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Surly/All City for 5000km tour + weekend rides

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Road Cycling ďIt is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.Ē -- Ernest Hemingway

Surly/All City for 5000km tour + weekend rides

Old 05-17-21, 11:30 AM
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kp9
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Surly/All City for 5000km tour + weekend rides

hi all,

i'm super stuck in picking a bike - my head is spinning - hope folks can help me out somehow. (NB- My old bike was destroyed a while back, and I don't have any bike at all right now, or any parts kicking around.)


The situation is: I would like to hop on a bike and take the summer to ride from Eastern Canada to California -- I am moving from the former to the latter place, and happen to have the time to make the move by bike, and have always wanted to do a transcontinental trip, so why not! (Well, there are many reasons not to do the trip, but let's leave that aside for the moment.) Then, once having arrived in California, I would like to use the bike for touring around the West Coast, as well as everyday/weekend rides on roads, fire roads, gravel, and trails in the Bay Area.


I'd like for this to be one and the same bike: a quiver killer. This *is* feasible, insofar as (a) I'm interested in doing the tour bikepacking style; and (b) for my local/weekend rides I don't particularly care about speed (more endurance).


Currently what is available to me locally and online (prices listed in CAD)

Surly Cross Check ($1600used, with some quality extra parts thrown in by the seller) and Surly Straggler ($2700, new)

All-City (all of these new) Space Horse ($2700), Cosmic Stallion ($3800), Zig Zag ($3800), and Gorilla Monsoon ($3800).


The used Cross Check is the cheapest option and it's a good build, although I'm not convinced about the fit. The Cross Check and Straggler (which I tried) are both 54cm, which is definitely in the zone but both have the forks cut low-ish for an aggressive geometry -- this pinches my hips, which then twinges an old IT band injury in my left knee. Similarly, the Zig Zag and Gorilla Monsoon are 52cm (All City sizes run large) -- the Zig Zag has a more compact and aggressive geometry, whereas the Space Horse and the Cosmic Stallion are both 55cm and are perhaps a bit too long of a reach but the upright position doesn't seem to mess with my IT band at all.


I am pretty much in love with the ride of the Cosmic Stallion -- test-riding it last week, it actually brought tears to my eyes. I realize it's not a particularly great bike, but ... there's no accounting for taste, sometimes. It's a way higher-end bike than I particularly *should* have - I'm a pretty casual cyclist, have done several 2-week tours but nothing long, don't do any racing or anything. I am seeing this as "buy once, cry once," but with limited options and such a range of use cases, combined with not being that experience with higher end bikes, I'm worried that I don't have developed enough taste to make such a big purchase. However, again, there is sometimes no accounting for taste. For example, I came across this German cello a few years ago and was completely in love with it -- my cello teacher set up a blind taste test with that cello (priced at $8k), a newer Chinese made cello (bought for $1k), and her own 19th-century French cello (valued at upwards of $50k). I by far loved the German cello more than either of the others - even with the blind taste test. My teacher convinced me not to get that cello, but I still regret it. Sometimes, sometimes, individual taste counts for a lot. I think it's true of instruments, and I suspect it also might be true of bikes.


If I don't go for the Cosmic Stallion, I might just roll with the Cross Check and hope for the best on this long tour. This option would allow me to use the money I save ( $2000 CAD less than a new Zig Zag, Cosmic Stallion, or Gorilla Monsoon) to build up a Soma frame (or something like that) when I get to the Bay Area. On the one hand, this strategy would avoid (a) overpaying for an All City stock build, which generally don't seem to be great value; and (b) avoid paying the "Canada tax" in the sense that all bikes -- and most everything -- is sold at a substantial mark up here, in excess of the exchange rate, compared to prices for the same products in the US. But, on the other hand, (a) parts might continue to be an issue through the next year, making it a pain to build up a Soma frame, including getting a frame to begin with; and (b) the Cross Check feels riskier biomechanically for the tour, in the sense that I think the more aggressive geometry might lead to reinjuring my knee which could derail the tour.


The final option would be to go for the Zig Zag, which is much more of a road bike than any of the others, and in that case I could throw some slightly chunkier tires on there, but stick mainly to roads and pack really light for the tour, and just do the tour as quickly as possible. Then, at the end of it, I would have a race-y bike to zoom around for century rides in the Bay Area. This seems like the most prudent option financially, I think, considering that I wouldn't need to change anything on the Zig Zag for either touring or endurance rides. But (a) it might not do as well on the trails in the Bay Area and (b) it's a 52cm frame which felt a bit aggressive for my weak/tight hips.


Final point: I'm on the wait list for a Golden Retriever in California and I would bring a dog on any outdoor adventures that I do. That would mean (a) taking a dog trailer and letting the dog alternate between riding and running alongside on trails. In that case, a stable endurance geometry (like the Cosmic Stallion) would probably make more sense than a racy Zig Zag, since I'm not going to attain huge speeds with a trailer anyway...


Anyone who has read this far probably has quite a headache -- this is what I've been living with for the past couple weeks. Could anybody help me out and bring some clarity to my dark fog of confusion? My heart wants the Cosmic Stallion but it seems like an unwise decision to spend so much money on a build that isn't a good value, and when I have to pay a premium for it in Canada. FWIW- I'm a student, moving to California for a PhD, so definitely not rolling in money, which is why a big purchase like this weighs so heavily on me. I can spend the money, but I want to feel as though it's somehow a reasonable thing to do.


I just want to get on the road and not have any knee problems!!! I just want to be free!!!


Thanks for any help.
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Old 05-17-21, 12:54 PM
  #2  
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Yeah, those CAD prices are rough. The Straggler is about $1800 USD - even with the exchange rate, it seems a bit high.

That said, I think you have to a) go with a bike that speaks to you; and b) fits. If the cosmic stallion works, I think you have to go for it unless it means going into debt (former grad student here - I get the financial constraints). If you really are going to use it as a primary means of transportation, I think it makes sense to go for it if it fits. The price on All City's do seem a little high, but that full 105 build is very nice, though I am curious about the Avid brakes instead of hydraulic brakes at that price. For full touring/bikepacking, even the cable operated discs will be better than the rim brakes on the Cross check (assuming it is the rim brake model).

The straggler geometry is odd - I was looking for closely at one. The numbers seemed very different than other gravel bikes I was considering. However, it is a very nice build with Apex. The one downside is that with the 1X and travelling from Canada to California, it will be harder to get the gearing as low as you will with the 2x All City build. I have 1x apex that I really like, but I don't have many long, difficult climbs where I am.
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Old 05-17-21, 02:02 PM
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1- you only have a few QBP brand bikes available? odd.
2- QBP bikes have never been know for being a great value fully built compared to building on your own. They are not exactly a 'bang for your buck' setup and an example is your brake question- cable instead of hydraulic at that price.
3- AC bikes easily have the longest current run of great paint schemes. Just fantastic.
4- the ZigZag is a road bike. It isnt at all what you want for your cross continent ride or your riding in the SF area.
5- Not sure why you say the Cosmic Stallion isnt a great bike. Its really darn cool.
6- The Cosmic Stallion, Gorilla Monsoon, or Space Horse could all work great for what you want. They could all get you across the continent packing light and could all allow you to ride/commute in the SF area on paved and unpaved surfaces.
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Old 05-17-21, 10:45 PM
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What a great trip you have coming!


I think you are on the right track to focus on the fit of the bike. I've said it before, but I consider the bike fit/geometry to be much more important than components or frame material. I am a big fan of Surly - I just like their philosophy of making steel frame bikes that can be reconfigured easily and handle wide tires.


I don't have any experience with Surly but I will say that although I prefer rim brakes for my type of riding, for touring and/or riding in the wet I'd make sure the bike has disc brakes. I probably would stick with mechanical disc brakes due to cost and ease of maintenance.


For bike packing, most people these days prefer frame bags rather than panniers. I guess it depends on how much stuff you will bring but if you go bike bags you will want a big main triangle like the Cross Check and Straggler. Perhaps the first thing is to decide the style of bike packing you will do: will you stay in hotels or camping - that will narrow down the amount of stuff you need to bring. If you are camping you will need to invest in some lightweight bikepacking gear (tent, sleeping bag, stove, etc). The other thing to consider is if you want drop bars or flat handlebars. I'm a fan of drop bars because of the multiple hand positions possible - something you are *really* going to care about for a long trip.


One other option to consider is buy a Surly Frame and build it up with the components you want. Look on Youtube for bikepacking tips. I would suggest a Brooks B17 type saddle for long term comfort.


This approach likely won't save you any money but you could get exactly what you need and nothing else.


Good luck and have a fun trip!
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Old 05-17-21, 10:55 PM
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Another think to consider is gearing. I like the simplicity of 1X drivetrains but I don't like the limited gearing. I find I like to have a gear ratio to span from close to 1 (for hills) to 4.5ish (for going fast without spinning like crazy)
The 1x drivetrains on the Straggler and Crosscheck have gear ratios of 0.95 (excellent) to 3.33 (not so great for flat riding imho - although I could be wrong depending on how much weight you are packing on the bike).

I would probably want at least a 2X drivetrain to get more range. I'm a fan of 3X drivetrains but they are out of fashion these days.

So if it were me I would want a steel frame bike that fits perfect, a large main triangle, mechanical disc brakes, a 2X drivetrain, bar end shifters (to slam gear changes) a sturdy kickstand, fenders, Drop bars and a Brooks B17 saddle.

Also, you can save quite a bit of money going with less than an 11 speed system. If you went with a 2x 9 speed system with bar end shifters and tektro brake levers you *might* (if you are mechanically minded) be able to assemble a bike for what you are looking to spend for a pre assembled bike. It would be a bit of work but also quite fun. You might have go get some parts on craigslist though.

Last edited by Symox; 05-17-21 at 11:07 PM.
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Old 05-18-21, 01:57 AM
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Iím no help here but after I read through your first paragraph my thought was to buy the cheapest one you can.

I thought that because I fear we will read your next upcoming post about hire it was stolen in Portland when you went into the store for five minutes. Good luck on your trip!

I would go with the Space Horse from the bikes you listed with a Bobb trailer.
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Old 05-18-21, 05:22 AM
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Of the bikes you listed, I would recommend the space horse for loads under 50 pounds, or the gorilla monsoon for heavier loads. Though what you really need is a surly long-haul trucker.

The cosmic stallion and zigzag are not touring bikes Ė totally inappropriate.
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Old 05-26-21, 12:00 AM
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Originally Posted by danmyersmn View Post
Iím no help here but after I read through your first paragraph my thought was to buy the cheapest one you can.

I thought that because I fear we will read your next upcoming post about hire it was stolen in Portland when you went into the store for five minutes. Good luck on your trip!

I would go with the Space Horse from the bikes you listed with a Bobb trailer.
this really made me laugh! Especially because I have been imagining that too! Iím kind of torn, there is the cross check used to cheap, but it seems like it would be quite a painÖ the cheapest *that fits* would be the space horse.

and itís funny that I am just seeing your comment after suddenly doing a deep dive on Bob trailers. Have you used that? Iím super curious, would love your sales pitch on the BOB if you have a minute )
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Old 05-26-21, 12:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
Of the bikes you listed, I would recommend the space horse for loads under 50 pounds, or the gorilla monsoon for heavier loads. Though what you really need is a surly long-haul trucker.

The cosmic stallion and zigzag are not touring bikes Ė totally inappropriate.
agreed but disagreed. The long haul trucker is just too Ö long! And truck-like. I only want to have the one bike, and taking a LHT on a weekend friend ride seems like a recipe for simmering resentment toward the friend, who would inevitably be on a snappier bike (because most things are lighter than the LHT)

and I totally agree that the ZZ and CS are not right, and yet Ö doing a light backpacking setup, on Canadian roads and light gravel, itís far from impossible to do a cross country trip on a Steel endurance bike
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Old 05-26-21, 01:38 AM
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Originally Posted by kp9 View Post
this really made me laugh! Especially because I have been imagining that too! Iím kind of torn, there is the cross check used to cheap, but it seems like it would be quite a painÖ the cheapest *that fits* would be the space horse.

and itís funny that I am just seeing your comment after suddenly doing a deep dive on Bob trailers. Have you used that? Iím super curious, would love your sales pitch on the BOB if you have a minute )
I have not used a BOB because I found a TWBent when going through a similar thought process a few years ago. It is a Taiwan clone of the BOB and works great. I pulled it behind a Space Horse for a number of years and now it is used for grocery runs behind a Gitane. Should I ever get a big for a tour again I have a Lotus hanging from the ceiling that could work.

Another option that would work good if you want more gear is to pull the trailer and hang panniers off the front wheel only. A Tubus Tara works great for that. I ran the Space Horse with this rack for a while also.

If you are looking at the Long Haul Trucker you could also consider the Fuji Touring and the Specialized AWOL. They are both big heavy monster of bikes that can carry your entire house. I had an AWOL for a year and didnít like it. I switched from it to the Space Horse.

https://backpeddling.com/wp-content/...%20Trailer.jpg
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