In the 8+ years I have been the brand manager for Surly, and in the 6+ years before that when I did international sales for Surly, I have never owned a Cross-Check. I have owned (and still do) a Traveler’s Check, which is an S&S coupled version of the Cross Check, but it has always been set up as simple as possible (single speed with flat bars) to make it easy to build and tear down for travel use, and because of the way that bike is built I haven’t fully experienced the Cross-Check as it is intended to be used.
I don’t know why I decided to build this bike. Maybe it’s because I get the itch to build a new bike now and then, or maybe it’s because I saw the new orange color and decided I had to have it. It could also be that I’ve had a lot of parts in my garage that I wanted to use for some time now. Or, more than likely it’s a combination of these things.
The best part of building this bike was meeting the challenge of building it up completely from parts I had in the garage. I’ve included a list of parts highlights below in case you like to nerd out on that kind of thing. I discovered the only things I didn’t have were finishing tape for the bars and one road brake cable. I was able to find the cable at my LBS and the tape at Home Depot, so within the span of 24 hours I had finished the bike and was out test riding it.
While I’ve never owned a Cross Check I have ridden one. Actually, I’ve ridden a Straggler, but by my comparison they feel identical, and everyone else I’ve talked to who has compared them says the same. Last year on the Japan tour I borrowed Sov’s Straggler and fell in love with it. The feeling I got on that bike stuck with me, so when I got on my new Cross-Check for its maiden voyage the ride memory from last year instantly returned. This bike is so comfortable and forgiving of road chatter that I just want to ride it all the time now. I am aware that our fan base has been writing to us for years declaring how much they love their Cross-Checks, but for me looking at the bike never wowed me enough to want one for my own. Maybe it’s because I’ve always preferred mountain bikes and have always gravitated toward that range of our bike line. As I’ve gotten older mountain biking has gotten the better of me via lower back pain, so I have found myself unable to ride on trails as often as I used to. My perception of the Cross-Check changed dramatically once I rode Sov’s Straggler.
At Surly we often say that riding is believing, and my story is living proof of this. The Cross-Check is a phenomenal ride. Our bikes are not flashy or conventionally sexy, and there’s a reason for it. We don’t try to lure people in with fancy paint jobs and trendy parts on our bikes. I recall a few years ago a competitor offered a Cromoly based copy of our Cross-Check, but with a fancy paint scheme (i.e. panel graphics) and a Brooks saddle. The bike was also cheaper than the Cross-Check, which made me wonder how they were able to include a Brooks saddle and not lose money on the deal. Upon closer inspection it became apparent that the cost savings came from the frameset. Cheap, laser cut dropouts, straight gauge tubing, minimal braze-ons, uni-crown forks and only 4 size options were all part of the scheme. I guess they thought that flashy parts would be enough to distract unsuspecting consumers from the fact that the frame was not very good.
At Surly we invest a lot in making sure our frames offer a balance of fit, function and fun. You’ve likely already read similar words in other blog entries on our site, so I’ll just step off my soap box by saying that all of the investments we have made in our framesets cost a lot of money, but for us the most important thing is the ride quality, and to get this you can’t cut corners.
Here are some photos I took of my bike.
Here are some of the spec highlights:
Frame: Surly Cross Check 62 cm (available in 10 sizes from 42cm to 64cm) Dream Tangerine
Tires: Surly Knard 700 x 41 - 27 TPI
Stem: SimWorks Tomboy (by Nitto) Cromoly w/chrome finish
Stack Spacers: SimWorks With Me Titanium
Handlebars: Nitto Noodle 48 cm
Brakes: Paul Touring Cantis
Brake/Shift Levers: RetroShift for 9-Speed Shimano
I should mention that the SimWorks parts listed are not available in the U.S. as of this writing. I have included the link to the Circles Bike Shop web store. I know some folks there speak good English so if you are interested in ordering from them don’t be shy about asking.