Surly Ogre

This is not a bike review. Even if it were, it wouldn't be. I don't really know enough about the technical aspects or aesthetics of bikes to properly review them or compare them or even put them in some kind of context. There are probably lots of people on the internet who do and I bet they are capable of mustering some very strong opinions to accompany their very deep knowledge of these things. If you'd like to read stuff like that, I'm certain that you could easily find them. But I digress.

WHEN I think about bikes, like all people, I think first and foremost of Emily Dickinson. [Ed. note: insert bad pun about the Belle of Amherst.] Obviously. [Ed. note: insert reference to the fact that you can recite ED's poems to the theme from Gilligan's Island. Research whether the Professor taught at a small Massachusetts liberal arts college.] And lest we get too morbid about bikes and Dickinson, this isn't some reference about stopping for Death or death stopping for me- the Ogre has disc brakes and stops just fine. Even in the rain. No, the reason Dickinson comes to mind is the following:
The Heart wants what it wants - or else it does not care -
I didn't intend to buy a Surly Ogre. It's really quite a brash bicycle and in general, I'm not especially drawn to brashness. I like things to be muted, to be understated, to be 'classic.' I don't like wearing shirts with logos on them, even if they're tiny specks on the breast pocket. I like dark colors. I dye my hair a boring-er shade of brown than it naturally is because I just plain don't want to stand out. I'm inclined toward the humdrum. Have nice things, but nothing too flashy. The Ogre is flashy. The Ogre is what happens if you went to 3D print a bike and left the printer's setting on "exaggerated." It has giant tires. It is beefy. It is beefier than a paleo Bolognese sauce served over a steak on top of a pile of hamburgers. The Ogre suggests that it could be ridden over things and into things and through things. It looks like the kind of bike you'd want to have in case of a zombie apocalypse. Maybe you'd use to ride away from the zombies or maybe you'd grab a chainsaw and use it to ride headlong into them. It's the kind of bike that makes you think writing "grab a chainsaw and use it to ride headlong into them" seems like a prudent response to a hypothetical zombie apocalypse scenario.

I didn't intend to buy a Surly Ogre. I saw it in the shop one day and took it for a test ride on a lark. A lark! It was solid and responsive and I brought it back and told them how much fun it was to ride. And then a few weeks later, I found myself taking it out again. This winter was a tough winter. The spring has seen the birth of many new potholes and I think that maybe the part of my brain the normally eschews over-the-top bicycle purchases was jarred and jostled after riding into one too many of them. Maybe that part of my brain came loose and said to the other parts of my brain "Listen fellas, we gotta do something about this. If we can't convince him to just take the bus to work, maybe we can at least get a less bumpy ride." And then maybe all of those brain parts worked in concert to draw me back to the Ogre and convince me that the things I would normally find to be comic and unnecessary were actually sublime and needed. Or maybe I went to a hypnotist, like in Office Space. I don't know exactly what happened, but I do know that I was determined to have the Ogre and- after much hemming and hawing between the jostled brain parts and the unjostled ones- circumstances conspired to allow me to purchase the bike and so I did.

I plan to use this bike primarily for commuting in an urban environment. It is unlikely that I will find myself riding it in the middle of the taiga or the desert or bush or anywhere extreme and desolate and unpeopled and demanding. I will be riding it mostly on city streets. Maybe on a mixed-use path. I'll take it uphill everyday (FUN FACT: it's not a super agile climber, but neither am I) and I'll load it up with groceries during the trip home. It will more the suit the task and has thus far. In no particular order, here are some things I really like about this bike:

- Disc brakes means that I can stop, especially in bad weather. As a year-round bike commuter, I appreciate that.

- Big tires means it's a pretty cushy ride. Did I say cushy? I might've meant crush-y. You could probably crush things with them, though I've yet to do so.

- Rack and fender mounts mean that it can manage a rack (or two) and fenders, which are essential for any kind of commuting bike (in my opinion)

- The funky Jones bars are funky.

- That it's a Surly and that I think that means something. I guess I've developed some brand loyalty after riding the CrossCheck for a few years. They're probably not the "best" bikes in the world, but I think that they hit the cross-section of functionality, attractiveness, customizability, and price pretty much right.

The heart wants it wants. Is this bike somewhat superfluous? Sure. Do I think it's essential that urban bike commuters take a maximalist approach and only ride to work on giant-ass, off-roady monster bikes? Not at all. It's actually a pretty silly thing to do and there are many more bikes that are much more suitable to do the kinds of things the vast majority of bike commuters, including me, would ever want to do. Will this bike inspire me to off-road adventures? Maybe! (read: maybe not. Unless off-road adventures are redefined to mean riding through the grassy median into the Safeway parking lot instead of on the driveway) But in the mean time, it's a damn fun bike and if I believe in anything, it's that you have to make your own fun. You should also make your own salad dressing. It's much cheaper. Especially vinaigrettes. Some pictures (of the bike, not salad dressing) below:

Yup. It's a bike.

Still a bike from this angle.

Hey look, that bike again.

Foregound: bike. Background: different bike.

Where you sit.

That bike from those other pictures is capable of transporting some donuts


  1. Midlife crisis? Dying your hair and buying a big-ass bike? But if someone gotta do it, I'm glad it's you. If it's any consolation, it's cheaper than buying a Porsche.

    Very nice bike!

  2. My commuter is my off road bike. Not as off road as the Ogre but a beefy tire Cross Check, and it a good solution, unless you have enough money and room for more bikes than I can handle.

  3. @anniebikes- I'd like to think that it's more of a mid-spring crisis than a midlife one. And way cheaper than a Porsche (and perhaps with bigger tires too!)
    @New England Bicyclist- I thought about putting some bigger tires of my Cross Check and continuing to use that as my primary commuter. The Cross Check probably is just the perfect bike for all kinds of bike commutes and I think one of the most versatile. The reason I ultimately didn't is because I wanted to dip my toes into the world of disc brakes (I've become very paranoid about being able to stop lately) and getting a Straggler (the Surly CrossCheck + discs) probably would've done the trick, I felt like that would've been too similar to what I've got now. Variety is the spice of life and all that. As a result of now commuting on the Ogre, I've stripped down the CrossCheck to make it more of a "go fast" bike, but I've yet to take it out in any attempt to see if I can make it go fast.

    1. The Criss Check can be a fast bike. I've taken mine on 60 mile road rides and have been happy with its performance.

      I see your point about having similar kinds of bikes and testing the disc brake waters. With a IF Club Racer and a CC, I have two similar bikes though one is definitely preferred as the go fast, go long bike and the other is the go over anything bike.

  4. Well, if it's any help, I don't consider that brash. That's just a good, sturdy bike. I use a mountain bike when I want that sort of sturdiness, but then the mountain bike is a slow pig on the roads so I'm usually dodging glass and holes on a road bike instead. While I don't believe in fenders myself (though I have been assured that they do exist alright), whatcha got there is a good bike for urban commuting. May it always be a joy to ride.


  5. It's brash. I mean, when you start with a bike branded "Surly", what do you expect?

    If there were a bike branded "P_ss Off", I'd probably buy two.

  6. I'm waiting to hear how this works for you. I've been thinking about getting a bike like this for commuting, and I'm wondering what your experience will be like. Please post more :)