Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Surly Cross Check Monster Cross Build - Part 1

For the last year or so I've had three bikes, my tri bike which I use for racing, most of my training, and commuting occasionally, my BMX bike which I use when I want to have fun, and a road setup which I originally intended for wet weather and big climbs that I didn't want to use my tri bike for. The road setup wasn't really getting much use, and unlike my other two bikes it wasn't something that I would look at and just want to take it out and pedal. Living in Marin County I have 100s of miles of some of the best trails in the US (which I run on all the time but haven't ridden on in years), I knew it was about time to get back on them on two wheels. There were many practical options for this, a nice carbon 29er hardtail, an aluminum full suspension 26er for more aggressive trails, even a rigid MTB would work well on a lot of terrain here. As I rode through Fairfax the other day though the spirit of Gary Fisher and Joe Breeze must have gotten into me, and I realized that rather than buy a fancy MTB I must throw some big nobby tires on a steel road bike.

the current stable

First and most important choice was my frameset. The reason I wanted a chromoly frame was I wanted the feel of my BMX bike, and weight wasn't my top priority. The next criterion was clearance for larger than normal cyclocross tires, which really narrowed down my selection quite a bit. There are tons of boutique custom manufacturers, some of the best being in my area, but I really didn't want to go crazy costwise as I had no idea how it would ride. In all my searching I kept coming back to the Surly Cross Check, which was unfortunate since when I think of Surly I think of a 33 year old guy with an office job that goes to Burning Man and stays in an RV, goes to a crossfit gym, and can talk for an hour about microbrews. When I saw the specs on the Cross Check though I knew it was my best option:

Positives:
-Clears up to 700x45c tires
-can use road or MTB hubs 
-large amount of rear dropout adjustment 
-very affordable 
-huge range of sizes

Negatives:
-Standard threadless headset (I prefer integrated)
-not available without paint (I really wanted flat clear over the raw metal, and I don't think I can strip this paint off and keep the appearance of the welds)
-geometry is very mellow (long chainstays, relaxed seatube and headtube)

As much as I like to support my LBS, rather than pay double I grabbed the frame right off Amazon, as I will do for pretty much every part I can for this build. If you are concerned about ruining your local scene you can always donate the money you've saved to your local shop, or even better local open space/trail building foundations. When it arrived it was about what I expected, decent build quality, average welds and paint, all in all a good looking but not stunning frameset. First order of business was to remove all the stickers, which were nightmarish, but a blowdryer, credit card, and WD-40 to remove residue ended up working well. I know the standard practice for these frames (aside from a foot worth of headset spacers) is to cover them in stickers to appear like one of those vagrants that ride alongside freeways at 4mph with 200lbs of gear on their racks (what is in there? maybe I don't want to know), but I'm going a different direction with this build.


I like a pretty clean look but I wanted to have a little bit of identification on the frame so I went hunting on eBay for vintage headtube badges. There are ton of them on there, and not only are they a cool piece of history, they have equal appeal to passionate cyclists and hipsters alike. The one I picked up was from a French company called Gladiator which operated from the 1890s into the early 20th century. Here's some info about them here. I actually got a good bit of inspiration from the first bike pictured on the page. I went to the hobby store and got some 2-56 thread brass screws, a bit, and a tap, thinking it should be easy enough. Two broken taps later I decided to drill out larger holes, use a blind nut with red Loctite on the back, then file it down to make sure the fork would clear. After much frustration I'm happy with the end product. 


You can see in that pic the new generation of Cross Checks has downtube shifter bosses and you will need adapters to run standard derailleur cabling. Fortunately I had some lying around, but if you don't make sure to grab some with the frame or you'll be stuck riding a single speed while you wait. Without a decent range of gears you will skip the mountains, go to your LBS and buy a retro cycling cap, and head down to the nearest coffee shop or microbrewery and complain about Strava, which is the last thing we need. Stay tuned, tomorrow I'll post part 2 as I begin assembly. 



1 comment:

  1. I also intend for wet weather. Do you know, weather shop provides you with both cabled and portable weather measuring instruments! I keep visiting weather shops and just love to know the instruments.

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