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  1. #1
    Senior Member asromzek's Avatar
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    Surly Cross Check - Custom Build

    Tax returns are on the way and I have my sights set on putting together a Surly Cross Check. I'm leaning toward buying a bare frame and building the bike up from scratch (expensive, I know). The plan is starting to formulate in my head and I need to be sure I'm heading down the right path before pulling the trigger. But first, some history...

    A couple of years ago I bought a pair of Novara Randonees on sale from REI (one for me, one for the girlfriend) in an attempt to get into touring. All was going well until I actually started riding the bike consistently. To make a long story short I had bought the bike in a frame size that was too small and I didn't feel comfortable unless I was sitting on the rivets of the saddle. I ended up returning both bikes and tried out a 55cm Randonee with my Brooks saddle and pedals, and it was a win. But life happened and I never got a chance to replace the bikes I returned, and fell off the idea of touring which was a sad day.

    Fast forward to today and I've got the bug again to build up a bike. I've decided to focus on a Cross Check since I plan to mostly use it for road/dirt path riding for fun, to commute to work in the future and if I feel like loading up a couple Ortileb panniers (that have been collecting dust) to go for a weekend camping trip. The Cross Check seems to fit the bill.

    I plan to focus on quality over cost. I haven't considered much on the side of components other than the wheels and tires. I'm focusing on "bulletproof" and a little research has pointed me toward having a set of wheels built by Peter White. I'm thinking Phil Wood 36 hole hubs, Mavic or Velocity rims with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. Might be leaning on the side of overkill, but I want the thing to last. Any clues on what a setup like that might cost?

    I would likely go with the black frame and try to use as many black & chrome components as possible with a flash of yellow (panniers) here and there. I still have a pair of Brooks B17s sitting on the shelf and a few other small components lying around.

    The next piece of the puzzle will be figuring out the crankset, drive train and shifters. I'm looking to get some input on what you would do if you were going to build up a solid bike from scratch based around the Cross Check frame. I'm not looking for a speed demon of a bike, but comfort and reliability are important.

  2. #2
    Steel is real, baby! frpax's Avatar
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    I really like the Cross Check. Great choice!

  3. #3
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    safe riding - Vik
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  4. #4
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    A few years ago I built up a 1x9 Cross Check for commuting and riding on the local roads - which are often dirt, right now are snow packed ice and in a month mud. Like the flexibility to accept a wide range of tires and components. It became my son's college bike. I built up another country commuter with 36 spoke Mavic A719 rims and XT hubs. That wheel set has been great - over 10000 km of hard riding on them - no problems.
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    Well. I would...okay, wheels first. I wouldn't spend the money on 36h Peter White wheels. I mean I'm sure they're super, but 32h Open Pros rolling on Ultegra hubs will be super tough and last forever. Lighter and more fun for you too.

    I would probably go with a 105 build...with Dura-Ace DT shifters. I'm weird like that though, I like them better than bar-ends. And I would like to save the money over brifters. I really like the new Ritchey Classic line, so I would buy his seatpost, stem and bar. Brooks would provide the saddle and bar tape, I guess. I don't really have strong feelings about these things, but you seem to so Brooks is nice. SKS fenders in silver. Bulletproof bike that would last forever, take you through any terrain and keep you smiling.

    But take all this with a grain of salt though. My schedule is a little off this week so today is my rest day - I'm about 5 beers in. Drinking a Duchy Originals Organic Old Ruby Ale currently...tastes super, and a long enough name to be adequately snoblicious too.

    Oh right...and Tubus for the rack. Get a silver one. Arkel for the bags.

    Also, I think you're mad for not getting the blue.

  6. #6
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    what water bottles are those?? I've been looking for a good water bottle and I've seen those at the shop before but I can't find em online.

  7. #7
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    It was a slow build changing things out from stock, but a similar concept.

    Thomson post, B17 Imperial saddle, Bagman/Carradice rear luggage, VO/Berthoud front luggage, VO fenders, Sun CR18 rims on Ultegra rear and SON28 front (DT 2.0 spokes), Sugino XD700 compact double mated to 11-32 SRAM cassette and Deore rd using D-A barends, Tektro CR720 wide profile cantis front and rear with KS Salmon pads.

    (wheels in this pic are DT RR1.1 on Deore/SON28. Prior to CR18 build.)
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
    - Mandi M.

  8. #8
    Senior Member crdean1's Avatar
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    FWIW- I just did a Cross Check and saved on cost by buying a bike with all of the components I wanted and reselling the frame. I bought my Cross Check frame, then bought a Salsa La Cruz, a better grade of steel, but I bought it at a steal. It was one year old and had full rival w/ carbon shifters, xt hubs, thompson stem, etc.

    I bought the bike for $900, and just sold the frame for $400, netting me a full rival group, wheelset, Avid BB7 discs, thompson stem, and everything else to complete my cross check for only $500.

    The components were basically new, so it turned out to be a huge cost savings.

  9. #9
    I'm Carbon Curious 531phile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Commodus View Post
    Well. I would...okay, wheels first. I wouldn't spend the money on 36h Peter White wheels. I mean I'm sure they're super, but 32h Open Pros rolling on Ultegra hubs will be super tough and last forever. Lighter and more fun for you too.

    I would probably go with a 105 build...with Dura-Ace DT shifters. I'm weird like that though, I like them better than bar-ends. And I would like to save the money over brifters. I really like the new Ritchey Classic line, so I would buy his seatpost, stem and bar. Brooks would provide the saddle and bar tape, I guess. I don't really have strong feelings about these things, but you seem to so Brooks is nice. SKS fenders in silver. Bulletproof bike that would last forever, take you through any terrain and keep you smiling.

    But take all this with a grain of salt though. My schedule is a little off this week so today is my rest day - I'm about 5 beers in. Drinking a Duchy Originals Organic Old Ruby Ale currently...tastes super, and a long enough name to be adequately snoblicious too.

    Oh right...and Tubus for the rack. Get a silver one. Arkel for the bags.

    Also, I think you're mad for not getting the blue.
    I hear the new Open Pros are junk.

    Quote Originally Posted by avner View Post
    I loled. Twice. Then I cried. Then I rubbed one out and cried again, but thanks for sharing.

  10. #10
    Je pose, donc je suis.
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    Been there, done that.



    What I have (and advice otherwise):
    - Mavic A719 on Shimano dynamo hub front (consider the Dyad)
    - Mavic A719 on Shimano 105 rear (Deore XT**, consider the Dyad)
    - 9-speed 105 all around, but I'm an STI fanboy. I have compact crank + 12-27 in back. Switching to 11-32 with new XT derailer. (You could consider a triple up front.)
    - Cross levers. Definitely recommend for commuting and touring
    - Comfortable saddle. (YMMV)
    - Cheap fenders (consider better fenders)
    - Topeak rear rack. I like it.
    - Jerry-rigged Axiom lowrider front rack. Total crap. (Get a front fork that is pre-drilled.)

    **I'm actually building a new wheel after a bike rack mishap.

  11. #11
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 531phile View Post
    I hear the new Open Pros are junk.
    I completely disagree. I'm sure it's possible to build a set of wheels with Open Pros that turns out to be junk, but the rims themselves are nice. I've got a set of wheels with Ultegra hubs and Open Pro rims that have been fantastic. I got a derailleur caught in the spokes during a cyclocross race last year -- the derailleur broke into three pieces, the derailleur hanger bent nearly 45 degrees, the chain bent in several places...I can't even imagine the forces that were involved...but the wheel survived. I replaced the damaged spokes, and today the wheel is as good as new.

  12. #12
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    This is a fairly out-of-date picture of my Cross Check. As of today, I've got:

    Ultegra (6600) shifters
    105 (5603) front derailleur
    Ultegra (6700) rear derailleur
    FSA Gossamer triple 50-39-30 crank
    Ultegra (6600) 12-25 cassette
    Salsa Poco handlebars
    Specialized Toupe saddle
    Avid Single Digit 7 front V-brake with Travel Agent
    Avid Shorty 4 rear brake

    My wheels, depending on the day's ride, are either Mavic Aksiums with Schwalbe Ultremo R.1 tires or Ultegra/Open Pros with Maxxis Re-fuse tires.

  13. #13
    on by skijor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by albertmoreno View Post
    what water bottles are those?? I've been looking for a good water bottle and I've seen those at the shop before but I can't find em online.
    Camelbak Podium bottles. But get the insulated ones. The slightly lesser capacity is well worth the insulating performance. They'll keep an initially well-iced bevy reasonably cool for ~2hours in ~70degF.

  14. #14
    Senior Member asromzek's Avatar
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    I was leaning on the side of buying a bare frame and building up the bike component by component, but after reading a bit more I'm starting to wonder if I should go with a complete bike and replace components one at a time. Or, buy the frame and a 2nd bike with better components as crdean1 did. I'm not thrilled about having to sell parts as I replace them, but I could at least ride the bike while I'm saving up for each upgrade.

    If I were to go the complete route, then a trip to the bike shop is in order. As far as I know, the closest Surly dealer is about an hour and a half away. I'm going to make a call to see if they have any complete cross checks on hand.

    My girlfriend also thinks I'm nuts for not wanting the robins egg blue, which I have to say is starting to grow on me...

  15. #15
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asromzek View Post
    I was leaning on the side of buying a bare frame and building up the bike component by component, but after reading a bit more I'm starting to wonder if I should go with a complete bike and replace components one at a time. Or, buy the frame and a 2nd bike with better components as crdean1 did. I'm not thrilled about having to sell parts as I replace them, but I could at least ride the bike while I'm saving up for each upgrade.

    If I were to go the complete route, then a trip to the bike shop is in order. As far as I know, the closest Surly dealer is about an hour and a half away. I'm going to make a call to see if they have any complete cross checks on hand.

    My girlfriend also thinks I'm nuts for not wanting the robins egg blue, which I have to say is starting to grow on me...
    You'll save a lot of $$ on a complete bike and the parts on the CC are pretty nice.
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  16. #16
    Senior Member Mr. Embrey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by albertmoreno View Post
    what water bottles are those?? I've been looking for a good water bottle and I've seen those at the shop before but I can't find em online.
    Camelbak podium or podium chill.

  17. #17
    Senior Member jr59's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asromzek View Post
    Tax returns are on the way and I have my sights set on putting together a Surly Cross Check. I'm leaning toward buying a bare frame and building the bike up from scratch (expensive, I know). The plan is starting to formulate in my head and I need to be sure I'm heading down the right path before pulling the trigger. But first, some history...

    A couple of years ago I bought a pair of Novara Randonees on sale from REI (one for me, one for the girlfriend) in an attempt to get into touring. All was going well until I actually started riding the bike consistently. To make a long story short I had bought the bike in a frame size that was too small and I didn't feel comfortable unless I was sitting on the rivets of the saddle. I ended up returning both bikes and tried out a 55cm Randonee with my Brooks saddle and pedals, and it was a win. But life happened and I never got a chance to replace the bikes I returned, and fell off the idea of touring which was a sad day.

    Fast forward to today and I've got the bug again to build up a bike. I've decided to focus on a Cross Check since I plan to mostly use it for road/dirt path riding for fun, to commute to work in the future and if I feel like loading up a couple Ortileb panniers (that have been collecting dust) to go for a weekend camping trip. The Cross Check seems to fit the bill.

    I plan to focus on quality over cost. I haven't considered much on the side of components other than the wheels and tires. I'm focusing on "bulletproof" and a little research has pointed me toward having a set of wheels built by Peter White. I'm thinking Phil Wood 36 hole hubs, Mavic or Velocity rims with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. Might be leaning on the side of overkill, but I want the thing to last. Any clues on what a setup like that might cost?

    I would likely go with the black frame and try to use as many black & chrome components as possible with a flash of yellow (panniers) here and there. I still have a pair of Brooks B17s sitting on the shelf and a few other small components lying around.

    The next piece of the puzzle will be figuring out the crankset, drive train and shifters. I'm looking to get some input on what you would do if you were going to build up a solid bike from scratch based around the Cross Check frame. I'm not looking for a speed demon of a bike, but comfort and reliability are important.
    I have a CC I bought as a complete bike and then upgraded it, so I think I can offer some input.
    First, good for you, getting back out on the bike. Next, the wheel set you are thinking about are high dollar, but probley as well built and as strong a set as you can build. Peter White is a strange fellow, but when you talk about building a BOMBPROOF set of wheels, he is THE MAN. All the other options stated on here are nice, but not near as nice or strong as what you want.
    I would look around, at local wheel builders, just in case you have a problem.
    I would go with the Velocity Deep V rims, over the Mavic. Both are good, the QC on the Mavic has gone down, in the last few years.
    Tires you got it right for miles of flat free riding. The SMP tires are heavy and a pain to get on the rims when new, but will roll a LONG time.
    Where it comes to drive train, I went full campy chours. I had it laying around and all my other bikes had campy so to me it was a no brainer.
    You on the other hand don't have 5+ bikes built with campy stuff so I would go with shimano DA. Why not? It's great stuff that last a long time, and every bike shop will have stuff to fix it if/when it breaks.

    You are on the right track, if you want a CC, built to last.

    Good luck and keep us posted.
    Gravity hates us all, but it hates me more than thin people!

  18. #18
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    If you are going to buy a complete bike, then you will have the luxury of riding it for a while to see which parts you want to upgrade. The 9-speed Tiagra stuff is pretty good, and I wouldn't be in a hurry to upgrade that. If you like the bar-end shifters then you should be alright for a while. Really, nothing on the CC complete jumps out at me as something that needs to be upgraded.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by asromzek View Post
    I was leaning on the side of buying a bare frame and building up the bike component by component, but after reading a bit more I'm starting to wonder if I should go with a complete bike and replace components one at a time. .
    Jeez, now you want to save money. Buying a frame at retail and the same quality of components as a stock bike easily puts you 50% over buying the complete bike, even more if you get pricier components. IMHO the entire reason for getting a bare frame is because you have nearly all the parts already from prior constructions, you work in a bike shop, or you have an extra $1000 in your pocket. Your desire to prioritize "quality over cost" will give you marginal increases in quality given the significance that labor contributes with much cost. Assuming you are sure about dimensions get the complete bike and have a spare set of wheels/tires. Unless you're especially heavy or crash all the time the stock wheels are good. Besides any crashes that are likely to damage the stock wheels will probably damage the frame or you.

  20. #20
    Descends like a rock pallen's Avatar
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    There are so many different ways to go with a cross check. Anything from steel road bike to commuter to touring to fat tire mountain bike. I had a local bike shop build wheels for me from Velocity hubs and rims and have been very happy with them so far. Phil Wood's would be great if you have the money, but there are lots of really good options as well.

    If you are going to build something similar to how it comes built, I think I would start with that and upgrade as you find things you want to change. If you want to build it very differently, you'll be happier starting with a frame.

    Either way, enjoy the ride!

  21. #21
    Senior Member asromzek's Avatar
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    Going with a complete isn't to save money as much as for the fact that I can get it out on the road sooner. I'll still end up putting all of the components on that I want, but I can have a little more fun in the mean time. Kind of like buying a basic jeep that will get you down the road and through a few puddles to start and then adding a high end lift kit, tires and winch. It's not necessary or cost effective, but sometimes it's just fun to trick out your ride.

    I may also be out to New Hampshire in May for a road trip, not too far from Peter White's shop. If I went that route I could have the wheels built beforehand and pick them up in person. One more random stop for the trip. I'm not set on that though, considering that there are a lot of options to get a good wheel built. How are the wheels on the complete cross check assembled?

  22. #22
    Senior Member jr59's Avatar
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    The wheels and crank on the complete bike are not that good. Pretty bad in fact. Make no mistake, they work, but ...!

    The drive train, ie; shifters, and Tiagra stuff works, the brakes, not so much.

    I think, if you ride the bike for any amount of time, you would want the upgrades as quickly as you can.
    Gravity hates us all, but it hates me more than thin people!

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
    If you are going to buy a complete bike, then you will have the luxury of riding it for a while to see which parts you want to upgrade. The 9-speed Tiagra stuff is pretty good, and I wouldn't be in a hurry to upgrade that. If you like the bar-end shifters then you should be alright for a while. Really, nothing on the CC complete jumps out at me as something that needs to be upgraded.
    Except the saddle. The stock saddle is a pain.

  24. #24
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jr59 View Post
    I think, if you ride the bike for any amount of time, you would want the upgrades as quickly as you can.
    That's not true - all the stock parts work fine and it could be a daily rider for someone with no upgrades until the stock stuff wears out. Sure if you are picky and want nice bits on your bike a complete bike spec'd to meet a price point can't compare to a custom build, but if you are that picky no point starting with any stock bike.
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  25. #25
    Senior Member jr59's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vik View Post
    That's not true - all the stock parts work fine and it could be a daily rider for someone with no upgrades until the stock stuff wears out. Sure if you are picky and want nice bits on your bike a complete bike spec'd to meet a price point can't compare to a custom build, but if you are that picky no point starting with any stock bike.
    Ok, Nobody said the stock parts don't work! They just could work a LOT better!

    In your opinion the stock parts work fine, ok! You have very right to think so.
    In my opinion they don't work all that well, I like my stuff to work without think about it!
    Gravity hates us all, but it hates me more than thin people!

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