option.  I met many people on the road with Trolls who were happy with their choice. Surly has other excellent choices as well for your cycling needs but the Troll met mine.

One last thing, I did not realize how much this bike meant to me at the end of the trip, until I got off the train and Amtrak told me they could not find my bike. Now I am a simple man, I don’t do the whole material possession thing, but when I was told that my heart sunk as though I just lost my best friend-we had just spent the last 22 days, 1250+ miles exploring multiple national parks and forest over terrain that would scare a Grizzly, but we did it and survived. Over the next few days I came to realize how connected I became to the Troll on the trip. This confidence it gave me on the tour was amazing, sure it was partly me, but not worrying about the durability of my bike, well, that was priceless for a bikepacker like myself. I got it back three days later, but without explanation. I like to think it wanted to have its own adventure.

Surly Troll Bike Packing

Bill and his Surly Troll

Overall: the Surly Troll handled well over the myriad of terrain it was put on.

Safe ride: whether climbing on loose gravel for 15 miles or bone jarring descents, I felt completely safe with the Troll’s abilities. One reason was Jones Bars: They gave me wonderful control on the down hills, and a great feel on the climbs the wide bars helped open my chest so plenty of oxygen could get into my lungs. They took me awhile to get use but once comfortable I adapted-I won’t go back.

The Micro Shifters: Simple minimal maintenance. Options to make them friction so no adjustments needed-I liked that a lot!

Gearing: The 27 gears gave me enough options for any terrain, there were some hike/bike sections on the GDMBR and some of the other trails I rolled over, but for the most part I was able to stay on the Troll.

Seat-WTB: I really like standard seat that comes with the Troll, plenty of cushion and most riders I came across, like myself, wore regular clothes and no padded bike shorts.

Steel Frame: Heavy-yes. But as they say, “Steel is real.” Tough and absorbs road shock well. Tough tough tough!

Brakes: I love the disc breaks. With all the downhill sections I would have worn out pads, but the disc brakes perform excellent. I did have to replace the rear caliper but that was only because I did not adjust them properly in the first place. Your local mechanic should teach you how to adjust them as needed.

Wheels and tires: I used my own custom wheels but my tires were the Surly Extraterrestrial 2.5s. They proved to be a great choice for the rough roads- I just lowered the tire pressure and rolled comfortably. When on pavement for long stretches I would pump up the tires and glide smoothly. I was able to ride with other cyclists who were on slicks. The rear tread wore down quickly-2000 miles, but that was expected considering the differences in terrain. Openly: I beat the crap out of tires and had ZERO flats-will use them again.

Surly Troll

Bill on a fire road

surly troll

Bill bike packing