Over the last month I've put a few hundred miles on the bike, everything from smooth fireroads to the most technical singletrack Marin has to offer. I'll go into more depth on the frame and some of the parts in individual reviews soon, but first a brief overall impression. A steel frame, drop barred, 29" wheeled rigid is a lot of fun. It's very fast on the flats and on smooth fireroads, can still handle technical stuff without too much trouble, and descending is both terrifying and exciting at the same time, you really have to pick your line well. As far as the Cross Check itself I'm a bit underwhelmed. The most detrimental thing on the frame is the dropouts. It's very hard to get the wheel in and out, the wheels has a tendency to shift since your chain pulls forwards and QRs aren't that strong, and there's really no benefit over a standard horizontal dropout that opens to the rear. What Surly was thinking when they came up with it I have no idea. Outside of that the frame is satisfactory, the fork seems a bit flexy for how heavy it is, aside from that it performs as I would expect a mid range chromo tubed frame to. I'll continue to give it a chance, but a few parts I've had to give the boot to already.
The first was my 50t big ring, there's pretty much no way I was going to spin out a 50/11, so I went with a 44t from Thorne to give me more midrange. It's a very nice piece and cheap to boot, it's been great so far. Also as stated in the last post I replaced the front wheel, I actually rode the Neuvation I had on there on some tough trails and it held up, it was more of a confidence issue, and the 32h White Industries/Mavic Open Pro is a lot more stout. I was originally planning on using Notubes wheels but I really liked the braking on the Ceramic coated Open Pro that came with the rear wheel (I picked it up off ebay with the intention to relace it), so I went ahead and grabbed one for the front. The spokes I had for the front build were for a Notubes though, too short for the Open Pro, so I laced the wheel 2x. The angles aren't perfect but it seems rock solid, I'll report back on that one.
The final change I've done since the last post is to the rear tire, not a replacement, but a modification; I cut down the side lugs with a pair of wirecutters. The Firecross 700x45c does fit... in one position in the dropout, with a perfectly true wheel, and if you never pedal hard enough to shift the wheel in the questionably designed dropout. With the tread cut down it allows me to get the rear end a bit shorter and not have to worry about the tire hitting the dropout on climbs or quick sprints. If you are building a Cross Check up though I'd recommend something narrower in the rear. In the front the clearance is ample, you could go wider than the Firecross if you wanted to. I do have one more part on the way, on my ride today I found myself in some serious slop...
And ended up with a failure to pass chain. I'm switching over to a MTB derailleur, hopefully it will take a bit more abuse, as this bike will see quite a bit of it.