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Commuter Options - Beef up current bike, second bike, new bike, ebike?

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Commuter Options - Beef up current bike, second bike, new bike, ebike?

Old 06-10-19, 06:48 PM
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surlygurly
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Commuter Options - Beef up current bike, second bike, new bike, ebike?

I have a beautiful bike. A Surly Cross Check. And I ride it almost every day to work. We have one car for our family and my husband, a stay-at-home parent uses our car during the day. So, I generally use my bike as a second car. We bought a house in an ideal neighborhood so I could commute to and from work more than half of the way on a trail. I ride on pavement and gravel so my current setup is great. I used to do long rides with my husband and we both bought cross bikes for the gravel we road on. Overall, I love my bike but I think I may need to upgrade to make it into a total car replacement for me. For that, I need help!


Terrain and weather seem to be my biggest obstacles. I live in a seriously hill place and our driveway sits at the top of a quarter-mile hill. This makes hauling groceries and/or my toddler up that hill seem too much. It also makes riding in crappy conditions that much more crappy. We also live in a place with winter. While it doesn't snow all the time like in the Chicago area where I grew up, it does snow and get icky. I ride rain or shine now - barring a severe storm. I would like to ride year round (barring particularly snowy days where I can use backup transport) and be able to haul groceries up that damn hill and occasionally a kid. I would also like to be able to go to hillier parts of our area - including some gravel roads - but it gets daunting to the point where it isn't super fun anymore to keep up with my husband on his carbon bike with a triple.


I have a few options in mind:

1. Upgrade my surly to a triple, replace my tires with fatter, knubbier tires in the winter, and add fenders. The downside of this is that I can't get disc brakes and I'm not sure a triple will solve all of my problems completely but it's been so long since I've had one that I don't really know!

2. Buy a new bike with disc brakes and a triple that can also take big tires. I think an LHT would fit this, yet? Are there other models (particularly steel models) you could recommend?

3. Buy an ebike. I would love this but I'm struggling to find something reasonably priced (3 grand or less) that also has a small enough frame for someone my height (I'm 5' tall and ride between a 47 and 50 frame right now on my cross check and past road bike). Most target people of 5'4'' height or 5'6'' height and since my reach is so limited, it wouldn't work.

4. Turn my Surly into an ebike. My LBS is discouraging this because they said the supplier they used to recommend to people has gone out of business and they can't find another reliable supplier as of yet. They think my bike should be able to handle it just fine but they're concerned about who would supply the hub motor and battery.


Ideas? Suggestions? Any hilly commuters here who find it to be the biggest barrier to success? I want to make this work year round. I just want to keep loving it rather than wanting to rage quit half way up our hill.
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Old 06-10-19, 10:35 PM
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Congrats on being a hard-core all-weather commuter! You have me beat...

I only have a partial answer for you...

If you have the storage space at home, I really recommend a second bike.

Since you have gone all-in on commuting and being a one-car family, the second bike will be your backup bike for those days when you are late for work in the morning and your other bike has a flat.

Also, you can get that second bike dialed in exactly like you want it.

As for WHAT to get as that second bike, I will let my gentle colleagues on this list chime in with recommendations.
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Old 06-10-19, 11:45 PM
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A Cross Check is a blank slate, do whatever mods you want and it will probably work out all right.

Take a look at your crankset and see if it has the threaded holes for an inner ring. It might... the same crank was on the LHT and Surly are thoughtful about things like that. The catalog also says it has a triple front derailleur even though it's a double bike... that might be a typo. But if all this holds true, buy the appropriate 74 bcd x 26t cog and five chain ring bolts, and you are nearly all set. But if it doesn't hold true then a triple crank and FD will swap right in.
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Old 06-11-19, 05:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Hub Spanner View Post
Congrats on being a hard-core all-weather commuter! You have me beat...

I only have a partial answer for you...

If you have the storage space at home, I really recommend a second bike.

Since you have gone all-in on commuting and being a one-car family, the second bike will be your backup bike for those days when you are late for work in the morning and your other bike has a flat.

Also, you can get that second bike dialed in exactly like you want it.

As for WHAT to get as that second bike, I will let my gentle colleagues on this list chime in with recommendations.
Twist my arm! Although my husband thinks you only need one bike but he only does one thing with his bike and heís never commuted (he is a pretty phobic road rider and would rather stick to simple doubletrack, gravel, and paved paths).

Iím wondering if I donít overhaul the Surly and save for a fat tire bike that only comes out in winter when I have no plans to haul a kid or groceries.
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Old 06-11-19, 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by surlygurly View Post
...my husband thinks you only need one bike...
Blasphemy! And heresy!
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Old 06-11-19, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by surlygurly View Post
Iím wondering if I donít overhaul the Surly and save for a fat tire bike that only comes out in winter when I have no plans to haul a kid or groceries.
Try a triple on what you got to climb hills, with or without child or groceries. Then look for a bike to see you through winter (maybe with studs?) and tackle the gravel.

What kind of carbon wonder bike does your husband have?
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Old 06-11-19, 02:42 PM
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My 1997 Nishiki Blazer MTB has a triple with an extra large ring for high-gear cruising, and a small, low ring for the steep hills of Colorado Springs. It is an enormous ratio spread.

With my bar set-up I am able to sit upright and spin my way up the steepest hills. It can be slow, but it is easier than trying to muscle uphill on my other two bikes which are roadbikes, although last year I put new wider ratio gearing on the back wheels of those bikes for lower gearing. I can get up most hills okay on my newer commuter (2x8) with its new lower gearing, but my old Nishiki roadbike (2x6) still requires me to stand up out of the saddle on many hills, although the bike is so light it's not too bad.

But nothing compares to the amazingly low gears of my triple.

I also run studded snow tires on the old triple MTB in the winter. Suomi Nokian W106 26x1.65. The tread is aggressive, but not completely knobby. They let me stop on ice, DOWNHILL! Tire pressure is the key. At their 65psi max, the studs are mostly off the road for better dry pavement riding. I run them at 35psi for ice, and 25psi for snow and ice. I'm good up to 3" of snow. I can ride in deeper snow up to 5", but above 3" I average 5 to 6 miles an hour which makes my 9 mile commute more than double the usual time.

I recommend buying a triple with discs if possible. The added weight is negligible, the added capability is substantial. Plus with discs, if you wanted to get a second set of wheels (with discs) you could easily swap between snow and non-snow tires.

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Old 06-11-19, 03:04 PM
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I think Option 1 is the most economical. Disc brakes are not essential. The cantis you have will bring your bike to a stop just fine. You can get a cheap second set of wheels on which you can mount winter/studded tires to make the transition easier from/to winter. A triple with a 28t upfront is totally going to make it easier to climb that hill.

If money/space weren't a concern I'd go the e-route of course. It'll make life so much easier.
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Old 06-11-19, 05:52 PM
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Welcome to BF -- love the name you chose!

I also commute on a CrossCheck -- but it sounds like I don't have to deal with hills and loads like you sometimes do. As mentioned above, CrossCheck is a blank slate. You can definitely get a triple on there, a mountain triple even, with a 22-tooth granny chainring, combined with a cassette that goes to 32 or 36T, should enable you to climb walls.

If you have stock barend shifters, hopefully the left is friction and would have no trouble shifting between three instead of two. I've seen mountain left/front trigger shifters that have a lockout button that toggles between double- and triple-mode, but I've never heard of that on an indexed drop-bar brifter. All that to say, if you switch to a triple make sure the rest of your front shifting can handle it.

As for disc, the closest to a CC is a Surly Straggler. LHT is a good option as well, especially as for your size, LHT comes in 26".

You might not need a shop to convert to e-assist, there are systems where the motor is the hub of either the front or rear wheel, so conversion is as easy as swapping in the wheel and routing a few wires to a handlebar controller.

Anyways good job on your bike commuting. A largely gravel/trail route sounds fun. I've actually considered changing jobs, looking for a new company by seeing what's accessible from a trail I wish was my daily commute!
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Old 06-12-19, 01:39 AM
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Honestly, I must admit that I'm not an expert with Surly as they're very rare in Europe. I'll assume it's Shimano equipped.

However, based on your question, I would start with the simplest option and make sure that you have the widest cassette possible before changing anything else. This will depend on the capacity of your rear mech (how much can it handle).

You'd want the largest spread possible ... 10-51 is quite awesome.

I would wager that your drivetrain can't handle a 12-speed cassette, so ignore that first option, but that 11-46 range is pretty good.

https://www.bike24.de/1.php?content=...31%5D=1;page=1

The guys here could probably confirm what you currently have and if this idea would work.

If I believe the Surly website, you have a Shimano CS-HG50-10, 11-32, 10-speed

And would see a huge improvement with a 40, 42, or 46-toothed cassette.

I believe (someone else confirm) that this would be directly swappable and should take a bike mech about 15mins to do it and readjust the rear mech.

https://www.bike24.de/1.php?content=...31%5D=1;page=1

Just call up a local shop and tell them you want a Shimano CS-HG500-10 Cassette 10-speed - 11-42 Teeth andask for a quote.

Cheap and easy for about €25 for parts and maybe depending on US labour rates at a shop, out the door for under $100.

I just think that's an easier option than adding a triple to the front (you may need new shifters and it's a huge amount of labour compared to a cassette swap). Disregard if you have barend shifting.

Reviews on this extended range cassette:

https://www.merlincycles.com/shimano...tml?source=PHG

Good luck and keep on riding.

Last edited by acidfast7; 06-12-19 at 01:46 AM.
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Old 06-12-19, 06:57 AM
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Acidfast7, That might require a derailleur hanger extender, super long b screw or MTB long cage derailleur.

I recently faced the challenge of getting easier gears on our tandem (see tandem forum for thread). Started out with the same idea of using a wide range cassette. Guys pointed me to the fact that many front derailleurs can handle a very wide range of chainring sizes reasonably well.
We changed from a 30/39/52 to a 24/39/52 and that gave us seriously low gears (MTB on low end, road bike on high end). The 24-39 transition isn't beautiful and it needs a chain catcher, but most definitely works and has been a life saver on the mountains of our most recent fully loaded tour.

We did change the cassette from 11-32 to 11-36, but that difference is basically negligible. Front chainring swap was by far the cheapest way to go. Didn't even require to lengthen the chain.
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Old 06-12-19, 08:52 AM
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I agree, I put an 11-42 on my Surly Krampus, and I also added a WolfTooth hanger extender, it was quite necessary.

If front shifting is friction, and front derailleur can have limit screws relaxed to handle a triple, swapping in a triple is a pretty easy change. Especially if the current crankset can magically just accept a granny ring, I've never heard of that before.

Either way, specialized bike tools are needed; cassette tool and chain whip for the rear, or crank puller for the front.
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Old 06-12-19, 08:54 AM
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Alternate: Shimano 8 or 11 speed Alfine hubs offer a disc mount on the hub,
bike frame/fork has to offer the caliper mount..

wider chain single cog is reliable internal gears out of the grunge..
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Old 06-12-19, 09:00 AM
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Yeah, IIRC, there wasn't price difference between a Shimano XT extra long rear mech and a standard rear mech, so most German OEMs for touring/trekking/MTBs were running the long cage rear mechs.

I would assume that Surly was the same at that price point (nearly $1000).

https://bike.shimano.com/en-EU/produ...-M8000-GS.html

Ah, that's a ****ty mech at that price point:

https://bike.shimano.com/en-SG/produ...-T610-SGS.html

Sorry, perhaps my idea isn't compatible with the Surly. Man, that's a rubbish rear mech.

Guess, I assumed it was like this bike:

https://www.fahrradmanufaktur.de/en/...-disc-807-2019

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Old 06-12-19, 09:42 AM
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Hmmm, back when I built mine, Surly CrossCheck MSRP was a little over $1200. I see now on the CC page though, "$925-$1149". Who says cost of living only goes up?

Current spec RD is Deore T610-SGS, and the pic makes it look very long cage. I'm sure it would accept a 36 no trouble (stock is 11-32), but in the 40s is pushing it.
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Old 06-12-19, 09:48 AM
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Interesting, that 11-32 is for the drop-bar/bar-end build. Flat bar comes stock with X5 shifters and X5 RD with 11-34, and single 42T cransket.

Even more interesting, in the comment thread, Surly says " In the future, the Cross-Check will only be available as a frameset"
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Old 06-12-19, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
Interesting, that 11-32 is for the drop-bar/bar-end build. Flat bar comes stock with X5 shifters and X5 RD with 11-34, and single 42T cransket.

Even more interesting, in the comment thread, Surly says " In the future, the Cross-Check will only be available as a frameset"
To be a total *******, if it doesn't exist on Europe it's bad value for money. We have much less money and every penny counts.

The framesets do exist over here. But the bike as a total purchase doesn't exist.

I think that about says it all.

A $1000 bike without a long-cage rear mech would be a deal-breaker for most people over
all.
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Old 06-12-19, 11:41 AM
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I recently modified my World Troller to a M8000 XT SGS RD, 116 link chain, 1x11 with an 11-46 cassette and 38T chainring. Had to add a Wolftooth Goatlink 11. Works great as a 1x. Probably would be fine as a 2x or 3x, but I haven’t tried that yet.

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Old 06-12-19, 12:23 PM
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Too bad finances are tight. The Bullitt eBike edition would work great as additional bike to haul groceries or kiddo's up and down steep hills
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Old 06-12-19, 12:44 PM
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I looked up the OP's bike a few days ago when this thread started. It's an 18 speed with bar end shifters. The rear mech is a Deore-level, extra long cage (MTB). The build appears to be well suited for a triple conversion. Buying a whole new drivetrain two levels up is bonkers, you'd be spending more on that than a 5 year old bike is worth.
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Old 06-12-19, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
I looked up the OP's bike a few days ago when this thread started. It's an 18 speed with bar end shifters. The rear mech is a Deore-level, extra long cage (MTB). The build appears to be well suited for a triple conversion. Buying a whole new drivetrain two levels up is bonkers, you'd be spending more on that than a 5 year old bike is worth.
If it's an extra long cage just change the cassette. I don't see the problem?

My comment was that Deore is ****ty on a $1000 bike where it's the single component that does the most work on a bike.
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Old 06-12-19, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by surlygurly View Post
Although my EX-husband thinks you only need one bike
Fixed that for you.

Solves all your "But I want a new bike without listening to someone complain about the money" problems.
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Old 06-12-19, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
My comment was that Deore is ****ty on a $1000 bike where it's the single component that does the most work on a bike.
Thought that was the rider?
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Old 06-12-19, 01:06 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by robertorolfo View Post
Thought that was the rider?
That's a fair argument. I overlooked that.

Mechanically, the rear mech is critical. On German bikes, the money is spent there first, as it makes sense.
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Old 06-12-19, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
If it's an extra long cage just change the cassette. I don't see the problem?

My comment was that Deore is ****ty on a $1000 bike where it's the single component that does the most work on a bike.
It has a 32 cassette which was at or near the limit of that model RD. That’s limited by the upper pulley location. But it has a lot more chain wrap available from the extra long cage, so that enables the smaller ring in front.

As for value, Surly occupies a niche. At a given price point, comparing to other bikes, you will find that they have a frame with more features, but components that you might kindly describe as durable. Within their niche they're also making themselves some pricing power with their expletive-laden iconoclastic marketing.

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