Surly's Hybrid Bike Got Me Through The Long Haul
One year and over 5,000 miles after my purchase from The Bike Rack , I am very happy that I bought the Surly Cross-Check. The bike proved to be reliable, versatile and straight-forward. It safely guided me from coast to coast with only minor issues. I chose to swap out certain features during my bikepacking adventure to enhance the comfort and utility of the build, but overall I found the stock bike to be a very good choice. Here is my account of the 'good' and the 'not-so-good' (because I don't believe anything about this bike was 'bad').
The stainless steel frame was sturdy, reliable and highly visible. I found that it absorbed much more shock than my old aluminum Trek did, causing me to experience far less back pain than I otherwise would have. Despite having dropped the bike on countless occasions and having sent it via mail from Portland to DC, I feel the frame is as robust as the day I bought it.
The Velo VL1353 saddle was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of this build. I was particularly concerned about getting the right saddle because I had heard horror stories of cyclists losing sensation in their private parts due to pinched nerves. I found that the Cross Check saddle was perfectly supportive (despite some bad reviews I had read online). Though I was cycling 20 miles a day to 100 miles a day on my tour, I got no saddles sores and never experienced any odd side-effects down there.
The Tektro M730 linear-pull front and rear brake levers never faltered. Changing tubes, usually a frustrating task, was made slightly less tedious by the levers' simple design. When I had to repair a tube beneath the pouring rain in Oregon, I was pleased by how quickly I could open these brake to release the wheel.
Both the frame and fork were outfitted with the proper mounts, making it a painless feat to attach my Racktime Top-It rack and Planet Bike Ecorack.
The bar-end gear shifters were straight forward. I had no qualms about reaching down to change gears and greatly appreciated the simplicity of their design.
The thick 700 x 41 mm Knard tires caused a bit of drag during the tour. At first I was pleased that the big tires allowed me to truck through potholes, cruise through parks and weave around trees on heavily-forested single-track trails. However, given that most of my riding, particularly on the tour, was on paved roads, I rarely benefited from the additional traction that the fatties provided. Instead, I sometimes felt like I was slogging my already-heavy bike on slow tires. When I got to Kansas City I purchased a set of Shwalbe Marathon 700 x 35 mm tires and never looked back.
I found the six degree stem that came with the stock build to be uncomfortable. It forced me to hinge so much at the hips that I was experiencing cycling lower back pain. Once I made it to Kansas City, I received guidance from Theresa at Family Bikes. She set me up with a seventeen degree stem which allowed me to sit more upright in the saddle, quickly alleviating my cycling lower back pain.
Overall, the reliability, comfort and versatility of the Cross Check won me over. Whether commuting or touring, I feel well-situated atop my Surly.