Archive for the ‘Surly Cross-Check’ category

The End….

December 29, 2009


Of the year, that is!

If the weather forecast for tomorrow is correct, and from all indications, it will be….today was my last bike ride of the year.  As bike commutes go, it was just another day.  Kind of cold, kind of gray, not a lot of traffic, not a lot that stood out.

I  did, however, take the time to calculate my mileage for the year.  The grand total is 5, 342 miles.  That’s a record for me.  Last year was my previous high total at 4,855 miles.  The breakdown is as follows:

  • Tandem – 1,100 miles
  • Road Bike – 2,926 miles
  • Surly Commuter – 398 miles
  • Marin MTB (old commuter) – 918

By using my Giant road bike for a commuter much of the year, it has finally passed the tandem in mileage.  Both bikes showed up at the same time, and until this year, the tandem had accumulated a few more miles than my single.  Not this year, however.  As of today, the tandem has a total of 7,676 miles on it and the Giant now has 9,268.   This time last year, the tandem had 6,576 miles and the single had been ridden 6,343 miles.  Maybe next year, we can catch the tandem back up to the Giant!  It would be pretty cool to roll both bikes over the 10k mark next year but that might be a stretch for us on the long bike!

God bless….




Surly Cross-Check Review

December 2, 2009


Well, I’ve put about 150 miles on the new Surly Cross-Check that I purchased exclusively as a commuter so I thought I would provide a review.

Overall, the bike performs exactly as I envisioned it.  It’s not a speed-demon, but it isn’t intended to be.  At this point, I like it a lot…..

Overall, I would give the bike an A- on the grading scale.

Comfort = A

The biggest factor in deciding to get this bike was to get a bike that was comfortable on a day-in and day-out basis.  The steel frame does a great job of absorbing road chatter, and handles the bigger bumps and potholes I encounter downtown like  a champ.  In addition, you can see from the picture above that I’ve got the bar in a slightly positive relationship to the saddle.  This gives me a pretty upright ride for a road bike.  I moved the Serfas saddle from my mountain bike to this one when the Terry Fly I preferred wasn’t available.  At this point, that saddle is more than sufficient for the short, nine miles I commute from home to the office. 

Speed and Efficiency = B+

I knew I would be sacrificing a little speed when compared to my carbon-fiber road bike.  For the 150 miles I’ve ridden the Surly, I’m carrying a 15.0 mph average speed.  On the road bike, I usually pulled a 15.9 average on my commutes.  I’m not disappointed in this difference. 

The gearing I chose for the Surly is more in line with a mountain bike than a road bike.  I put a 42 tooth single on the front because I simply don’t use the front derailleur on any bike I ride except the tandem, and when we need it there, it is a rarity.  On the rear, I’ve got a long-cage Shimano XT derailleur coupled with a 12-32 9-speed cassette.  This gives me a gear range that is more than adequate for my rides through town.  In fact, I’ve yet to use the 32 or 12 tooth cogs.  The rear derailleur and cassette is an exact match to what we run on the tandem, so it performs exactly as I expected.

The Surly is a little slow off the line, much the way a truck or RV would be.  It takes a bit to get it up to speed, but once there, it is fairly easy to maintain that speed.  I suspect one of the main reasons for this is the wheelset I chose to use.  I’ve got 32 spoke Mavic Open Sport rims laced to Shimano 105 hubs.  While this combination is certainly above an entry-level wheelset, it’s not particularly speedy or sexy.  What it is, though, is tough, which was the requirement I had.

Handling = A-

With a slightly longer wheelbase than my road bike, and a fork rake that seems to be a little longer, the handling of the Surly is  more stable than the road bike.  It doesn’t twitch at each minute movement I make.  The ride is solid as a rock, even with my pannier on the back.

Frankly, I can rarely tell that the pannier is back there.  There is no wiggle from the back of the bike, even when I stand to climb a hill.  I suspect I could add a second pannier and probably even small ones on the front and the bike would continue to handle as well as it does.

Hill-Climbing = B

Unfortunately, I live most of the way down in a river valley, so to get away from the house I’ve always got to climb.  The strength of my road bike is that it’s a climbing fool.  The Surly, on the other hand takes a little more effort, but that’s to be expected.  Fully outfitted with racks, fenders and lights, the bike weighs in at a hefty 29.2 lbs which is plenty stout.  Add to that the 10-12 lbs of junk I carry around in the pannier on most trips and you can see why I give a “B” here.

Stopping Ability = B

The one thing I wished I could have done differently with the build of the Surly was to use a disk brake on the back.  Unfortunately, the frame isn’t built to take a disk, so I had to settle for cantilevers.  I went with the Avid Shorty 4’s, which provide adequate braking power, but nothing special.  When I wear through the first pair of pads, I’ll replace them with Kool-Stop salmon.  That should help in wet weather braking, but they’ll probably not last as long as you would prefer.

Other Thoughts

** I’m glad I went ahead and used the Tiagra STI shifter instead of the bar-end.  That shifter is definitely not as nice as the 105’s I’m used to on both my road bike and the tandem, but it will do.  The one nice feature of it is there is a little gear indicator gauge built into the top of it that my older 105’s don’t have.  On the downside, it doesn’t feel as crisp shifting as the higher levels of components do.


**  The Planet Bike Cascadia fenders are awesome.  They installed easily and perfectly, and provide great coverage for those times I can’t avoid wet weather.  And they look pretty cool!

planet bike

**  Likewise, the TUBUS Vega rack installed perfectly.  It was expensive, but I think it compliments the bike.


My Surly Cross-Check Commuter is here!

November 19, 2009

Have you ever had the chance to design and build something from scratch?  Maybe it was something as simple as a bird-house or a planter?   Maybe you were a little more ambitious and designed your own home?  In any case, when that project came to fruition, how did you feel?  Pretty darn good, right?

Well, yesterday my new commuting bike became a reality.  I got a call about 3:00 asking if I could stop by Sunshine for some quick measurements so they could cut the steering tube.  I took an hour of vacation time and headed that direction in a cold, nasty rain.  It only took a few minutes to get the measurements Josh needed, and while I was there we again discussed my options for the shifter.  The STI was a decent match for the brake hood on the other side in terms of feel, so I decided to go with that instead of the bar-end option.  It looks quite a bit bulkier because of the mechanics inside, but to my hands on the hoods they feel just about the same.  Josh promised the rest of the build in about an hour, so I headed for home to change clothes because I had a Lady Bears game to attend later on (they won!).

When I got back a little over an hour later, they weren’t quite finished, but both Josh and Alex were busily wrapping the bars, installing the fenders, and installing the computer.  As they were finishing and we were taking care of the paperwork, I got a pretty good laugh when Josh saw some fingerprints on the frame, grabbed a rag and cleaned them off.  I said, “Dude!  It’s raining out there!  It won’t make a difference!” 

His reply was, “It’s a pride thing!”

In all seriousness, those guys over at Sunshine Bike are great to work with.  I appreciate the way my needs/desires were heard and met.  They do a good job at making you feel like an appreciated customer.  If you’re local,  stop in and see them sometime.

After the ballgame, I grabbed the new Tubus rack and headed for the garage to get it installed.  It actually went on quite easily and fit perfectly like Wayne at The Touring Store said it would.  Now that I have the bike, it looks like the old Tubus rack would have probably worked just fine, but it’s so beat up looking I’m glad I went ahead and got the new one.  It actually took more time and effort to get the lights on than the rack.  If I had planned my work a little better and installed the back light on the rack before I put the rack on, it would have been a snap all the way around, but that’s life. 

Finally, about 10:30 last night I clipped in for the first time and made a lap or two up and down the hill in front of the house before I headed inside to bed.

The first ride to work was interesting.  I’ll plan to provide a more in-depth review later, but from my first impressions, I think I accomplished my goal of creating a decently fast, efficient, yet comfortable bike. 

The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t feel any wiggle in the back-end from the rack and pannier when I stood to climb the hill out of the neighborhood.  On the carbon-fiber road bike, that was a major issue.  I really couldn’t tell the pannier was back there on this one.

By the time I got to work, I was thinking to myself, “Boy, this sure feels like I’m riding the tandem!”.  Then I realized that the two bikes actually do have a lot in common.  They’re both steel.  They both have nice, bomb-proof wheelsets.  And, they’re both set up with the exact same configuration of derailleurs and gearing.  Based on that first impression, I think I’m going to like riding this bike.

The one thing that may still be tweaked is the setup of the handlebars.  I was looking for a comfortable upright ride, and it may still be just a tad too upright.  I’ll give it a couple of weeks, then if it still feels odd I can remove a spacer or two and try it that way for a while.  When it came to cutting the steering tube, Josh and I both felt it best to err on the side of too little rather than too much! 

Not the best pics ’cause they’re from the phone…but the best I can do for now.

At the Park Board Office at lunch

God bless…


Decisions, decisions.

November 12, 2009

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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