Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Surly Cross Check

surly cross check

Before I get too deep into this blog, I think it's appropriate that I review my 2007 Surly Cross Check, since it will appear frequently in future posts. Now, some of you might be wondering why I would review a six-year-old bike. The answer is that the Cross Check has changed very little over the years, so the 2007 model is essentially the same as the 2013 version. This fact demonstrates how Surly basically got it right from the get-go. No need to fix what isn't broken.

The Cross Check is classified as a cyclocross bike, but it can be much more than that. It boasts one of the most versatile frames out there, thanks to geometry and features which allow it to morph into a solid road bike, touring bike, commuter, or fixie. While it can do all of these things well, it does not excel in any one category. Those who want a bike for one specific kind of riding might want to look elsewhere, but if you value options and versatility, you can't go wrong with a Cross Check.

For who like to build and maintain their own bikes, the Cross Check is a dream. Its simplicity makes it easy to work on, and its flexibility can inspire all sorts of unique builds. A look at the Cross Check group on flickr will give you a good sense of what is possible. Not everyone is mechanically inclined, however, and others might be put off by the expense of buying components individually. For those people, there is the Cross Check Complete. That is what I started with.

My first impressions were mostly positive. To me, the Cross Check feels like a classic diamond framed bike, very familiar and predictable. The 4130 steel frame means this bike is heavier than many other road bikes, but the benefits you get are comfort and durability. The steel really soaks up the road vibrations, and it feels like it can take a lot of punishment without worry. I would describe the component set on the complete bike as adequate. Solid, dependable, but certainly not mind blowing. It gets the job done and keeps the retail price at a reasonable level. Before long, however, I started to think about implementing some modifications.

Since most of my riding is on paved roads, the first change I made was the tires. I swapped the stock Ritchey SpeedMax tires with a set of Continental City Rides. This gave me less rolling resistance as well as some decent puncture protection for city riding. Secondly, braking performance was seriously underwhelming, but a simple swap to some Kool Stop brake pads noticeably improved the stopping power. I managed just fine with the stock "Velo Plush" seat for a while, but once I started going on longer rides, I decided to get something a bit more comfy. The Serfas Tegu saddle did the trick, and even matched the bike's monochromatic scheme.

The Cross Check just keeps on going. With proper maintenance, it has been completely trouble-free, and it feels like a reliable, old friend. I don't see myself trading it for anything else in the near future, because anytime my needs change, the Cross Check can adapt, and adapt it has. With this post, I have just scratched the surface on the mods I have made so far. Stay tuned, as I will be describing a lot more of these changes in future posts.

For those who are in the market for a new or used Check but are unsure about which size to choose, see my follow-up post on Cross Check sizing.

surly cross check

6 comments:

  1. Sweet bike...just built one up and the bike has surprised me to say the least..great write up

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    1. Thanks, and congrats on the new 'check.

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  2. My bike just got stolen and I've been thinking of replacing it with a Cross Check, you're review was useful, informative and timely. Very nice - thanks!

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    1. Thank you. Glad it was helpful. Sorry your bike was stolen. Your comment has reminded me that I want to write a post about bike theft prevention. Hope to find time to do so the next few days.

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  3. Great article; I took 4 months to pick out a bike and the CrossCheck (mine's a 2010) has that "just right" quality that is hard to obtain.

    What made you pick the Serfas Tegu in particular? I'm looking at the saddle myself and finding it could use improvement.

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    1. Thanks. In shopping for a new saddle, I was looking for something comfortable, priced at $50 or less, and mostly basic black, without any crazy color schemes or large logos emblazoned all over it. This criteria actually narrowed down the options quite a bit. The Tegu version I got has titanium rails and is normally priced at $80, but Bikemanforu had them $40, so it was an easy choice.

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