Let’s talk about soulmates for a minute. Merriam & Webster say soulmates are perfectly suited to one another in temperament and beliefs. Dawson from Dawson’s Creek says a soulmate is someone you carry with you forever. And Paul Walker of Fast & Furious fame believed a person could have a few of them. Maybe yours is a match on a dating app, a hyper border collie, a roast beef sandwich, or the chatty mechanic at your local bike shop. It could be all four! Love finds us in unlikely places.
If you’ve found yourself asking the question, “what kind of bike should I get,” it might help to remember that, like soulmates, there’s probably more than one that’s right for you. Finding the best companion for your two-wheeled excursions all depends on knowing where and how you want to ride. If you’d like to join us for a long talk covering different bike categories, riding surfaces, use cases, and potential matches, stick around. If not, our super-slick Surly bike finder tool lets you input your preferences before spitting out personalized recommendations.
What Are the Different Types of Bikes?
Rather than putting you through a crash course on all the different kinds of bikes people are sitting on — rickshaws, triathlon bikes, tandems, cruisers, etc. — Surly will focus on Surly’s offerings: Pavement, Touring, Trail, and Hauling.
Within each grouping are bikes suited to specific surfaces and tasks, but please remember that we make our bikes with utility, versatility, and durability in mind — this allows you to build them up however you like and change stuff around whenever you want. A single Surly can do many things well over the course of a long and useful life.
Pavement is pretty straightforward, right? Wrong. Unlike the lightweight race bikes you see zipping around the tarmac on pizza-cutter tires, the steel steeds in our pavement line are designed for all-day comfort on fresh asphalt, old-ass asphalt, and unpaved roads with nary any asphalt to be seen. Gravel? Sure. Double track? Yes please.
If you really want to race one, we’ve seen it done. But more often we see folks riding ‘em to class, commuting to offices and interesting motels downtown, and taking mixed-surface group rides to distant suburban taco joints.
They’ve got mounts for bags and racks so you can haul whatever you need during your day, and plenty of space for large-volume tires to give you more traction, cushion, and control. From rim brakes to disc brakes to single speeds to gears, our pavement bikes run the gamut.
Ever been tempted to abandon your apartment, throw your belongings in a dumpster, and cross a continent or two by bike? Whether you’re after an epic multi-month trip over long lonely miles and tall mountains, or a weeklong escape to explore the state next door, our line of Chromoly steel touring bikes features a range of human-powered vehicles ready for on-road and off-road shenanigans. Pavement? Check. Rural dirt roads? Check. Woodsy trails? Sure!
Outfitted with multiple mounts on the down tubes, seat tubes, fork legs, and more, they’re equipped with enough hauling potential to keep you comfortable away from home for a night or two — or the rest of your life. Heck, they even make excellent loaded commuters if that’s more your speed. Whether you’re after flat bars, drop bars, 650bs, or 700cs, there’s a little something for everyone.
If you don’t like riding near roads, busy intersections, or the motor vehicles that pollute them, Friend, let us point you toward some questionable dirt paths. For quick singletrack sessions, overnight bikepacking excursions, longer trips, and just exploring whatever off-road scenery you’re into, our steel Trail beasts come in multiple flavors and iterations. They’re well known for pioneering some important trends in the MTB space, too — from 29er-specific frames to fat bikes to plus tires, well, Surly was there first and got some weird looks.
Like our Pavement and Touring bikes, our Trail bikes feature all the mounts you need to carry your provisions into (and back out of) the wilderness. Some are fully rigid and some come with a sus fork. Want to swap one setup for the other? You do you. They accommodate 27.5” wheels, 29ers, and even the occasional 26”. Want to run a 5” tire and roll over sloppy snow along the sandy beach? Who doesn’t?! Happy trails.
Do you dig pulling trailers? What about doing grocery runs, transporting meals, and making trips to the lumberyard by bike? And how do you feel about dropping the kids at Aunt Lorraine’s and picking them up again on the way home? Our Haulin’ line features a couple all steel longtail cargo bikes designed and built to make minivans and pickup trucks irrelevant.
With clearance for 26 x 2.5” tires and a 400-lb. weight limit, our longtail cargo bikes Big Dummy and Big Easy can do some decidedly un-bike-like things while still riding and handling just like normal bikes. Did we mention Big Easy has a Bosch drive unit for making tall hills and long miles, well, easier? We meant to.
YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED ALL OUR BIKES ARE STEEL. HERE’S WHY.
Other brands make bikes out of aluminum, titanium, carbon, even bamboo. We make ours from steel. This isn’t because those other materials are bad. In fact, they may be the best materials available for the task(s) they’re intended to do. Similarly, we believe steel is the best material for the type of bikes we make and the kind of riding we like to do.
Steel offers design flexibility, durability, repairability, environmental sustainability, and incredible ride quality, all for a reasonable price.
Regardless of model and frame size, Surly’s 100% Chromoly steel ‘Natch tubesets are comfortable enough for rides that last all day or all month. They’re tough enough to last for years and versatile enough to do a variety of jobs as your needs grow and change. Ride yours anywhere in the world and if your frame gets a boo-boo, you’re likely to find a welder who can get you back on the road. Or the off-road. Whichever. Steel wails.
‘NATCH MAKER, ‘NATCH MAKER, MAKE ME A MATCH
Well, if you’re still with us, it’s about time we run through some anonymous dating profiles and a few of the bikes that might match. Sample these offerings at your local Surly dealer and maybe you’ll find a new love interest or two to bring home.
SUITOR NUMBER ONE
Suitor Number One enjoys sci-fi movies and once attempted to hop trains from St. Louis to Seattle. They got kicked off in Montana and stayed a decade. Now they’re into reptiles, handmade ashtrays, and dive bars with poor ventilation. They thought OK Soda was pretty great, but they’re intolerant of lactose, planning routes, road chatter, and sticking to one surface. Suitor number one takes a multivitamin to fill nutrient gaps in their daily diet.
Potential Match: Designed around 650b and 700c wheels alike, Midnight Special tackles pavement and gravel with cushion and traction to spare. Pack snacks, fill up your water bottles, and pedal out to wine country for a day date whenever the mood strikes.
SUITOR NUMBER TWO
The second suitor enjoys hiking, playing cards, tagging overpasses, and doing John Prine karaoke. Their favorite food is an almost-burnt grilled cheese sandwich, they always prefer the comic book to the movie, and they spent their childhood building completely imagined structures out of Legos and erector sets while never once looking at the instructions. They enjoy running panniers, throwing the finger at shitty drivers, and shopping at Wall Drug whenever they’re in the area.
Potential Match: With only the barnacles that matter most to bike tourists, plus clearance for tires up to 700c x 47mm, 27.5 x 2.8”, or 26 x 3”, Bridge Club oozes versatility and capability however it’s built up. Just look at how much fun you can have with some bags.
SUITOR NUMBER THREE
Suitor number three remodeled their own kitchen and nobody got electrocuted. They collect busted appliances, fix them up, and sell them on Facebook Marketplace. (They’re saving the money for a woodfire pizza oven.) They swear by snow tires, cast iron, and using the self-checkout lane at the grocery store. You can find them rock climbing, downloading music illegally, sleeping outside, and carving spoons out of felled branches. They’ve got no patience for power points or organized religion, and they think Adam Sandler should have an Academy Award.
Potential Match: Compatible with both 29er and 27.5” wheelsets, Karate Monkey is perfect for thrill-seekers who like getting their hands dirty and changing things up depending on the day. Run it with a sus fork for singletrack sessions or a steel fork with three-pack mounts for carrying your bikepacking gear. Good times are right around the bend — just look at the different ways you can make it your own.
SUITOR NUMBER FOUR
Suitor number four gives only handmade gifts — sweaters, blankets, cutting boards. They read philosophy by candlelight and commune with shadows. They’re into heavy metal, dyed pink hair, cutoff shorts, fingernail polish, collecting hot sauces from around the world, studying ornithology, playing vintage pinball machines, and watching ‘80s horror movies on VHS. They have broken many bones and suffered countless stitches, but they never hesitate in the face of danger. They refuse Novocain for all dental work and haven’t cried since their 11th birthday. They feel most at home in the dark woods.
Potential Match: Krampus is perhaps the most appropriate bike for someone this fearless. With 29” wheels and extreme trail-shredding abilities, it backs down from zero obstacles and eats up everything in its path. Think big tires make you slow? Think again.
SUITOR NUMBER FIVE
The fifth suitor was born in a blizzard and spent their formative years harvesting lake ice. They like snow-cones, sharp skates, and slippers that look like giant polar bear paws. Need to keep a casserole warm for a couple hours before your family potluck? Suitor number five has everything you need, always prepared. They completed all the requirements for being an Eagle Scout but refused to join the organization for personal reasons. They’re into dirty jokes, stir fry, and portable ice fishing structures. Their biggest pet peeve? Extroverts.
Potential Match: Is there anyone better suited for a fat bike, honestly? For outdoor enthusiasts interested in the most remote wintry landscapes, Ice Cream Truck clears 5” tires and plows through snowdrifts with ease. Replete with cushiony comfort and boasting oodles of traction, it’s pretty damn great for summer days on singletrack too. Anyway, here’s what Harrison does with his.
SUITOR NUMBER SIX
Our final suitor has a nice house in the city. They foster dogs, use a landline daily, and keep a tidy vegetable garden. A chronic nail biter, they cut their own hair and compost their organics. You’ll catch them drying bedsheets on the clothesline when the sun’s out and walking the kids to school on weekdays. They love kayaking and shopping at independent bookstores, and they despise monoculture lawns and fossil fuels. They’re always looking for ways to cut back on driving.
Potential Match: We mentioned our longtail electric cargo bike Big Easy earlier, right? For anyone looking to replace the family sedan with a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation, Big Easy is like a performance-enhancing drug for cargo hauling. With dropper post routing and extra stand-over clearance, it’s easy to share with different-sized riders. You can even fly kites with it.
THAT ABOUT DOES IT FOR NOW
We’re just about out of time for today, but as you can see, we’ve got a few options for different types of riders. When it’s time to choose which bike is best for you and your needs, visit your local Surly dealer and test ride whatever catches your eye. You never know where you’ll find your happily ever after, but it’ll probably be on two wheels.