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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 10-04-07, 01:40 PM   #1
ldesfor1@ithaca
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A Tale of Three Surlies... A Review!

I been wanting to write a little review of the three surly bikes I've owned for a while now to hopefully help others when trying to make a decision on using one of them as a commuter.
I'm 6' 3.5" and around 215 lbs.
I've owned a 62cm Long Haul Trucker
60cm Cross Check
Large Karate Monkey

Ride Quality:

LHT: stable, strong and confident but sluggish and uninspiring. The low BB and long chainstays lead to a confident and stable ride, but the frame is heavy and hard to maneuver in traffic. Bunnyhopping is slow too. Fully loaded this bike is the best of the 3, particularly with a front load on lowriders. If i was 250 lbs. plus and always had heavy loads to carry, this would be my frame.

Cross Check: solid, predictable and sporty enough. The higher BB and shorter chainstays and slightly lighter tubing leads to a snappier feel and a more manuverable frame. I had this set up with Midge bars, flat bars and drop bars... i liked all of them. It doesnt feel like my cannondale road bike, but it still is a lot more fun to ride than the LHT. I used a cheapo steel fork with this frame which is less flexy and had a disc brake mount. I liked the solid feel of this fork, as I've heard that the CC fork is really flexy (for better or worse). If i was to build a commuter for myself, this would be my pick of the 3.

Karate monkey: Strong, relaxed steering and just as good on roads as on trails. This bike is a mountain bike first and foremost and it excels as such (although it's my only 29er), but its nice on the road too. The steering feels laid back and crusier-ish. Extremely easy to flick around, even though its a heavy beast. I'd get this Surly if off road riding would be a big part of my commute.


Versatility:
The CC and The LHT are equally versatile as commuters, unless you want to run a singlespeed or internal gear hub, then the CC is the hands-down winner.
If you dont care about easy fender mounting, OR rack mounting then the KM is the most versatile of the bunch... but it seems that most commuters like fenders and racks! The KM makes it hard to mount fenders easily due to its huge drop out clearances and no chainstay bridge. The KM also lacks seatstay rack braze-ons.
If you need disc brakes, then the KM is your only choice. You could run a front disc on an aftermarket fork though on the CC or LHT.
If you need to run tires bigger than 45mm's than the KM wins again.

Hopefully this brief review was helpful to anyone trying to decide between 3 really cool bike frames.

Any more Surly info (particularly for their use as a commuter/utility bike)? Maybe: Pacer, 1x1, Pugsley, Big Dummy?!?
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Old 10-04-07, 02:02 PM   #2
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Here's a mostly pugsley utility blog:

http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=179026

It's worth pointing out that 54cm frames and smaller on the LHT can go up to and over 50mm wide tires. It's amazing to me how the LHT shines under load, load, and more load. I just love that. I am shopping for a handlebar bag 'cause I think mine is kind of naked w/o extra weight up front. Cool phenomenon.

Nice comparison, thanks!
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Old 10-04-07, 03:12 PM   #3
ldesfor1@ithaca
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thanks Hardy' !
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Old 10-04-07, 03:32 PM   #4
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I LOVE my crosscheck!!! Great review. You have some sweet bikes my friend.
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Old 10-04-07, 06:24 PM   #5
ldesfor1@ithaca
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HA!
I had some sweet bikes.

I sold the CC and the LHT for various reasons, but cant say that i dont miss the CC... the top tube is just a bit long for me. I'm riding a Scatantte XLR Cross frame/fork now and aside from being 2.5 pounds lighter it fits me better.

I still have the monkey and will not let my stable be without at least one Surly! They are kick ass bikes.
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Old 10-04-07, 09:45 PM   #6
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I would disagree about the difficulty of handling the LHT. Maneuvering among traffic on wheels or on foot is no more difficult than on my snappy road bike. It's a bike, after all, not a truck. I would agree that it's not an exciting, thrilling bike to ride, but I don't see that as a disadvantage in a commuter. I will admit that I ride in very frequently on my road bike, though - it IS a lot of fun. As for weight, it's as heavy as you build it. The frameset is at most a pound heavier than the Cross-Check, likely less.

Nice review!
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Old 10-05-07, 11:00 PM   #7
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I also disagree regarding the LHT's nimbleness, I've even taken mine down cyclocross style singletrack shortcuts on my commute and she just loves it (just don't forget about the low BB). She's also your best option if you regularly tow a trailer or trail-a-bike as I do. 30mph sweeping bends with 50lb of groceries in the trailer doesn't bother my LHT one bit.

I really like how the LHT corners. She's rock solid stable even when leaned over, not a hint of twichyness at all... just don't expect to make drastic changes to your line mid-corner.
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Old 10-06-07, 09:20 AM   #8
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I glad I'm not the only one with a bad Surly habit. I have the same selection only smaller sizes. I concur for the most part. My LHT is the geared commuter. It is heavy, but not so much more than the CC with the same configuration. The CC is back to single speed duty (may even go fixed for grins). It is substantially lighter in this configuration than with gears and rack. It is more nimble than the LHT, and truthfully more fun to ride, but the relaxed ride of the LHT makes the late in the week commutes much more comfortable. The Monkey pulls off road duty and maybe a neighborhood jaunt when I feel it's been neglected for too long. It's a single speed also which isn't the greatest for the road.

I built each one to my own specs and have been extremely happy with all three, but as I've said before in this forum if I could have only one bike it would be the Cross-Check simply because it is the most versatile of the three. That hasn't changed, but thankfully I can have more than one!
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Old 10-07-07, 10:53 AM   #9
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I traded touring bikes with someone once. I have an Aurora and they had a LHT. Of the two the LHT definately felt more likea dedicated tourer. That thing was on rails. Great if you want to look around (whether at scenerey or to keep tabs on cars) definately not nimble, but it wasn't like I had to yank on the bars to get it to turn either. I've also ridden a crosscheck, but not for very long, so it's hard to compare.

I would have no qualms about taking the LHT off road. I have taken my touring bike extensively offroad an even into one cyclocross race (yeah, I know). It sems that the low cranks/BB are rarely an issue except in rock gardens and the like. Even if you scrape a pedal it's usualy not the end of the world. The biggest drawback is the longer wheelbase, sometimes quicker turning on singletrack is really handy. For fireroads and the like, the LHT would be awesome.

I am curious if anyone has used the KM in a roadish setup (drop bars?) and how it handled there.
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Old 10-22-07, 10:27 AM   #10
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i heart surlys bigtime. i have a karate monkey with a rohloff and a steamroller set up as a singlespeed. i want a lht. i get all my surly stuff at harris in w. newton. they're the surly kings!

oh yeah, i just put a surly nice rack on the monkey. it was easy enough. them boys at harris know how.
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Old 10-22-07, 01:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ldesfor1@ithaca View Post
I been wanting to write a little review of the three surly bikes I've owned for a while now to hopefully help others when trying to make a decision on using one of them as a commuter.
I'm 6' 3.5" and around 215 lbs.
I've owned a 62cm Long Haul Trucker
60cm Cross Check
Large Karate Monkey
I'm planning on getting a Cross Check frame to build up. I'm close to the same size as you - 6' 3" and 200 lbs. My inseam is about 37 inches (not for trousers but to the floor). I'm planning to get the 62 cm. A 61 cm top tube should be OK, I think. The Surly web site says the top tube is the same on those two bikes - 60 cm long for the 60, 61 cm long for the 62.
I'm curious as to which of the two bikes you found to be a better fit.

Thanks!
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Old 05-21-08, 12:24 PM   #12
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I know this is and old thread but I wanted to comment about my 2 Surly's.
I'm 6'2" and 220#. I have a 60cm CC and a 22" Pugsley. The Pugs is obviously too big for me but it is still comfortable.
I use my CC for commuting everyday year round. I put some studded tires on it for winter and ride 42mm Marathons in better weather. Its a great all around bike that is quick and easily handles the pot holed streets that my commute entails.
The Pugs is alot of fun, especially in the snow. With about 8psi in the tires I can ride just about any snow covered streets, even the unplowed rutted side streets in Cleveland with 6+ inches of snow covering. I was completely amazed the first time I tried it. The key is the ultra low tire pressure. Ofcourse the traction comes at a cost, it takes alot more effort to move the bike. With 30psi in the tires the bike handles as well as a knobbie off-road tire does on pavement, but lower that pressure and it starts to take some serious effort. The wide BB also takes some getting used to and I feel it is much more difficult to spin smoothly on this bike. However I love that I can just point the bike at a curb or log and ride right over it without any effort.

For me the CC is the ultimate commuter. It can take the abuse of the roads around here and take the edge off the roughness for me but it is still a fast bike. I have mine set up as a fixed gear because I like the ride and the simple drive train.
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Old 05-21-08, 01:22 PM   #13
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I have been lusting after a Surly ever since my brother got a Long Haul Trucker. After reading your review, though....I wanna ride a Cross Check!! It's not in my budget now, but that doesn't stop me from wanting one.
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Old 05-21-08, 01:26 PM   #14
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I love riding my steamroller, so simple and spry.
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Old 05-21-08, 01:49 PM   #15
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This thread doesn't help the Temptational pull that is the CrossCheck.

Unless your a masochist, stay away from the 1x1's. Commuted on mine the other day. 34x16, running 2.5 Specialized Pin'it tires. Great for the trails, spin city on the roads. Great if your looking for a cardio workout on a short commute.
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Old 05-21-08, 02:06 PM   #16
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This thread doesn't help the Temptational pull that is the CrossCheck.
You ain't kiddin'. I'm calling around to my LBS's to see if someone has one built up. So far I've only been able to lust after internet photos.
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Old 05-21-08, 02:11 PM   #17
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How come no one every gets the Pacer? I love my pacer.
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Old 05-21-08, 03:21 PM   #18
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My LHT w/ 2.0 big apples was so very similar to my gary fisher mtn bike (tires, wheelbase, gearing...) that I sold the GF and replaced it with a pugsley (maintain that delineation between my all-terrain bike and my daily driver!). The pug is incredible. I commute on it over railroad gravel that is about the only surface to rattle the big apples, and I just float right over. No need to bunny hop anything because it just crawls right up and over any obstacle. Curbs, logs, stairs. Some slopes I need to get way up and forward to keep, well, to keep from tipping over backward I guess. And it makes everybody who sees it smile. It is one fun bike.

The beauty of the long chainstays on the lht is that I can push panniers forward on the rack (trying to keep total load between the bike hubs) and still not kick them. And the 54 lht has I think the same headtube length as the 60, larger than the 56 or 58, but proportionally the longest of all. I can slap a load on the fork (barbag, front panniers) and still ride uphill no-hands. I love that.

Funny thing, ran into friend last night while riding the lht home and she saw the big apples and asked 'is that your fat-tired bike?' and I was like nope these are the skinny road tires...
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Old 05-21-08, 04:17 PM   #19
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+1 for a CrossCheck due to versatility, handling and comfort.
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