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Bikes. Parts. Chaos.


One of Surly’s finest industrial designers, Ryan Callahan, has done the honor of introducing his ultra-light Preamble build to the world. Now that the metaphorical curtains have been pulled back, it's time to tune those senses and see what it took to get this steel bike to a sub-20 state.

First Iteration:

This Surly started its life as a pre-production sample. I was fortunate enough to be involved in the development of the Preamble, so I got one to test ride for evaluation. I rode it around as a flat bar with “production spec” for about 16 months before I got to tweaking it. As I started plotting the build, I was focused on amplifying what made my specific bike special. See, because of an oversight on our side, the first round of prototypes was shipped without rack mounts on the seat stays. Traditionally, Surly bikes are so versatile, and the exclusion of a rear rack mount had me contemplating a build around “min/maxing” some of the attributes of the bike. What if I leaned into reduced features in the pursuit of a light and fun road bike? So, I got to sifting in my parts bin…

Blue Surly Preamble bike leaning against bridge

Second Iteration:

I had access to a SRAM Force 22 Hydro group set. Not only was this much lighter than the stock components, in the modern world of motor-actuated, battery-powered and clutched derailleurs, it holds its own against more expensive gruppos. Next, I got my hands on a Whisky carbon fork that was designed for the straight 1 1/8” headtube, which shaved well over a pound. I built up some Whisky GVL rims and wrapped those in the new Teravail Telegraph 700x35c tires. I wanted the build to be light but still functional for light mixed terrain riding that I like to do here in the Twin Cities. After throwing a few other odds and ends at the build, I threw it on a Park Tool scale and saw 21lb 2oz. Agonizingly close to a “sub 20lb” steel road bike. I rode the bike in this condition through the summer of 2022 and tore it apart in the winter to pursue the last few grams.

Blue Surly Preamble bike laying on gravel road

Final Form:

At this point, getting a lighter bike meant either spending way more money or getting creative with material. My first thought, “well, If I don’t have rack mounts on the seat stays, why do I have them on the dropouts?”. We quickly got the die grinder out and shaved some steel out of the frame in the form of the eyelets for racks and fenders. Next, I love how E.D. coating and powdercoating the frame makes for a long lasting and durable frame. However, there’s a lot of material on a big bike, so I media blasted the outside down to the bare 4130 tubes. In place of the Skyrim Blue, I opted to have the frame Cerakote’d locally in the “FX Riot” color. Anyone at Surly will tell you I cannot help myself when it comes to obnoxious color-shifting coatings. Cerakote just happens to be one of the lightest/thinnest options. Aside from that, I shaved the headtube down, cut off unused seat post and stretched my bartape extra tight to hit the final weight of 18lbs 13oz. There’s definitely room to get lighter, but this was never meant to be one of those British hills-climb bikes with critical components missing. The bike looks great with the new finished and the shaved/streamlined features and it’s a blast to ride.

Surly Preamble getting custom frame finish

Surly Preamble getting the grinder

Surly Preamble on the shop scale showing 18 lbs and change

Surly Preamble custom build showing handlebars and front end detail

Surly Preamble custom build showing fork and front wheel detail

Surly Preamble custom build detail focus on crankset and front derailleur

Surly Preamble custom build detail focus on rear wheel and rear derailleur

Surly Preamble custom build detail focus on top tube and seat tube junction

Surly Preamble custom build detail focus on rear tire clearance and seatstays

Surly Preamble custom build detail focus on rear tire and rim

Surly Preamble custom build complete bike side view on gray background