How does the Surly Cross-Check perform as a do-everything-bike? Joanna Long reviews hers after five months of traffic-jamming and day rides.
By the time I bought this new Surly Cross-Check in March 2014 I had lost count of the number of people I had spoken to about it whose faces had lit up in the process. I had been planning to buy a touring bike for months and, since I am a newcomer to this kind of cycling and didn’t know what to choose, I’d talked to a lot of people about it. Amongst all the evangelising, several themes cropped up.
Surlies in general are said to be extremely comfortable bikes and I can vouch for the cross-check in this respect. The steel frame, although heavier than aluminium or carbon fibre, is a natural shock absorber and so, when I hit a short section of gravel track on my first ride, I barely felt any difference to riding on tarmac. This also makes it a very easy bike to ride over longer distances. I mainly use it for day rides of about 35 miles or so, plus the odd joy-ride around the city, and I always get to the end feeling like I could do the same again.
Technically a cyclo-cross bike, the cross-check is designed to be both fast and strong over rough terrain. The forks are cutely labelled ‘FFF™’ (fatties fit fine) meaning that you can pop on some chunky tyres if you’re planning a rugged day out. There are bosses for attaching racks to both the front and rear, so you can load it up and happily set off across a continent. At the moment I’ve just got a standard rack on the rear, which is fine for day rides, but I’ll probably fit a sturdier rack at some point plus one on the front.
Speaking of carrying things, the bike was built for me with a triple chainset but I’m finding that I struggle to get up steep hills in the bottom gear when I’m carrying a few extra kilos, so I’m also planning to replace the small chainring for an even smaller one.
I haven’t had any problems with the bike since I got it, although admittedly I haven’t had it long enough to uncover any real problems. The only tricky thing I’ve found so far is that, with a 42cm frame, there is a bit of overlap between the pedals and the front wheel, meaning that I have to be careful not to clip my toes when going around sharp corners. But that’s my fault for having short arms really.
My partner now can’t keep up with me
If you’re interested in buying a Surly, it’s important to consider who you’ll mostly be riding with and what kind of bike they have. My partner can’t keep up with me on my Cross-Check, so I’m constantly having to stop and wait for him or ride painfully slowly. That said, if you’re trying to persuade someone to upgrade their bike, riding away from them on your Cross-Check is a remarkably effective (if somewhat cruel) incentive.
Joanna Long, 30 August 2014
Learn more about the Surly Cross-Check at the Surly website
Joanna Long cycles for transport in and around South Manchester. When she isn’t busy conducting research on corporate ethics, Jo volunteers with Greater Manchester Cycling Campaign. Her other bike is a Gazelle.