Decisions, decisions.

After weeks of thinking, stewing, and generally enjoying the process of over-analyzing what I wanted in a dedicated commuter bike, I finally pulled the trigger yesterday.  I went into Sunshine Bike with a pretty specific shopping list, and came out with a custom-build bike on order.  Here are my requirements:

Steel is real, baby!

The frame has to be steel.  There’s nothing like the ride of a nice steel bike, as it absorbs bumps and road chatter to give you a ride like no other.  That’s one of my primary drivers in getting a dedicated commuter rather than continuing to use my carbon fiber road bike.  City streets are in horrible condition, and as much as the carbon absorbs a lot of road chatter, it’s no match for the pot holes and railroad tracks that I’ve got to navigate in the downtown area.  In addition, I’m convinced that the carbon loses it’s ability to absorbe vibrations as the temperature drops.  That bike feels like it beats me to death during the winter.  The new one needs to be comfortable to ride.

Fast and efficient!

I want road geometry.  I ride far enough each day (18 miles, round trip) that I need to make decent time doing so without totally cooking myself in the process.  Oh…and it’s got to be a good climber.  Most of my commute is pretty flat, but getting out of the river bowl in which I live is an effort. 

Fenders rock!

Yea, I know…I don’t really like riding in the rain but if you’re commuting by bike year round like I do, it’s gonna catch up to you once in a while.  I ride in enough slop now that keeping my bike reasonably clean is a task that I’ve almost given up on.   Pam said, “You didn’t get big, ugly ole’ fenders did you?”.  My reply…”Yep, and mud flaps to boot!”.

Gears are good!

I was torn on this one…at one point I was close to a single-speed but backed off on it.  After all, in just a couple of short months I’ll have experienced half a century.  What I did, though was look at the fact that I only shift out of my 39-tooth middle chainring a couple of times  a year to make sure it still works and decided that I would go with a 1 x 9 setup.  Using a 42-tooth chainring on front, I paired it with a 12-32 on back to give me a decent range of gears that will get me through town just fine.

Shifting sands…

With my gear selection nailed down, getting the right component group in the mix was kind of tricky, and I’m not sure where I’ll end up yet on this one.  I do know that the rear derailleur is an XT mountain derailleur.  It’s what we use on the tandem and has been bullet-proof for us on that application.  It’s not quite as “snappy” as the 105 on my road bike, but it does have a lot wider range to cover.  The real question lies in what shifter to use.  Since I only need one, we’re not sure whether an STI shifter will have the same geometry as the non-STI brake lever on the left-hand side.  I’m prepared to go with a bar-end shifter if necessary, and that is what was spec’ed, but Sunshine has a new, old-stock Tiagra STI shifter that we’re going to put on during the build process.  If it feels the same as the other brake lever, I’ll go with that.  If it feels radically different or just looks odd, I’ll keep the bar-end.

Tough as nails!

Let’s face it…commuting is hard on a bike.  I feel like I’m putting a lot of wear and tear on my nice road bike by using it as a commuter.  When I get the new bike, I’ll need to begin the process of tearing the road bike down, cleaning it up, replacing the worn-out drive train, re-taping the bars and generally doing what I can to put it back into a pretty nice condition.


After all, I’m a tightwad at heart.  This new ride can’t break the bank. 

My decision…..

The Surly Cross-Check.  In black.

cross check

As far as I can tell, this bike is just about as good a “do it all” bike as can be had.  Cross, commuting, light touring, road riding, it does them all reasonably well.  I’ve talked to a few folks specifically about this bike and have heard no regrets from any of them.  The good folks at Sunshine Bike were able to build it to my specifications, which drove up the price a little, but when it gets here, it will be MY bike.  That’s a good thing…..

It should be here next week!

God bless…


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5 Comments on “Decisions, decisions.”

  1. acline Says:

    Looks like an excellent choice. Congratulations! I’m looking forward to your review when you start riding it.

  2. jeff Says:

    Excellent choice! I’ve got a CrossCheck that I put skinny tires on and rode through the Rockies on. Now that I’ve got my Madone, I’m thinking of converting the Surly to a commuter.

  3. Pam Says:

    Very exciting, I’m anxious to hear and see more!

  4. DC Says:

    Just found your site. Pretty picture.
    I had a couple questions:
    Steel frame has that much different road feel?

    chain angle on a 1/9 not an issue

    Weight of your bike?


  5. tracywilkins Says:

    Welcome! and thanks for stopping by….

    Yes, steel will make a significant difference in the feel of the ride, especially when compared to aluminum. Compared to the carbon fiber frame on my road bike, they should be pretty similar in feel when you consider just general “road buzz”, but the steel frame should do a much better job of absorbing some of the bigger bumps and potholes. Some of that will be attributed to the wheelset (more spokes), but a good steel frame is a dream to ride.

    As for the 1 x 9, the chain angle should be tolerable. Using the single up front, there may need to be a spacer to ensure it is in the middle of the rear cassette. It won’t be any different than running the middle chainring of a triple. You usually have a “trim” click on the front derailleur to get it out of the way of the chainline, but there is no problem running in the 12 tooth cassette or the 32 tooth. We do that on our tandem all the time using the middle ring. Doing that on the big or small rings of a triple, however, is usually frowned upon because that does give you a really crooked chain line (you can see it if you look).

    Not sure what the weight will end up being… won’t be light, but it’s not intended to be. After it gets here and all the stuff (rack, fenders, lights) is on, I’ll put it on the scale for grins (or grimaces!)

    Thanks again for reading!


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