REI Element or build it myself (surly vs. nashbar)?
REI element is on sale right now. I'm thinking of picking one up but it isn't the best time to be dropping that much cash.
I want to get out on the cheaper end of things. If I don't buy the Element right now, I will probably order a surly cross check frame or a nashbar touring frame ($200) I would like to do downtube shifters (which the nashbar has, but I'm not sure about the surly (Can't tell from pics))
if I do that I will piecemeal everything together gradually but will probably do a quick swap for the low end components on my fuji road bike (Shimano Sora).
I've got a Surly Crosscheck and it does not have shift bosses on the downtube. On the other hand, it does have semi-horizontal dropouts along with a derailleur hanger. The semi-horizontal dropouts were the deal maker for me, since I was building a bike with an internally geared hub. I have since run it as a single speed and now run two chainrings and a cheapo derailleur up front, with a single speed and chain tensioner (which mounts on the derailleur hanger) in the rear. So I guess I'm saying that the Crosscheck's versatility is worth the extra two-hundred bucks to me. It allowed me to experiment quite a bit without buying a different frame every time I wanted to change the drive train.
The Crosscheck is also steel and what they say is true. It will ride noticeably smoother over rough pavement than the aluminum frame. I have an aluminum bike as well, and I can definitely tell the difference. You'll appreciate this if you're commuting over anything other than glass smooth pavement. Of course mounting 32 or 35mm wide tires on that aluminum frame can help make up for this. But then again, if you through those tires on the Crosscheck it rides like butta.
Happy shopping. DanO
By the way, what's an REI element? The only element I could find on their site was a jersey.