Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Surly Cross Check: a Worthy Host for 700C Fat Franks

What's this... another test ride? a new bike? As a matter of fact, it's a bit of both! A new bike for a certain someone, and a test ride for me as reward for tagging along. And it all began will a spare wheelset...

As part of my brisk trade of hats for bicycle parts over the winter, I've acquired some neat items - including parts I did not necessarily have any use for. Among these were a mint condition handbuilt wheelset and a pair of equally mint Schwalbe Fat Frank tires in 700C. Yes, 700C and not 26" - a monstrous size which made it exceedingly unlikely that I would find a host for them. After coming to that conclusion, I was about to put them up for sale - when I noticed the Co-Habitant looking at them longingly. Upon some prodding, he confessed to harboring a desire for an off-road bicycle with just such a wheelset and tires. Okay then: I wouldn't sell them. But where would we find a frame to fit them? The Fat Franks are 700C x 50mm, limiting the choice to 29er mountain frames, a couple of Rivendell frames, and, of course, custom frames. The latter two options were out of the question, as he decidedly did not want this to be an expensive project. And he didn't want a 29er mountain bike, because he dislikes sloping top tubes. After some feverish research, we discovered that Surly could be an option, and headed to Harris Cyclery (a sponsor) with our own wheels and tires in tow.

The 700C Fat Franks will fit the Surly Cross Check and Long Haul Trucker. We are 60% sure that it is possible to squeeze fenders in there as well. There are not many fender options for tires of this size, but Berthoud and SKS could be possibilities. Any experiences with them with this bike and tire combo?

To spare you the suspense, the Co-Habitant is getting a 62cm Surly Cross Check frame, in robin's egg blue - or rather I am getting it for him. We will pick up his actual frame on Saturday. Above he is riding the floor model, with the original wheels and tires.

And here is the same bike fitted with our wheelset and the Fat Franks.

The difference between Surly's Long Haul Trucker and Cross Check models, is that the former is a heavy-duty touring frame, while the latter is a more versatile cyclocross frame - which can be used for anything from commuting, to racing, to off-road, depending on how it is set up. The Cross Check has shorter chainstays and lighter tubing than the Long Haul Trucker - which suits the Co-Habitant fine, as he wants a tough, yet lively ride and does not plan to transport bulky loads on this bike.

It did not take him long to decide that he likes the Cross Check. At around $400 retail for the frame, and many of the needed components already in our possession, this is going to be a quick and exciting build - just in time for our very tardy Spring! Lord knows the boy is long overdue for a new bicycle - and if a Surly is what he wants, I am happy to facilitate.

While the Co-Habitant was consulting with fabulous and wise mechanic Jim about the build, I was not idle. As luck would have it, Harris happened to have a 54cm floor model of the same bike in stock, and I seized the opportunity to test ride it. I've wanted to try a Surly for some time, and what better way to do it than with these delightful tires?

Surly frames are TIG-welded cro-moly steel with lugged fork crowns, and they accept threadless headsets and stems. Still, in their overall look the bicycles are fairly classic, with comfortable, relaxed geometry.

Overall, it's a simple, tidy construction. The canti-lever brakes and numerous braze-ons are useful, without looking cluttered as they do on some utilitarian bikes. I think the powder blue colour is good for this bike - softening up and adding interest to Surly's rugged, no-nonesense aesthetics.

As far as welds go, these are pretty clean. I prefer lugs on this type of bike, but the Co-Habitant likes a variety of frame construction methods.

The floor model I rode was fitted with Salsa stem and handlebars and SRAM "brifters." I found the shape of the handlebars to be quite comfortable - with roomy "shoulders" just like Nitto Noodles. The brifters were all right and squeezing the brakes was easy enough. Compared to regular aero brake levers, I find these combination levers to be too clunky - my grip can't comfortably close around them and I feel as if one bad bump can send my hands flying off the handlebars. Still, over time I think I could get used to them. If I were ever to get a modern roadbike, I would be fine with this type of set-up.

Riding the Surly Cross Check was a better experience than I had anticipated. One common criticism of Surly bicycles, is that they are sluggish and stiff - but perhaps that applies to the Long Haul Trucker specifically and not to the sportier models such as the Cross Check. Giving the tubing differences at least, that would certainly make sense. I did not test ride the bike extensively, as we did not have a great deal of time and it began to rain heavily. But on first impression, the Surly felt similar to my Rivendell in its stability and comfort. As a roadbike, it felt "easy" to ride and it could be a good choice for a beginner for whom a Rivendell is too pricy. On the 54cm frame I rode, there was considerable toe overlap with the 700C x 50mm Fat Franks, so I would not recommend tires this huge on small frames. But on a larger frame like the 62cm size the Co-Habitant is getting, it's not a problem.

The Surly Cross Check strikes me as a versatile, comfortable, attractive, and reasonably priced bicycle that straddles the border between classic and modern. It is also fairly easy to get and test ride: While some shops have more floor models than others, chances are that your local bike store carries Surly. If you do not object to a TIG welded frame and a threadless stem set-up, this is probably one of the best values out there. The Co-Habitant's build will be modestly classic and I hope to share the final result shortly. Any owners of the Surly Cross Check out there?

95 comments:

  1. I like Surly bikes, they seem to have that je ne sais quoi nailed, if you know what I mean. My only preference would be for a threaded fork, rather then the thread-less. Quill stems are way too pretty to not ride!

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  2. I never got the cult appeal of Surly bikes in general, but I think the Cross Check and the Pacer are fairly attractive. I'm okay with the threadless stem on this bike, it seems to suit it. We'll get all silver parts and that should look pretty good.

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  3. Love your site and glad I can finally weigh in. Running 700x50 Schwalbe Big Apples (Fat Frank's brother) and SKS P50 fenders on my 56cm Cross Check. While I had to invest a little extra time adjusting the fenders, everything fits fine and it's a joy to ride.

    Based on somewhat cursory measurements, I don't think toe clip overlap with clips that extend 50mm from the pedal (e.g., VO or MKS mediums) would be an issue on my particular build.

    Hope the Co-Habitant likes his new ride.

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  4. I have LHT, it is sluggish, but the name implies that! I find it the best bike I´ve ever ridden. It feels cozy and relaxed, even when unloaded; when loaded its an even better ride! I can agree its a bit overbuilt perhaps, id go for less diameter tubing if I´d order a bespoke frame!

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  5. I had been under the impression that the Cross Check and LHT used the same tubing. Where did you finding tubing specs?

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  6. surly cross check can be used for more than a light touring with no problems at all. i don't own one, but i met quite a few fully loaded bikes and their very satisfied owners.

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  7. Matt - Thanks for the link and I am so glad to hear that the SKS fenders work! He would be willing to ride this bike fenderless if it came to that, but fenders would make it perfect. Good to know also that there is no TCO on the 56cm frame.

    Axel - I think it also depends on the size and weight of the rider. The Co-Habitant is a big boy, and he would probably be fine on a bicycle with stout tubing, even if it were overbuilt for his needs. I, on the other hand, am much smaller and might find that the same frame feels harsh. As it happens, I know of several women who find the LHT uncomfortably stiff, and this could very well be the reason.

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  8. Anon 4:19 - It's on Surly's description page for the LHT:

    "...the frame tubing is thicker walled and larger diameter than, say, our Cross-Check, and this pre-tunes it for carrying cargo weight"

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  9. Surlys are very practical. My only particular dislike about the brand is the juvenile decaling. The graphics remind me of the doodles I used to draw on my Trapper Keeper in the 5th grade. If the cohabitant has a similar dislike, the good news is Surly does not clear coat over them and they can be easily rubbed off with a credit card or plastic knife.

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  10. Adam - Good to know, I don't like them either. Something very dated, early 90s about them. On the light blue bike though, the white decals somehow look more elegant, so he may decide to keep them. I also noticed that on the Pacer they use a different, retro-styled decal.

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  11. Easter egg blue!! I like it very much and, without fenders too! Congrats to the co-hab!!

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  12. I've never liked the egg-blue of the latest Cross Check - until I saw it with those cream Fat Franks. All of a sudden it makes sense. Hope that the co-habitant enjoys his new bike. Question is, what will become of that beautiful Motobecane?

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  13. Sounds like an exciting project! I have to admit, I wasn't thrilled at first about the prospect of buying a NEW frame to build up for my wife, but new is what she wanted, and it was the only thing that could really fit the bill, anyway (try finding a vintage 58cm mixte frame, ha!). But after starting to build it up, I realized how much fun a new bike can be (there's no oxalic acid treatment required! No de-greasing!).

    Did you or the co-hab make calculations about the geometry of the cross-check? Does it have the geometry to do what he wants it to do? And does this mean he's going to do D2R2 this summer??!! (I could use more company!)

    I'm pretty sure the Berthouds would be the better fit on this bike. The reason being is that they are steel, and therefore malleable. I've now installed aluminum fenders on two bikes that on paper don't have the clearance for them (the Shogun 650B and the Soma mixte). But with some custom-made forms and mallets and creative manipulation, the fenders fit just dandy (as you have seen on at least the Shogun). For reference, the shogun should not have accepted fenders larger than 48mm, yet the VO Zepps are 54... a full 6mm too wide. If you went the SKS route, the plastic would flex enough to force-fit, but it would distort the fender line, and rub on the frame. That doesn't happen with metal fenders if you pre-shape them to fit the bike. I can't deal with a fenderline that's off.

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  14. I adore my Surly CC! http://tiny.cc/aun2y
    It's currently set up for summer commuting and runs up to, say, 100 miles (like this: http://fnrttc.blogspot.com/). Once I'm doing longer distances regularly again, I intend to fit faster tyres. But it's such a lovely ride as it is - quick, quiet and just feels like it's a part of me.

    It's a 50cm frame with 700cc tyres. I get toe overlap with mudguards fitted, but not without. I have just fitted toe clips and have no overlap with those.

    Much as I love it, I have wondered about Rivendell... so your perspective as a SH owner testing a Surly CC carries weight with me. Somehow reinforces my gut feeling that I do have the right roadbike for me. I don't race and never will. My 2 Puchs (soon to be 3!) satisfy my lug lust so I'm okay with the Surly's nice clean welds. And they did at least make the fork crowns pretty! :)

    Oh, did I say I love it? I love it. :)

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  15. Oo Thanks for this post!! We bought this bike for me as my new commuter so my road bike can remain a road bike. Still not fully put together yet, however. I am a little jealous that you're getting the Robyn Egg blue. The color was not yet available where we ordered from so I went with the black (coordinate colors is pink! Handle bar tape..tires, etc).

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  16. It's about time that fella got a new bike! I can't wait to see the new build and get idea's on how to class up my new buena vista.

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  17. I have an '09 Cross Check (60cm) that I more or less love - no complaints here. If the Long Haul Trucker's tubing is thicker, it seems to maintain the same diameter, as a friend and I couldn't tell the difference between his LHT and my CC beyond the additional braze-ons here and there.

    Granted we were looking at them loaded up after we'd both finished our morning commutes, pre-coffee, so maybe we weren't being -completely- analytical about it. :)

    The decals are a bit excessive, admittedly. I've thought of carding them off. I think I count... eight all up ins, plus head badge (which you'd think would be enough!).

    All told, I'm rather happy with it, and find it to feel pretty nimble. I've been riding it as my only bike for a few years now.

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  18. theeverydaycyclist - The Motobecane is a very different kind of bike, with aggressive geometry and narrow tires, so this bike won't replace it. He will now have a road and an off-road bike. Though if you ask me, he needs a better roadbike than the Motobecane as well. It may look pretty in photos, but drivetrain is on its last leg and the frame is 4cm smaller than his ideal size.

    somervillain - Yup, the geometry is suitable for what he wants it for. D2R2 is definitely a likelihood. We agree that the Berthouds would be ideal here, and if at all possible will use them.

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  19. Wow, I had no idea so many of you are into Surlys!

    Rebecca - For sure there are differences between this bike and the Rivendell, but as far as ride quality goes, I'd say it's a matter of taste which is preferable. I think that if you don't "need" lugs, then this can be an excellent alternative. The Co-Habitant hates sloping top tubes, so for him the price difference between this bike and a Rivendell he'd consider acceptable is huge (since the lower end Rivs have sloping top tubes).

    DAJ - Granted I've become slightly obsessive about this stuff, but I can tell the LHT's wheelbase is longer just by eyeing the two bikes near each other. The LHT also looks "chunkier" to me, so the thicker tubing makes sense.

    Krista - I like a black bike with pink tape. Not magenta, but more like powder pink. Didn't know they made pink tires though...

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  20. Both of my sons have these and love them. They both load them up for commuting but not necessarily for "long haul trucking." Son 2 got the midnight black and was able to remove all of the decals for stealthy look with SRAMs new Apex group. I'm thinking of getting the CC for gravel back road touring.

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  21. love, love, love my cross check. it replaced a bike i'd ridden for 30 years so i did a lot of thinking before buying it and while it took me a few weeks to get used to the differences it's turned out to be a perfect replacement. it's slightly more sluggish --not stiffer-- but much more stable with my typical loads. i've never taken it off road so instead have narrow--28--tires which make the ride a bit more nimble. also, i agree about the decals. i've scrapped everything off except the down tube logo, even took of the head tube plate. in my neck of the woods i've seen them used for everything and i'm heading out for a cross country tour on mine beginning this june! hope the co-habitant loves his, too.

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  22. CC is great. I recently bought a LHT, mostly for the extra heel clearance with panniers and the vertical dropouts.
    It's not a sporty bike, but it's an awesome utility bike and I appreciate knowing it's rugged.

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  23. Surly's are neat bikes, they really found a sweet spot on the best bike for the price spectrum. I don't think any one else consistently put's so much into frames at this price. I think he's really going to dig on this bike. I'm glad he's thinking about it as an off-roader too. Bikes like this are enormously capable and are better mountain bikes than anything we were racing 20 years ago.

    I also want to concur with Somervillain about metal fenders, a lot of bikes beg for fenders but don't get them because there is no good, perfect, bolt-on option. Metal fenders give you the option of massaging them a bit to make them just right, plastic just doesn't. A little time spent experimenting with an old junk steel or alloy fender and basic tools can help you know what to do to get stay or chain clearance before you mangle your new Honjo's.

    Spindizzy

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  24. I am really looking forward to building it up. I am not sure if it will be strictly an off-road bike, more like fire-trail and D2R2-style gravel roads, etc. Dune buggy!

    (V: Gah! My Motobecane's drivetrain is definitely not on its last leg. The frame is much smaller than I like and the lowest gear is not low enough for serious hills--it requires pushing harder than is optimal and can tire one out if not careful.)

    somervillain: As to D2R2, at this point I've met 4 individuals that have done it, and several who are thinking about it, so it's certainly something that has crossed my mind. I am considering going. Generally, I am not a fan of organized rides and the official stuff that goes with that, but if we had a nice group, I would possibly be willing to overlook and give it a go.

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  25. Excellent! I recently bought a 54cm Cross Check frame in the same blue and am still tinkering with different set up options for it to become my main transport and light touring bike. I look forward to seeing how the bike evolves.

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  26. How long is the TT? Looking at the photos, it appears that with really fat tires like the FFs, TCO may become an issue once you add fenders. Also, for CX-type events, dirt roads and trails, you want to maintain a relatively large gap between the tires and fenders, not a tight gap like on your Sam Hillborne. Otherwise, pebbles and twigs get kicked up inside the fender and get stuck. Keeping a large gap would exacerbate any TCO issues.

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  27. The tires are partialy colored. http://www.serfas.com/product_details.asp?ID=248#1

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  28. I own a surly cross check as well as a Rivendell Sam Hillborne and for me there are some real differences between the two.

    The Cross Check has a more utilitarian feel with a stiff and reliable ride quality, room for really wide tires (I'm running 40mm Schwalbe Marathon Supremes), and a very durable powdercoat paint job. I do have toe overlap with Soma toeclips but I almost never have a problem because I've trained myself to enter a sharp turn by leading with the respective foot (left foot forward on a left turn and vice versa). Also, aside from aesthetics I don't think there's any problem with the threadless steerer tube unless you cut it too short.

    The Sam Hillborne feels lively and forgiving in comparison (lighter more flexible tubing?). It has a more relaxed riding position that serves me well on longer rides. It also has room for wide tires although I do have to let air out of the front tire (42mm Grand Bois Hetres) in order to remove the front wheel. The paint job is stunning although it definitely seems to be more delicate than the paint job on the Cross Check.

    The Cross Check used to be my go to bike for long rides (30+ mi) on and off the road and it is now set up as a more of a townie with albatross bars and a Bobike Mini child seat for my daughter. The Hillborne is the bike of choice for long mixed surface rides and for my long hilly commute. For shorter commuting I've started riding an early 80's Univega Gran Rally (lugged Tange Champion frameset), which feels lighter and more swift than both the Cross Check and the Sam Hillborne.

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  29. re: brifters. Each finger is where it needs to be and you have full closure: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lovely_bicycle/5629497605/in/photostream/
    Adaptation = easy peasy.

    Size. I like a horizontal TT for my road-oriented bikes, sloping for dirt. The 62 cm looks French Fit, which is great for road. If the intent is to do D2R2-type rides, which is basically a road ride with gnarly bits thrown in, this will work fine. If your area features a lot of smooth trails with few rocks, logs and slippery roots, this is fine too. When the terrain becomes more technical the sloping TT is a godsend.

    So my point is maybe go down a size or two, use a longer stem (within reason), and gain clearance while retaining the level TT. What you gain is increased confidence due to more maneuverability. Cake and eat it too.

    This illustrates a natural position for the terrain but the reach appears a little long: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lovely_bicycle/5630077370/in/photostream/

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  30. MDI-- I'm registered for the 115k route, and know at least 5-6 others who are doing it, but I'm not sure I can keep up with them :-). So I may end up finishing solo in the back of the pack, but what the heck. I do think the Cross Check, if appropriately built, would be a perfect bike for D2R2. If it were my bike, I'd make sure it had a low gear of about 20-23 gear inches. With those Fat Frank "29ers", that might mean a 26/34 or a 30/36 low gear pair. And definitely a long-cage RD to handle that range.

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  31. I wonder if the Somas and Surlys are made in the same factory? There are overwhelming similarities to each other in terms of small technical details.

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  32. Thanks so much for the post, I recently bought a used cross check and am loving the ride, but the aesthetics of the previous owner's set up are not suiting me right now. I am going to switch out for silver parts too. Can't wait to see the changes you make!

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  33. I used to own a Cross Check, which I bought back in 2003 and put considerable mileage on before I sold it in January 2011. I set it up as a cyclocross rig with 2x8 speed drivetrain and Schwalbe CX Pro tires at first, but soon rebuilt it as a fixed-gear winter trainer/commuter with fenders and generator lights. When I bought the Cross Check, it was the only low-cost, multi-purpose steel frameset available in Germany. It also had semi-horizontal dropouts, which was uncommon at the time.

    Although I have ridden the Cross Check for nearly 40.000 kilometers, I never felt entirely comfortable on the 54cm frame I owned due to its cumbersome geometry. When considering the Cross Check as an all-around bike, keep in mind that the head tube is very short. This, in combination with the overly long top tube, requires a lot of spacers to be added if you prefer your handlebars to sit level with the saddle or slightly lower. On pre-built bikes, the fork steerer comes cut too short to allow this.

    Another thing worth to note is the massive toe overlap on smaller frames. Even with 165mm cranks and the SKS 35mm fenders mounted as closely to the tire as possible, the front fender kept hitting the tips of my cycling shoes during trackstands or tight turns.

    The drawback of the immense tire clearance is that mounting regular-sized fenders neatly requires some DIY attachments. With tires 37 mm wide or smaller, there's no way of fitting a matching SKS front fender properly using just the stock L-bracket.

    Also, if you are planning to set up a Cross Check with gears and fenders, the semi-horizontal dropouts make mounting and unmounting the rear wheel is a bit of a chore. With the fender line close to perfect, I had to deflate the rear tire in order to remove the wheel.

    Some Cross Check owners complain about the poor quality of the powder coating, which indeed can be seen as temporary. My black Cross Check as well as my wife's newer model (2005, also black) showed scratches when brand-new. After some months of use, the frame and fork were covered with spots where the primer was visible, which is quite rare on powder-coated frames. Overall, the finish was as dull as powder coating, but as delicate as wet paint. Hopefully QBP's quality control has been improved in this regard!

    There's a lot to like about the Cross Check, though. First of all, it's sturdy. Basically, it can handle anything that doesn't involve full-face helmets and body armor. Last Spring, my wife was doored by a truck driver while riding her Cross Check. This accident left her with her arm broken, but the frame and fork are still tracking straight. Hooray!

    Second, the handling. When the Cross Check was set up with a fixed gear, I could keep control on tricky downhills even with my legs rotating at 180rpm. This can't be said of the Kona Paddy Wagon that has taken over winter training duties from the Cross Check.

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  34. somervillain: The TT on the surly is 61cm, which is great for TCO with fenders + fat franks. I will be putting on a 7cm, 17 degrees stem.

    That works out to the same reach that I prefer on a road bike with a threaded headset & classic 10cm stem.

    Re: dirt & rocks: I don't know if I will have much clearance to play with. The fork is not the issue, but the rear brake bridge is what I worry about most. Maybe I should slightly dent the fender around the brake bridge? Hmm. Wonder how that would look.

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  35. Thanks for your great replies, this should be such a nice bike!

    It's funny, because until I saw that baby blue frame in stores a couple of months ago, I had not looked into the Cross Check much. The LHT seemed to be what everyone on the blogs had and what all the reviews seemed to be about. Now it appears that loads of people have one. I wonder why it is not reviewed as much and does not get as much coverage.

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  36. Sherlock: thanks for your input. That's exactly why I went with the 62cm frame. I also noticed that the powder coat is thin and I even thought it was liquid coat because the lugs on the fork were so well-defined. It looked even on Harris' frame, hope mine looks good, too.

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  37. I've been riding a Cross Check for almost two years now. I built it up from the frame, setting it up as a fixie with a difference: two speeds. I run a double chainring 40/44, coupled with a Surly Dingle 17/21 rear cog. That gives 71 gear-inches when I run 44/17, and then when I flip over the bike and move to the inner 40/21, I've got 55 gear-inches which is perfect for playing bike polo.

    I've ridden this bike year-round as my only commuter bike, using a studded front 700x38c tire in the winter and a 700x38 Kenda rear. In the winter, I slip on a Kona fork with disc brake, and in the summer, I go back to the stock Surly fork which holds a rim-brake-taking Salsa rim and Armadillo tire.

    At the moment I'm building up a new rear wheel carrying a Sturmey-Archer S3X 3-speed fixed-gear hub; the shifter will mount on the Cross Check's downtube shifter boss.

    I'll echo @sherlock's comments about stability of the bike: I've done 178 rpm on a downhill with mine.

    I love the versatility of the Cross Check frame; it's a perfect platform for any number of configurations.

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  38. Geometry Specs for the 62cm Surly Cross Check Frame:

    Actual Seat Tube (c-c): 610mm
    Top Tube: 610mm
    Seat Tube Angle: 72deg
    Head Tube Angle: 72deg
    Chainstays: 425mm
    Fork Rake: 44mm
    Trail: not provided
    BB Drop: 66mm
    Wheelbase: 1055mm

    Frame weight: 5.29lb
    Tubing: 4130 CroMoly steel, main triangle double-butted

    [from Surly's website]

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  39. somervillain: My lowest gear will be around 28-29 gear inches, which may not be quite low enough for R2D2, certainly far from the 20-23 you're mentioning. Perhaps if I eat more porridge. :)

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  40. Velouria,

    based on the geometry specs from the Surly website (and a 50mm tire), trail amounts to 72mm, with the wheel flop factor being 21mm. Definitely not the kind of front end geometry Jan Heine would approve for use with a handlebar bag!

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  41. Sherlock - Thanks for calculating that! No, this is not a JH-approved bike. Viva la difference!

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  42. Trail: not provided

    That's because it changes with tire size. With Fat Franks, that turns out to be somewhere in the 70mm range, I believe (this without a proper calculator at my disposal!).

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  43. Yes, I know : )
    I had not calculated it, but someone did it for me - see above. The Co-Habitant does not particularly care about trail.

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  44. Oops, I see that Sherlock beat me to it. Hey, not bad for "eyeballing" it, huh?

    Based on the frame weight and tube profile, it appears to be a very similar tubeset as my 63cm Shogun 650B conversion (which was originally spec'd as a touring bike). The frame weights are identical, indicating the tube thicknesses and buttings are probably the same or very similar (assuming the Surly's tubes are conventional sized, not oversized). This means the frame is robust and can hold up to abuse.

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  45. This is going to look great -- I hope you will love the fat franks as much as I do, MDI. They are just so awesome.

    NYC has tons of Surlys, I think because they can be built up pretty much any way and are good quality but not too "fancy" looking to park on the street. They are v often ridden by the kind of low key men I used to have crushes on in high school. I started to notice them for that reason, in fact.

    I agree about the Totally Nineties decal. I would scratch it off because it reminds me of XXXtreme sports. But also in the grand scheme of things this is v who cares.

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  46. As a happy owner of a pair of Big Apple's on an old MTB, I'm intrigued about the possibility of putting some Fat Frank's on my Scott cross bike. I'll have to get out the measuring tape to see if I have a chance! Thanks for the article.

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  47. There is a nice trail calculator here that does the job well. I did not include trail in my earlier geometry comment, as I am guessing not everyone will be putting 50mm Fat Franks on these. Some manufacturers do provide trail, for which they use some assumed/common tire dimension.

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  48. ^... I think also that even without calculating trail and knowing the exact tire size, we can kind of assume that it is "high" on this bike, that's just the sort of bike it is. Recalculated for 35mm Delta Cruisers the trail is still high.

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  49. That is one great looking bike - and I love how you're like "hmmmm, we have this set of wheels, why not get enough more parts for a whole bike?"

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  50. My husband just got another bike too-FINALLY, but is a slightly vintage 2nd hand high end quality lugged touring bike. He hates the sloping top tubes on the new steel bikes. The cost of buying new in Canada with taxes is a bit much. Surlys are not budget bikes up here. Your co habitant got a great deal! The lbs I got my lht from never even suggested the cross check and would probably only be able to standover the 42 cm which would not have worked. It seems like a great versatile bike. The robins egg blue is so nice! It looks swank with the white tires and will probably be stunning all dressed up.
    I wish I could say better things about my surly lht, but it is sluggish, unstable and flexes way too much. When loaded and going down hills I am scared! My old vintage raleigh is stable no matter what, even if I load up the handle bars, go down dirt trails... I don't know if it's because that surly didn't design the smaller frames a bit differently to compensate for tininess-and it is overbuilt for smaller riders. It has been a costly mistake. I'm almost ready to sell or trade. I prefer lugged, smaller diameter tubing. Oui, vive la difference.

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  51. Re: brifters--The wonderful thing about SRAM's brifters (blech, I do hate that term) is the adjustability. My husband has an abnormality that makes his left fingers quite short, and the upper-end SRAM levers were the only ones we found that could be adjusted to fit his reach. I liked his so well that I put them on my own bike, to fit my average-small hands. They are terribly clunky until you get them close enough to the bar.

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  52. GR Jim / allkindsofbikes - I will have to play around with the adjustment next time and see whether I can make my grip feel less flimsy. It's not even the length, but the width; I just don't feel like I am holding them firmly enough. Still, I found these SRAM levers to be more comfortable than any of the Shimano levers I've tried, and I think they look pretty good to.

    GR Jim - I don't think he will be doing technical/ downhill kind of rides on this bike, more like D2R2 style dirt roads, loose gravel, etc. His Motobecane roadbike fits 32mm tires max, so he just wanted something more cushy and grippy for off-road. As for the fit, he likes large frames and prefers them to long stems. Felt the most comfortable on this size when trying them at Harris. I don't think it will be an issue with the kind of riding he plans on doing.

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  53. Nice Surly! It took me about 2 years after moving to Minneapolis to make the distinction between people talking about Surly the beer and Surly the bike. ;) Needless to say, they are extremely popular here and although I started out scoffing at them as another overpriced hipster accessory, over time, I've warmed to them and have begun to appreciate them as a serious commuter bike.

    It'll be interesting to see the build when it is done!

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  54. Trail-schmail... I used a Cross Check as my brevet bike for the past two years. It was set up with a Nitto front rack and a VO Campagne front bag. On long brevets I often carried as much as 10 lbs worth of gear and food in the front bag. While handling was a bit sluggish, it was totally acceptable.

    I've retired my Cross Check and moved on to something a little lighter and livelier (VO Rando), but the Cross Check will always hold a place in my heart.

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  55. All valid reasons to prefer the 62 given his experience.

    My initial comment was to build versatility into the bike if preferences change in the future. It's much easier to add a longer stem on a smaller frame than shorten a larger frame with an already short stem. Not trying to be snarky, couldn't figure out how to say it differently.

    Anyway, every bike is a learning aid.

    Only time, and miles, will tell if the size is right.

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  56. I have the same Fat Frank tires except in brown on my 60cm LHT. I have them mounted under PlanetBike Cascadia 29r fenders. They fit near perfectly without any clearance issues and very good coverage. They are commonly only available in gloss black but I happen to know PlanetBike has a few sets in white or ,get this, pink laying about headquarters from prior special runs. Let me know if you would like to see a few pictures of my wheel and I would be pleased to oblige.

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  57. Peppy (the amazing fat cat)April 19, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    When people say they moved from the Cross Check to something "lighter" how much lighter than 7 lbs can a steel frame and fork get? 6 lbs? Maybe 5 lbs if you go extra light? So, the bike will go from 30 lbs with massive wheels to 28 or 29 lbs? And the total weight with a fit rider will go from let's say 202 lbs all the way down to 200 lbs? I don't get it. :)

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  58. Ground Round Jim said...
    "to build versatility into the bike..."


    But... wouldn't that limit his needing additional bikes in the future?
    : )

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  59. Peppy - the weight is 5, not 7lb.

    As far as the rider's weight goes, my understanding is that it is the tubing strength that matters - which does correlate with weight, though the difference is indeed not great. The real issue is not that the frame might be too heavy, but that the reinforced tubing may be uncomfortable for lighter riders who do not need the reinforcement.

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  60. Forgive me I had your pocketbook in mind. No new bikes = boring blog. Carry on.

    In race terms the lighter bike has much more engineering invested in it, though some features trickle down to less expensive frames.

    Also in race terms there's a limit to how much weight a rider can lose before power and health diminish. Been there, done that.

    There's an undeniable psychological component when riding a marginally lighter bike tho, regardless of rider ability.

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  61. To go off-topic just a bit, I'm intrigued by the white hood covers on the SRAM shifters (I won't use that other term). Of course it's somewhat marred by the black hardware. I bring this up because of my Shimano 105 (old) shifters with charcoal rubber/silver hardware against tan/honey bar wrap on my new Riv. I don't think it looks too bad. It would be nice if Shimano and SRAM would offer hoods in various colors, like tan. Dream on. I did read that there's a guy in Japan that will make leather-covered hoods. But he only corresponds in Japanese. Steve in MD

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  62. Peppy - the weight is 5, not 7lb.

    7 lb and change if you include the fork.

    As far as the rider's weight goes, my understanding is that it is the tubing strength that matters - which does correlate with weight, though the difference is indeed not great. The real issue is not that the frame might be too heavy, but that the reinforced tubing may be uncomfortable for lighter riders who do not need the reinforcement.

    This is how I understand it as well. Lots of riders feel that having the frame flex beneath them lessens the fatigue on their legs and knees, and supposedly (I have serious doubts here) if a frame is designed right, the flexibility can induce the mystery of "planing", whereby the energy put into the frame that causes it to flex during the power stroke, gets "given" back to the drivetrain after the power stroke (which, as someone with an engineering background, I find implausible-- can another engineer chime in to support or refute this idea?)

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  63. Jeez, everywhere I go I'm either arguing against JH principles or arguing with him directly. I'm not going to address "planing", as he coined the term and wants and needs acolytes to this Church of Magical Bicycle Theory.

    I will say in non-engineering terms, even though I was trained as one, that different frames return energy at different rates and some just suck it up. Call it what you want.

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  64. Call it what you want indeed, but before ever having read about "planing" or known who Jan Heine was, I observed that some frames feel as if they "work with me" when I pedal, while others feel as if they "work against me." The subjective physiological sensation is similar to what JHs describes as planing. But what the technical explanation for it is - and whether the one he proposes makes sense - I simply do not know.

    Also, when I read JHs ride reports and reviews, it strikes me that there is a huge difference between how he rides his bikes and how I ride mine. Are all these differences he describes between low vs high trail and planing vs not planing even applicable (according to his model) to a milder style of cycling such as mine? I think most likely not, which means I might be experiencing something else and not necessarily what he means by "planing."

    I feel all kinds of weird things in the bicycles I ride that others can't relate to, including the "painful tubing," the "uphill momentum," and the "versatile single gear" phenomena. Are they real? Real enough to me. But at the same time I realise that they may not be applicable to others.

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  65. There is no traditional technical term per se that I know of that Heine describes, aside from the one he coined. Us old Cro Magnon roadies know the phenomenon as Sucks or Doesn't. Adjectives like "glass", "floats", "butter","rides (in italics)" conveyed way more than Jan's 7000 word "scientific treatises". We only had to communicate w/each other, not the Internet.

    There is a huge dif btwn how he rides and you; frankly there's a huge dif btwn how he rides and almost everyone because he's done PBP in an absurdly low time. He's a very accomplished, very strong cyclist. Low trail vs. high isn't so much dependent on outright speed, but I'm just talking out my ass here because I haven't ridden a LT bike. That I know of. As far as pedal force his reviews must be filtered through his strength. This has less applicability to you until you get massively strong. So what returns energy to you isn't the same as for him. He may simply overwhelm the system that suits your strength fine.

    Others either can't feel the phenomenon or don't have the ability to process their feelings into meaningful words or haven't thought about it.

    I agree w/some of his ideas, mostly because they've existed forever and have been vetted by a lot of people. But when he's wrong he is really wrong.

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  66. Yeah, I don't think the mystery of what JH refers to as 'planing' is well understood by anyone, yet he describes it with seeming authority as being a storage and then return of energy; a claim which, according to what I remember from college thermodynamics (that most energy is lost when transferred from one form to another), seems rather specious to me. It would be better, perhaps, not to try to explain it away with pseudo-scientific authority and just treat it as one of those things that we "know" when we feel it, but don't know exactly what it is. I do agree that a flexy frame can help out in terms of reducing the stress on knees and legs and absorbing road shock, but at the same time, it's coming at the cost of energy loss. Back in the 80s, Cannondale rose to prominence by designing bikes that *didn't* flex. Those bikes could have punishing rides, but the idea was that no rider energy was lost to frame flex-- it all went into the drivetrain. Just sayin'...

    Ha, you should start the Lovely_Bicycle lexicon for all these terms to describe the phenomena you observe, Velouria.

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  67. I'm curious about the effect the larger tires have on braking. Though they may soften the ride and make it easier for the bike to navigate rough terrain, does the weight and oversize tires change the way the bike responds to the application of the brakes. Are larger pads and maybe a different cantilever set up required?

    I've got a few old road bikes with side pull brakes set up for standard road tires, and I'm thinking of adding larger tires to them and wonder if I'll need to modify the brakes as well.

    Old Knotty Buoy

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  68. Fat tire bikes are always "in season." I bought a Surly Rat Ride from off eBay and built a Mini Pugsley with 24" Endo Rims and 3.45" Hoggy G tires. I took it for a test ride - its the first bike I built with the new Alfine 11 hub. Rides smooth and fast!

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  69. Wonderful to see my love of the Surly Cross Check and this blog coincide. I have a 2010, Beef Gravy Brown that I've used for commuting (29 miles), long days, off-road and touring. It's a great bike and I hope the cohabitant enjoys it as much as I have. The blue is a stunning colour.

    I've used 700 x 38mm with SKS mudguards and there is acres of room to spare. Can't speak for the Fat Franks but there is an active Google group that is a good source of info and many Flickr users.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/merlinadventures/5596685396/

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  70. My first Surly was a Big Dummy Long Tail which by the way - has Schwalbe Creme Fat Frank tires!

    Surly builds utilitarian bikes at an attractive price point. The Goldilocks of bikes which as you and the Co-Habitant have discovered is just "right."

    They are not bikes for every one but they're good at what they do!

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  71. Peppy, you scrofulous feline beast! Perhaps you should lose the 5 to 7 pounds of yourself you degenerate american house pet! You and your revolting "cheeseburgers" on a silvered platter seven times a day, you are beneath contempt.

    Ratone Polidor

    Sworn enemy of "Peepy the Disgusting Toilet drinking Cat"

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  72. You might also look at VO Zepplin fenders,at 52cm they fit easily into my LHT before I moved them to a Hunqapillar. They'd look great with that color combination,but any fender will have tight clearance with those tires.

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  73. I have to say I love the way a diamond frame starts to look as it gets big enough for a 6+ foot person (no offense to the shorter floor model you tried). It's nice for those of us who are tall or disproportionately extended in the legs or torso to have an article that looks best in a size larger than "average". Boy, bikes sure are cool.

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  74. Marc: The VO Zepps are for 650B. Did you reshape them to be concentric with 700c wheels? I've thought about doing that...

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  75. somervillain, VO site indicates Zepps are available in 700c x 52mm. But the Fat Frank 29ers are ~51mms wide, so I'd say the fenders are too small if there isn't a lot of clearance.

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  76. P - I agree, large bikes look beautiful and really show off the lines and lugwork in the best way. The "only" downside of course is that I cannot ride them : )

    Adam - Yup, the 700C x 52mm Zeppelins are too small. You need 60mm for those tires, like the Berthouds.

    somervillain - Regarding reshaping of 650B fenders to fit 700C tires: I have seen this a few times, and the resulting fenderline is not something MDI would find acceptable on his bike. Maybe I just haven't seen a good enough example.

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  77. Where did you see examples of this? Can you provide links? Do you know for a fact that the people who tried this used Peter Weigle's fender "massaging" trick? In theory, it should work well.

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  78. Peppy (the amazing fender-masseuse cat)April 20, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    They probably used the wrong kind of cucumbers and the oils weren't scented enough.

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  79. The Zepps I have are 700/52,I haven't checked their site lately.

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  80. A bit late to the party, so:
    Welcome to the Cult of Surly!

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  81. can't wait to see the build! after a year of tweaking this is mine
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/61932626@N07/5639446834/
    simple, elegant, lovely;-) this is why i enjoy your blog.

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  82. That frame with those tires is a delicious combination. Congrats to the Co-H. Mr. Dottie has been eying potential second bikes, too, something a little faster and lighter than his Raleigh. He needs to get something soon so that our 3:1 bike ratio doesn't look so bad. You know what I'm talking about. :)

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  83. I love my Surly LHT. http://www.flickr.com/photos/stargaret/4586853816/

    Grant from Rivendell has a great quote about Surlys that my friend who rides a Sam Hillborne sent to me:
    "We get a lot of ride-ins who get here on Surlys. That's a beautiful
    bike. I think Surly makes (has made) about 30 thousand bikes a year.
    Trek, about 750,000; Giant, about 500 thousand; Specialized, about 380
    thousand; Bridgestone at its peak, about 45,000; Rivendell, about a
    bike and a third a day. Surly bikes are beautiful, when you cast aside
    all snobbery and look at the things that matter AND include the price.
    I'd take a Surly over any $6,000 bike in a second, and not just to
    make a point, not just to save money. I'd do it if I had Oprahbucks.
    I'm not saying Surly is my favorite bike. That would be the AHH. I'm
    just saying that if I were offered for free either a LHT or any bike
    that costs over $6,000, and I couldn't resell it, and I had stuff to
    do on that bike, I'd go for the LHT."

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  84. MDI wrote:
    "I am really looking forward to building it up. I am not sure if it will be strictly an off-road bike, more like fire-trail and D2R2-style gravel roads, etc. Dune buggy!"

    This is a realistic plan.

    The plans for the CC so far would be fine for dune-buggie/ fire road duty, but not so much for more intense trails. While i've seen ppl tear up singletrack on surly CCs, it'd be hard to perform such a feat with fat franks and full fenders. The franks won't fare well in loose conditions, and the fenders will have an inevitable run-in with trail flotsam (eg, a stick).

    Might be fun to have some cross tires handy, so you can shed the fenders and swap the rubber on occasion for a real off-road romp...

    -rob

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  85. I built it up!!!!!!

    (no fenders for now as they have not arrived...)

    And now, the dreaded handlebar tape...

    rob--I have no intention of cycling over actual off-road terrain/single track/mountain stuff. That kind of cycling does not appeal to me, so I am somewhat OK with my bikes not being fit to deal with loose sticks, rocks and such.

    More details about the build in a future post, I am sure.

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  86. I just bought a cross check but never had the chance to compare a 52 and 54 side by side, and since I am new to "serious" cycling. I have doubts that I made the right choice. I have ridden a few rides in the 5-10 mile range and as far as I can tell all is well. Can anyone out there give some direction to put my troubled mind at ease?

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  87. Check the SKS Alley Cat 53x700c fenders. Supposedly limited edition - available on Amazon. They fit 50x700c Big Apples.

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  88. I have an LHT and am wanting to put 700x50mm schwalbe marathon dureme's on it. I saw your cross check was able to fit 700x50mm schwalbe big apples. Do you think the dureme's would be able to fit? Thanks for any advice.

    andrewsuff@yahoo.com

    Andrew

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  89. hello, velouria. question: i think i'm about your height, and i was wondering if you thought the 54cm frame you test rode was too big. i'm 5' 6-3/4". do you think a 52cm would be too small (with a drop bar set-up)? thanks.

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  90. yeah riding with your seatpost all the way down and supershort stem is a real good idea... that guy riding the big frame looks just wrong, u need a bit of a drop! A big bike gets u nowhere when it gets a bit technical downhill or climbing.

    I rode one as a race bike when my carbon thingy was out of luck, they work but are pretty low in the front end, still there is no point having a to big frame and a stem going uphill, it is not allowed.

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  91. I have a cross check on its' way to me and I can't wait to ride it! Cool site and story.

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  92. i am a year behind on this, but i've had a cross check for a few months now and i love it! i was a bit worried - i was between the 42 and 46cm personally, and went with the 46, and it's really gotten me riding a lot more then my old beater bikes ever did. love it. love it so much.

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  93. How's the paint quality holding up on the cross check? I have read some comments regarding the thin powder coating and primer showing through.As I am considering purchasing one, sight unseen, it does make me slightly apprehensive.

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