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