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help me choose a surly!

Old 06-19-19, 03:46 AM
  #1  
eggnoggbubble
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help me choose a surly!

My current bike is a Bike Friday HAD, great for carrying kids but rather slow for commuting solo, so I've been researching a new bike, I was already looking at Surlys when I realized I have a Surly dealer 10mins (by bike!) from my house.

My use base:
- weekday commuting: 20~35km round trips, up to 5kg of luggage: lunch, laptop, paperwork etc. Brisk pace but not so fast I arrive all sweaty and tired out, I'm more Zen than racer nowadays.... All on pavement but there are some bumps and holes, hence my interest in surly: fatter tires.
- weekend: fun rides and light touring (~50km round trip, occasional 100km or so overnighter just for fun), a little more relaxed pace than when commuting but I still like to make progress (ie not LHT loaded-touring slow).

I'm looking at Surly bikes, my options seem to be:
  • Crosscheck - great reputation as an all rounder
  • Pack Rat - if I understand correctly it's basically the Crosscheck optimised for front loading.
  • Midnight Stealth - a faster roadbike
  • (also-ran: Straggler, if I understand correctly (again - surly's lineup is a little bewildering!) the Straggler is basically the Crosscheck with disks, though I think I don't need disks, am looking for a nice simple light setup)

I'm tending towards the Pack Rat as I have a front basket on my HAD and love the convenience of front loading, plus I have to walk around with my bag once at work so I'm thinking to get a waterproof rucksack (25L or so) that I'll strap to the front (anyone any idea how well that will work with drops??)

However the Pack Rat is quite a new bike, the Crosscheck would perhaps be the safer choice, tho then I'd probably have to use a waterproof pannier instead of a rucksack. The Midnight Stealth would possibly be faster for my commutes, but perhaps less appropriate for my weekends.....and to be honest I don't race that fast anymore, life's too short to be in such a hurry... tho it is nice to be efficient.

Whatever bike I get my LBS will be building up from frame so I can specify components - I want to keep it light, simple and inexpensive so probably:
  • bar end shifters,
  • v or canti brakes,
  • a modest drivetrain (can upgrade later if nec - don't really know anything about drivetrains).
  • reliable tires (schwalbe marathons?) don't need punctures on my way to work....
  • Fenders (rain!)
  • Rack - either rear or front (Pack Rat).
  • A frame bag of some kind for EDC: tools and waterproofs.

Anyone any thoughts on any of this?

(If this seems familiar to anyone I posted similar "utility" but on reflection this is more a "commuting" question....)

Thanks for reading!
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Old 06-19-19, 05:03 AM
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+1 for the cross check, my Only bike. It’s not the fastest probably tire related. The crosscheck does feel solid and well built to me. Your experience may differ though. Best of luck!
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Old 06-19-19, 10:22 AM
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To throw another wrench in there. Since you are building up from frame, you should cross shop Soma as well.

Maybe a Fog Cutter. Or Smoothie.

https://www.somafab.com/bikes-frames/frames
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Old 06-19-19, 11:42 AM
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I think the Cross-Check and Pack Rat would both be excellent for what you're looking for. I put a lot of miles on a Cross-Check and it was great bike. I used it to commute, and I rode my first ever century (and my second) on it. It's so versatile. Also, you don't necessarily have to have specific geometry to run a front load. I always use a front basket/bag combo on my commuters, and I've never owned a low trail or "front load optimized" bike. Some of it might be just come down to preference, but I haven't had handling problems with front loading. I ran a front basket/bag on my Cross-Check with no problems.

As far as picking between the Cross-Check and Pack Rat, I would consider wheel size. All sizes of the Cross-Check are 700c. The Pack Rat takes 650b or 26" wheels, depending on frame size.

One thing worth mentioning with Surly bikes in general: Their super short headtubes make getting the bars high difficult. To prevent this problem, make sure you tell the shop NOT to cut the steerer tube until you've had a chance to ride it for a while.
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Old 06-19-19, 01:03 PM
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The Pack Rat is pretty unique. I don't think it's all that similar to the CC or to much of anything else on the market, except a few randonneur bikes. Edit: the differences are not that big at a glance. But the little differences on the Pack Rat go to the core of bike handling. Its trail and flop are a lot less, and the wheels are smaller. So the steering should feel pretty quick and neutral instead of stable . Also the frame sizes top out at 58 (L) where the CC goes up to 64 cm (3XL).

I'm a hydraulic disk brake convert, I'm never buying another new bike without them.

But I think any of these bikes could do what you want.
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Old 06-19-19, 01:24 PM
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Anything will do, really. I had a couple of Cross Checks. Surly bikes are conservative designs, so I would not be afraid of a new model. In fact, that Pack Rat sounds ideal for you. And please let us know what you get and PLEASE post pictures!
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Old 06-19-19, 01:25 PM
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I wouldn't discount the Long Haul Trucker. I bought a used one and set it up as a commuter/town bike, and it may be the most versatile bike I own. I converted it to a flat-bar setup and am currently running 28mm slicks on it, but my plan is to go up to 32s or 34s. I have the option of using panniers and loading it up, or if I'm just going downtown to meet someone for dinner or something I'll usually just bring a small backpack. And it does great on longer trips. I work from home now, but I used to ride 20 miles each way to and from work, on occasion.
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Old 06-19-19, 02:57 PM
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I've commuted on a CrossCheck for the last 7 years or so. If Straggler had existed when I built that bike up, I would have done a Straggler. Like Darth, I expect every bike I buy going forward will be disc brakes. But that's just me.

Never heard of the Pack Rat before, I went and looked that up, I think it sounds pretty cool. Although since the design of the pack rat is to have fast handling that is damped by a front load, you might want to test-ride an unloaded one at your nearby surly dealer, to see if the ride is acceptable to you with an empty rack, which you would surely ride sometimes.

If you get bar-end shifters, you should be able to easily upgrade to Gevenalle brake levers that move those barends up to where you can reach them easily. (They were originally called 'Retroshift')

For drivetrain, I would recommend 1x. Play around with an online gear calculator, and figure out if you have an 11-36 cassette (or 11-4X?), how many teeth would you want in the front to give you the range you will need? Pair the cassette with an RD with a long enough cage, and you're good to go. (plus you only need one shifter; Gevenalle also makes 1x lever sets). Also, for super simple/cheap/reliable shifting you might consider bar-mounted thumbshifters. These used to be sold also by Rivendell (can't find them on their site anymore), which suggests to me they work well. They're friction only, so you probably wouldn't want to go any more than 9 speeds in the back, or shifting could get too fiddly.

For brakes I would definitely advise V-brakes over cantis. I have cantis on my cross-check (Tektro CR720 with koolstop salmon pads) and I've never liked them. They take a lot of muscle -- even for my large hands.
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Old 06-19-19, 02:59 PM
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You know, since you say bar-end shifters, you seem to have drop bars in mind. Since you're building frame-up, have you considered flat bars? You could have an excellent 10-11sp 1x drivetrain with a trigger shifter.
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Old 06-19-19, 03:21 PM
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I'd go with the Cross Check. I got a Surly Pacer to be my "do-it-all" bike, but in hindsight would have done a CC or Straggler.
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Old 06-20-19, 12:24 AM
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Man, if you’ve got the dough to go disc, the Midnight Special might be the best thing ever from Surly. I mean damn. New 105 group is perfect for it.
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Old 06-20-19, 01:22 AM
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Wow lots of responses, thanks!

Soma - please no more options!!! I had a quick look and they look nice but my LBS is a Surly dealer and I've never had a Surly before so that's what I'm going to go with

Drop/flat bars - A decade or so I had a Specialised Sirrus (flat bar) and liked it, but I've not had a drop bar bike in about 3 decades so I want to try it out. In particular I want somewhere to hide from a headwind...

Drivetrain - hadn't thought of a 1x, tho that's what I have on my HAD - actually pretty adequate except for loaded hills (I just get off and push! kids are getting bigger, they can walk up the hills....). Will find a gear calculator online and have a play....

CC or PR - that's a good point the the CC can probably do front loading no problem, whereas the PR, optimised for front loading, might be a little squirrelly without a load (as indeed I am sure to ride sometimes). Probably lots of people have front-loaded CC so I'll google later... (will give me a good chance to look at peoples experience with front loading generally).

Test rides - it's a small shop, there's a cross check and LHT I could ride (the owner's bikes) and he's not too much shorter than me so that's probably a good idea, the PR tho he'll order the frame in for me so no chance to test ride. I will however ask if he's sold any - if he has maybe the customer wouldn't mind me having a test ride....Good tip on the fork tube, thanks!

LHT - reading around people seem to feel that the LHT rides better loaded and is not too spritely unloaded, I think a lot of my riding will be fairly lightly loaded (5kg) so I'm looking for a bit of zip rather than stability.

Disk vs V - not against disks, I have them on my HAD, just going to go with simplicity this time around. I think they add a little weight (tho maybe not much), the PR frame doesn't have disk mounts, and disks are more expensive. That and my riding will be fairly unladen and not super-fast so optimal brakes are probably not be necessary. Also where I live (okinawa) the roads are farcically slippery when wet, brake power isn't the issue, not sliding out is.....So I figure I'll go back to V's (bonly reason I mention canti's is the PR stock comes with them) and see how I get on (LBS owner has V's on his CC). You're probably right disks are superior brakes tho....

Tires - hmm I didn't realize the CC is 700 and the PR is 650b, I thought they were both 650b, I like the idea of fat tires, those slippery roads again (plus bumps...). Hmm this might push me to the PR, tho I just checked and CC will go up to 41mm, PR up to 48, so not a huge difference, probably not a deal-breaker either way....

Photos - definitely will post once I get whatever bike I end up getting! Am also planning on a detailed review for my blog...

So basically:
CC: 700x41mm tires, will ride fine unloaded and probably fine front-loaded too....
PR: 650bx48mm will ride well front-loaded and *probably* fine unloaded.....

(Not straggler unless I decide I want disks, and I think I've ruled out MS as well, I don't ride that fast.....)

and overall any of these will do well for what I want....

I think I'm still leaning toward the PR, but I will do some more research on front-loading generally, and see if anyone has ridden a PR unloaded....

Tho one pull factor to the CC is that people seem to regard it as a "blank slate" - a bike I can set up to do whatever I want. The CC might therefore be more "future proof" in that I can use a front porteur style rack and rear panniers (now or later). Or even no racks - just a frame bag - for longer fun rides. With the Pack Rat I might be more limited to one style - it'll probably fit rear panniers but heel clearance might be an issue. Since I only intend to have one bike other than my cargo HAD (so, 2 bikes....) it's possible the CC is the more versatile choice.....

decisions decisions.....fun problem to have tho! thanks for the comments, very helpful, will update....

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Old 06-20-19, 03:16 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by rollalongnow View Post
Man, if you’ve got the dough to go disc, the Midnight Special might be the best thing ever from Surly. I mean damn. New 105 group is perfect for it.
stop, just when I'd ruled it out!.....ok go on then, what do you think makes it better for my purposes than the CC or PR? As it happens a friend is buying an MS, he's a good bit shorter than me but I'm sure will let me have a test ride...
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Old 06-20-19, 05:39 AM
  #14  
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I've liked the looks of the Midnight Special since the introduction last year - looks like a real do-it-all bike that can be ridden stripped-down or with fenders, racks, etc. - gravel, pavement, ... .

I've been riding large tires (50mm+) on an 'adventure' bike recently and really like them.

I see the mechanical disc brakes as a positive - and no more complicated than a caliper rim brake (lever, cable, caliper, pads).

I suggest a test ride.

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Old 06-20-19, 08:06 AM
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I vote MS. I had a CC for a few years as my do it all CX racer and commuter and thought it fantastic. Things have changed. The geometry is pretty standard road sport so as fast as you want to make it go. Fits 700c if you want. Many of my roadie friends are going through axle disk on their primary rides. Do It. I just sold myself��

Edit: I think I would try to go Shimano's new Gravel group.

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Old 06-20-19, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by eggnoggbubble View Post
Will find a gear calculator online and have a play....
This is my favorite: Bicycle Gear Calculator

the PR tho he'll order the frame in for me so no chance to test ride. I will however ask if he's sold any - if he has maybe the customer wouldn't mind me having a test ride....
That's a good idea. People are generally nice, and if they're excited about their bike, they will be happy to share that excitement with others. I was able to borrow a Krampus for a week from a friend of a friend, which helped me decide to buy my own.

LHT - reading around people seem to feel that the LHT rides better loaded and is not too spritely unloaded
I have definitely read that a lot, so it sounds like LHT is not what you want.

Tires - hmm I didn't realize the CC is 700 and the PR is 650b, I thought they were both 650b, I like the idea of fat tires, those slippery roads again (plus bumps...).
Disk brakes don't care about 650b/700, a 700 disk frame can take even fatter 650b, I'm just sayin....

I just checked and CC will go up to 41mm, PR up to 48, so not a huge difference, probably not a deal-breaker either way....
CC will go way fatter than that (especially in the front). I have Vee Rubber V12 700x50 on my CC right now, and I wore out (well over 10000mi) a pair of 700x50 marathon supremes. You did mention fenders, so maybe I have to back off on that assertion a bit, but really at 700x50 the limitation is that the width of the rear tire is very close to the chainstays. There's room between the tire and the seat tube (especially if you slam the axle all the way back -- note PR uses the same dropouts as CC). Seems like if the fender doesn't try to go way around the tire (at the point of the chainstays), it could be ok.

Tho one pull factor to the CC is that people seem to regard it as a "blank slate" - a bike I can set up to do whatever I want.
Here's a weird suggestion -- what would happen if you built up a CC frame (and head tube angle) with a PR fork? Would that get you half-way between? Or would that combination/geometry be squirrely with a load, and deathly twitchy unloaded?
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Old 06-20-19, 05:19 PM
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I'm the one who called it a "blank slate" a few weeks ago in another thread. Here's the thing though - I don't like it.
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Old 06-20-19, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by eggnoggbubble View Post
stop, just when I'd ruled it out!.....ok go on then, what do you think makes it better for my purposes than the CC or PR? As it happens a friend is buying an MS, he's a good bit shorter than me but I'm sure will let me have a test ride...
Road bike geometry, light touring capability, wide tires of you need them, supports new 105 group perfectly, downtubes if you want to go that way with a lower gear count, nice sturdy forks if you find yourself in a bind. Just a really nice product. It is literally the perfect bike for the R7000 group, and good all around roadbike. 650s or 700s for the wheels. Mountain or road hubs. They just nailed it. Check the specs of both in the disc version of 105. Universal Cycles is a good place to crosscheck (pun intended) the specs. Cost is the only real issue, but like I said, if you’ve got the dough, it might be perfect for you.
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Old 06-21-19, 12:12 AM
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[...spends half the morning looking at MS reviews online....]

a lot of love for the MS, people seem to really like it. And the CC is a little "do everything" in a bland kind of way? And the Straggler is basically CC with disks......

Seems like:
- if I'm thinking CC or Strag then might as well go MS, will probably get a faster ride out of it.
- or PR if I'm happy with V's and want that front-loading (what reviews I could find - only really notable was
- said it rides ok unloaded) but might be a tad slower ride than MS.

Budget-wise I'd be happier with CC/PR pricing but can possibly stretch to MS if I really feel that's the best choice.

I'm going to see if my friend got his MS yet, maybe have a ride on it (it'll be too small but might give me an idea), and ask about test-rides (CC, PR) down at the LBS this weekend. In the meantime two more q's about the MS:

1) anyone ridden it loaded? Esp front? How'd you get on? I'm still thinking 24-pack...
2) I do like to get up a head of steam sometimes, but probably less than 10% of my riding, the rest is pretty relaxed - anyone think the PR (or CC) might serve me better there? Might the MS be a little aggressive a riding position for relaxed rides? Anyone pottered along on it, how'd you get on?

Finally, anyone any other suggestions for what to think about when test-riding? I haven't ridden a lot of different bikes (in the last 15 years: Sirrus, Yuba Mundo, BF HAD) so don't have too much experience in test-riding and choosing (hence all the posts.....)

At this point I guess I'm still right on the fence PR or MS. Wish the MS came in different colors tho, not a fan of the white - midnight stealth and no black???grrrr....

Thanks for the help, this is really helping me think this through!
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Old 06-21-19, 05:23 AM
  #20  
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Did someone mention Midnight Special? (I took this pic just this morning and I couldn't resist posting.)
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Old 06-21-19, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by golftdi View Post

Did someone mention Midnight Special? (I took this pic just this morning and I couldn't resist posting.)
So what do you think of it?
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Old 06-21-19, 11:05 AM
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I also looked for reviews of the Pack Rat when this thread came up. A year later you'd think there would be something. But no, just a few press-release rewrites from the launch. On the very first page of Google results there was a "review" that was really a tour ride report by a guy on his own custom rando bike that he asserted the Pack Rat was just like.

There are a lot of other bikes like the Midnight Special, though usually not steel framed. I'd get the one whose color I liked best.

But for that matter, the Cross Check is basically the same as hybrid bikes from the early 90's, like the Trek Multi-Track which started out with the same frame as the 520 touring bike from the 80's.
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Old 06-21-19, 11:06 AM
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Bless Surly for trying to be forward compatible with that fat head tube but it sure looks funny. My only complaint and it's only vanity.
@golftdi you're only using a third of your bottle cages! But there you go, full racks and fenders.
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Last edited by Darth Lefty; 06-21-19 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 06-21-19, 11:35 AM
  #24  
golftdi
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I know -- but for how much longer?

And I have a Wald 137 ready to go onto that 8-pack.

Last edited by golftdi; 06-21-19 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 06-21-19, 01:59 PM
  #25  
golftdi
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Jlaw I just saw your question.

I've had this bike several months now and I absolutely love it. My commute is between 5-9 miles each way (depending on whether I take a train part or the way, or cycle all the way). It's both very comfortable and highly responsive. Just wonderful on rough Philly streets. Plus it's way cool (at least I think so!)
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