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
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.
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?!?