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Surly Skid Loader: E-cargo Bike for City and Trails

Surly Skid Loader ebike

Among bicycle brands, Surly is considered one of the least streamlined. The US manufacturer specifically looks for niches and prefers to rely on its brand core: steel frames and sometimes unconventional geometries. Now a new electric cargo bike is rolling out of the rather tranquil Bloomington in the state of Minnesota. And surprisingly, it looks pretty unspectacular. For neutral observers, this tends to be good news.

Surly had already built an e-cargo bike for the first time in 2019. The Big Easy was a longtail. Now a much more compact model follows. The new Skid Loader is a longtail because a rear carrier takes the main load. At the same time, it is not a longtail because it is no longer than an ordinary city bike. In its way, it resembles the E-Cargoville LT from Bergamont or the Yuba Kombi E5.

A bike with many talents

Nevertheless, the Skid Loader stands out from those mentioned. First and foremost, because it can’t – and won’t – deny its origins. With Surly, the longing for cycling adventures always resonates, whether they lead out into lonely expanses or daringly down the next descent. One indication of this, for example, is the fact that the bike’s frame is based on 27.5-inch wheels. They combine both a certain smoothness and the necessary agility for off-road tours. Above all, however, they open up many more tyre options than longtails with a 20 or 24 inch wheel size. Especially since the frame even offers enough space for tyre widths of up to 2.8 inches. From a puncture-protected slick for the big city to a tyre from which the studs sprout like crazy, everything is possible.

According to Surly, the entire bike has been designed in such a way that when riding the Skid Loader, you supposedly don’t feel any difference to a regular bike. This is especially true for the frame. This statement cannot be seriously assessed without a test ride. We can, however, praise the fact that the bike is available in three frame sizes. Many manufacturers are content with the “one size fits all” approach. With the Skid Loader, you come much closer to what fits your body size best. The dropper seat post makes it even easier to get on and off the bike. And for downhill riding, it helps you to get into the right riding position 😉

Only partially compatible

The choice of chromoly steel for the frame means that the bike already has a certain load-bearing capacity by nature. The rear carrier is in no way inferior to this. You can transport loads weighing a total of 45 kilograms safely. However, only 27 kilograms of this may rest on the deck. The rear carrier is long enough to accommodate at least one child seat. It is compatible with two models from Thule – the Yepp Maxi Nexxt and the Yepp Maxi EasyFit – as well as the Dash from Burley.

Rear rack of the Surly Skid Loader ebike

Like the frame, Surly also manufactures the rear carrier from steel.

It is a little disappointing for those who want to let older children climb on the back of the Skid Loader. Surly provides everything necessary for this: seat cushions, a complete railing and a single handlebar that the children can hold on to. However, neither the railing nor the handlebars can be mounted on this carrier.

The cargo can go to the front, to the back and to the far back

At least you can equip its flanks with panniers called Little Dummy Bags. These can hold luggage with a volume of 15 litres each. If you want to transport much larger and heavier things from A to B, simply get the 213-millimetre long thru axle with the great title “Excellent Adventure Thru-Axle”. Due to this, the two equally glamorous-sounding bicycle trailers Bill and Ted can be attached to the Skid Loader. In this configuration, the e-cargo bike could even become interesting for commercial use. And if even that is not sufficient, you can add one of Surly’s various front racks to your bike and load up an additional 13.5 kilograms. The maximum permitted total weight of just over 180 kilograms provides enough leeway. Especially since only 26.8 kilograms are allotted to the skid loader.

Drive a mix of big-name and less familiar manufacturers

With the Performance Cargo Line motor from Bosch, a drive is installed that powerfully sets all this in motion. Admittedly, it is not yet a system from the Smart System series. However, this has no effect on the torque, so you can enjoy the usual 85 Newton metres. The battery capacity, on the other hand, is somewhat more modest. Surly integrates frame batteries from Bosch. The maximum capacity of the older drives is 500 watt hours. Fortunately, the manufacturer has thought ahead and provided a slot on the down tube for the second battery. DualBattery with 1,000 watt hours is therefore an option.

We can’t judge how well and, above all, how reliably the derailleur with ten gears does its job. On paper, the system from the somewhat less well-known Taiwanese manufacturer Microshift should fit the bill. The cassette includes sprockets with 11 to 48 teeth. The corresponding chainring has 38 teeth. This results in a large number of smaller gear ratios, so that, together with the motor assistance, you don’t have to invest too much power in pedalling, even when fully loaded. Since we have not yet gained extensive practical experience with Microshift, it remains to be seen how well the drive works in the long run. This question does not arise with the brakes. The M745 with its four brake pistons are among Tektro’s top products. Here they are even fitted with 180 millimetre brake discs.

A shadow where there should be light

The only real shortcoming concerns the Skid Loader’s suitability for everyday use. For currently almost 5,000 US dollars, Surly offers a bicycle that the manufacturer himself says is supposed to make a car superfluous. How can this be achieved when the bike has no lighting as standard? With other details such as the stable kickstand or the internal cable routing, a learning process from the Big Easy to the Skid Loader is evident. Why this did not include a lighting system remains a mystery to us.

Bosch Performance Cargo Line motor on the Surly Skid Loader ebike

On its first e-cargo bike, Surly only installed a side stand. The manufacturer corrects this mistake and equips the Skid Loader with a stable kickstand.

Surly’s Skid Loader e-cargo bike at a glance

  • Frame: CrMo steel
  • Fork: CrMo steel
  • Motor: Bosch Performance Cargo Line
  • Battery: Bosch PowerPack 500
  • Display: Bosch Purion
  • Drivetrain: microSHIFT Advent X
  • Brakes: Tektro M745
  • Weight: 26.8 kg (size M)
  • Maximum load rear carrier: 45 kg
  • Maximum load (rider plus luggage): 181 kg
  • Price: from $4,799

Surly Skid Loader ebike


Pictures: Surly Bikes

2 thoughts on “Surly Skid Loader: E-cargo Bike for City and Trails”

    1. Hello Keith,
      If so, definitely only with a chain tensioner, because the Skid Loader does not feature an open dropout.
      Cheers, Matthias

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