Building a Surly Ogre: Back to Basics

Here I am building another bike. I had way too much fun building the Salsa Fargo this past spring and I couldn’t wait to get started building another bike. It just so happened that Mrs. Trouble was looking for something a little different than her Trek hybrid. Mrs. Trouble wanted something utilitarian, a bike that she could run errands with, come with me on on shorter bike rides, and commute to work on sunny days… and that looked cool. I wanted to build her something reliable that required minimum maintenance. After some deliberation and research, we settled on a Surly Ogre frame. This trialed and proven frame seemed to be the perfect canvas for this bike: it’s truly multi-functional and versatile.

The first step in the process of building a bike is to figure out if the frame (or the build) will fit the rider right. None of the local shops had an Ogre in stock, meaning a test ride was out of the equasion. Luckily, one of the shops had a medium sized Pugsley – Ogre’s fat tire sibling. After Mrs. Trouble’s first ride on the Pugsley, I figured that the Jones Loop bar (not present on the Pugsley) and a shorter stem would make the Ogre a perfect fit.

Surly Ogre Badge

Sourcing the Parts

I headed to my LBS to talk to Jon, my friendly rep at Motorless Motion. Even though I source all the parts from many different online (national and international) retailers, I make a point to source the frameset from a local bike shop, making sure I’m supporting the local economy and also paying back for the valuable tips I get from Jon. Surly didn’t have any Ogre’s in stock, which and the frame took about a month to arrive – not too bad.

While I was waiting for the frame to arrive, I started working on the parts list. The main goal for this build to be a no-frills ride, in my mind, it meant an 1X (no front derailleur) setup was a necessity. Fortunately, SRAM had just released their NX line of components, making 1X setups more affordable. There was only one problem with this new groupset: availability. I could not find it anywhere stateside. Soon after doing some research though, I found that many of the German online retailers had plenty of NX parts available.

Buying Bike Parts from International Retailers

Surprisingly enough, buying parts from international retailers is just as easy as buying from US-based online stores. Of course there are some drawbacks, like the somewhat prohibitive shipping costs to return large items. The inherent increased risk of purchasing parts from abroad is, in a lot of cases, offset by the much lower prices, specially when discounting VAT (Europe’s version of sales tax). Shipping and handling costs are on par with US-based stores, with many offshore retailers sweetening the deal by offering free shipping to the US on orders above a certain threshold. I have received packages from international retailers faster than shipments from Jenson. Yeah, sure, things can get delayed in customs, but based on my experience, most items get released from customs in just a few days.

Components for Surly Ogre Build

During my research, I noticed international retailers have more options for buying the whole groupset, as opposed to buying the individual parts, than stateside retailers. Many will actually let you build your own groupset, giving you discounts as you add items to the shopping cart.

Here’s a list of all the parts and where they were purchased.

FRAME2016 Surly Ogre - MediumMotorless Motion (LBS)
FORKSurly OgreMotorless Motion (LBS)
STEMTruvativ Stylo T20 - 60mm; 5 degree
HANDLEBARH-Bar Jones Loop - 710mm wideJones Bikes
BRAKESShimano XT M785Chain Cycle Reaction
SHIFT CABLENovara branded JagwireREI
SEATPOSTTruvativ Stylo T30Ebay
SADDLEBrooks C17 S RustyChain Cycle Reaction
HUBSSRAM MTH 506 (wheelset)
RIMSWTB Speed Disc i23 (wheelset)
RIM TAPEVeloxMotorless Motion (LBS)
FRONT/REAT TIRESSpecialized BoroughErik's (sorta LBS)
GRIPSVans WafflesTrail This (LBS)

Decision Process

The parts list for the build was geared towards making this Surly Ogre as comfortable of a ride as possible. The Brooks C17 S not only matches the look I wanted for this bike but also fits the bill in the comfort department. The flexible vulcanized rubber is supposed to absorb some of the minor bumps on the road and Mrs. Trouble likes it so far. In order to give this bike a more natural, slacker fit, I designed the cockpit around the Jones Loop handlebar with a shorter-then-usual (60mm) stem. Mrs. Trouble is able to hold on to the handlebar ends when she wants a more upright position but she’s still able to reach farther up front for a racier position if she so desires.

Another consideration was whether to use cable actuated disc brakes, but the Shimano XT hydraulic brakes are so affordable that it swayed my decision into not using cable disc brakes. To round off the build, I went with Race Face Chester composite pedals. These pedals are really lightweight, have a sizable platform area, and are probably just as burly as a metal pedal (considering the intended use).

The coolness factor was increased a little bit by adding a splash of color to this build. The red Crane Creek 110 headset was a natural match to the tanish gray frame. I thought about using red cable housing for the rear shifter/derailleur, but decided to go with the more traditional black. Right now, as you can see in the pictures below, the headset spacers are all red, but I have plans to swap them out for black spacers for a more subtle look.

The Build


This time, I had a little helper in the workshop: my dad. As usual, I cracked a beer open and got building. Having an extra set of hands is definitely helpful and having someone else to share a great beer with, is just perfect.

Here’s yours truly fitting the Specialized Borough tires on the WTB Speed Disc i23 rims. Brand new tires look so shiny and pretty. They smell good too.

Finally Done

Surly Ogre Build

I really like the way this Surly Ogre came out. Like I’ve mentioned, I’ll consider swapping the red headset spacers for black ones, making the cockpit more neutral. The simplicity of the SRAM 1X system is definitely something I’ll consider using again in future builds.

A closeup of how the 700x45C tires fit on the Surly Ogre. Mrs. Trouble has approved the feel of these tires, based on preliminary rides. She likes the extra grip they offer when cornering, specially compared to the slick tires on her hybrid bike.


How does this Work Anyway?

People say you learn something new every day, and the day I built the Surly Ogre wasn’t any different. This bike was all about comfort and dialing in the perfect fit for Mrs. Trouble. It’s pretty easy to swing a leg over a bike and assess the fit yourself (at least, I think it’s easy), but it’s a whole nother ballgame when you have to asses how a bike frame/build will fit someone else. I had to tweak the handlebar height more than I have had to do in the past and I also had to try out two different stem lengths. Mrs. Trouble is very happy with how the Surly Ogre fits her. She has mentioned a few times now that she has never felt so comfortable on a bike before. Happy wife, happy life.

SRAM shifters and Shimano brake levers aren’t really like mussels and frites. Actually, they are more like warm beer on a hot summer day – not an ideal situation, but good enough to get through the day. Mrs. Trouble hasn’t complained about the difficulty in reaching for the shifter levers, but if she does, I’ll look into adding Problem Solver’s MisMatch adapter to… solve this problem.

The seat tube on the Surly Ogre is curved, which doesn’t play well with some longish seatposts. The 400mm TruVativ seatpost was bottoming out on the curved tube, limiting the range in seat height adjustment. After a short trip to Ace Hardware to buy a hacksaw, I fixed this problem by making the seatpost some 50mm shorter.

The Conclusion

Mrs. Trouble is pretty happy with how her bike turned out and she’s even excited about taking an overnight biking trip. This bike will serve her for many years to come.

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11 Responses

  1. Shawn Kahl says:

    I’m working on building an Ogre right now and this story is proving to be super helpful. Thank you!

  2. Hayden says:

    Yep same. I have the same model Ogre and I’d like to convert it to 1X (from 3 x 9). I’m looking into SRAM Eagle (12 spd). Interested to hear if anybody has done this conversion too.
    Well done, bike looks great Andre.

    • André says:

      You can definitely convert to 1X. Just keep in mind that you’ll need a SRAM XD Driver compatible freehub to convert your rear hub to an Eagle setup. The Eagle cassettes won’t fit on a Shimano-compatible freehub.

  3. Hayden says:

    Awesome Andre thanks.
    After thinking about your setup, I may go with 11 speed to save the bucks… with Eagle being less than a month old it is still pricey.
    My other question is in regards to the BB. Obviously my existing setup already has a (Shimano) BB. I’m assuming I will need to get the GPX BB to go with the SRAM setup?
    Thanks again Andre.

  4. luca says:

    thanks for your work. Have you any suggests about good (but not very expansive) rims 29″ with 11 speed compatible?

    • André says:

      As far as I know all wheels are 11-speed compatible. You just have to make sure the freewheel body is compatible with the 11-speed system that you choose. Unfortunately, buying bike parts take a bit of research to make sure they all fit together. The wheels’ hubs should match the frame spacing. WTB, Stans, Race Face all have affordable wheels/rims that are quite versatile, suited for the Ogre. The choice will depend on your riding style/needs though. Shoot me a message through the contact form if you want more tips.

  5. Ian Diamond says:

    Hi. I’m thinking about buying a Surly Ogre on eBay. Is the rear spacing for the 2016 model 135 mm? I want to use standard wheels with QR axles. Thanks.

  1. October 24, 2016

    […] Trouble was looking to add some carrying capacity to her Surly Ogre. We first thought about adding a frame bag, but that wouldn’t really add all the carrying […]

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